- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Free Press (August 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684836394
- ISBN-13: 978-0684836393
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,705 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Science and the Modern World
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About the Author
An English mathematician and philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead provided the foundation for the shool of thought known as process philosophy. With an academic career that spanned from Cambridge to Harvard, Whitehead wrote extensively on mathematics, metaphysis, and philosophy. He died in Massachusetts in 1947.
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Most scientists say they accept Hume with their words and then ignore him with their works. "Scientific faith has risen to the occasion, and has tacitly removed the philosophic mountain."
He notes 'we all share this faith, and therefore believe that the reason for this faith is because it is true.' Belief does not confirm truth. Why do we believe in order? The Chinese and the Indian cultures are older and the scholars just as brilliant. Why no science? The don't have an absolute, instinctive, unquestioned conviction in rationality of existence. (Page 18)
"it must come from that medieval insistence on that rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher. . . Remember that I am not talking of the explicit beliefs of few individuals. What I mean is the impress on the European mind arising from the unquestioned faith of centuries."
Rationality can only come from a rational mind. Jehovah, a rational mind, created the universe. Therefore the universe is rational and can be studied and comprehended.
"My explanation is that the faith in the possibility of science, generated antecedently to the to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative of medieval theology."
However, the trust in meditative rationality also led to a wall. It needed to be combined with observation for science to appear. This occurred. Therefore, Whitehead makes an interesting point, modern science is fundamentally - anti rational and pro observation, "based on a naive faith. . . It has never cared to justify its faith or to explain its meanings."
He says this needs to change or science will no longer progress.
(Page 27) "Faith in reason is the trust that the ultimate natures of things lie together in a harmony which excludes mere arbitrariness. It is the faith that of the base of things we shall not find mere arbitrary mystery. The faith in the order of nature which has made possible the growth of science is a particular example of a deeper faith."
Whitehead notes, "it requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious." (Page 6)
Most moderns do not undertake the analysis of the obvious. Few realize the foundation of the scientific world is Biblical faith.
(Page 268) "we have not yet exhausted the discussion of the moral temper required for the pursuit of truth. There are short cuts leaving nearly to illusory success. It is easy enough to find a theory, logically harmonious and with important applications in the region of fact, provided that you are content to disregard half your evidence. . . Such people are apt resolutely to ignore, or to explain away, all evidence which confuses their scheme with contradictory instances. Sheer determination to take the whole evidence into account is the only method of preservation against the fluctuating extremes of fashionable opinion. This advice seems so easy, and is in fact so difficult to follow."
Evidence to one is nonsense to another.
(Page 273) "Religious appeal is directed partly to excite that instinct the fear of the wrath of a tyrant which was inbred in the unhappy populations of the arbitrary empires of the ancient world. . . This appeal to the ready instinct of brute fear is losing its force. . . Because modern science and modern conditions of life have taught us to meet occasions of apprehension by critical analysis of their causes and conditions.''
"Religion is the reaction of human nature to its search for God. . . The non-religious motives which has entered into modern religious thought is the desire for a comfortable organization of modern society. . . Also the purpose of right conduct quickly degenerates into the formation of pleasing social relations. . . Above and beyond all things the religious life is not a research after comfort."
(Page 275) "Religion is the vision of something which stands beyond, behind, and within, the passing flux of immediate things; something which is real, and yet waiting to be realized; something which is a remote possibility, and yet the greatest present facts; something that gives meaning to all the passes, and get the moods apprehension; something who's position is the final good, and yet is to be owned all reach; something which is the ultimate ideal, and a hopeless quest."
(Page 276) "The power of God is the worship he inspires. That religion is strong which in its ritual and then it's molds of thought evokes apprehension of the commanding vision. The worship of God is not a rule of safety-it is an adventure of the spirit, flight after the unattainable."
(Page 275) "The fact of that religious vision, and it's history of persistent expansion, he is our one ground for optimism. Apart from it, human life is a flash of occasional enjoyments lighting up the mass of pain and misery, a bagatelle of transient experience."
Fascinating comments from a world famous mathematician/philosopher.
One of the most erudite scholars of the twentieth century.
Believes religious experience is the vital part of human existence.
Not the consensus of the academic world.
In SCIENCE AND THE MODERN WORLD, he concerns himself with the interplay betwixt the promise of science in the modern era (say, from the time of Descartes) and the well-known poetic writings of those who were, themselves, transfixed by it. Whitehead certainly gives one the "flavor" of what the new worldview of the emerging scientists involved, especially from a belles-lettres perspective.
This offering is very readable and enormously entertaining and enlightening. I'm now looking for that sixth star to award in my evaluation. And I would give it as seventh as well, but I'm a "tough grader"!