Tuesday, April 18, 2006

That sounds familiar

From the Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s new book, American Theocracy, on page 226:
Symptom number two [referring to attributes regimes that become increasingly theocratic], related to the first, involves the interplay of faith and science. What might be called the Roman disenlightenment has been well dissected in Charles Freeman's The Closing of the Western Mind (2002). He dwells on how Rome's fourth- and fifth-century Christian regimes closed famous libraries like the one in Alexandria, limited the availability of books, discarded the works of Aristotle and Ptolemy, and embraced the dismissal of Greek logicians set forth in the gospel of Paul [well, there is no gospel of Paul, but never mind]. To Freeman, the elevation of faith over logic stifled inquiry in the West- leaving the next advances to Arab mathematicians, doctors, and astronomers-and brought on intellectual stagnation." It is hard," he wrote, "to see how mathematics, science or associated disciplines that depended on empirical observations could have made any progress in this atmosphere." From the last recorded astronomical observation in 475, "it would be over 1,000 years-with the publication of Copernicus's De Revolutionibus in 1543-before these studies began to move ahead again."

Hapsburg Spain, a second empire immersed in Catholic theology, was equally hostile to scientific inquiry. The eminent British historian of Spain, J. H. Elliott, recounted the seventeenth-century episode when the Spanish government, deliberating over a vital canal project, assembled a junta of theologians who advised that if God had intended the rivers Tagus and Manzanares to be navigable, he would have made them so. Another historian of Iberia, Henry Kamen, quotes a visiting Italian noble- man in 1668 as saying that "the ignorance is immense and the sciences are held in horror.” Detailing how Spain relied on Italian and other foreign scholarship while importing needed technicians from other Catholic parts of Europe, Kamen summed up, "Spain remained prominent by its absence from the European intellectual and scientific scene. When the Royal Society of London in the 1660s began to organize its scientific links with European intellectuals, Spain did not feature. The puzzle, which still eludes any easy explanation, is why the most universal society of the globe, was unable, after centuries of imperial experience, to discourse on equal terms with other European nations that shared the same background.

Stop it Mr. Phillips; you’re creeping Spotty out! The parallels to the current antipathy toward evolution theory and science in general are obviously disturbing.

You know, if we send all our kids to religious schools as Jerry Falwell, Katie, John Brandl, and Captain Fishsticks really want, we’ll have to import all of our science, particularly life science, talent.

Incidentally, boys and girls, the quoted language is in a chapter named “Too Many Preachers” wherein Phillips discusses attributes of an imperial power in decline.


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