mardi 2 octobre 2012

When did Rejection of Supernatural Explanations of Anything Become Part of Scientific Method? If Ever, That Is?

It depends on what you call the Scientific Method. It is of course a method of enquiry, it is concerned in main with natural explanations of natural phenomena - not with specific meanings in specific historical miracles, not with artistic motives in art or juridic motives in justice. But in and of itself that does not rule out the possibility of either adding a supernatural explanation to other ones (like demons to bacteria, giving them a better ground than usual to proliferate on, for instance) or of accepting the supernatural as sole explanation (like explaining a cure in Lourdes or Resurrection or the universe) and even using scientific reasoning to do so (like ruling out "natural healing" as inappropriate explanation of cases of tuberculose peritonitis or of "swooning" or "suspended animation naturally resumed" in a case when heart was pierced by a lance and the person rolled into a shroud and put into a grave with a stone block entrance or like ruling out certain aspects of evolution and mechanistic heliocentrism as biologically and physically impossible explanations of the world we live in).

However, supernatural explanations are nowadays very much out of vogue among scientists. Modern esotericism includes some in all probability sham theories of physics (like "more than three dimensions"="spiritual") to account for real or sham occurrences of angels, demons and ghosts. Frankly calling a ghost a ghost or an angel an angel is not good enough for some, they seem to need a pseudomaterialistic explanation. And scientists who reject esotericism tend to reject spirits along with it. Not just the sham occurrences, but the ones we Christians can accept as real as well.

I just had a mail debate with a biologist who offers an alternative view of evolution. I asked what his argument for excluding a recent creation was. I had expected him to say something about such and such a skeleton or fossil being so or so many million years old, and that meaning a significant chronological difference between the fauna of dinosaurs and the fauna of sabre toothed tigers. I never had a chance to challenge him about Flood Geology and the Standard Creationist answer on C14 (we do not know the original amount in Atapuerca or Neanderthal were anything like close to present amount in atmosphere): he said very frankly he saw no point in arguing with people who believed in miracles. His attitude was about as if believers in the miraculous were some kind of mentally defect people with whom it is no use to argue. It may of course have been dishonest insofar as he may in the past have been beaten in arguments with creationists and refuses to acknowledge that, but even if so, he feels that attitude is something he can get away with. If it is not dishonest but original, if he has always shunned debate with creationists on that motive, it is all the more remarcable: for Science arose among believers in miracles.

Biology was certainly being done since before Aristotle: he had a tradition to lean on although he was no bad zoologist himself. And even if he himself rejected the miraculous, many of his followers during the Middle Ages, such as St Albert the Great, were Christians who did not. Optics was basically created by monks. Thomas Bradwardine was first to use an idea approximating logarithmic relations in either mathematics or what we call physics. He died as elected but not enthroned Archbishop of Canterbury. The encyclopedia of Vincent of Beauvais was scientific in scope and he was a Dominican Friar. Now, Archbishops and Dominicans, at least back then, were not deniers of the miraculous. Among the scientists of that age our "friend" who would not reason about belief in the miraculous with people holding it might have found himself doomed to silence.

What happened?

Let us first take their version of the story: back in the Middle Ages, everyone believed in miracles and there was no science. With the Renaissance came doubt, especially about miracles: after it had done its work an elite was ready for starting science. Hence Bruno, Galileo and Newton. Where the Catholic Church was strong enough to persecute it, it did, hence Bruno burned on a stake and Galileo forced to recant. Where it was not, science could florish, like in England of Newton and his friends where Religious Wars and being fed up with them left no Christian Confession sufficiently strong to persecute science.

It is not true that everyone in the Middle Ages believed in miracles, Averroists did not.

It is true that Renaissance included a new attack on the miraculous - in Valla's attacks on specific ones, in Aretino's atheism, in fashions of turning away from piety, in Calvin's attack on miracles after the death of the Apostles, in Bayle ... but Renaissance was not as such for the whole elite a purge of the miraculous.

And it is not true that science arose among people who rejected the miraculous, for the reason stated that there was a lot of it in the Middle Ages, but also for the reason that neither Bruno nor Newton were attacking the miraculous. Both were in fact magicians. With Giordano Bruno that is no secret. He was also a Pantheist saying the Soul of the Universe moved all planets around all Suns. As for Newton it was recently discovered that he had esoteric "interests" - to put it mildly - when looking through the things he left behind. Lyndon LaRouche and the Schiller Institute made some attacks on him for magic - all the while extolling Kepler who at least practised astrology and believed the planets were ruled by aesthetic purposes. It was actually discovered about Newton in years following 1936, the year G K Chesterton died - a man who had accused Royal Society of Magic in one of his short stories. And when Chesterton died, John Maynhard Keynes bought Newtons belongings and found - when deciphering it all in 1942 - there was truth in that accusation.* Not meaning to imply he had known of Chesterton making it.

But Newton somehow and for some reason made very much less direct reference to magic when writing his Principia Mathematica. He also used only cryptography for writing about alchemy and calculations about the Apocalypse. However, he very much is a Theist in his Principia Mathematica. A heterodox Theist, if it is true that he was antitrinitarian but nevertheless a Theist. As was Descartes too.

NARRATOR: As a student, Newton devoured the latest scientific ideas. It was widely accepted by this time that the planets orbit the sun. But now the question was, "How did the planets move? What held them in their orbits?"

The most popular theory came from the French philosopher Rene Descartes, who thought of the universe as a giant machine, like a clock. Descartes said everything, even the orbits of planets, could be explained simply as the physical interactions of parts of this machine. But Newton had trouble accepting this view of nature.


NARRATOR: Newton was eventually excused from becoming a minister. But he wrote more about theology and alchemy than science and math combined.

Only recently made available to the public, at the National Library in Jerusalem, these documents are now revealing that for Newton, religion and science were inseparable, two parts of the same life-long quest to understand the universe.

SIMON SCHAFFER: Newton himself wanted to design a universe in which God was absolutely present and absolutely powerful. There's an enormous irony there. In the 18th century, gangs of interpreters, most of them French, will take the God out of Newton's world. It's a very common image of what the Newtonian world was, that it was soulless, that it was mechanical, that it really wasn't theologically motivated at all.

GALE CHRISTIANSON: Now, ironically, that's very anti-Newtonian, because Newton argued that God had to be present, you couldn't read him out of the universe.

Not so Laplace. Newton had argued that planets could not stay in their orbits unless God from time to time set them back. When Napoleon asked Laplace about this, he famously answered: Sire, I have not found any necessity for that hypothesis.

But there is a great difference between a scientist claiming to explain science without God and scientists forbidding each other to use God when going beyond Laplace.

Even between the Arian Newton and the Atheist Laplace there is a development of thought - or of thoughtlessness - which calls for some kind of explanation. Laplace was both an Atheist and a Newtonian well before writing his own works of Astronomy. Due to Diderot and d'Alembert (or so it would seem) that atheist idea was "in the air".

I propose that both Newton and Descartes had extolled God not indeed too much, but the wrong way: by leaving out angelic agents involved in running the universe. Physics was so to speak a toy of God. In a way it was that for some very Theist Geocentrics too: God runs the Heavens daily around earth as a spin top, except the spin top has a kind of energy to go on beyond being turned around and the Heavens have not. But in the machine version or Newton's close to machine version there is a kind of Musical Box, the daily movement having a close to mechanic cause. And attacks on Catholicism had already left much of the elite in a state of hopelessness where Atheism is taking mechanics one step further - along with, in Diderot's case - a denial of the Metaphysical and Eternal nature of the Soul.

Just as Descartes and Newton by trying to make God more powerful than ever, like his power excluding the action of angels, really prepared for the atheism of Diderot, so also Richelieu, Mazarin and Louis XIV made the King all powerful in a way that made the King superfluous, and the French Revolution possible.

But when speaking of French Revolution one cannot forget freemasonry, and similarily when speaking of the Atheistic Methodology one cannot forget freemasonry either. It may or may not be the chief culprit, it is a clear suspect. And I am not in the schools of thought that would make either "people's real needs and rights" or "real good sense" the perpetrator (rather than culprit) of either.

I have sent a question to Royal Society about when they added a clause excluding God or the supernatural from scientific explanations. I similarily sent same question to Académie des Sciences, just a moment ago. I have not yet gotten an answer from Royal Society, and will probably not get one from Académie des Sciences until a few days hence. So, there may be a part two of this essay, containing the answer.

Meanwhile, the attitude is getting way beyond a mere question of academic methodology. The methodology is taken for granted in a way that makes it seem identic to science, i e to knowledge, to some people. One Zimmerman took for granted that a defender of Immortality before the Fall had no clue about scientific facts such as entropy (it might after all be that we regard God as an infinite source of energy for maintaining the order called life) and he further more argued that people "so ignorant about science" should not take over even the responsibility of educating their own children. That is another good question: when did the experts and the state acting on their behalf become the first and foremost responsible for everyone else's children and youth? With same qualificiation: if ever, that is.

For now, awaiting a possible part II with answer to the question, I take leave from my readers in this question. I do however suspect, after freemasonry Marxism. Let us see whether I will get on to chronology and whether it will invalidate or confirm my suspicion. Anyway, it seems not to have been the case when Newton wrote.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Bibliothèque d'Italie
Paris, France
Day of St Leger

*Newton's Dark Secrets
Centuries-old manuscripts reveal the hidden pursuits of a scientific genius

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