Re: Eastern vs. Western Hemispheres

Wed, 8 Jun 1994 20:15:00 PDT

McClellan writes:
" It was puzzeling to me at
the time how different meso-american and european science were: we strive
for simplicity of expression and they seemed to couch their scientific
observations in complex stories intertwined with religious myth. Lest we
look upon ouselves with a bit of hauteur, might I remind you of
Gallileo's attempts to convince the papal court of the moons of Jupiter.
One of the church hierach objected because this would upset the notion
that there were 7 heavenly bodies, and 7 was a universal number since
"there were seven deadly sins, seven days of the week, seven joys of
Mary, and seven orafices in the head[!]." Gallileo pleaded to him to
look into the telescope and see for himself. The gentleman refused."

Was there meso-american science? What is science? If we take science to
refer to a particular type of discourse that follows certain canons of
argumentation, then merely the fact that folks in various parts of the world
made a variety of astronomical obserevations--even if highly accurate--does
not, in and of itself, establish that the type of discourse we refer to as
as science was part of the culture in question. Indeed, science is a rather
peculiar kind of discourse that even its practitioners find difficult to
maintain; e.g., how many "scientists" easily give up their convictions about
what is "true" when confronted with contradictory evidence? That
meso-americans expressed "observations in complex stories intertwined with
religious myth" (I would prefer something like "religious framework" rather
than "religious myth") needs no apology or rationalization.

D. Read