February 28, 2022
As the emcee noted at a concert here in Lander, a Musical History Tour, the Renaissance--the period when Europe revived its intellectual life by re-evaluating the writings of the Hellenistic past--ends around the year 1600, give or take. By that time, the focus had shifted toward going beyond the ancients instead of merely revisiting their achievements. This shift in focus happened on a different schedule in different fields, to be certain. Music may have been well ahead of the ancients already in the high medieval period. The Scholastics, and indeed their Arabian predecessors, while firmly rooted in Aristotle and the Neoplatonists, were already progressing beyond those foundations in the thirteenth century. On the other hand, painting and sculpture may not have outstripped the Greeks and Romans until the nineteenth century.
In any case, the seventeenth century would be the one in which Greek mathematics and Aristotelian natural philosophy gave way precipitously to new approaches. Algebra, lurking in the background of Greek thought and poking its head above the canopy in Arabian and Italian mathematics, would finally spawn analytic geometry and calculus. The focus and methods of natural philosophy would shift in many ways, including the use of mathematics and a great increase in the number of people collecting observations and conducting experiments and discussing their results with others. The existing sciences of astronomy, mechanics, botany, and zoology would be transformed, and chemistry and geology would be born outright. Inventions like the telescope and microscope would begin to reveal unsuspected layers of richness in the universe.
-Bacon: bio and politics
-The Reformation had to attack Scholastic *theology* but the universities continued to be heavily Aristotelian
-Aristotle and the distinction between philosophy and science that would be inverted by the 19th century
-Aristotle's focus on deduction and Bacon's polemical critique of the syllogism: "The New Organon"
-The role of induction and statistical reasoning; Bacon's blind spot for mathematics and his tables
Image: Francis Bacon by Paul van Somer, courtesy Wikimedia (By Paul van Somer I - pl.pinterest.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19958108)
November 22, 2021
David Seitz, OFS, is a long-time professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order who holds an M.A. in theology from Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. He has written a book, available on line, called Come Let Us Worship: Reflections on the Words and Prayers of the Mass. He produces podcasts, videos, blogs, and speaks publicly, offering reflection for spiritual growth based on the life and works of St. Francis of Assisi. Find him at tauministries.com and, on YouTube, look for his nickname, Franciscan Dave.
Bill, also a Secular Franciscan, recently appeared on Dave's podcast, and I spoke with Bill about that conversation regarding journalism and virtuous communication. We discuss whether missionaries and scientists are also journalists and the spiritual value of seeking and spreading truth. Be sure to find their original conversation at Dave's site.
September 13, 2021
A solo episode from Paul today inspired by the content of Wyoming Catholic College’s Deductive Reasoning in Science course (SCI 301).
- Greek arithmetic and the Pythagoreans
- The crisis of incommensurables (irrational numbers)
- The triumph of geometry over arithmetic
- Emphasis on axiomatic systems and proofs: Euclid
- Archimedes: physics within the Euclidean paradigm
- Aristotle and the medieval: qualitative and categorical accounts of motion
- The long reach of ancient methods and paradigms
- Galileo and his big ideas, shaky proofs, and tedious Euclidean methodology
- 16th century algebra and the need for negative numbers to simplify the cubic equation
- Galileo’s multiple cases of proportions of times, spaces, speeds in the Euclidean paradigm
- Overturns in algebraic notation and the advent of analytical geometry in the 17th century
- The looming role of calculus in Galileo’s attempts to argue by means of infinite parallels
- Imaginary and complex numbers in the solution of cubic equations with real roots, real physical problems
August 8, 2021
Word on Fire will be holding a Faith and Science Summit August 9-12 (starting tomorrow!). It will feature at least nine speakers, including the SCS' own Jonathan Lunine and Karin Oberg.
Among the topics discussed will be
- The history of the Church and science, including a wealth of details that get glossed over by the "conflict hypothesis"
- Specific coverage of what went wrong between the Pope, cardinals, and Galileo, and why that's far from a typical example of how the Church treats scientists
- The counterexample of George LeMaitre
- Theological motivations *for* doing science from the perspective of the Christian faith
- Insights from science that have enriched our appreciation of creation, the physical universe, and our own human origins
- Catholic theology and speculation about the possibility of extraterrestrial life
Find out more at:
If you're a Word on Fire Institute member:
July 12, 2021
An intriguing interview with a business school professor from Paul's alma mater, Anjan Thakor of the Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School. The point of departure for this episode is Prof. Thakor's book of the same title written with Dr. Bob Quinn, and the book was launched as an analysis of why Dr. Quinn left a prestigious faculty position at the University of Michigan to go start a church in Australia.
The book and our interview discuss what seems as if it should be common sense: people perform better when they believe what they're doing has a higher purpose than extracting paychecks and profit. Yet this common sense observation is now counter to decades of economic orthodoxy, both in the "practical" world and in academia, which focus on evaluating ways for employers to control and coerce employees using the tools of the market system. And it's not entirely surprising, since in many ways human nature is always poised to devolve into this style of interaction. Listen in and, if you're anywhere near as intrigued by this work as I was, read their book for more.
- Thakor co-authored The Economics of Higher Purpose: Eight Counterintuitive Steps for Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization with Robert Quinn, business professor emeritus at the University of Michigan.
- Thakor referred to a University of Michigan study of call-center workers. They came away with a higher sense of purpose—and effectiveness—after talking with students who had received scholarships based on fund-raising efforts in which the workers were participating. If you change a worker’s mental map for seeing their job, this affects their performance.
- Authenticity requires a business leader’s believable commitment to—and passion about—the organization’s higher purpose, Prof. Thakor said. He also referred to insights from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks about the importance of societal and organizational motivation stemming from a sense of covenant, not merely contract. Covenant entails a sense of shared purpose.
- Noted business executive Bob Chapman says 88 percent of American workers say they want a sense of higher purpose but don’t feel it is integrated in their work life. Thakor said his own research shows that employees whose companies have a sense of purpose are more likely to describe a sense of purpose in their lives—a spillover effect.
- The commitment to purpose must be top-down. Then, it cascades through the organization if you help employees learn and absorb what it means for them and their job, Thakor said.
- Harvard Business Review had a special issue on the importance of a sense of purpose.