Richard Carrier at Mythicist Milwaukee

This is the place to discuss the past, its study, and those who study it. Discussion about events that happened less than twenty years ago should go go in Politics instead.
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lpetrich
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Richard Carrier at Mythicist Milwaukee

Post by lpetrich » Thu Jun 15, 2017 4:38 pm

Dr. Richard Carrier: The Man, The Myth, The Legend — Mythicist Milwaukee -- nice conversation with him about ancient science and related subjects.

The first scientist proper was Thales of Miletus, and three hundred years later was Aristotle's making science a systematic field. Though what we call science had been called "natural philosophy" until the mid to late 19th cy.

Thales supposedly figured out that the Moon reflects the light of the Sun. That led to lunar eclipses as being explained as the Earth's shadow on the Moon. As opposed to the monster theory of eclipses.

Plato, however, was an awful scientist, and RC states that he was often considered that in antiquity.

About Ptolemy vs. Copernicus. RC notes that Ptolemy is unjustly ridiculed for his epicycles, and he notes that Ptolemy also introduced offset centers of constant angular velocity: equants. But I understand the math behind epicycles and equants, and I've calculated that an equant is roughly equivalent to two epicycles. Furthermore, epicycles are roughly equivalent to trigonometric series, and a Keplerian ellipse is equivalent to an infinite series of epicycles whose sizes are functions of the orbit eccentricity.

RC suspects that some of Ptolemy's theory may be a design for a machine like the Antikythera Mechanism, some clockwork for calculating the positions of celestial bodies.

He talks about ancient medicine, noting that ancient doctors were good at surgery and bonesetting and the like, but bad at pharmacology. Someone once tested a lot of ancient Roman drugs, and found only 20% to be effective. As RC notes, the placebo effect can interfere with one's evaluations.

He has a lot of respect for Cicero as a philosopher -- he did some good work in summarizing some common philosophers' schools' teachings.


He's written a book on science education in the early Roman Empire, and he's following that up with a book on scientists in that place and time. He is supposed to turn in a manuscript for it on June 1, and it should come out some time late this year.


He also talked about how many Christian apologists seem to think that the Xians invented everything, something that he thinks is just plain wrong. The opposite position he also thinks is just plain wrong -- Xian theologians hating and persecuting science. He proposes a more nuanced position. They did not hate it -- they weren't interested in it and they often didn't think it worth doing. However, they did not object very much to received science -- already established results. Some theologians ended up Aristotle-thumpers and Ptolemy-thumpers.

RC makes a good case that Xian theologians for a long time disliked three values important to doing science: curiosity, empiricism, and progress. Empiricism was bad because it can override the Bible and church officials. Curiosity and progress were bad because if God wanted us to know about something, then he would have revealed it to us.

He noted the early Xian apologist Hippolytus. Though educated as an engineer, he dismissed Ptolemy's work as wild speculation and he claimed that we cannot know the motions of the planets. Other early Xian apologists had similar attitudes toward the science of the time, that it was wild speculation, and contradictory speculation at that.

So under the Xian Church, science stagnated for a thousand years until the rediscovery of the scientific and philosophical works of antiquity. That's what restarted the Bible, not some supposed return to true Xianity.

In the medieval Islamic world, science flourished for about 3 centuries before the Koran-bangers shut it down. So they missed an opportunity to start a scientific revolution -- and get way ahead of the rest of the world, including Europe.

Much the same could be said of the Byzantine Empire. The eastern half of the Roman Empire survived the western half by a thousand years, and it was wealthy and secure for most of its existence. It also could have gotten far ahead, with the rest of the world seeming like a backwater.


Then he addressed the notion that it was Xians that invented charity. He noted that Greco-Roman pagans did some of it, and that doctors often charged according to ability to pay. He then noted that even the medieval Church was more charitable than present-day evangelical Protestants.

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Tubby
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I'll note

Post by Tubby » Thu Jun 15, 2017 5:11 pm

[quote=""lpetrich""]He also talked about how many Christian apologists seem to think that the Xians invented everything, something that he thinks is just plain wrong. The opposite position he also thinks is just plain wrong -- Xian theologians hating and persecuting science. He proposes a more nuanced position. They did not hate it -- they weren't interested in it and they often didn't think it worth doing. However, they did not object very much to received science -- already established results.[/quote]

Just today a Creationist blogger wrote, "The church cannot embrace worldviews opposed to Christ. Makes no sense. They must not pit science against God's Word and assume God was wrong all along and science wins.

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