Families that Discuss together, stay together

Families that Discuss together, stay together
Families that Discuss together, stay together

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Evolutions of Thought




Shortly before his passing, Steve Jobs shared his thoughts regarding religion and death, “I like to believe there’s an afterlife. I like to believe the accumulated wisdom doesn't just disappear when you die, but somehow it endures.”[1] Aristotle hoped as much while he sought and taught truth and wisdom. He and his team were more distinctly philosophers than scientists. However, his Physics left an enduring foundation for modern science. Galileo and his contemporaries emerged from the dark ages and for the first time in history separated mathematical quantification from philosophy, creating separate and distinct studies of thought. The necessary separation of religion and science during the Renaissance allowed for a greater breadth and depth study of the sciences, independent of the coercive powers of the church. Today, as the 500-year battle between science and religion gradually subdues, we may find that empirical science is merging with philosophy and religion once again, but this time they may compliment and give evidence one to the other.
The very essence of science is the study of cause and effect in nature and since science builds from what is known before, it is vital that we study from the Ancient Greeks in order to fully understand modern science.[2] Heidegger boldly stated, “Without Aristotle’s Physics, there would have been no Galileo.”[3] Aristotle based his science upon the natural world around him. He studied things as they are and appear. His study of nature was a search for “causes” and assumed that everything is exactly the way we observe it. His writings are philosophical and easily integrated into religious theory. The early Christians felt his approach to the study of nature fit very well with Christianity. “The idea that every organism is beautifully crafted for a particular function…in the grand scheme of nature certainly leads to the thought that all this has been designed by somebody.”[4] As a result, Aristotle’s physics stood as the irrefutable authority for nearly two thousand years.
Although Aristotle’s contemporaries may have ventured upon the path to Modern Science, Aristotle remained true to a holistic philosophy and believed that everything in nature followed a natural continuity, meaning that finite indivisible bodies did not exist. He believed “a line cannot be made of points, if the line is continuous and the point indivisible”.[5] Aristotle refuted Zeno’s paradox of the flying arrow that states for an object to be in motion, it must change place and therefore a flying arrow stands still in the instants, but moves from place to place. Zenos says that if everything is always at rest when it is at a place equal to it, while what is changing place is always doing so in the now, the flying arrow is motionless. Aristotle denied that a line could be composed of many finite points or that time is composed of many infinite “nows”. His holistic approach allowed him only to see things as they are, such as an arrow floating through the air in a continuous motion or time passing in a continuous flow. Unlike Zenos and later, Galileo, he could not separate motion or time into parts.
Aristotelian philosophy did not take into consideration serious empirical experimentation. Though it boasted of a broad sense of nature, it was without substantial quantitative determinations. In order for a real breakthrough in science, it would be necessary for science to separate from philosophy. Two thousand years after Aristotle, the renaissance brought new thought and with it a new dimension of mathematical science. Where Aristotelians embraced his philosophical and holistic view of nature, brave new minds separated the mechanics of physics from the philosophy, at the perils of facing The Inquisition. Galileo, who consequently passed his last nine years in house arrest, was the most influential and known as the Father of Modern Science.[6]
Knowledge builds upon knowledge and Galileo depended upon Aristotle’s foundations for a starting point, of which he could build. He refuted Aristotle’s statement that a line cannot be composed of an infinite quantity of finite points. He explains that a single point can be understood to be equal to a line. In the diagram below Galileo shows two equal surfaces and two bodies and how they will “go continually and equally diminishing during the same time…until finally the surfaces and the solids terminate their preceding perpetual equality by one solid and one surface becoming a very long line and [the other] solid and the other surface [becoming] a single point.”[7]
In the proof below, find the semi-circle AFB, the rectangular ADEB and the triangle CDE. Now imagine that they are spinning on their axis CF. The semi-circle becomes a soup bowl, the rectangle becomes a cylinder and the triangle becomes a cone. Now, in your mind, remove the cylinder, leaving the bowl and the cone in place.

Galileo next proves that the volume of the bowl is equal to the cone by first drawing a plane parallel to the top of the bowl and placing it at DE. As it is moved up through line GN, it cuts the bowl at points G. I. O. and N. and the cone at points H. and L. Galileo explains,
“This leaves the part of the cone CHL always equal to the part of the [bowl] whose cross section is represented by the ‘triangles’ GAI and BON…[as a result,] the plane at any level, provided that it is parallel to the base, or circle of diameter DE, always makes the two solids equal; that is, the part of the cone CHL and the upper part of the [bowl]. Likewise it makes equal the two surfaces that are the bases of those solids; that is, the washer and the circle HL.”[8]
As the plane moves up and gradually diminishes the area of the solids equally, it leaves a point at both the top of the cone at C and the circumference of the bowl, thereby making each of them now equal to a single point. As it turns out, Zenos was not far from the path of modern science since its path diverged from holistic philosophy to the separation of things into distinct separate parts.
            Galileo’s empirical studies led the world through an explosion of discovery. One of the most important achievements was his application of mathematics to the natural phenomena. He greatly influenced Newton and later, Einstein.
Whether we are still in the era of modern science or in the post-modern era, even now, we know that knowledge builds upon knowledge. It appears that philosophy and science are merging once again as in Aristotle’s day. Darwinism may be abroad in the land, nevertheless, many scientists are leaning toward philosophical ideas, such as Intelligent Design. Sir Arthur Eddington implies philosophical inquiry when he states, “We used to think that if we knew one, we knew two, because one and one are two. We are finding that we must learn a great deal more about 'and'.”[9] Galileo expounded upon the numeric values, but it is Aristotle that teaches us to expound upon the “and”. John Lewis, a renowned scientist and advisor to the European and NASA space programs, brings science and theological philosophy together, “The Universe is God’s Handiwork; therefore, if the scriptures are God’s handiwork and the universe is God’s handiwork then science and religion represent two independent witnesses of the creation.”[10]
Today, with an array of epistemological avenues such as Aristotle’s philosophical reasoning, Galileo’s proofs, and God’s revelation, our world is heading for another grand explosion of discovery. The diversity of thought in the scientific and philosophical views provides distinct evidence, but when examined together they compliment each other and furnish a holistic panorama of truth. Precisely, as wisdom from Aristotle and Galileo is secure within the foundation of Western Thought, the wisdom of Steve Jobs is far from disappearing. Perhaps this realization led Jobs to ponder the melding of science and metaphysics when he commented on the existence of an after-life. “Maybe that's why,” says Steve, “I didn't like putting on/off switches on Apple devices.”[11]




[1] Walter Isaacson, Jobs' Biography: Thoughts On Life, Death And Applehttp://www.npr.org/2011/10/25/141653658/steve-jobs-a-computer-icon-on-life-death-and-apple, October 2011
[2] Aristotle’s Physics, translated by Joe Sachs, (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2011), 1, punctuation is updated.
[3]  Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason, trans. Reginald Lilly, (Indiana University Press, 1991), 62-63
[4] Michael Fowler, Aristotlehttp://galileo.phys.virginia.edu/classes/109N/lectures/aristot2.html, September 2008
[5] Aristotle’s Physics, translated by Joe Sachs, (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2011), 147
[6] Einstein writes, "Propositions arrived at by purely logical means are completely empty as regards reality. Because Galileo realized this, and particularly because he drummed it into the scientific world, he is the father of modern physics—indeed, of modern science altogether,” Einstein, Albert, Ideas and Opinions, translated by Sonja Bargmann. (London: Crown Publishers, 1954), 271
[7] Galileo Galilei, Two New Sciences, translated by Stillman Drake, (Toronto: Wall & Emerson, Inc., 1989), 35-37
[8] Galileo Galilei, Two New Sciences, translated by Stillman Drake, (Toronto: Wall & Emerson, Inc., 1989), 35-37

[9] A. L. Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations, (Bristol and Philadelphia: Institute of Physics Publishing, 1991), 79

[10] LDS Church, Our Divine Creator: John S. Lewishttps://lds.org/pages/we-lived-with-god?lang=eng, 2011

[11] Walter Isaacson, Jobs' Biography: Thoughts On Life, Death And Applehttp://www.npr.org/2011/10/25/141653658/steve-jobs-a-computer-icon-on-life-death-and-apple, October 2011


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