As I said a while ago I began writing up a little science and idea history piece the thirty first pages of which you will find below. My idea is that it will serve as reader for a Sabbath-like worship in my Religion modelled on the Torah reading. Richard Dawkins in his book The God Delusion starts out with a chapter where he says that the delusion in the book title only concerns people with a personal supernatural God and that he himself probably adhers to the religion desribed by Albert Einstein, who called himself a "deeply religious non-believing person". Dawkins, however, does not want to call that a religion. He says patheism is only atheism with a make-up. I don't agree. I find myself a deeply religious believing person with a materialistic pantheistic God concept.
If you find the material below, a rough draft, deeply moving and as a help to consider our present place in the Universe. Maybe you are too?
Friday Oct 30, 2009
Copernicus was born 1473, before Columbus found America, and died 1543 the same year as he published On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, the document that for the first time laid down the Heliocentric Theory. He was born February 19 in Torun (Thorn), Kingdom of Poland in Royal Prussia. He never married nor had children. His Polish name Mikolaj Kopernik means one who works with copper, his father’s trade. His native tongue was probably German since they spoke this language where he lived at the time. Nationality did not play much of a role at the time of Copernicus.
He began studying astronomy at the Krakow Academy, later Jagiellonian University, and collected a body of books on the subject that became war booty during the Deluge by the Swedes and that are now found at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. Copernicus worked for the Church but wasn’t a priest and did astronomy as a hobby. He dedicated De Revolutionibus to Pope Paul III.
The major points of the Copernican theory are:
Heavenly motions are uniform, eternal, and circular or compounded of several circles (epicycles).
The center of the universe is near the sun.
Around the Sun, in order, are Mercury, Venus, Earth and the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the fixed stars.
The Earth has three motions; daily rotation, annual revolution, and annual tilting of its axis.
Retrograde motion of the planets is explained by Earth’s motion.
The distance from the Earth to the Sun is small compared with the distance to the stars.
Since Copernicus believed there was an axis tilting motion, he had not explained the four seasons. Galileo did.
In 1633 Galileo Galilei was convicted on grave suspicion of heresy for “following the position of Copernicus, which is contrary to the true sense and authority of Holy Scripture” and was placed in house arrest for the remainder of his life. People had read and agreed on the idea prior to this event but since the Catholic Church was the heavy weight in “science” it took some time for the matter to percolate. The Catholic Church’s 1758 Index of Prohibited Books omitted the general prohibition of works defending heliocentrism, but retained the specific prohibitions of the uncensored versions of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus and Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Those prohibitions were finally dropped from the 1835 Index.
In 499, Aryabhata proposed a heliocentric theory and claimed that the moon and the planets reflected the light of the sun. After all, the sun shines much more brightly than the moon. It might have occurred to other people, not dogmatized by religion, before that even but for some reason it fell in fertile soil in Europe.
The above is an excerpt from Wikipedia that will serve as a first Sabbath like celebration for Religious Humanism. I think the Friday/Saturday celebration is superior to the Sunday variety and it also appropriate for the reason that the Jews invented monotheism which preceded a materialistic God concept with some 2500 years. Each Friday night I will dedicate to the spiritual and contemplative study of each 52 important topics laying the groundwork for discoveries that made our present civilization after 1543. Each year I will then reread these Torah like texts on Friday night.
Friday July 2, 2010
I wonder how much Copernicus was inspired by the discovery of America in 1492 when Copernicus was 19 years old? Such an extension of the known world must have been impressive on a young and inquisitive mind. There is much more to it than we earlier knew. Europeans settled Virginia in the early 1600s, 50 years after the death of Copernicus. Jamestown 1607 by the English. A whole continent opened up before Copernicus. The proper size of the Earth was known, it was then time for the Solar system. Breaking the boundaries. The scholastic status quo ruptured.
Another thing that happened 1517 was that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg. This was a challenge to the dogmatic Catholic Church of which Copernicus was part. Despite this successful challenge, Copernicus did not dare to publish his theory until he died. Luther translated the Bible into vernacular German which must have had the effect of desacralizing the church. A familiarization process of the people to their faith. They actually started to understand the message of God. Luther also claimed that all baptized persons could act as priests which then leveled the playing field with the church. Ordinary people mattered more.
Gutenberg developed the movable type around 1450. The Chinese and the Koreans had done that much earlier but they had a too complicated writing system that needed too many types for being practical. He published the Gutenberg Bible in 1455. People started to publish things and people took up reading and learning to a greater extent than before. Copernicus was born into this boom called the Renaissance.
It is interesting to note that the science of Copernicus was feared more by the Catholic Church than Lutheranism. Science could not be popularized at the time of Galileo but Luther’s take on religion played on to the strings of the common man. Non-elitism that did not challenge God at all. Mostly procedures. No one helped Galileo out of his prison.
When Copernicus lived it was still possible to think in private, today no Copernicus equivalents will appear because all smart people are monitored in their minds. A definite step backwards in human potential. New daring thoughts will be blocked by the new-priests? Another thing that is noteworthy is that many great minds did not do their thing at a University. Spinoza actually said no to an appointment because he knew it would inhibit his thinking. Copernicus, Newton, Mendel, Darwin and Einstein are some examples.
What is the effect of fear on a person’s thinking? Does fear prevent ideas from surfacing in the consciousness or does it prevent them from forming in the first place? It was brought up by Leon Aron at the AEI the other day as president Medvedev visited Silicon Valley. He pointed out the increased risk entrepreneurs in Russia face when they want to realize ideas to products. I remember my reaction when I first found out that people could listen to my thoughts. I became embarrassed over my thinking of mistakes I might make. These feeling disappeared, however, but what about thoughts that are of political character that people might get upset about hearing? People tell me for example that I cannot have thoughts about how the mind works.
In any case, Copernicus and Galileo was thinking about the unthinkable and reached the history books as world class minds.
Friday November 27, 2009
As I pointed out earlier in the post on Copernicus, Galileo (1564-1642) advocated Copernicus' worldview, the heliocentric model, and got imprisoned for it by the Vatican. He was a contemporary of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), Francis Bacon (1561-1626)—“the trumpeter of a new era” and René Descartes (1596-1650). 1611 the students of Descartes school La Flèche celebrated Galileo’s discovery of Jupiter’s moons. Stephen Hawking has said that Galileo was perhaps the most important person for the development of modern science. Albert Einstein called him the "father of modern science".
Galileo was born in Pisa but moved aged 8 to Florence. He first went to school at the monastery Camaldolese at Vallombrosa. Seriously he considered priesthood but at his father's urging enrolled for medical studies at the University of Pisa. He studied mathematics instead and got a professorship at Pisa in 1589 at age 25. He did however not advance mathematics but is mostly known for his work in astronomy and physics. He was, however, probably the first person that used mathematics for describing physical events and thus predated Newton on this issue.
In 1592 he moved to the University of Padua teaching geometry, mechanics and astronomy until 1610 when he published the first scientific work performed with a telescope The Starry Messenger. In 1590 he had discovered Copernicus publication from 1543 De Revulotionibus Orbium Coelestium.
Although a pious Roman Catholic Galileo fathered three children out of wedlock with Marina Gamba and since marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic Church this proved that he was more a man of faith than a dogmatic.
Galileo made his career in astronomy with the tool of a 30X telescope which he built himself from the description of the first practical 3X telescope invented in Holland 1608 by Hans Lippershey. He obtained information that expanded the knowledge greatly of astronomy at the time and which confirmed the heliocentric theory.
Retrospectively Galileo got beaten by Kepler on the theory of the tides. He called Kepler's idea that they are caused by the moon for "useless fiction", an idea which of course was very clever since it contains a feel for gravitation. He also did not believe in Kepler's correct elliptical orbits either but instead argued for the classical perfect circle.
In physics Galileo developed the concept of inertia, mathematically described it, and introduced the idea of frictional force. His work later went into Newton's first law. He also made experiments where he proved that two bodies are accelerated at the same rate when falling freely, which countered Aristotle who claimed a heavier one is accelerated more forcefully.
The Galileo affair with the Catholic Church has just recently ended when the Vatican in 2008 decided to erect a statue of him inside the Vatican walls.
Note on developing methodology
I personally do not appreciate Nobel prizes for methodological advances. In Galileo’s case he develops methodology to make scientific discoveries. It is the actual discovery that is most valuable. The microscope was invented 1590 of three different people of which Lippershey was one of them. He apparently applied for a patent but did not get it and made public the invention in 1608. The story goes that children played in his lens factory and found that the image through the lenses was clearer when passing two lenses. However, he did not use the telescope for producing scientific results. Galileo did.
Friday January 8, 2010
Ulf Danielsson popped up on ‘Gomorron Världen’ last Sunday and claimed the LHC in CERN to be the cathedral of our time. It is an interesting idea that the light seeking cathedrals nowadays would be particle colliders. Maybe he, like I, also think science is searching for God.
Danielsson pointed out the already the Pytagoreans made the connection between mathematics and physical phenomena. Wikipedia told this story about construction of music instruments and the fraction distances that gives rise to the tones for Galileo, not Pytagoreans. Apparently this is a story that might be a reconstruction of events that are believed to have been the first correlation. However, π must have been a disappointment, not being a whole number and related to the property of a circle, that holy circle. Is this not a proof that mathematics only approximates nature. The same with the diagonal of the square.
Why it is possible to correlate math and physics is of course very interesting. Math is biology’s next microscope, only better say some people. The article points out the discovery of the for the eye unknown world of microorganisms challenged the Bible since there was nothing written about them. Perhaps this was the reason for the slow progress in this field. Also, the discovery of America with prior unknown species made some suspicious of the Bible which did not include them. Darwin’s trip on the Beagle?
Ola Sigurdsson, a professor of theology at Göteborg University, said on the same ‘Gomorron Världen’ that all the Abrahamitic religions have a creation myth, with authority, as if I had to believe that this must be true. Then some Muslims claim that I can’t leave their religion, ie, think differently, or they kill me. Danielsson is a little imperative on this issue as well by seeming to want to say that the LHC might furnish us of proof that the creation is the way it was. However, Newton’s formulas did not hold true, they are approximations, have imperfections like perhaps π, why should the math describing the Big Bang be true? Are Newton’s approximations not a precedent for an eternal finding of approximations? A few years ago there was no dark matter or energy. Tomorrow there will be something else to consider in the equations? An endless row of perfect circles?
Speaking of which, the knowledge that space can expand faster than the speed of light makes me wonder if not space can contract faster as well. This could mean that we could travel by contracting space—a short cut. A mathematical projection to reality? It is like saying, hey Earth is round, let us go around it. You have to invent the boat.
Why is it that all religions have a creation myth. Why don’t people, like I do, think matter and energy have always existed? The creation myth is part of our culture because people 2500 years ago wrote it down? Is it our infatuation with the concept of creativity? De novo creation. Creatio ex nihilo. New ideas seem to come from nowhere. Divine some people thought earlier on. However, they don’t. You can chop of a foot but not a head and still think. They are generated via nervous tissue function directly or indirectly. I operate under the understanding that nervous tissue can prepare something that can generate new ideas. The water environment might be necessary. It might not work in silicon and copper. I’m very impatient for Kurzweil’s brainy computer. He has promised that I will find out before I die and will get very disappointed if he is wrong on the time frame. However, if you make something with your hands it is always made out of something else. The myth was created by theoretical people perhaps? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. This is the first sentence of the Bible. I say God, or Nature, always existed. This is progress, that we have realized this. There is no longer a problem with religion and science. Scientists can as well as priest ask the question why do we exist and not only, as the priests try to say, ask how we exist. This explanation is in the FAQ of the Church of Sweden.
Listened to ‘Teologiska Rummet’ on the radio. Three people discussed Mystics. Anton Geels a religion psychologist seemed most understandable. Perhaps it is the psychology. He has written a book about mystics in the three Abrahamitic religions. He is also coauthor of a text book in religion psychology with Owe Wikström called Den Religiösa Människan. There is a new chapter in the book about people that think they are spiritual but not religious. More and more common today. The seekers. Religion psychology studies religious people from a psychological perspective.
Saturday January 9, 2010
It is probably worth reminding oneself on the fact that most religions talk of a supreme being. Historically speaking. However, what I try to say is that people of today, with our knowledge which we acquire in school, might not be so prone to a supreme being. Even more so in a couple of hundred years. The supreme being is replaced by the unknown that can be revealed by science. I’m part of something greater and this greater is unbelievably complex but in essence good. Materialistic pantheism. Such a pantheism derives from monotheism via non-personality.
William James (1842-1910) is apparently the father of Psychology of Religion. He separated institutional religion and personal religion. Personal religion is in the realm of the mystics. He separated personal religion into healthy-minded religion and sick-souled religion. Those who focus on goodness versus those who focus on evil.
Friday July 9, 2010
I guess the proper thing to do is to ponder what the catholic church of today is doing to hamper scientific development. For some reason, the only one I have been able to come up with is immorality and criminality, this church is very secretive. I have realized that this church does not indulge in ice cream and that it likes to mark itself as a church. My cousin and I were caught speeding on our motorcycles when in the pause of an early European Song Contest we bought ice cream and the day after we were stopped at the Mölndal Church for an alcohol-test by the police. Trying to tell us that ice cream is alcohol? The Church operates via the police. I guess I am in a Church house arrest right now, with impaired memory and intellect via TTDE. TTDE is the heliocentric model of our time. There must be many Galileo’s in the world right now. It also means that the Church has monopoly on power in society.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that the Church of today is not was it was then at the time of Galileo. Transparency would not impair the willingness to embrace new technology that potentiate society. It would just remove criminality.
In the Assayer from 1622 Galileo noted that mathematics is the language in which Nature expresses its laws. For some reason it is possible to describe physics with mathematics. However, mathematics is not a physical thing, or are thoughts physical, according to modern physicalism they are. In this case it is not so mysterious. One is simply using physical things to describe other physical things. Liebniz have said that “Music is the pleasure the human mind experience from counting without being aware that it is counting”. This would mean that thinking is actually counting and that frequency to image, ie neuronal activity to thinking, is also describable with mathematics.
I fully agree with you about the significance and educational value of methodology as well as history and philosophy of science. So many people today - and even professional scientists - seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is - in my opinion - the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth (Albert Einstein).
Sunday July 11, 2010
A web page noted that what happened with the celestial bodies during Galileo’s time was that they became physical bodies in the minds of people, made of rock with craters and mountains, and not phenomena like they had been. We make progress one tool at the time and one idea at the time. The question is if ideas or ideas of tools, theoretical ideas or more practical ideas, drove evolution of our minds? Perhaps it is not possible to say which is most important? Related is the question of whether scientific exploration or philosophy drove the development of ideas. It is reasonable to think that a mind is a limited part of the Universe and that new ideas more easily come from experimentation in Nature. The mind is a tool and we are currently designing other tools like Artificial Intelligence. My feeling is that they will be more of a complementary tool than a replacement tool. It is also conceivable that we can tinker with evolution to produce more astute minds.
If you include Kepler’s contribution, with the Heliocentric system I guess what people had realized at this point in time, when also Harvey 1628 had proven that the heart and the vascular system is a mechanic pump and that the body functions as a machine, was that there was much less hocus pocus in the world and that it was full speed ahead on discovery.
Saturday December 12, 2009
The Elliptic Planetary Orbit
Around 1605, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) found out from the astronomical observations of Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), a Danish nobleman from Scania (Skåne then Danish), the following empirical relations. Brahe actually for the first time observed the formation of a new star. He operated prior to the telescope:
1. The orbit of any planetary orbit is an ellipse with the sun at one focus.
2. A line joining the planet and the sun sweeps out equal areas during equal intervals of time.
3. The square of the orbital period of a planet is directly proportional to the cube of the semi-major axis of its orbit (the semi-major axis of the ellipse is half the major axis which is the longest possible axis of the ellipse running through both foci).
Almost a century later Isaac Newton was able to derive Kepler's laws from his own laws of motion and the law of gravitation with the help of Euclidean geometry. It was then that people started calling them laws.
The "divine" perfect circle of planetary motion was crushed.
Kepler was born in the Free Imperial City of Weil der Stadt, now close to Stuttgart. Childhood small pox left him weak and with poor vision so that he could not perform astronomical observations himself although introduced to astronomy early and with a profound love for it. Kepler began as a theology student at the University of Tübingen but was becoming an excellent mathematician but also a skillful astrologer casting horoscopes for his friends. Carl Sagan has called him the first astrophysicist and the last scientific astrologer. At the time both the disciplines of astrology and astronomy was in existence.
In a student disputation he defended heliocentrism both from a theoretic but also from a theological perspective, maintaining that the sun was the principal source of motive power in the universe. Despite his interest in becoming a protestant minister, at the age of 23, two years earlier than Galileo, he became a professor of mathematics and astronomy at the School of Graz (later University of Graz). He actually later helped Galileo with observational support of the heliocentric theory when he was in trouble with the Catholic Church.
In 1600 Kepler and his family was banished from Graz as a result of the counter reformation. They refused to convert to Catholicism. He then returned to Tycho Brahe in Prague where he had had an earlier not so successful stint of collaboration. Brahe had been secretive with his data. When Brahe died in 1601, Kepler replaced him as the imperial mathematician with the mission of completing his unfinished work. Kepler had now access to the extensive observations of Brahe and his group and the following 11 years were the most productive in his life.
Friday January 1, 2010
The other day I listened on a radio program ‘Lyssnarens guide till galaxen’. It is a series of three programs, the last of which comes today, where a journalist, Tove Leffler, specialized in culture, discusses with a professor in theoretical physics, Ulf Danielsson. They try to popularize astrophysics. Danielsson told an interesting story about Kepler. He apparently thought that the sound emanating from the elliptic orbits, their frequencies, might be beautiful. Danielsson pointed out that this theory of Kepler was wrong as was a theory of fitting geometrical shapes into the orbits of the solar system. Kepler wondered if the solar system at its origin was born in a nice harmony from which it deteriorated.
In this context it is interesting to note that Georges LeMaître, a catholic priest and physicist, was the first to point out that the equations demonstrated a Big Bang from a point. He needed a creation, and found it. Einstein, on the other hand, probably wanted things to have always existed and tried a Bang-Crunch eternal cycle instead. He did not believe in the expansion of the universe at first. Could it be that we today are as biased of the creation myth of the Bible as Kepler was when he insisted the sun was the guiding force in the universe based on theological ideas?
What in general guides the thoughts of the scientists might be more important than usually pointed out? If one wants to guide youngsters into new pathways of thoughts it is important to teach them to become pathfinders rather than having preset minds from dogma. A course in the pathfinding of the last 450 years should be a prerequisite. That is the course Ray Kurzweil wants to program his computer of 2020 with, I guess. The computer that is going to start to produce Nobel Prize ideas on demand?
Danielsson said that beauty, in the mathematical and physical sense, was “unexpected simplicity”. It would be interesting to know if that how it works between humans? Female and male beauty does not seem to involve unexpected simplicity. Shouldn’t the beauty concept be the same across disciplines? Kepler was not apparently pleased with the elliptic shape as beauty, since he tried to impose beauty in another fashion? Maybe I actually think the ellipse is more beautiful than the circle. Unexpectedly complicated? Danielsson teaches a course at Uppsala University called ‘Physics for Poets’. Wikipedia has a definition of beauty that seems to be more general. Beauty is what resonates in a person and give personal meaning.
Danielsson seems to think that string theory is the final uniter between gravitation and quantum theory but this is not what I have heard from other sources. Thus he sounds a little like Hawkins in the sense that we know all already even if he in his program he made fun of Lord Kelvin that said at the time that they knew everything except two things. It is also notable that Danielsson likes to try to explain the notions metaphorically rather than philosophizing at the border of the knowledge. Einstein apparently did not listen so much for experimental results when he worked as he did to philosophy, notably Hume.
Learned from Wikipedia today that the speed of light is not necessarily the fastest speed. Space can expand faster than the speed of light. If space expands faster than the speed of light, we can’t see what is behind the horizon.
Listened to the last program with Leffler/Danielsson but it was only rather loose speculations about the possibility of life on other planets. It was interesting to hear about the Voyager II probe from 1977. About the selection of music from a blind blues player that society had treated badly and no welfare system helped. Maybe it is possible to hear this in his music for a more advanced civilization.
Saturday December 12, 2009
For those of you that thought Astrology had disappeared since Johannes Kepler there is new information from the Pew Forum of an increase in people that believe in a spiritual energy in physical things like mountains, trees and crystals and in astrology (the position of stars and planets can affect a person's life) in the US. As much as 25% of people that have a conventional religion believe in such a fashion. Such phenomena need not be supernatural.
I find this very interesting because of my own religion Religious Humanism which is a kind of pantheism. The poll claims that more and more young persons believe in this fashion so it is a trend that is coming in in this way. If the whole Universe is God, it might indeed have an effect on you that is unknown today.
Perhaps it is a sign of people respecting the unknown more than earlier. Respect for the power of science as a means of finding out more. That there is indeed more to find out.
It is otherwise conceivable that people might start to think that we will reach a new plateau of learning and like the Greeks be followed by a stage in history where not much new findings became known. I have heard from distinguished scientists that we just have this or that left to explain and I find this very odd.
The poll also describes that more and more people attend services of other denominations and even other faiths. This might mean that faith is becoming more of a private issue for the individual and that the congregation is losing influence or is substituted with other organizational forms.
If the development is the same in Europe, this would mean that we would get less and less problems from the religious differences of people.
Monday July 12, 2010
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
Hobbes lived to be 91 years of age at a time when the expected life length was half of this. He was a contemporary to Galileo, Kepler, Bacon and Descartes. It is interesting that his fame came from the book Leviathan from 1651 when he was as old as 63 years of age. He published this book at the end of an exile in Paris from the English Civil War where parliamentarists stood against royalists and the end of the 30 year’s War on the Continent which was mainly between Protestants and Catholics.
Hobbes was a self made man that became a tutor to one of the richest families in England at the time, the Cavendish. As such he traveled and actually met with Galileo. During his stay in Paris he encountered people from René Descartes circle and actually met with him personally. Their discussion led to that they did not have further contact. Scientifically, however, Hobbes followed Descartes but as the materialist he was he rejected Descartes’ dualism. He saw Man and the Universe as machines and there was no moral in Man. The lack of moral in Man led Hobbes to postulate a State of Nature of outright war if there was no sovereign with power over State and Church. Morality stemmed from the laws of the sovereign. It is believed that he was inspired of this from the civil war period where he saw this disorder as had been originally. He actually thought American Indians lived under a State of Nature situation.
Hobbes was a product of the new science and is considered the first political philosopher where he makes the first new statement that then many others attacked. He started the debate. However, he was wrong with the character of the State of Nature when he disregarded Aristotle’s more biological Man the political animal and also in that England became a parliamentary state rather than an autocracy as finalized by the Glorious Revolution in 1688. For Religious Humanism, a materialistic pantheism, Hobbes is important for introducing a materialist perspective. He was protected at old age by Charles II against religious parliamentary attacks for his supposed atheism.
Friday November 6, 2009
Sir Isaac Newton
Newton (1643-1727) have said:
"I do not know what I have appeared to the world, but to myself I seem only have been like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
Humble before God?
One of his nicer looking pebbles was Principia Mathematica of 1687 considered one of the most influential books in the history of science. In Principia one finds the three universal laws of motion and the law of gravity:
Newton's first law, or the law of inertia, states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest and that an object in uniform motion tends to stay in uniform motion unless acted upon by a net external force.
Newton's second law, states that an applied force on an object equals the rate of change of its momentum with time. F=mxa.
The two first laws represent a break with Aristotle who claimed that a force was necessary for maintaining a uniform motion.
Newton's third law, states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Newton's law of gravitation: F=Gxm1xm2/r^2
He proved the relation of Kepler's laws of planetary motion and the law of gravity thus removing the last doubts of the heliocentric theory. Galileo had inspired Newton with his discovery that bodies with different weight fell at the same speed, i.e., m1 approximately equal with m2.
Newton was devout but not a conventional Christian. A heretic, he most probably did not believe in the Trinity concept. He wrote more on religion than on science during his lifetime. Concerning the above laws, for which he became most famous, he said: "Gravity explains the motion of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done." In the 1690s he wrote a number of religious tracts dealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible.
Newton's introductory statement is for me an indication of the vastness of Nature of God like proportions. We have so much more to learn.
How to explain Newton’s great conventional faith? I also removed the Trinity before I decided on Religious Humanism by changing Father in Our Father to Our God. At the time it was not obvious that progress in science would be so successful. Even if people like Francis Bacon (1561-1626) predicted this. Newton’s statement about the pebbles on the shore of the ocean is of course also in this general direction.
In Religious Humanism we are locking ourselves up again dogmatically with our natural laws. A new approximation of absolute truth?
Friday July 16, 2010
Newton and Einstein might have been displaced by Erik P Verlinde who in 2009 claimed that gravity is an entropic force. The studies apparently suggest a deep connection between gravity and thermodynamics.
“Starting from first principles and general assumptions Newton's law of gravitation is shown to arise naturally and unavoidably in a theory in which space is emergent through a holographic scenario. Gravity is explained as an entropic force caused by changes in the information associated with the positions of material bodies. A relativistic generalization of the presented arguments directly leads to the Einstein equations. When space is emergent even Newton's law of inertia needs to be explained. The equivalence principle leads us to conclude that it is actually this law of inertia whose origin is entropic.” (Erik P Verlinde, January 2010)
Forget curved space or the spooky attraction at a distance described by Isaac Newton’s equations well enough to let us navigate the rings of Saturn, the force we call gravity is simply a byproduct of nature’s propensity to maximize disorder.
It is apparently still a controversial idea but it would of course be neat that we would have taken another step on the road of understanding gravity. Nature’s propensity of maximizing disorder is of course, as I discussed elsewhere, contrary to what the evolution does.
If I have understood this correctly, it would mean that the Earth is circling the Sun not because of a direct attraction between the Sun and the Earth but instead because of a resultant of entropic phenomena. It seems, however, like the Solar System is, like life, a local entropy minimum. The Solar Systems of the Universe are spaced with emptiness as is the molecules in a gas and even a solid. Someone still have to explain for me how to think entropically about heavenly bodies. It does not seem to be the same game as molecular sized events. It is fascinating that a prerequisite for life like our Solar System also would be an entropy minimum. Is the galaxy The Milky Way another one?
Our minds have started to process ideas as a result of the creation of a chain of entropy minimums. There must be some form of force acting against maximization of disorder?
Helium is leaving the atmosphere not because of a low attraction to Earth but because of the fact that it is insoluble in the gas mixture of the atmosphere. It is a gas phase separation. Like oil in water. Normally one would then use density difference and gravitation to explain the direction of the phase separation. How to use Verlinde’s idea to explain the directionality? It is perhaps possible in the case of helium to say that it is more soluble in vacuum and that oil is more soluble in air to explain the directionality reasoning entropically. But if you have oil and water in a full glass vial, how does one explain the directionality then? I seems like some outside factor must be present, like dark matter or energy?
Wednesday July 14 and July 17, 2010
Locke discussed, some people think, the notion of State of Nature with Hobbes' view of a State of War. Locke did not agree, however, and suggested that Laws of Nature governed the moral of people that behaved. Not all though, so a state was necessary to enforce the laws. Biologic variation is actually the reason for why a state would be necessary for the safety of individuals. The potential of a state is of course also much greater.
Although Grotius had claimed that the laws come from people and do not need God, Locke believed that God gave the moral to people and were against atheists. No one, however, was divinely given the right to rule over other people.
Spinoza, who was born 1632, as was Locke, then explained that God was Nature and therefore a very modern view that morals are coded genetically was in principle there already in the 17th century.
What Locke said was however in tune with his time and the self-evidentness of mans right to life, health, liberty and property gave rise to the American Revolution that later returned the grace to Europe and saved the 20th century from ruin twice.
Locke was actually a trained physician and his notion of morals as biological might have been the single most powerful idea of all times? Political Science starts here. Locke was known for the tabula rasa idea that no ideas where innate thus separating him from Descartes. Everything comes from experience. However, it is not possible for him to have had the idea that man could not infringe on other people’s life, liberty and property if there was no innate ideas. It was probably also recognized that animals have instincts although general believe in the value of such comparisons might not yet have been legio. It is also perhaps possible to say that there is a difference between innate behaviors and ideas. There is also the by Locke discussed propensity for self preservation. Therefore this contradiction needs clarification.
Locke knew Newton and Boyle and was admitted to the Royal Society of London in 1667, seven years after it establishment. His main works Two Treatises of Government came in 1690 which made him world famous. This work was support for the Glorious Revolution of 1688 but is believed to have been written much earlier. He advocated a legislative parliament with an executive monarch, ie the English model of separation of powers. The participation of the people in a social contract was important. He was for tolerance and is considered the father of liberalism.
Both Hobbes and Locke spent their early years with the new science in association with politically powerful families and then matured late into political philosophy trying to incorporate the new ideas into political science. Both had to flee the country for a while due to the turbulent times of the 17th century England. Protestantism became the rule in Britain for a hundred years with William of Orange replacing the Catholic James II.
Friday November 13, 2009
William Harvey (1578-1657) studied at the same university as Copernicus namely University of Padua, founded 1222, and still in operation in Italy. He then returned to England and married, but got no children, and worked in London as a physician. He left money in his will to a boy school in his native town Folkestone which opened 1674 and was called Harvey Grammar School and is still in continuous operation.
After the discovery of the blood circulation 1616 he lived dangerously as the personal physician to James I (1618-1625) who became ill and Harvey failed to cure him and became a scapegoat among a supposed Catholic plot to kill James I. He was saved by the personal protection of Charles I to whom he was also the personal physician (1625-1647).
His teacher at Padua, Hieronymus Fabricius, had discovered venous valves but his explanation of their function did not satisfy Harvey who went on to discover the circulation of the blood in 1616 which was published 1628 as An Anatomical Exercise on the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals.
The heart-lung circulation was discovered earlier by Ibn al-Nafis, born 1213 and Michael Servetus, born 1511. al-Nafis did discuss the possible existence of a link between arteries and veins in the pulmonary circulation and is by some called the father of circulatory physiology. It would be interesting to know what he thought the function of the heart and lung was?
Galen, born 129, had discovered the different colors of arterial and venous blood and hypothesized that venous blood originated in the liver and arterial blood in the heart. Harvey changed this concept. He did not know about al-Nafis work. The different color of the blood is today known to depend on the oxygenation of hemoglobin, the oxygen transporter in blood, that changes the absorbtion spectrum of hemoglobin in the visible range.
Harvey also laid down that the heart was a pump operating the pulmonary and systemic circulations rather than that it, and the liver, was sucking blood as was the theory at the time. The reason al-Nafis did not think of the systemic circulation was probably that even at Harvey's time metabolism was unknown.
His theory was eventually accepted during his life time but was attacked and he had to defend himself with a publication from 1649. There was, however, no effect on medical practice at this time. People continued to practice bloodletting ad modum Galen.
It should be noted that capillaries, the thin blood corpuscle-sized vessels that join the arteries and veins, where not known at the time of Harvey and were discovered 1661 by Marcello Malpighi in a paper on frog lung. This was after the microscope had been invented by Leeuwenhoek, born 1632, dead 1723.
Religion: Anglican; Harvey conformed to the established church, but there is no evidence of serious religious commitment and more than one suggestion (though only on the level of gossip) of considerable free thought.
In the Bible drawing blood from a slaughtered animal was known and the discovery of the circulation did not speak against the Bible.
So what is it we don’t know about the circulation system today? The Chinese have the heart in focus in their medicine, not the brain. Is the electric activity important? Is the bio field important? Today we know that the vascular system is much more than just tubing. It is reasonable to believe that we just started to investigate this further. The web of the vascular system is everywhere and integrated with blood tissue and thus with the skeleton and the spleen and lymph nodes. Everywhere there is also nervous tissue. To operate the vascular system. Or so the thinking goes? Then how to explain acupuncture? Acupuncture does not seem to operate via the nerves. The points do not coincide with the dermatomes.
Friday February 26, 2010
Theories on coagulation have existed since antiquity but it was not until the latter half of the 19th century when coagulation factors were discovered and the enzymatic nature of the process was hypothesized. Platelets were discovered 1865. One of these phenomena that needed a more developed science for its explanation. I took over two thousand years but then again it might have been observed by stone age individuals. You could remove blood from an animal which coagulated in the vessel you collected it in.
Today we think the brain is doing the thinking. Is it or does it just provide the means for it, eg, pumping up a bio field? The heart pumps around blood with nutrients and oxygen for metabolism and the brain might build up the net for the thinking.
This magical transformation of blood in front of the eyes probably is related to the non-use of blood in kosher food. Divine property of animal removed. Drink the blood of Jesus as wine. Based on a scientific observation of blood coagulation? Life was in blood and disappeared when it coagulated? Leviticus 17:11 “the life of a creature is in the blood”. Life was divine. For many it still is. Divine blood was life and therefore blocked the idea of metabolism carrier?
Heart is warm, pulsating, a symbol for love. “I will give you my heart”. Body heat equals metabolism or combustion. Death cold, still.
Life is light. The crucial experiment with a candle in a glass jar that goes out when the oxygen is consumed.
Thursday July 22, 2010
There is a very slow development of cellular biology after Harvey’s discovery of blood circulation and the invention of the microscope in the middle of the 17th century. The Cell Theory did not really develop until the 19th century. It is credited to Theodor Schwann (1810-1882), Matthias Schleiden (1804-1881) and Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902). Anton van Leeuwenhoek discovered an algae Spirogyra in 1674 which was the first time a live cell was seen in a microscope. He also saw red blood cells and spermatozoa. Histology with stains did not however develop until the 19th century and there was no phase contrast microscope to see organelles without stain.
Interestingly, there is a gap in scientific development, ie no major break-through, during the enlightenment which was a rather humanistic affair where the whereabouts of the civilization was discussed. However, at the time of the two revolutions science began to move again.
Friday July 23, 2010
There is, however, the Scottish enlightenment with the moral sense philosophers Shaftesbury, Butler and Hutcheson and of course David Hume (1711-1776) and Adam Smith (1723-1790). The fact that reason nor religion did not govern morality was a development that was very important for the development of Religious Humanism. The notion that you needed to be smart to be moral was not very egalitarian. It is, by the way, the same phenomenon as being religious which does not co-vary with intelligence. It would interest me to know if this observation in any way led to the conclusion of the moral sense school. Many people, even today, would think religiousness and morality go hand in hand. Shaftesbury, however, stressed that morality is separate from religion or spirituality.
Saturday July 24, 2010
“Of the same class of virtues with courage is that undisturbed philosophical tranquility, superior to pain, sorrow, anxiety, and each assault of adverse fortune. Conscious of his own virtue, say the philosophers, the sage elevates himself above every accident of life; and securely placed in the temple of wisdom, looks down on inferior mortals engaged in pursuit of honors, riches, reputation, and every frivolous enjoyment. These pretentious, no doubt, when stretched to the utmost, are by far too magnificent for human nature. They carry, however, a grandeur with them, which seizes the spectator, and strikes him with admiration.” David Hume, Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, 1751.
Hume states that his second Enquiry above is "of all my writings, historical, philosophical, or literary, incomparably the best." The citation above is a little strange as Hume was a civilization optimist and should not lock down on inferior mortals busy driving society.
“And as every quality which is useful or agreeable to ourselves or others is, in common life, allowed to be a part of personal merit; so no other will ever be received, where men judge of things by their natural, unprejudiced reason, without the delusive glosses of superstition and false religion. Celibacy, fasting, penance, mortification, self-denial, humility, silence, solitude, and the whole train of monkish virtues; for what reason are they everywhere rejected by men of sense, but because they serve to no manner of purpose; neither advance a man's fortune in the world, nor render him a more valuable member of society; neither qualify him for the entertainment of company, nor increase his power of self-enjoyment?” David Hume in the Conclusion of ECPM, 1751.
Another spring of our constitution, that brings a great addition of force to moral sentiments, is the love of fame; which rules, with such uncontrolled authority, in all generous minds, and is often the grand object of all their designs and undertakings. By our continual and earnest pursuit of a character, a name, a reputation in the world, we bring our own deportment and conduct frequently in review, and consider how they appear in the eyes of those who approach and regard us. This constant habit of surveying ourselves, as it were, in reflection, keeps alive all the sentiments of right and wrong, and begets, in noble natures, a certain reverence for themselves as well as others, which is the surest guardian of every virtue.” David Hume in the Conclusion of ECPM, 1751.
Sunday July 25, 2010
“I say, that this final sentence depends on some internal sense or feeling, which nature has made universal in the whole species. For what else can have an influence of this nature? But in order to pave the way for such a sentiment, and give a proper discernment of its object, it is often necessary, we find, that much reasoning should precede, that nice distinctions be made, just conclusions drawn, distant comparisons formed, complicated relations examined, and general facts fixed and ascertained. Some species of beauty, especially the natural kinds, on their first appearance, command our affection and approbation; and where they fail of this effect, it is impossible for any reasoning to redress their influence, or adapt them better to our taste and sentiment. But in many orders of beauty, particularly those of the finer arts, it is requisite to employ much reasoning, in order to feel the proper sentiment; and a false relish may frequently be corrected by argument and reflection. There are just grounds to conclude, that moral beauty partakes much of this latter species, and demands the assistance of our intellectual faculties, in order to give it a suitable influence on the human mind.” David Hume, Section I, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, 1751.
Saturday December 5, 2009
The discovery of oxygen 1773 which was made in an era where Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1742-1786) and Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794) all contributed to the discovery. Lavoisier, despite being a member of the French Academy of Sciences was beheaded during the French Revolution. The judge said "The Republic needs neither scientists nor chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed". Priestley due to his unitarianism and support for the French Revolution had to flee to the United States, his house and church torched by a mob. Scheele, although probably the first to discover oxygen, did not get credit for it since Priestley did publish it earlier. Scheele, like Linné, made Sweden a front nation in science during the 18th century.
Robert Boyle (1627-1691) showed in the end of the 17th century that air was necessary for combustion. He was among the founding members of the Royal Society in London 1660, the first institute dedicated to scientific pursuit.
These scientists in essence all worked to disprove the 1667 theory of phlogiston. It was believed that a fire-like element called phlogiston was contained in combustible bodies, and released during combustion. The theory was an attempt to explain combustion and rusting which is today understood as oxidations, ie oxygen is added to the burning compounds.
Lavoisier was the first to publish the disproof of the phlogiston theory. Priestley and Scheele did not use their discoveries of oxygen to bring down the phlogiston theory. This is a very important discovery since the understanding on the metabolism of biological cells rest on oxidation and the continuation of Harvey's discovery of the systemic blood circulation follows from this understanding. Ibn al-Nafis (born 1213) was also closing in on biological oxidation but could not have understood it completely since he only discovered the lung-heart circulation and not the systemic circulation that brought something in the air to the tissues in the body.
People believed in vitalism, a doctrine where the functions of a living organism are due to a vital principle distinct from biochemical reactions. It was not until Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) demonstrated that biochemical reactions took place in biological tissues with fermentation in yeast that this paradigm changed. Lavoisier had also worked with Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827) demonstrating that respiration in essence was a slow combustion of organic material using inhaled oxygen, "la respiration est donc une combustion". He had used a calorimeter to investigate respiration and heat production in a guinea pig.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is also believed to have discovered that a portion of air is consumed during combustion and respiration. However, many with him have obviously realized that humans and animals cannot live without air.
Monday August 2, 2010
Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) was beheaded during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution. The judge apparently said while delivering his verdict that the revolution did not need scientists and chemists. Nevertheless, Lavoisier was a very accomplished person that found out, among other things, after having co-discovered oxygen 1773, that biological organisms where driven by combustion.
This discovery is one of the great ones of the scientific revolution. It was now possible to ask the question how and start working. It gave rise to a tremendous amount of important work. No "vital principle" was needed for life. Life had become demystified and people where emancipated. The ironic question to pose was if not Lavoisier's idea helped propel the revolution by this liberalism from divine influence, evil spirits and the like.
Lavoisier's idea, however, came late in the enlightenment of the 18th century and perhaps disappeared in the turmoil of revolution and war followed by the cultural reaction romanticism. Enzymes, the engines of biologic combustion, where not discovered until the end of the 19th century in France by Pasteur and Germany by Buchner. People were seemingly lost in the more spiritual electromagnetism that arrived from Italy in the 1780s by Galvani and Volta and Denmark 1820 by Oerstedt.
The last decades have featured a development where people gradually have lost the control of their bodies. Thus in a time which could be called a new enlightenment, with the neo-Gutenberg event of the invention of the personal computer and its operative system, Google and Wikipedia, loss of personal integrity and the contraption of the soul and the body runs counter to this development. Will their effects cancel out or do we find that enlightenment wins out?
Wednesday December 16, 2009
Enzymes and Cellular Metabolism
Lavoisier (1743-1794) had exclaimed around 1780 that "la respiration est donc un combustion", ie, respiration is then a combustion. Which is to say that a fire is burning within all living things, a highly controlled fire. Life was beginning to look like chemical reactions in tight control.
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), the French chemist and microbiologist, came up with a good clue when he was studying fermentation of sugar to alcohol by yeast:
"alcoholic fermentation is an act correlated with the life and organization of the yeast cells, not with the death or putrefaction of the cells".
He called his vital principle for "ferments".
The German physiologist Wilhelm Kühne (1837-1900) coined the word enzyme in 1878 and it is derived from the Greek word for "in leaven". The German Eduard Buchner at the University of Berlin in 1898 continued the yeast experiments and demonstrated that a yeast extract, that did not contain any living yeast cells, did ferment sugar for which he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1907. An intense activity in biochemistry ensued in the early years of the 20th century. Enzymes, made from protein, catalyses chemical reactions in cells.
Sir Hans Adolf Krebs (1900-1981) was such a worker, a German born British physician and biochemist, that discovered the urea cycle and the citric acid cycle, or the Kreb's Cycle. He got the Nobel Prize for this in 1953. These cycles are a series of enzymatic reactions that are often feed-back controlled of products and substrates.
The citric acid cycle produces energy from glucose, a six carbon sugar, when coupled to the so called glycolysis, or Embden-Meyerhof pathway, first discovered from Gustav Embden (1874-1933) and Otto Meyerhof (1884-1951).
Thus energy in the form of so called ATP, adenosine-tri-phosphate, is produced from sugar via its "combustion", yes oxygen is consumed, via the glycolysis, citric acid cycle and the so called oxidative phosphorylation. This is the internal fire. ATP is then used by all kinds of reactions in the cell for life support.
In the early 1940s the link between the fermentation of sugars and the formation of ATP was finally conclusively proven by the Danish physician Herman Kalckar (1908-1991). The ATP generating mechanism was solved by the so called Chemiosmotic Theory from 1961. The ATP synthase is driven by a proton gradient as suggested by Peter D. Mitchell (1920-1992). Highly controversial at first, he got the Nobel Prize for it in 1978, almost 200 years after Lavoisier made his discovery of biologic combustion.
Friday August 6, 2010
The origin of life is in essence the origin of catalysis, ie making possible chemical reactions at body or other ambient temperatures and pressures in water. In the 1970s Thomas Cech at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Sidney Altman at Yale University discovered that RNAs can catalyze reactions. The crystallization of the ribosome has also demonstrated that it in essence is a ribozyme with its RNA core. Thus about a hundred years after protein catalysis was discovered the perhaps more evolutionary interesting RNA catalysis was discovered. RNA is believed to predate DNA and protein. As with protein catalysis the three dimensional structure of RNAs are responsible for the catalysis as are occasionally divalent cations placed in the structures explaining the need for these essential ions in multivitamin mineral pills.
It is of course conceivable that an equivalent of life could appear in another fashion. However, it should then be possible to create a creative mind in a non-water medium. Assuming that a creative mind is the crown of evolution so far.
I don’t know about the second law of thermodynamics but it definitely seems like in important scenarios order is created rather than destroyed. Evolution creates order. Molecular interactions create order in crystals. Is evolution a law that is stronger than dispersion? Is there a difference in importance, apples and oranges? Dark energy accounts for 74% of all mass-energy in the universe according to the standard model of cosmology. It permeates all of space. Does it drive evolution? Does it affect life processes, thinking? Dark energy only interacts with gravity among the four different forces and its density is very low 10-29 g/cm3 which would be very difficult to detect in a laboratory set up. How about a bio assay? And why does not bacteria, that evolves so fast, evolve to higher life forms?
The solution on the theodicé problem is perhaps that evolution needs fatal competition to drive the creation of higher order?
Spontaneous order is formed supposedly in a market economy as well. This is order in societal structure not in tissue function. We have chemical evolution, biological evolution and societal evolution. Different phenomena? However, in the evolution of catalysis, or chemical evolution, there is no death to drive the selection really. Another selection method must be used? There is no reproduction of the successful synthetic product either.
In society the survival of the fittest has changed the last 100 years to include due to empathy, a human quality, survival of less fit individuals. The total quality of an individual is instead considered giving space for many more individuals. We have in essence changed the evolutionary mechanism.
Thursday December 17, 2009
Origin of Life—The Cellular Perspective
Well, Darwin's evolution theory begins with the first cell on Earth. It does not explain how this first cell was created. It is necessary to be very humble before this question and don't explain fast progress in its explanation.
In Göteborgs-Posten one reads today that Nobel Prize laureate Jack Szostak, who got the prize for his work on telomers, now have switched to origin of life work. So has Ada Yonath, who got this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research on the ribosome, according to Dagens Nyheter some days ago.
They have apparently different approaches. Szostak work in recreating simple life forms that would mimic early cells not present any longer on Earth. Yonath work on the possibility that protein biosynthesis might have started as an RNA story all together. Ribosomes have a core that seems to be standing alone in its task of synthesizing proteins. RNA has also been shown to act as an enzyme, so called ribozymes. Yonath and her team are trying to recreate this active principle.
The question is if we don't need an Einstein of Biology for solving this question. A person that will offer a totally new perspective. Because solving the riddle of how Nature created the first cell seems impossible. It can be compared to sitting down in a comfortable chair and waiting for a Boeing 747 to materialize in front of you by itself. You would not want to be in a hurry.
It might be that our present mechanical paradigm for how cells and how our bodies work, that we acquired at the outset of the scientific revolution, somehow is not going to take us all the way. What is comfortable to know, however, is that since we are here it must have happened. There must be a way to explain the creation of life.
Perhaps someone will find out how a chemical "evolution" occurred. Finding a today unknown principle for how the components of a cell were created in Nature. Such a principle would reduce the problem of creating the first cell to one of waiting for the Boeing 747 to materialize from its parts. That would not take as long time as would waiting for both the construction and the production of its parts.
So who would you bet your money on for having the largest impact, Szostak the geneticist or Yonath the chemist? The above reasoning would lead to the origin of life being solved more likely in the chemical domain. However, there are problems in the evolution theory that are unsolved as well. We don't know, for example, how the human brain became so large, so fast, a few million years ago. When it started to think like a human, ie, when human life began.
Saturday August 7, 2010
In the interim of the discovery of metabolism and its follow up experimentation on enzymes the United States of America was founded which would come to be very essential for furthering the quest of science during the 20th century. One of the most important Founding Fathers of the US was Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826). He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third US President (1801-1809). He was the first Secretary of State and the second Vice-President. He executed the Louisiana Purchase where almost half of the western part of the current US was purchased from a cash-stripped Napoleon in 1803. Thus the success of the American Revolution of 1776 was the result of a failed French Revolution of 1789. Napoleon kept the British busy in Europe. French enlightenment had in a curious way helped the scientific development in the 20th century.
Jefferson was not the typical Christian of his day but rather connected with Deism and Unitarianism. There was resistance to his election for President in 1800 due to this. Jefferson did not believe in miracles, nor in Jesus as a deity only as a moral teacher. He rejected the concept of the Trinity in a letter from 1788. He even called himself a materialist once in a letter from 1820. In his college years at William and Mary he came to admire Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton and John Locke as three great paragons of wisdom.
Jefferson has been conceived as a philosophical anarchist. He believed that the moral sense of people was so great that a community that was not too large could function well without a government. He apparently expressed admiration for the communal living of tribal native Americans and thought they might be happier than people in governed Europe.
The conflict that took shape in the 1790s between the Federalists and the Anti-federalists exercised a profound impact on American history. The Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, who had married into the wealthy Schuyler family, represented the urban mercantile interests of the seaports; the Anti-federalists, led by Thomas Jefferson, spoke for the rural and southern interests. The debate between the two concerned the power of the central government versus that of the states, with the Federalists favoring the former and the Anti-federalists advocating states' rights.
Jefferson advocated a decentralized agrarian republic. He recognized the value of a strong central government in foreign relations, but he did not want it strong in other respects. Hamilton's great aim was more efficient organization, whereas Jefferson once said "I am not a friend to a very energetic government." Hamilton feared anarchy and thought in terms of order; Jefferson feared tyranny and thought in terms of freedom.
“When in the course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.”
From the initial lines of the US Declaration of Independence it is clear that Jefferson thinks the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God (a Deist concept) entitles Americans to the same rights as Britons. This makes him more like a psychologist than Locke a hundred years before William James. Then he becomes almost pure Lockean:
“WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, a spokesman for self-reliance, then said in his address An American Scholar at Harvard 1837, with the US President present, that the US should “gather from far every ray of various genius to our hospitable halls”. A hundred years later this call to become competitive had given results and is today believed to be one of the pillars of American science.
Friday December 4, 2009
We are right now passing the 150 year anniversary of Charles Darwin's epochal book On the Origin of Species from 1859 published the same year as John Stuart Mill published his On Liberty. Darwin lived between 1809 to 1882.
Darwin started out in life as a Unitarian, ie., he, like Newton, did not believe in the trinity but well in God. However, as his life progressed he became less and less religious and around 1849 he took a walk instead of joining his family at Church stating "absurd to doubt that a man might be an ardent theist and an evolutionist". He had started to lay down the theory of natural selection already in 1838. In 1879 he wrote "I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally... an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind".
I firmly believe that many scientists will have a problem with the trinity, ie, that God exists as three persona, Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. That unfortunately leaves Jesus out of the picture and severely dents Christendom since the resurrection would not occur.
His father, himself a physician, sent the young Darwin to University of Edinburgh 1825 to study medicine but Darwin did not like it. His father then sent him to Christ College, Cambridge 1828 for a Bachelor of Arts as the first step of becoming an Anglican parson, a priest in an independent parish. He became a close friend and collaborator to botany professor John Stevens Henslow. People around him saw scientific work as religious natural theology. He graduated in 1831 and after some further studies of Natural Theology Henslow suggested that he'd go on HMS Beagle that sailed around the world during five years. Variability in Nature was à la mode.
During the trip he was acquainted with new geological concepts of creation taking place a long time ago and thus he slowly came out of his literal belief in the Bible. He for example discovered fossils. He collaborated all the time with Henslow on collecting plants. After returning home he became Secretary of the Geological Society in March 1838. In October 1838 he wrote:
"In October 1838, that is, 15 months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus' on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everyone goes on from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favorable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavorable ones would be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of a new species. Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work..."
He proposed to Emma Wedgwood on November 11 the same year. An accomplished soul. After a fellow scientist Alfred Russel Wallace had arrived at the same conclusion on natural selection Darwin published his On the Origin of Species in 1859. By the end of the next decade most scientists agreed that evolution occurred, but only a minority supported Darwin's view that the chief mechanism was natural selection. An intense debate on the implications for theology ensued.
Thomas Henry Huxley said Darwin’s theory of natural selection was the first good theory without a supernatural element.
Friday January 15, 2010
The problem is that evolution theory does not remove the need for creation since evolution only starts at the first cell. The choice then stands for a supernatural explanation of the first cell or something yet unknown from the materialistic domain.
It is interesting to note that Darwin progressed in his religion through life. His religion evolved. I feel that I have continued this progression on a logic path of explaining how we feel about God. Then comes the question about what is real and what is our imagination.
Supernatural Polytheism—Supernatural Personal monotheism (60%)—Supernatural Non-personal monotheism (20%)—Materialistic monotheism, Pantheism (?%). Could this be the order of development of religion and its God concept? Where does it belong? As a bridge between faith and atheism or in the faith domain only.
Where are we evolving now? Probably to a higher degree of intelligence. Everyone speak of innovation today. This could fade however. People like Birger Schlaug propose a more laid back society. Personally I believe we will move on like this for quite some time. The present brain probably has a limit as does the motility apparatus. However, we don’t know why the brain is creative. It is not because of the synapse function per se which would then be compared with that of the muscle cells function. Most people would say it is in the organization of the brain and then there would not be a limit necessarily. We will definitely hook up to computers in a not so distant future. Perhaps already?
Friday May 21, 2010
Craig Venter’s lab in the US has now succeeded in developing a synthetic life form based on a synthetic DNA genome and a denucleated mycoplasma host. This work has been going on for a few years now. Mycoplasma is the smallest living, albeit parasitic, they have no oxidative phosphorylation, organism known on Earth. Only 540-1,300 kilobase pairs in their genome. Thus this is the starting point for our direct intervention in evolution which I discussed elsewhere. Venter will also be able to find out the minimum machinery needed for life as we know it. However, mycoplasma might not be the originating cell form in evolution even if it is the smallest now known. If evolution is just trial and error, we just have to start permutating to improve life on Earth. With a few technical hurdles. If you talk about human evolution, it has been possible to introduce genes in human embryos. So called gene therapy. A bad gene can be replaced after which embryogenesis proceeds normally. This would also be a way to make humans evolve with directed trial and error mechanisms now when more and more is known about the human genome and how it differs in people with different attributes. There is more to the molecular genetics than sequence though.
Thursday July 29, 2010
Survival of the fittest
“It can do truth no service to blink the fact, known to all who have the most ordinary acquaintance with literary history, that a large portion of the noblest and most valuable moral teaching has been the work, not only of men who did not know, but of men who knew and rejected, the Christian faith”. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill, 1859.
“In the first place, then, I would suggest that they might possibly learn something from them. It will not be denied by anybody, that originality is a valuable element in human affairs. There is always need of persons not only to discover new truths, and point out when what were once truths are true no longer, but also to commence new practices, and set the example of more enlightened conduct, and better taste and sense in human life”. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill, 1859.
Ralph Waldo Emerson lived at the same time and also focused on self-reliance and that man’s quest is not to copy and read too many books. Rather should he create! This was followed by Edison and the Wright’s brothers and such people. A wave of inventors followed the initiation of public schools in the early 19th century.
“Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time”. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill, 1859.
Our time’s eccentricity is innovation.
We have this problem in Scandinavia, the so called Law of Jante from Aksel Sandemose’s book En flykting korsar sitt spår. “Don’t ever think you are something”. “Don’t stand out”.
“Its ideal of character is to be without any marked character; to maim by compression, like a Chinese lady's foot, every part of human nature which stands out prominently, and tends to make the person markedly dissimilar in outline to commonplace humanity”. Mill here discusses the problem with Chinese collectivism?
It was actually the threat of collectivism in Britain the Mill worried about: “The greatness of England is now all collective: individually small, we only appear capable of anything great by our habit of combining; and with this our moral and religious philanthropists are perfectly contented. But it was men of another stamp than this that made England what it has been; and men of another stamp will be needed to prevent its decline.”
“A people, it appears, may be progressive for a certain length of time, and then stop: when does it stop? When it ceases to possess individuality.” So Mill has the verdict of system society: It will break. Individuality is gone? Privacy certainly is. The removal of personal integrity has a very bad effect on individuality. America used to be a place where you could get a second chance also. This is not popular in Europe.
“The modern regime of public opinion is, in an unorganized form, what the Chinese educational and political systems are in an organized; and unless individuality shall be able successfully to assert itself against this yoke, Europe, notwithstanding its noble antecedents and its professed Christianity, will tend to become another China.”
Friday July 30, 2010
Is it then the Western Civilization that is on its way down now and not the British Empire as in Mill’s time. Ideally, China, US and Europe and perhaps India might form the Western-Asian Civilization? I have been scorned for implying that the Asians differ significantly. The Asian and Western political and business elite might not think so but if you ask the peoples this might change the verdict. The question is if the elite’s education that often is Western liberal would trickle down on the masses? However, it is an interesting idea that Asia will come to play the same role in the development as the US did in the end of the 19th century. That would mean that innovation and entrepreneurship would run as strong in the Asians as in the Americans. Another interesting difference is the population density which is much higher in Asia. The Americans expanded out in vast territories whereas the Asians are confined to where they are. It is fascinating that Emerson spurred his fellow Americans on at the same time as Mill scolded the British. You can see this in The New York Times these days where columnists complain over the Americans and warn that they will be left behind by the Chinese. We are also in for a discussion about which type of capitalism will perform the best. Democratic or State capitalism.
It is also very interesting to note that the development in science has been tremendous from Darwin till today whereas the same development in political science is not at all so significant from Mill’s world. Psychology as a subject appeared in the end of the 19th century and has recently boomed as a result of TTDE. We have yet to see the results of this clandestine work. One recent event was the last German election which went in principle without campaigning. Angela Merkel said that she did not want to risk any scandals that would lower the result. I wish they would do the same here in Sweden this fall.
Darwin started a scientific revolution 1859 just as Venter/Collins started one now with the sequencing of the human genome. One should of course recall the structure to function paradigm started by the elucidation of DNA structure 1953. This time is ethical problems rather than religious that will be discussed and that are inhibitory. Venter is interviewed in Spiegel Online International today where he plays down the importance of the sequencing. Venter’s team has however found a tremendous amount of new genes from sea organisms. This bank of information might teach us how nature is constructed since evolution is supposed to originate from the sea. It will be very interesting to know if Venter will find the motifs to our own genes and proteins among these. But The Economist had an survey of genome research the other day where they said that it was now known that there are many genes (>100,000) giving rise to RNA over the 23,000 or so known for making proteins. One such RNA is microRNA, discovered 1993, which acts as silencers in gene regulation of which there are about 1,000 types. This is exciting because RNA is thought to predate DNA and protein in the evolution of life. There used to be a dogma in science that DNA gave rise to RNA that gave rise to protein. But this also stops at RNA nowadays. The new genes stem from the regions earlier called “junk” DNA which explains why it always is dangerous to call anything in Nature for “junk”. Sequencing of genes from different tissues of the same individual had also shown great variation in brain derived genes indicating that there is a divergence taking place during embryogenesis. These are results that are plain revolutionary. Francis Collins wrote a book called The Language of God and I tend, as a Religious Humanist, to agree. It is a fascinating thing that the genetic code to life in Nature, or God, was cracked and now read out in full. We will learn a lot from the variations on that theme.
Darwin’s discovery seems to have involved the passing of mental barriers to reach something laid down before him rather than an eureka moment. That is exactly how I got the idea for materialistic pantheism. A rather at the time of maturation rather obvious thing becomes real. I wonder if such mental barriers are common when a person is subjected to political bigotry. The mind is avoiding painful/shameful thoughts thus limiting the scope for creative associations.
Saturday July 31, 2010
Men det gör man inte genom tron på en personlig Gud. Intet hindrar att man tänker sig denne som god och allvetande. Men är han det kan han inte vara allsmäktig. Det visar lidandet, brotten och orättvisorna i världen. Hans makt måste vara begränsad av något, och sannolikast synes det Mill, att detta är den materia, varav världen är skapad. Denne Gud med begränsad makt behöver vår hjälp för att steg för steg göra världen bättre. Det är idealistens högsta lycka att i denna strävan veta sig vara Guds medarbetare. Svenska Wikipedia. There is a whiff of materialistic pantheism in this paragraph. Mill apparently also corresponded with Aguste Compte.
Mill wrote three posthumous essays on religion that was published 1874 the first of which is called Nature.
“Nor can any such person, whatever kind of religious phrases he may use, fail to believe, that if Nature and Man are both the works of a Being of perfect goodness, that Being intended Nature as a scheme to be amended, not imitated, by Man.” From Nature, 1874 by John Stuart Mill.
“This brief survey is amply sufficient to prove that the duty of man is the same in respect to his own nature as in respect to the nature of all other things, namely not to follow but to amend it.” From Nature, 1874 by John Stuart Mill.
“The word Nature has two principal meanings: it either denotes the entire system of things, with the aggregate of all their properties, or it denotes things as they would be, apart from human intervention.
In the first of these senses, the doctrine that man ought to follow nature is unmeaning; since man has no power to do anything else than follow nature; all his actions are done through, and in obedience to some one or many of nature's physical or mental laws.
In the other sense of the term, the doctrine that man ought to follow nature, or in other words, ought to make the spontaneous course of things the model of his voluntary actions, is equally irrational and immoral.
Irrational, because all human action whatever, consists in altering, and all useful action in improving, the spontaneous course of nature:
Immoral, because the course of natural phenomena being replete with everything which when committed by human beings is most worthy of abhorrence, any one who endeavoured in his actions to imitate the natural course of things would be universally seen and acknowledged to be the wickedest of men.” From Nature, 1874 by John Stuart Mill.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1836 an essay he called Nature. The essay is his definition of his transcendentalism. Neither Emerson nor Mill seems to be pantheists. The question is if the citation from Svenska Wikipedia above is authoritative? Emerson’s Nature is supposed to be the first authentic American literature that cut itself loose from the British influence. There is still a tendency for both Mill and Emerson to deal separately with Man and Nature.
“8. Nature is always consistent, though she feigns to contravene her own laws. She keeps her laws, and seems to transcend them. She arms and equips an animal to find its place and living in the earth, and, at the same time, she arms and equips another animal to destroy it.” From Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1836. Transcending the laws, Emerson perhaps ask for the unknown?
“To the intelligent, nature converts itself into a vast promise, and will not be rashly explained. Her secret is untold.” From Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1836.
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