Whidbey Island Freethinkers Message Board › The history of scientists who spoke truth to the the witch-doctors
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The presence of God was important to Rene Descartes (1596-1650) because God guaranteed the correctness of clear and distinct ideas (aka beliefs). Since God was not a deceiver, the ideas of God-given reason could not be false. He attempted to find certainty through the exploration of his own thinking processes.
Johannes Kepler (astronomer 1571-1630) said, “I am much occupied with the investigation of the physical causes. My aim in this is to show that the machine of the universe is not similar to a divine animated being, but similar to a clock.” Francis Bacon (1561-1626) divided all philosophers into “men of experience and men of dogmas.”
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) traced all psychological processes to bare sensation and regarded all human motivations as egoistical, intended to increase pleasure and minimize pain. Unlike previous Christian and ancient philosophers, human beings exist for no higher spiritual ends or larger ethical purpose than those of meeting the needs of daily life. Human beings in their natural state are inclined to a “perpetual and restless desire” for power (and could not be trusted to keep their word. ) He did not believe human beings were naturally sociable. Rather, they were self-centered creatures lacking a master. Human beings only entering into a political contract according to which they agree to live in a commonwealth tightly ruled by the law. Hobbes refused to recognize the authority of either God or the Church as standing beside or above the secular sovereign (law).
Galileo Galilei's (1564–1642) astronomical discoveries and investigations into the Copernican theory had a lasting legacy. Galileo defended heliocentrism, and claimed it was not contrary to those Scripture passages. He took Augustine's position on Scripture: not to take every passage literally, particularly when the scripture in question is a book of poetry and songs, not a book of instructions or history.
By 1616 the attacks on the ideas of Copernicus had reached a head, and Galilei went to Rome to try to persuade the Catholic Church authorities not to ban Copernicus' ideas. In February 1633 Galilei was tried in Rome and the Church was found "vehemently suspect of heresy," commuted to house arrest, which he remained under for the rest of his life, and he was forbidden from publicizing of any of his works including any he might write in the future.
All traces of official opposition to heliocentrism by the church disappeared in 1835 when these works were finally dropped from the Index.
Isaac Newton (1642-1727) He seemed to have revealed a pattern of rationality in the physical world. He encouraged people to approach the study of nature directly and to avoid metaphysics and supernaturalism. For example, his formulation of the natural law of universal gravitation.
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John Locke (1632-1704) He spoke of human psychology in terms of experience and that all humans enter the world a black page. For him, personality (a person’s character) is the product of the sensations that impinge on an individual from the external world throughout a person’s life. And human nature is changeable and can be molded by modifying the surrounding physical and social environment with the possibility of improving the human condition. Therefore, humans need not wait for the grace of God or other divine aid to better their lives.
Toward the end of the 17th century half of the books published in Paris were religious, by the 1780s, only about ten percent were.
Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), in his work, "Ethics" he closely indentified God and nature. He drew God and nature too intimately into a single divine substance, leaving little room for the possibility of a distinctively divine revelation to humankind in scripture. Born the son of a Jewish merchant, he believed the Hebrew Bible provided Jews with divine legislation, but not with the specially revealed theological knowledge.
François-Marie Arouet Voltaire (1764) Fanaticism is to superstition what delirium is to fever and rage to anger. The man who supports his madness with crimes is a fanatic. The only remedy for this epidemic malady is the philosophical spirit (aka character and a sense of justice ) which, spread gradually at last tames men's habits and prevents the disease from starting. For once the disease has made any progress, law is not strong enough against infecting brains, turning normal people into imbeciles.
Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794) making punishment both effective and just. He rigorously attacked the use of torture.
Idea of deep time James Hutton His theories of geology and geologic time, also called deep time,
Hutton hit on a variety of ideas to explain the rock formations he saw around him, but according to Playfair he "was in no haste to publish his theory; for he was one of those who are much more delighted with the contemplation of truth, than with the praise of having discovered it”. After some 25 years of work, his Theory of the Earth; or an Investigation of the Laws observable in the Composition, Dissolution, and Restoration of Land upon the Globe was read to meetings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in two parts, the first by his friend Joseph Black on 7 March 1785, and the second by himself on 4 April 1785. Hutton subsequently read an abstract of his dissertation Concerning the System of the Earth, its Duration and Stability to Society meeting on 4 July 1785, which he had printed and circulated privately. In it, he outlined his theory as follows;
The solid parts of the present land appear in general, to have been composed of the productions of the sea, and of other materials similar to those now found upon the shores. Hence we find reason to conclude:
1st, That the land on which we rest is not simple and original, but that it is a composition, and had been formed by the operation of second causes.
2nd, That before the present land was made, there had subsisted a world composed of sea and land, in which were tides and currents, with such operations at the bottom of the sea as now take place. And,
Lastly, That while the present land was forming at the bottom of the ocean, the former land maintained plants and animals; at least the sea was than inhabited by animals, in a similar manner as it is at present.
Hence we are led to conclude, that the greater part of our land, if not the whole had been produced by operations natural to this globe; but that in order to make this land a permanent body, resisting the operations of the waters, two things had been required;
1st, The consolidation of masses formed by collections of loose or incoherent materials;
2ndly, The elevation of those consolidated masses from the bottom of the sea, the place where they were collected, to the stations in which they now remain above the level of the ocean.
hutton also advocated uniformitarianism for living creatures too – evolution, in a sense – and even suggested natural selection as a possible mechanism affecting them:
"...if an organised body is not in the situation and circumstances best adapted to its sustenance and propagation, then, in conceiving an indefinite variety among the individuals of that species, we must be assured, that, on the one hand, those which depart most from the best adapted constitution, will be the most liable to perish, while, on the other hand, those organised bodies, which most approach to the best constitution for the present circumstances, will be best adapted to continue, in preserving themselves and multiplying the individuals of their race." – Investigation of the Principles of Knowledge, volume 2.
Hutton gave the example that where dogs survived through "swiftness of foot and quickness of sight... the most defective in respect of those necessary qualities, would be the most subject to perish, and that those who employed them in greatest perfection... would be those who would remain, to preserve themselves, and to continue the race". Equally, if an acute sense of smell were "more necessary to the sustenance of the animal... the same principle [would] change the qualities of the animal, and.. produce a race of well scented hounds, instead of those who catch their prey by swiftness". The same "principle of variation" would influence "every species of plant, whether growing in a forest or a meadow". He came to his ideas as the result of experiments in plant and animal breeding, some of which he outlined in an unpublished manuscript, the Elements of Agriculture. He distinguished between heritable variation as the result of breeding, and non-heritable variations caused by environmental differences such as soil and climate.
Though he saw his "principle of variation" as explaining the development of varieties, Hutton rejected the idea of evolution originating species as a "romantic fantasy". As a deist, he thought the mechanism allowed species to form varieties better adapted to particular conditions and was evidence of benevolent design in nature. Studies of Charles Darwin's notebooks have shown that Darwin arrived separately at the idea of natural selection which he set out in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, but it has been speculated that he may have had some half-forgotten memory from his time as a student in Edinburgh of ideas of selection in nature as set out by Hutton, and by William Charles Wells and Patrick Matthew who had both been associated with the city before publishing their ideas on the topic early in the 19th century.
William Thomson, (1st Baron”Lord” Kelvin In 1897 he estimated that the Earth was 20–40 million years old which went against the Christian church’s belief that that Earth was 6,000 years old. Darwin’s theory meant the earth was older in order for animal to evolve.