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History of Science


History of Science It all starts with the Greeks The Ancient Greeks are seen, in the west, as our intellectual forefathers. From Greece was born philosophy, drama ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: History of Science

History of Science
It all starts with the Greeks
  • The Ancient Greeks are seen, in the west, as our
    intellectual forefathers. From Greece was born
    philosophy, drama, western artistic aesthetics,
    geometry, etc., etc., etc.
  • Theology was never an important aspect of Greek
    thought and Orthodoxy was practically anathema.

  • Ancient Greek society did not have a permanent
    priestly class that imposed dogma.
  • Greek Gods Goddesses were NOT omnipotent nor

Aristotle (384-322 BCE)
  • Tutor to Alex the Great
  • Scala Natura
  • His philosophy later adopted by the Christian
  • Founded the Lyceum, (peripatetic school) which
    emphasized natural philosophy.

  • Aristotle created a hierarchy of all living
    things, from simple to more complex. Although he
    did not mean to imply evolution, it nevertheless
    ranked all of creation from great to small.
  • This later became the Great Chain of Being a
    hierarchically ordered system with God angels
    at the top, progressing downward from more to
    lesser developed (moral/perfect) beings.

  • Created a Geocentric model of the universe.
  • This worked pretty well for a long time
    especially for planets. But, eventually, errors
    would be detected (once math technology
    developed more).

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Greek Civilization
  • It is difficult to underestimate the
    contributions of Greek philosophy, science, art,
    literature, etc. to our Western way of thinking.
    Although they were pagans (as later Christians
    would think), much Greek thought was incorporated
    into the Christian European tradition.
    Nevertheless, the sense of curiosity that drove
    Greek intellectual developments would not be
    adopted in the west until the Renaissance.

European Medieval thinking
  • After the fall of the Roman Empire (478 AD),
    Europe would be politically fragmented and a
    period of intellectual conservatism would be the
  • Meanwhile, Arab civilization would be the center
    of intellectual development esp. in
    mathematics, optics, medicine.
  • In Europe, intellectual activity would be under
    the purview of the church monasteries would be
    the loci of study, contemplation, documentation.

  • According to the Church, all that could be known
    about the world came from the bible.
  • Creation had been perfect
  • Degeneration after people were tossed out of
    Eden, it was all down hill the further history
    moved away from creation, the more evil grew and
    the 2nd coming would restore Gods kingdom.
  • Likewise, the further one got from the holy land,
    the more degenerate would be those societies.

The Day the Universe Changed
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The New World
  • The discovery of the Americas was one of the
    most important events in European history
    (although historians mostly focus on the impact
    of Europe on the Americas).
  • There were several troubling aspects to the

  • First, the Bible had absolutely nothing to say
    about the Americas not its location, people,
    history, etc.
  • Europeans came into contact with people entirely
    ignorant of God, Christ, etc.
  • The plants and animals of the Americas were
    unknown although there were some that were the

  • This led to
  • 1) recognition that the Bible was not the
    ultimate authority on nature
  • 2) debate over the nature of Indigenous people
    (were they animals or humans?)
  • 3) classification of the animals plants.
  • 4) the fact that no one knew anything about the
    Americas sparked curiosity the need to know.

  • Of course, there were many other ramifications to
  • European domination of the Americas
  • Economic commerce would eventually lead to the
    industrial revolution
  • Power struggles over control of the colonies and
    their wealth would spark intense competition
    between European nations (Spain vs. Britain,
  • Politics Liberalism (our current form of
    government) would have its first experiment in
    the Americas (USA).

  • Our concern here, however, is in science.
  • The discovery of the new world began a process of
    separation of church and science.
  • Many would try to reconcile science religion,
    but ultimately, science would largely reject
    theology as a way of knowing the natural world.
  • This would be a difficult period with many
    wounded but the process was more or less

Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
  • Descartes is often called the 'father' of modern
  • Descartes argued that knowledge is genuinely
    possible, and that a mathematically-based
    scientific knowledge of the material world is

Cogito, ergo sum
  • he rejected religious authority in the quest for
    scientific and philosophical knowledge (but he
    was a devout Catholic)
  • He argued for a rational justification for a
    universal, mathematical/ quantitative
    understanding of nature.
  • We still rely largely on the Cartesian view of
    the universe a mechanistic view of nature.

  • Although Descartes and other philosophers
    established spaces for coexistence between
    science and religion, it would still be quite
    some time before Europe would be able to embrace

  • Up until Darwin, the predominant understanding
    of the world came from the Bible and Church
    doctrine. In this respect, truth had been
    revealed (via the Bible and Christ) . . . There
    was no need to question Gods creation . . . .
  • This set of beliefs meant that people were
    highly resistant to evidence to the contrary and
    even went so far to create elaborate explanations
    to fit contradictions into religious belief.

  • Several compelling Christian dogmas are
    important to note
  • Genesis GOD created earth in 6 days (dont
    forget he took the last day off).
  • Creation was also centered around Earth Man
    (we are in his image).

  • 2) Relative Youth of the Earth
  • there was a lot of debate about the exact age .
    . . but most theologians agreed it wasnt so long
  • If the earth was indeed less than 6000 years
    old, then gradual change could not have occurred.

Bishop Ussher (1581-1656)
  • By working backwards from the Bible (so-and-so
    begat so-and-so), he calculated the first day of
    creation to have been Sunday, October 23rd, 4004
  • Although many have ridiculed this attempt to date
    the age of the earth, Ussher diligently
    correlated Middle Eastern and Mediterranean
    history and scripture to arrive at what was a
    reasonable calculation.

3) The Permanence of the Earths
Physical Structure
  • According to Christian thought, the appearance
    of earth is the result of two factors
  • Original creation by God.
  • The damage done by the great flood.
  • Otherwise, the earth had not changed over
  • time, it was in a state of stasis.

4) The Fixity of Species
  • Likewise, after God created plants animals,
    these retained their true, original form,
    generation after generation.
  • - no species had been lost
  • - no species had changed
  • Nevertheless, people did understand the process
    of selective (or artificial) breeding.

Crack in the armor 1
  • Fossils figured stones . . . for some time
    people considered these evidence of Gods
    playful nature . . . that he had decorated some
    rocks to as replicas of living things.

John Ray
  • Natural theology the doctrine that the wisdom
    and power of God could be understood by studying
    His creation.

  • Ray spent a great deal of time pondering the
    relationships of organismal form to function.
  • Living things showed adaptations to their
    environments, which for Ray were signs of God's
    design and hence worthy of study.
  • Unlike Linnaeus, who focused almost exclusively
    on classification for its own sake, Ray began to
    use classification to address questions in
    physiology, function, and behavior

Argument from Design
  • Rev. William Paley Natural Theology
  • The marks of design are too strong to be got
    over. Design must have had a designer. That
    designer must have been a person. That person is
  • Nature is a watch GOD is the watchmaker.

  • Due to neo-Platonism, variation in species was
  • As long as the ideal form existed (in Gods
    mind), then subtle, minute variations were
    insignificant and did not demonstrate change over

Evidence supporting evolution prior to Darwin
  • James Hutton came up with the observation
  • Lyell made the ideas popular.

Sir Charles Lyell (1797 1875)
  • Wrote Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of
    Man in 1863 and Principles of Geology
  • Lyell argued that presently observable
  • Geological processes were adequate
  • to explain geological history the action
  • of the rain, sea, volcanoes, earthquakes,
  • etc., explained the geological history of
  • more ancient times.

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829)
  • Inheritance of acquired characteristics

Georges Cuvier (1769-1832)
  • Catastrophism
  • Opposed Lamarck
  • Convinced others that
  • extinction was a fact
  • Known as the father of
  • Comparative anatomy

  • Cuviers work demonstrated that some
  • species had become extinct ? this raised two
  • 1) Why would God allow some of his creations
    to disappear.
  • 2. Young earth theory how could so many
    strange species go extinct, be covered by
    sediments, if the earth was young?

Sequence of Fossil types
  • By the 1830s there was general recognition that
    fossils had been organisms.
  • Further, it was apparent that older strata
    contained very simple animals. As one moved
    through time, the organisms became more and more
  • There was no reason to believe that catastrophes
    had occurred . . . .

Existence of Rudimentary Organs
  • By the late 1700s, biologists recognized that
    some animals retained parts they didnt use
  • snakes with vestiges of limbs
  • Flightless insects retained stunted wings.
  • These observations contradicted the argument from
    design theory.

Structural similarities
  • A human hand, fin of seal, wing of bat, etc. all
    show similar structure.
  • While Creationists argued that this was evidence
    of the uniform plan of God, evolutionists would
    argue that this was due to a common evolutionary

Embryological development
  • 18th century comparative anatomists noted that as
    animals went through embryonic development, it
    was difficult in the early stages to tell what
    type of animal it was. Chicken, lizard and human
    embryos look very similar and have similar
    structures (gill slits, etc.).
  • Darwin would use this to argue common descent.

Artificial Selection
  • Animal breeders had demonstrated that species are
    not immutable . . . That is, they can be changed
    through selective breeding.

Charles Darwin
Thomas Malthus (1766-1834)
  • Essay on the Principle of Population (1798)
  • In nature, organisms produce far more offspring
    than can survive.
  • Man too is capable of overproducing if left
    unchecked (advocated limiting family size)
  • Famine would become globally epidemic and
    eventually consume Man.

Alfred Russel Wallace
If not for me, Darwin would not have published
his ideas . . Yet, no one remembers my name!!
Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913)
  • Travels to Amazon Malay Archipelago (1848-62)
  • Independently developed theory of natural
    selection (drew same conclusion from Malthus as
    had Darwin)
  • Wrote an essay On the Tendency of Varieties to
    Depart Indefinitely From the Original Type
  • Send ms off to Darwin for review Darwin
    submitted his own, beating Wallace to the punch!!

Herbert Spencer
  • Coined the term Survival of the Fittest
  • Tried to apply evolution to human populations and
    demonstrate moral superiority of Europeans

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