Re: science & thingies that go bang in medieval china

Maddog (Christopher.Morgan@JCU.EDU.AU)
Thu, 12 Oct 1995 14:53:16 +1000

Yes, well, I've resisted thus far participating in the old science vs
religion chestnut-type-thingie (is it that time of the year again?), but
the Foss-il below tickles me:

> Empirical investigation in China, before the watershed, was aggregated
>with mystical illumination and religion. Formal reason was, by contrast,
>aggregated with the promulgation and discussion of self-evident moralism.
>European protoscience in the thirteenth century was in not too dissimilar
>a situation, where the experiments of Roger Bacon and Grosseteste, both
>Franciscan friars, presupposed that their minds were honed in argumenta-
>tion on questions of Scholastic theology.
> As I see it, the non-culture-specific discussion of science should begin
>with an Olympian perspective where we ask, "What is the permissible latitude
>whereby or wherein 'science' should look 'scientific' to its practitioners
>(as well as nonpractitioners)? To put it another way, is the currently-
>observable aggregation, in Western science, of empirical investigation with
>formal reason the only possible aggregation of modes of thought which may
>be considered scientific?
> I note in passing that Thunder Rites was indeed replicable. When the
>practitioner used spells, incantations, amulets, and talismans in
>conjunction with gunpowder, he could, reliably, blow things up.
>Daniel A. Foss

As a sort of gross simplification (which, however, pretty well reflects my
own stance on the subject) for 1st-yr anthro undergrads, I've been in the
habit for some time of suggesting that those domains we arbitrarily
separate in western thought into "science" and "religion" might more
usefully be subsumed within an overarching rubric of "cosomology".
Simplistic, perhaps - but certainly a lot more applicable across cultures.

= $0.02
Bow Wow,