This author, Mr. Klee, is giving us a kind of "Whig history" of science. He does not take into account the insights of Thomas Kuhn, from "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", who demolished any such naïve Whig history of the Forward March of science.

One is free to disagree with Kuhn, and challenge his analysis, but one is not free to ignore his book, perhaps the most famous book of the 20th Century on the philosophy and sociology of science. Kuhn's anti-"Whig" analysis of the history of science must be grappled with.

Kuhn had argued that science does **not** progress by some mere accumulation of data-points + theories, where new evidence that would overthrow an older, well-established theory is duly embraced as the old theory is swept out, and a new, better one is crowned. (This story of "duly embraced" new data promptly sweeping out old theories--this myth-- is a "Whig" history of science.)

Kuhn gives considerable evidence for his argument that this is not *at all* how science actually is practiced.

Quite the contrary: Kuhn shows, again and again, that new data-points that conflict with "well established theory" get consistently *ignored* or minimized or dismissed, if acceptance would require overthrow of the current, reigning paradigm of the field. Example: Many, including Lord Kelvin, believed that the report of the discovery of X-rays was a hoax. And Einstein was not keen on embracing quantum theory. Usually, per Kuhn's analysis, the older generation clings to the old paradigm, and the new paradigm prevails only after the old-guard has died. (Look at Kuhn's many examples, in his book.)

The new paradigm does not necessarily subsume all the "data-points" of the old paradigm; nor is it necessarily better in every way in predictive power, over the old paradigm. Example: The Copernican system was NOT better than the Ptolemaic system at predicting actual observations--and this is one EXCELLENT reason for the Church to reject Copernican heliocentrism. That, plus the observation of retrograde motion of certain planets, seemed to support the Ptolemaic system. Once one sees that the Ptolemaic system was at least consistent with Aristotle's notions, one can see that there were rational grounds for the Church to reject Galileo's heliocentrism. There was thus no rational ground to reject Aristotle's science (just yet).

Galileo had a brilliant counter-argument, of course, to prove heliocentrism, but at a bare minimum, the heliocentric model was far from *self-evidently* true--and the Church had reasonable grounds to not accept heliocentrism right away. Paul Feyerabend talks about this at length in his book, "Against Method".

So Mr. Klee writes, in his piece, "A world in which nobody would dream of established theory overturning actual empirical evidence is a better world than the one that Galileo lived in."

Actually, this kind of "world" is exactly the kind of world that Kuhn says we do in fact live in.

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You can just look at the recent James Webb telescope findings and how they are raising serious questions about modern cosmological theories, which illustrates Kuhn's point.

Modern cosmology and Big Bang theory have many empirical weaknesses, but the current scientific establishment does not like to talk about them.


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Good essay Trevor. Quibbles aside, is the idea of us going back to an existing tradition of philosophy then well dead in the modern era.

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What's your source for the Galileo story? It's been debunked for a long time now. Galileo wasn't actually correct about the cosmos (he thought the sun was immovable), he hadn't proven anything, and he jumped from science to theology recklessly despite that. House arrest for heresy is bad, but he wasn't tortured and he lived a very comfortable life. He also remained a devout Catholic to then end of his life. The Church funded a ton of science development at the time and, importantly, funded Galileo himself. Galileo wanted to be a smartass and deliberately make fun of the Pope, which is never a smart thing to do to the guy who's paying your bills. This is also where I like to point out that the Big Bang theory was invented by a Catholic priest...

"they had no problem ignoring the Biblical claim that pi was equal to 3, or the claim that the sky is actually a “firmament” (a literally solid dome) dividing 'the waters above' vs. 'the waters below'" They had no problem with ignoring those because the Church has never claimed that the Bible is entirely a work of history. It is parts history, parts phenomenology, parts poetry. It's all true, but it's not all meant to be a work of history. This is pretty basic Catholic theology stuff.

In general, your telling of philosophical history is wrong. "Catholics were desperate to establish their own tradition of philosophy and decided to basically canonize Aristotle as “the Philosopher”." is all massively incorrect as a matter of history. In your telling, this coopting of Aristotle happened in the 1200s. The book of John begins with "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." In the original Greek, "the Word" is "Logos". Sound familiar? The connection to the Greek philosophers was there from the beginning. The seeds of revelation were planted in men such as Aristotle so that the early Christians could grasp ideas such as the Trinity or transubstantiation when they were revealed by God incarnate. There is also a massive theological tradition within Christianity since then. To name a few: St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. John Chrysostom, St. Anselm, and of course, St. Thomas Aquinas.

The mere idea that I would respond to you point by point in this manner was pioneered by St. Thomas Aquinas and is his main dialectic in Summa Theologica. Using source material to ground reason in order to settle debates (written debates!) is an invention of the early Christians in stark contrast to the purely rhetorical styles of the Greeks and pre-Christian Romans. Of course, other cultures have done this also, but this idea in *your* civilization has its roots in Christianity. You have the ability to even reference Aristotle because of Christians who pain-stakingly preserved his works. The philosophy which underpins the scientific method has its roots in Christian theology.

Here are a few things I suspect are obvious to you. Murder is bad. Rape is bad. People should feel guilty and make atonement when they wrong others. We should care about people other than our immediate family or kin. We have an obligation to care for the poor.

But why is it obvious to you? Because you live in a world that *Christianity* built. The standards for morals that you imbibed as a child are not natural standards of morals. If you had been a moral person in 100BC Rome, your standard for morality would have been what has stood the test of time. You would have gone to the Colosseum in Rome and spit on the barbarian Greeks, known that your society approved of these things, and concluded that you were living a just life. Your best hope would then be to simply copy them as best as possible.

But you live in a different world now. You live in a world where Christ has risen.

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I'm not sure you've told the whole story yet. Why am I supposed to believe that philosophy built this world and that the world wasn't just built by the self-evident success of better science, enabled by better technology? And are you implying that the Catholic Church played a role?

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Jun 29, 2023·edited Jun 29, 2023

In addition to Reasonable Objectivist one might observe that the corona pandemic was not really managed by the idea of data over policy.

But there is another aspect that is also important here and that is the absence of a historical timeline or historical consciousness in the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Renaissance. Aristotle and Christ where not perceived to live in different periods in time. Going against Aristotle was going against the total of the "Holy Heritage", the monolith past. It is remarkable to see that paintings from these periods depict classical and biblical persons in clothes and surroundings of the period the painting is made in. There was no historical reference.

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