High Priests of Science

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Galileo Galilei is quoted as saying, “[I]n the sciences the authority of thousands of opinions is not worth as much as one tiny spark of reason in an individual man.” [1]

This has to do with the “consensus science” which lately appears to be spreading. For example you will see “news” reports which include statements such as, “There is a general consensus among scientists that (fill in the blank).”

The problem though is that science can become the exclusive domain of a small number of experts whose work is too technical for most people to understand. This leads to their pronouncements being accepted as true based on “scientific authority.” In other words, it becomes a “high priests” situation. And when the high priests all reach a general consensus, we mere mortals tend to just genuflect and bow our heads.

This was the situation back when the method of the little pebbles, the Calculus, emerged in modern times. To the Jesuits and to Thomas Hobbes, unlikely bedfellows, the geometry of Euclid meant absolute certainty and was the answer to uncertainty and chaos. On the other side, John Wallis, Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford, was a nemesis of Hobbes and the Jesuits. [1]

Wallis was a member of the Invisible College, later called the Royal Society. The patron saint of the Royal Society was Sir Francis Bacon, who also connects with the Rosicrucians, a secret society. In Bacon’s book, New Atlantis, there is described “Salomon’s House”, and the Royal Society considered itself to be the incarnation of Salomon’s House. [1]

About Bacon’s New Atlantis, author W.F.C. Wigston wrote that Bacon’s New Atlantis described “the secret society of men known by the name of the Rosicrucians, and of whom Bacon was probably the head.” [2]

In previous entries of Ersjdamoo’s Blog we have seen how Cosimo II de’Medici, connects with Galileo, Bonaventura Cavalieri, and Evangelista Torricelli, all early dabblers in the idea of the Indivisibles and the Infinitesimals. An ancestor of Cosimo II, Cosimo de’Medici (Cosimo the First), had collected an impressive collection of ancient books, including Hermetic texts attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. [3] A secret “Book of Giants”, revealing, in part, mathematical secrets of Enoch, may have been quietly passed into the hands of Isaac Newton. Dame Frances Yates caused an uproar in 1968 when, in a scholarly article, “she made Hermes a major figure in the preliminaries to the scientific revolution…” [4] And now we have an “Invisible College” tying together Francis Bacon, the Rosicrucians, and John Wallis, who fought a mathematical battle against the forces of Euclid (Jesuits/Hobbes).

The Jesuits and Thomas Hobbes favored deduction and absolute, undoubted truth in mathematics. The approach of Wallis and the Royal Society when this battle was first joined favored induction as preferred scientific method, based upon Francis Bacon’s earlier arguments favoring induction. Truth would be found via experiments which would lead to increasing probability but never to the certainty of, for example, Euclid. The “experimental mathematics” and science would be “validation by consensus.” [1]

Today, however, the two approaches seem to be merging. John Wallis had disliked the arrogant pronouncements of experts. For Wallis and his colleagues, their concern was “not that knowledge would be uncertain, but that it would appear to be too certain and dogmatic…” [1] A friendly, collegial atmosphere where educated laypersons learned from experiments would lead to a more democratic form of truth, believed the adherents to Bacon’s inductive approach. But where are we now? The scientists are tending to become high priests speaking a mystery language and reaching consensus amongst themselves. It tends now towards the same sort of dogmatism so disliked by Wallis and his associates.

——- Sources ——-
[1] Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World, by Amir Alexander. New York: Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.
[2] Bacon, Shakespeare and the Rosicrucians, by W.F.C. Wigston. Reprint of original book, kessinger.net
[3] “Aristotle’s Wheel and the Calculus Conspiracy”, Ersjdamoo’s Blog, April 29, 2015. https://ersjdamoo.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/aristotles-wheel-and-the-calculus-conspiracy/
[4] “Hobbes Squares the Circle”, Ersjdamoo’s Blog, May 2, 2015. https://ersjdamoo.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/hobbes-squares-the-circle/

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About ersjdamoo

Editor of Conspiracy Nation, later renamed Melchizedek Communique. Close associate of the late Sherman H. Skolnick. Jack of all trades, master of none. Sagittarius, with Sagittarius rising. I'm not a bum, I'm a philosopher.
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