- Background: the Enlightenment and the transformation into the modern era. Quite to the contrary of many people s impressions, the modern scientific outlook didMessage 1 of 2 , Jan 8, 2011View Source
Background: the Enlightenment and the transformation into the modern era.
Quite to the contrary of many people's impressions, the modern scientific outlook did not originate in opposition to the Christian church but was rather an outgrowth from it. Since the Renaissance, scientific inquiry began in the various countries of Europe but always with investigations or scientific papers written in Latin, because this was the universal language of educated men of letters, churchmen. There were a number of cases in which the Catholic Church repressed investigation or learning, of course, when its dogma was clearly challenged, but in most cases, for centuries scientists were themselves churchmen: they shared the moral outlook of Christian Europe and regarded their scientific investigations and inventions as being the realization of the biblical command to go forth and "conquer the earth" (steam engines of the Industrial Revolution, exploration of North and South America, etc.). By far the largest part of the men we look back upon as the founders of our modern science were devout Christians: for instance, Sir Isaac Newton put about as much energy into his research into gravitation as he did into a dissertation on the meaning of the ten horns of the great beast in the Book of Revelations. Early scientists did not generally have such great egotism as to think that they were going to understand all of creation in a new way which would be any different from the understanding of it in the Bible they had been raised with: they felt they were extending Christian civilization, not throwing it out and starting over again.
This remained the general attitude all through the Protestant Reformation and the Industrial Revolution, beginning to change only after the American Revolution with the advent of the Revolutionary era. It was in the wake of this that movements such as the French Jacobins attempted to overthrow all religion, being actively hostile towards it, and over the next few generations, scientists began to likewise take on the revolutionary spirit and feel that they were representatives of “new men” who had to overthrow an old order. Karl Marx, who considered himself a scientist, is a typical example; a generation after him, the movement of Darwinism led to this being even more openly advocated. Christian churches with their pastors and (allegedly) easily-led congregations came to be viewed as the enemy of "progress", defined as what science was bringing (it would not be until a century after the publication of Darwin's works that the public would really begin to question whether everything science was bringing was a step forward--- starting in the environmental movement of the late 1960s).
In the Victorian age, a picture of human nature and history developed which fit the prejudices of that age: that all progress was slow and gradual, that all human history has been a straight line progress upward to the perfect Victorians themselves, and that the scientific method currently being used then would remain the only method mankind would ever use until the end of life on earth. It was a culturally conservative time, where men sought to freeze everything rigid and keep everything exactly as it was.
Every ancient culture would teach its young the meaning of life on earth, what was expected of each of them, what was good and what was not, what rewards and or punishments could be expected after death, and many other related things. After a few generations in which conscientious scientists felt morally obligated to respond to all such queries by stating that the limits of science meant they could make no pronouncements upon such ultimate questions, that they were beyond scientific answer, this quite proper stand began to be held by the public as inadequate. As the scientific culture of the West sought to displace the older religious culture, it found it was required to provide these moral norms for society. What was the nature of human beings and of the world we live in? What is right and what is wrong? What is the ultimate end of human beings, and of our world?
Although what the scientific establishment believes is seldom taught in such explicit terms, nonetheless we are all indoctrinated with the beliefs of "Scientism" in public education. Even the best teachers, after all, are human beings interacting with other younger human beings, not bloodless Thinking Machines. The questions of our nature and origin and ultimate destiny quite naturally come up and are pronounced upon with greater or lesser zeal.
Now, the great difference between anything based on ancient Scriptures and something based on scientific investigation is that the former is deductive while the latter is inductive; or, in other words, all religions take some written documents as being the unquestioned basis for beliefs and they deduce answers to questions from these accepted ideas. Scientific statements are supposed to be arrived at by inductive reasoning, in other words taking nothing for granted except the evidence one investigates. However, from the beginning of modern science about 400 years ago, this was usually interpreted to mean one had to begin with what is PHYSICALLY sense-perceptible. Ideas or theories or any mental constructs were not allowed to be the beginning point, but rather what could be seen, touched, heard, etc.---referred to as "the given." (Before the twentieth century, the now-to-us-quite-quite-natural insight that how different people perceive things might be different was ignored: it was assumed sense-reality was uniform, an absolute, all people perceived as Victorian Englishmen did. It was an unquestioned assumption beofre "postmodernism.")
This led to two very obvious prejudices: first, in arriving at a picture of history, it was assumed that everything material -- -- -- the mineral earth, oceans, atmosphere etc. -- -- -- was FIRST here, and all living forms came LATER and somehow originated OUT of the material that now makes up their forms; and second, we human beings are first and foremost our BODIES, and anything else -- -- -- thoughts, feelings, impulses of will -- -- -- must arise OUT of our physical bodies.
We seldom look at these prejudices as just that--- but once one does, one can immediately see they will impel any intellect to incline to certain conclusions: that, for instance, any stories of an extraterrestrial origin for life or human beings must be fanciful, and likewise nothing survives death. When the material forms of living things, including our own bodies, are what is focused on primarily as "real", these opinions are practically a foregone conclusion.
[Incidentally, this materialist philosophy of modern science is almost identical to the STOIC school of ancient Rome. The Carl Sagans of the world believe they base their world-outlook on objective facts determined by experiment, not at all mere interpretations of facts, but their entire philosophy minus all the alleged "proofs" of modern things like x-ray crystallography to allegedly "prove" atoms exist, etc., can be found in "On The Nature of Things" by the Stoic Lucretius, written almost 2,000 years ago. It is a mental coloring or way of interpreting all evidence, not arrived at only from the evidence itself.]
To Be Continued.....