Science Wars

The “science wars” involve the process of science and scientists who do not want other branches of knowledge poking around in their processes. Bowler and Morus said, “The modern ‘science wars’ – in which scientists have responded bitterly when the objectivity of science itself has been challenged by sociological critics – illustrate that there is more at stake here than a simple conflict between scientific fact and subjective values.”[1] Science aims for perfect objectivity, but as the scientist is human, this is impossible, human and perfect cannot happen – a human will always have a personal subjective perspective, even when addressing a topic objectively.

While conflicting views were offered in the readings, the advances and discoveries of the seventeenth and eighteenth century are rightfully labeled as the “Scientific Revolution.” The term revolution is applicable because the type of discoveries made upset and reorganized the general conception of natural philosophy, and a new science began to form. The science of 17th and 18th c was not modern science but the beginnings of understanding science with modern implementation – modern science’s great grandfather. Bowler and Morus said, “… the fundamental changes that took place in the ways in which Western culture viewed the universe and the methods used for finding out about the universe during this period were so cataclysmic that they deserve to be described as revolutionary.”[2] Humans, much like the earth, were not the center of existence.[3] Old science was based on scholasticism while new science followed a scientific method that required rigorous experiments in efforts to establish objective truth. Astronomy shifted from being a figurative appearance in geometry to a condition applicable to reality.[4] Mathematics earned esteem (yet weakened its social value by commonality of trade use) to rival philosophy because of its practicality for trade, business, and exploration: one could not navigate the seas without math – Galileo saw nature as mathematical.[5] Mechanical philosophy held the cosmos as a machine, but the new science was empirical and based on the authority of the senses instead of scholasticism.[6] Francis Bacon insisted that experience was to determine the outcome of natural laws – but the experimenter was required to be a gentleman so as to ensure the truth would be addressed in efforts to form a collective information system.[7]

Newton may be the father of science, but there were other members that made up the family – father alone cannot claim victory. Variant types of minds were needed, and men such as Copernicus, Descartes, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Brahe, Bacon, and Boyle were responsible for expanding knowledge. Newton’s contributions to science included: Principia and the Laws of Motion, the creation of Calculus, and Opticks on the theory of white light. Historically, Newton was not given credit for his activities involving alchemy, but modern science now finds it rather intriguing.[8] During the seventeenth-century, alchemy was negatively viewed by society – although noted as the beginnings of chemistry, alchemy is still not held as a scientific practice, but Newton addressed alchemy as experimentation with natural elements.[9]

Bibliography

Bowler, Peter J. and Iwan Rhys Morus. Making Modern Science: A

Historical Survey. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press,

2005.

Newton’s Dark Secrets. PBS. Nova, 14 Nov 2005. Online video. 8 Dec

  1. http://video.pbs.org/video/2042275819/

Picture c/o:  http://i48.fastpic.ru/big/2013/0412/b2/d8ee737f9524afb30dbf47780d8df1b2.jpg

[1] Bowlser and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 2.

[2] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 23.

[3] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 29.

[4] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 27.

[5] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 41-2.

[6] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 43.

[7] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 43-45.

[8] Newton’s Dark Secret.

[9] Newton’s Dark Secret.

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Essay: Synopsis of Descartes: On A Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking Truth in the Sciences

Synopsis of Descartes:

On A Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason

and Seeking Truth in the Sciences

by A.D. Shaffer

{Graduate Studies; originally written for Humanities 530 Spring 2015}

Rene Descartes developed his personal philosophy through his own experiences inside of nature while addressing outside influences in which the self is formed. Cartesian dualism involves the separation of mind from body, or the spiritual experiences from the physical. Throughout the creation of his philosophy, Descartes notes that he is leery to publish his findings because his truths may not be the same as the truths of others. The truth, he moves, is subject to experience and cannot be learned from another individual insomuch that a person will better educate themselves by experiencing life.

Beginning in the academic sciences, Descartes holds that mathematics alone can be recognized as purely true as two plus two will always be four: “Beyond all, I was most pleas’d with the Mathematicks, for the certainty and evidence of the reasons thereof; but I did not yet observe their true use and thinking that it served only for Mechanick Arts…” (17). For his profession he choses the writing of letters so as to better experience the wonders of the world.

The importance of experience over lessons cannot be stressed enough as Descartes leads by example for the rest of humanity. He takes to travel to glean his own experiences: “I wholly gave over the study of Letters, and resolving to seek no other knowledge but what I could finde in my self, or in the great book of the world, I imployed the rest of my youth in Travell, to see Courts and Armies, to frequent people of severall humors and conditions, to gain experience, to hazard my self in those encounters of fortune …” (20). Through living life and writing of his objective opinion, Descartes advises to stick to the roads to avoid the dangers of the uncivilized woods in which he means for the individual to take advantage of known truths found in custom.

In architecture, Descartes preferred one builder to many because too many designers on one object would result in a catastrophic structure. He also favored fewer laws as the less laws there were in play, then more attention could be applied with strict observance. In his quest for truth, Descartes developed four laws of his philosophy: to accept nothing as true unless he was sure it was a known truth, to divide any difficulties into subsequent groups, to orderly lead his thoughts, and to critique his findings with specific calculation (35-36). False reason is seen as contemptible to Descartes as his religious beliefs ensured that God does not let falsity be present in the mind.

Cartesian dualism notes the separation from the physical of the mind, or two levels of existence: that of the material self and the thinking self or soul. Descartes said, “I knew then that I was a substance, whose whole essence or nature is, but to think, and who to be, hath need of no place, nor depends on any material thing. So that this Me, to wit, my Soul, by which I am what I am, is wholly distinct from the Body, and more easie to be known then it…” (59). The human act of contemplation allowed for Descartes to recognize the separation of materialism and spiritualism.

Works Cited

Descartes, Rene. A Discourse of a Method for the Well Guiding of Reason and the Discovery of

Truth in the Sciences. London: Thomas Newcombe, 1637. Project Gutenberg Ebook.

Picture c/o:  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/73/Frans_Hals_-_Portret_van_Ren%C3%A9_Descartes.jpg