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Science and C hristanity R oots in Greek Philosophy

B y the time of the Greek philosopher A ristotle ( 384-322 B C ) and bef ore, the
Earth was f ixed and unmoving as the center of the Universe. One of the oldest
civilizations was in the area of modern I raq by the Tigirs and the Euphrates
rivers called Mesopotamia. Farming started there over 12,000 years ago and by
4,000 B C a tribe called the Sumerians were living there. They were the f irst to
read and write and created the oldest known story called the "Epic Of
Gilgamesh" about the history of B abylonia, an area near Mesopotamia. I t is
about the King of Uruk and talks about the f irst cities of Ur, Eridu, Lagash and
Nippur. I t also describes a great f lood and the f irst account of a dream. A nother
story called "Enuma Elish" tells about the creation of Mesopotamia
and humans, it was recited in temples f or hundreds of years. A spects of these
stories were taken up by the Hebrews and absorbed into their religion as the f irst
books of the B ible. Their views of the Earth was a f lat disc surrounded by water
above and below. The "Firmament" keeps the water f rom f looding the land but
lets the rain through. From below, the waters rise up as rivers and seas. The
earliest known recorded date was f rom an Egyptian calendar and is about 4,241
BC.

Most historians put the start of Greek philosophy at 585 B C because the Greek
named Thales of Miletus ( 624-546 B C ) is said to have observed an eclipse of the
Sun and his knowlege of it was passed down f rom the B abylonians. He believed
that all things were made f rom water. Thales taught the Greek A naximander
( 610-546 B C ) and he, in turn, taught A naximenes ( 585-525 B C ) . A ll 3 came f rom
Miletus where modern Turkey is now and was part of the Greek world then.
A nother Greek named Pythagoras, who lived in the 6th century B C , studied in
Egypt where he grew interest in Geometry and other early f orms of math. He
f ounded a school called "Mathematikoi" that lasted f or 1,000 years. He believed
that all reality is mathematical, a view that still exists today as the science of
Physics. He said the most perf ect shape was the circle so the earth was placed
at the center of a spherical Universe. The Greek called Hearclitus ( 535-475 B C )
decribed how the Universe was created out of pre-existing chaos and that
"change" is the f undamental quality of reality. On the opposing side, the Greek
Parmenides ( 510-450 B C ) said that existance is eternal and "unchanging" and
what we see as change is just an illusion. He denied the concept of
"nothingness" and said reality is an unchanging whole. These ideas inf luenced
the Greek named Plato ( 428-347 B C ) . A nother Greek called Empedocles ( 490-430
B C ) said the Universe was made of "Earth, A ir, Fire and Water" , thus combining
the ideas of Greeks bef ore him. This was the view of reality until af ter the
Middle A ges in the 1400' s A D . The Greek Leucippus lived in the f irst half of the
5th century B C and taught the Greek D emocritus ( 460-370 B C ) who talked about
reality made up of tiny "A toms", a concept that has been absolutely proven
beyond any question today. D emocritus also said that there are other worlds,
moons and Suns in the universe, in which he was also proven correct. The Greek
A ristotle criticised D emocritus' ideas. Socrates ( 470-399 B C ) was named the
wisest of all Greeks and was Plato' s teacher. Plato f ounded an academy that
lasted until 529 A D , over 900 years. Plato said the material world decays and
dissapears so it is temporary and illusory. The real world is that of "ideas" and
exists f orever. R eality is just an imperf ect representation of these ideas. Plato
developed Pythogorus' spherical Universe as a series of nested spheres inside
each other with the Earth at the center. The f irst 7 carried the known planets
and the moon and God was just beyond the 7th sphere. "Nature is impure" said
Plato, and perf ect f orms are not f ound there. Plato' s student A ristotle was
interested in how the spheres moved inside each other. I n his view, there were
54 spheres including the outer one that carried the stars. A ristotle took up the
f our elements of Earth, A ir, Fire and Water and added a f if th type called
"Quintessence" which is what the spheres were made of . The "world of change"
only happens f rom the Earth to the Moon he said. A lthough he dif f ered f rom his
teacher Plato by believing that the world is best understood by "observing" it.
I n Egypt at the library of A lexandria, named af ter A lexander the Great ( 356-323
B C ) , worked a librarian named Eratosthenes ( 276-194 B C ) . He made the f irst
accurate measurement of the Earth' s true size by comparing the dif f erent
lengths of the Sun' s shadows f rom two towns many miles away at the same time
of the day. From these observations, he could calculate the angle between the
two cities and see what part of the total 360 degrees it represented. The last
librarian was a man named Theon who' s daughter Hypatia was murdered by
C hristian monks in 415 A D . The library was destroyed by the R oman Empire who
adopted Plato' s concepts of "ideas" being more important than A risotle' s
"observing" reality which is what the library mostly inf orced. I n the late 4th
century A D , St A ugustine ( 354-430 A D ) worked Plato' s "idea" philosophy into the
C hristian belief system where it still exists today. The R oman named A nicius
B oethius ( 480-524 A D ) devoted his lif e to preserving classical Greek knowlege
by translating many Greek texts into Latin. His book called "The C onsolation of
Philosophy" was written in prison while he awaited execution. I t was translated
into English in the 1300' s by Goef f rey C haucer ( 1343-1400 A D ) who also
wrote "The C anterbury Tales"

The "R enaissance" was the reawakening of human thought af ter the Middle A ges
with Europe' s rediscovery of the classical knowlege f rom Egyptian and Greek
writers and f rom the A rabs who kept much of this knowlege in central A sia f or
hundreds of years. For example, the A rabs were responsible f or A lgebra and
other advanced math ideas built f rom Greek math. They also brought many
C hinese inventions to western Europe, namely gunpowder, printing and paper.
For a time, "knowlege" was A rab knowlege where Greek ideas were absorbed and
protected by them away f rom C hristian thought that "controlled" the Middle A ges
f or 1,000 years af ter the f all of R ome. The R enaissance A ge was started by the
translation of Greek and other classical ideas to A rabic then to Latin and later to
English. I t was the study of Greek manuscripts that led the German Martin
Luther ( 1485-1546) to change C hristanity into Protestantism. One of Luther' s
many 12th great grandchildren was Troy Hinkle ( 1899-1945) . The philosopher
Thomas A quinas ( 1225-1274) almost single-handedly mixed C hristianity with the
ideas of A ristotle. I n the 1400' s most of Europe was still dominated by the
C atholic C hurch because of A quinas' teachings. The rediscovery of the works by
the Egyptian C laudius Ptolemy ( 100-170 A D ) was to help the church with the
calendar. Since the old R oman calendar in use f rom 100 B C was inaccurate af ter
1,500 years because Easter was of f by over a week. Ptolemy' s book was called
"The A lmagest" where he borrowed many ideas f rom the Greek Hipparchus
( 190-120 B C ) . This was a collection of Star and Planet positions f rom 800 years
of observations. Ptolemy was a f ollower of Plato' s "idea" philosophy and
modif ied A ristotle' s spherical Universe by adding "epicycles" f or the orbits of
the Planets which are smaller additional orbits within the main circular orbit.
This work, adopted by the church as the truth, but completely wrong, actually
held back the progress of knowlege f or 1,000 years and created the "dark" or
Middle A ges in most of Europe.

Finally, the f irst act that would break the church' s rule on what reality "is"
came with the works of Nicolaus C opernicus ( 1473-1543) f rom Poland. The idea
of a "Sun-centered" Universe was f irst a Greek idea, of course, by A rchimedes
( 287-212 B C ) and borrowed by C opernicus. He also noted that if the Earth moves
the stars must be very f ar away because they do not show any change in
position. The "close" stars do change back and f orth in position called
"parallax" as the Earth orbits the Sun, but it could not be measured until the
1800' s. C opernicus read Ptolemy' s book and realised he could make the
Universe simpler if he placed the Sun at the center instead of the Earth.
C opernicus was also a physician, diplomat, philosopher, translator, jurist and
governor. His f inal book was published on his deathbed in 1543 A D and met with
not much reaction until 1616 when the church banned it. The next person to
upset the C hristian Universe was Galileo Galilei ( 1564-1642) an I talian. I t was
known since the 1200' s that glass lenses made objects appear larger, but the
f irst telescopes made f rom them was not invented until the late 1500' s by the
D utch. What Galileo did with his improved telescope was to look at the Moon,
Planets and Stars and laid the road to

Modern Science : The study of reality by repeated observations and


experimentation written in the language of mathematics.

He discribed the Moon with mountians, the Sun with spots and other Moons in
orbit around the Planet Jupiter when the church said the earth was the center of
the Universe and all things revolved around it in perf ect circles. This showed
that A ristotle was wrong about the Earth being at the center of reality. This was
the turning point when educated people started to accept technology to extend
the reaches of our senses and that the rest of the Universe may be ruled by the
same laws we see on Earth. He observed V enus with "phases" like our Moon has
which also supported a Sun-centered system. A D anish nobelman named Tycho
B rahe ( 1546-1601) made the most accurate measurements of the Planets
motions bef ore Galileo and the telescope and his data was used by Johannes
Kepler ( 1571-1630) to discover his "3 Laws of Planetary Motion" which NA SA
still uses today. This was the f irst time that reality was "discribed" by
mathematical equations that made accurate pridictions f rom "observations" and
not just "ideas". The most basic change was that the orbits of the Planets,
Moons and on much larger scales, the Stars, move not in circles but in
"elliptical" orbits or oval shape. Kepler had believed in the perf ect spherical
Universe with perf ect circular orbits but was f orced to drop his belief s in f avor
of the observations that Tycho had made. This is known as "the heart of
science" when a new view of reality' s workings are supported by physical
evidence and the human mind has to choose between "personal belief " or
"natural evidence". This is why many people today will take the "belief " route
because it takes many years of college training to even understand much of the
"evidence' of modern scientif ic laws. I n 1633 the church f orced Galileo to
renounce the idea ( and FA C T) that the Earth moves and was put under house
arrest until he died. Later in the 1990' s, the Pope said the church was wrong
about the way they treated Galileo which was a kind thing to say, but it will
never correct to 1,000 years of darkness caused by the church accepting the
philosophy of Plato and destroying anything that would get in the way to change
that view of reality.

Modern Science is said to have begun in the year 1543 when C opernicus removed
the earth f rom the center of reality and put the Sun there. Next, Sir I saac
Newton ( 1643-1727) built upon the works of those bef ore him and f ormulated his
"3 Laws of Motion" , his "Law of Gravitation" and developed a new math to even
help him called C alculus to f inally close the book on how and why the
Planets, Moons and Stars move in their orbits. NA SA and other space agencies
daily use Newton' s laws f or programming the orbits of spacecraf t. The laws
describe how anything moves if a f orce is applied to it and how Gravity attracts
Moons to Planets, Planets to Stars, Stars orbiting the center of their Galaxy and
millions of Galaxies f orming clusters and super-clusters. I t also tells why our
f eet stays glued to the Earth' s surf ace. I t took until 1916 f or another mind to
better Newton' s laws called "The Theory of General R elativity" by a guy most
people has heard of , A lbert Einstein ( 1879-1955) . He said that "Gravity" is really
the warping of "spacetime" by any object with mass. The large sizes of Planets,
Moons and Stars will warp spacetime so much, like a bowling ball on a rubber
sheet, that any smaller masses will move around it in an elliptical orbit like a
Planet around a Star. He showed that Newton' s laws will not be very correct near
very large Gravitational f ields or near the speed of light, which is about 670
million M.P.H. He also said that matter and energy are basically the same
"stuf f " as two cities in Japan f ound out in 1945, and later led to the cold wars
between nuclear countries, but also gave us nuclear reactors which produced
more electricity, but also had dangerous waste products. Most technologies
have this "positive" and "negative" side to them, but again it' s the bad aspects
of an invention which enf orces man to f ind better solutions and to help progress
move f orward.

With these mathematical descriptions of the laws of nature producing the


technology and inventions f rom the 1600' s to what we all use today,
A ristotle' s view of "observing nature is more important" and that Science uses
has f inally won out over
Plato' s "ideas of nature are more important" that most R eligions use.
The Mathematical Universe of Newton and Einstein is where we live now and
has always lived, the ruler of reality f orever....
until somebody comes up with a better one that agrees with the observations!