Sir Isaac Newton

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by sscully, Jul 31, 2014.

  1. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    You may feel that the community has that opinion of me, but I see no evidence of it. The feedback they give me tends to be positive, and very nearly all of the people I ever attacked have been permabanned for their incorrigible trolling. The case in point was this post which stands on its merits. It's unimpeachable, esp. since when I said Newton had the good sense to leave religion out of Principia, at least I don't recall any such mention of it, and if so, it's not germane to the subject at hand, "the subject at hand" were his laws of motion and the Universal Law of Gravitation, which, as anyone who has read it knows, is intensively mathematical in nature. Exclusively.

    I accuse Arne for flaming by taking these facts and twisting them to further his nonsensical religious objectives, and of course to defend the trolling sscully will probably eventually be banned for.

    He's an icon for inventing calculus, as a means of solving the mystery that plagued Kepler in the discovery of his laws of planetary motion: what causes these orbits to be elliptical?, for propounding the laws of motion, gravity and optics. For folks who never majored in science or math the significance of this may not seem earth shattering, but it is. It completely revolutionized the way we solve technical problems. For atheists, Newton also represents the new found freedom from leaving unsolved mysteries to "the God of the gaps".

    Since Newton, and due to Newton, virtually every question of ontology now has some basis in science and nearly all of the mysteries of the Biblical eras have been solved -- what causes eclipses, why do frogs and locusts sometimes swarm, what causes plague, leprosy, etc., what causes earthquakes, floods and similar disasters, and so on. Neither Arne nor sscully will appreciate that the reasoning because humans are sinful has been conclusively disproven. Not only that, but through ancillary work in archaeology we find that this was a fairly limited group of people who clung to this superstitious answer (the stance of animists, if the truth be told) since Mesopotamia was unusually prone to severe flooding.

    That's a fact that certainly applies to Principia. It was in circulation for 26 years before Newton decided to add the religious rant in the appendix. I have a different position on why Principia was strictly a work of math and science, although it's echoed somewhere in the scholarly treatment of this question. And that is, that Newton initially got into the practice of preparing his work for publication because that was the way things were done at Trinity College. The professors had to publish the materials they were lecturing from. This also explains why Principia is laid out in the format of units, almost like a modern textbook, which builds the laws out of the progressive laying of foundations, as a long complex higher order syllogism.

    Also it's worth noting that Newton admits to following the ideas of Mede (with respect to Apocalyptic imagery) and through evidence of Mede's sources this traces to, say, a dozen theologians, patriarchs and scholars of antiquity. Of course the Book of Revelation is written from the voice of a person who is tripping on psychedelics, so of course the primary source for inspiring all of the fascination with bizarre symbolism is Revelation itself. It would appear to me that what Newton was trying to do was to construct some other deeply nested set of propositions--all necessarily vested in metaphysics--to try to arrive at the dream-like result of Revelation, that is, to reverse engineer the quasi hallucinatory story of how the world ends. Without arguing the point, it merely suggests to me that this is the expected way a strict adherent such as Newton might try to cope with this rather bizarre text stuck at the end of many a Bible--to break it down into functional pieces, and explain how they must interact . . . drawing, of course from his own scholarship in the Bible as a whole and his own extensive research, reading the sources Mede read, and various others Newton refers to as he develops his strange jigsaw puzzle of imagined meanings of the endless symbols in Revelation.

    Thank you. I have seen this paper before and was looking for this opening remark ealier, which corroborates what I know to be true but which Arne disputed since he has obviously had no reason to read Principia:

    With only one direct reference to God and a single mention of the Bible, the first edition of Newton’s Principia may have struck many contemporaries as an oddly secular work.

    And no, it is not odd at all since Newton is propounding the complexities of physics through math. This is not different than, say, Euclid, who did not need to rely on the gods to explain geometry. But it's an excellent paper. His next point is this:

    Did not Newton’s work inevitably lead to that famous moment over a century later when the French physicist Pierre-Simon de la Place told Napoleon (who had asked him why his work did not mention God when Newton’s did): “Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis”?

    This was a key point in Neil Degrasse Tyson's outstanding treatment of the questions at hand, posted earlier by Trooper, and recently by gmilam in the thread "Why don't scientists believe in God". I pick up at the natural break in the presentation, about a minute before the facts above. But the setup is essential:

    Tyson renders moot the question of whether theology motivated the Principia, in the more appropriate remark that brilliant scientists like Newton did not rely on metaphysical explanations for the problems they solved, but merely for the ones they had not yet solved: again, God of the gaps. This doesn't diminish the work of the paper you posted by Snobelen which probes a whole spectrum of fascinating questions about the idiosyncratic persona of Newton and the more obscure ideas that haunted him for at least the last half of his life. It just has no bearing on the actual proofs and derivations in Principia, which are purely technical. Even motivation isn't the issue: as Tyson points out, Newton was challenged by the question of how to solve Kepler's question (why the orbits are elliptical) which was purely technical, and he did so with such enthusiasm and confidence that the answer was purely secular that he attacked the problem by inventing calculus!
    Another excellent quip ND Tyson adds which is even more fundamental, is his mention of Galileo's secret reply to the Inquisition[/url], sent to in confidence to his ally the Grand Duchess Christina. Tyson cites this most remarkable statement:

    I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them. He would not require us to deny sense and reason in physical matters which are set before our eyes and minds by direct experience or necessary demonstrations.

    This of course sets the bar for those Christians who feel an aversion towards fundamentalism. It's not just that there shouldn't be any conflict between religion and science--that's purely the product of 100 years of waging war on Darwin. It's that there shouldn't be any conflict between religion and common sense. This is more to the point I have been raising not only here but throughout my refutations against fundamentalism. The fundie tends to barely understand they are worshipping a most absurd principle, inerrancy of the literally interpreted Bible, rather than the more complex nature of the gods and ontology created therein, and of course they are utterly ignorant of exegesis. Thus they completely miss the point of Galileo's resolve to not fall into the pit Newton fell into--even when he faced possible torture and, say, burning at the stake--for maintaining this strict wall between science and religion . . . which he realized was critical to scientific discovery.

    I know you're aware of this document, but I'll post the text here for readers interested in comparing the clarity of objective thinking by a rational Galileo, in contrast to the manic rant by Newton, insofar as it concerns the question of which man had the more damaged mind. We would tend to think that Galileo, traumatized by the Inquisition, might have lost his marbles and dissolved into his own rant. But it was Newton who crosses into that semi-hallucinatory religious dream state, while Galileo ends up keeping himself together:

    This, I think, is the first barrier to cross in the incessant debate about religion v science. Agree to this, and you (the indefinite you) are free from the most egregious fallacies of fundamentalism.

    Of course! But since Newton "had no need for that hypothesis (God)" to explain physics as he did, I think I am arguing quite a different point than the Newton scholars are.
    Yes it's an excellent resource, as is the paper by Cohen cited therein. And thanks for steering this thread back to the standard of posting authoritative material to support the facts posted.
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  3. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Here's some excerpts taken from your first two posts in this thread (the first two responses to Steve):

    [Aqueous Id;3212466]Steve as in Adam and Steve? You weave a very duplicitous picture here (triplicitous is more accurate):...

    How is this remotely a question of General Philosophy? And why all the subterfuge? This is not looking good. Can't you just post something that reflects genuineness, and then just let the chips fall where they may?...

    Your motive seems to be this: since science-literate people admire Newton, and since Newton was indoctrinated into the Anglican Church (not Lutheran, therefore Catholics are not scum for selling indulgences, but rather for nailing Henry VIII to the cross for his multiple divorces. Another big blunder for the fundies) then if you can draw us into a discussion purporting to be about Newton, you can punk us into admitting that a religious man was a brilliant scientist. How about just cut to the chase. Yes, he was indoctrinated as a child, and lived in world severely deprived of the freedom to explore the fabulous origins of the text he called a Bible. And besides, who cares? None of this will vindicate the crimes of the present day fundamentalists who are chronically interfering in matters of science and public policy...

    [Aqueous Id;3212470]Nope, I have no idea nor do I care about sexual preference. I was merely connecting you to Creationism, and possible homophobia, since the quip illustrates Creationists expressing homophobia. There's nothing wrong with being gay. There is lot wrong with being a Creationist, posting inflammatory stuff just to troll the science threads, as your buddies often do...

    Not at all. I am very singular in my attacks on fundamentalist bullshit...

    That's why I suggested you come out of the closet. You can not claim agnosticism and then show a preference for Christian fundamentalism, without being called -- what did you say -- oh yeah, a bigot. More accurately, you're being duplicitous. So fess up...

    I have no interest in the religious bullshit of the colonial period. I will read Principia every time it's in front of me. I'm not interpreting Newton, you are...

    Is that a malapropism on an oxymoron? Of course everyone is ignorant. It's a relative term. But at least I can engage you on the content of Newton's technical work, and the many fallacies of Creationism, which stem from an ignorance of the first principles of science, coupled with an insatiable need to lie. That's more like "aggravated ignorance in the first degree". It's pathological. Simple ignorance is not necessarily harmful, nor is it necessarily a reason to chastise a person. We chastise people for being lazy, quitting school, and taking up religion to cover their deliberate ignorance of the facts and evidence put before them. And we only go that far when they start screaming at patients trying to get in and out of the abortion clinics, harassing gays, attacking the teaching of evolution and climate science, and interfering in science, just to shore up the moronic demand to literally interpret ancient myth, which earns them all the recriminations they get from those of us who are at least not that ignorant...

    No. I am aware of Newton's life story and I don't care about the content of his religious writings or the occult. I'm just waiting for you to get real. Are you or are you not touting Newton as a poster boy of science who you want to pin up at Ken Ham's Fred Flintstone museum? Forget the point about ignorance and concentrate on honesty...

    Now you're just being a turd. I repeat: I am aware of Newton's religious indoctrination and his theological writings but I don't give a damn about it...

    You're not my mentor, and if you were, I would fire you. So all of that counts against you as gratuitous ad homs, all wasted space. Just tell me what I asked you in the first place: are you or are you not trying to tout an icon of science in order to shore up the literal interpretation of myth? I say you are, and your avoidance of the question digs that hole deeper. Are you or are you not being deliberately dishonest? That's a sinkhole. As I said: just cut to the chase. Nothing you can say can possibly offend me, once I've lost my respect for you. So don't bother beating around the bush with insults and thinly veiled attempts to flame me. Just be direct, and you probably won't even get banned. At least try to be honest. What other possible purpose would you have for posting here? Are you working for someone else or trying to vindicate fundamentalism out of some internal need? What's your game? Just come out with it.​

    That was over-the-top and rude-as-all-hell. You come across to me as a bully sometimes, and I just instinctively dislike bullies.

    You clearly don't like fundamentalists, you decided that Steve was a fundy, so you took the opportunity to let loose with a double-barreled flame directed less at him that at what you imagined he represented. But while he obviously has his own intellectual peculiarities, Steve doesn't seem to me to be a stereotypical fundamentalist at all. He looks more like an esoterist, influenced by the western occult tradition. So your whole knee-jerk rant appears to have been off-target and misdirected.

    Then you turn around and criticize others for flaming you.
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  5. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    @Yazata:I drew a cartoon for my university weekly. it featured a glaring turkey looking at some other birds nearby. The turkey was saying,

    "Birds! Hate'm! Just hate'm!"

    The caption read: "Prejudice".

    I was roundly criticized for this cartoon. First, it violated the cardinal rule of comedy. It was not funny. Very true. It was not. Second almost no one understood it.

    Some of my young colleagues asked our professor in charge of the weekly, why I was permitted to draw cartoons at all. How can a bird hate birds? That makes no sense. He proceeded to explain.

    "When people are prejudiced against others, what is it they dislike about them?"

    He got various responses: "They're lazy... They're stupid... they're uncouth. They're like we think we're not"

    "And who are the people who object to such?" The prof asked?

    Suddenly my colleagues got it, and asked, concerning me:

    "How does he think of these things?"

    I went on for the next three years as a popular weekly cartoonist, and BMOC (or BTOC) - the T standing for turkey!
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  7. sscully Registered Member

    Introspection is something not everyone has, I guess

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    Meh. They'll learn, truth does not hide.
  8. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    AI wrote:

    Despite a couple of bits that I could quibble with, I'm in general agreement with AI there.

    Arne quote the following in response:

    That's obviously true as well.

    So what does Newton's addition of the Scholium tell us? Was it superfluous to the Principia as a whole? Or does it reveal something important about the rest of the work?

    While those two interpretations may seem to be inconsistent with one another, I think that they are probably both right.

    On one hand, the addition of the Scholium certainly tells us something about Newton's private motivations. These motivations probably weren't a late product of senility or of psychiatric illness either, since Newton revealed similar thinking in earlier correspondence. In particular, Newton seems to have imagined his work in physics as continuous with and probably inseparable from natural theology.

    On the other hand, Newton appears to me to have imagined himself as uncovering a few of the mathematically simple and universally inviolable "laws" that he imagined God having imposed on the universe at creation. And very importantly, he believed that these laws were already inherent in and discoverable from examination of creation itself. Discovering and elucidating them didn't require any Biblical-style special revelations.

    That led Newton to the use of methodology in his first edition of the Principia that made little or no explicit reference to special revelation, Biblical or otherwise. And that in turn is what subsequently made Newton's work so universal, since it wasn't dependent in any way on possessing a particular religious faith. Confucians in China could easily appreciate the value of Newton's physical work, despite their not recognizing Judeo-Christian revelation. Atheists do so today.

    I'm obviously not a Newton scholar, but I think that it can be argued that the interface of theology and physics in Newton provides a good illustration of how Protestantism kind of inadvertantly helped give birth to the modern world.

    Medieval Catholicism, like the ancient world out of which it arose, was a world filled with signs, miracles and wonders. While the Bible obviously had pride of place in Catholicism, revelation was ongoing and the divine remained in close and intimate contact with this world.

    The Protestant reformation cast doubt on much of that, sweeping aside the miracles of the saints and the mystery of the eucharist. With the Protestants, it was sola-scriptura, scripture alone. God revealed himself to people today in the pages of the Bible and that was that.

    And once the skeptical corrosive had been relased on the saints, Mary and the sacraments, it was only a matter of time before it splashed back on Protestantism's beloved Bible as well, threatening to discredit all special revelation whatsoever.

    That moment inevitably came in the form of Deism, a loose and poorly-defined movement largely defined by its varying degrees of skepticism about revealed theology. Deism still held to natural theology though, in some large part because the design argument seemed unanswerable. (That's why Darwin came as such a bomb-shell.)

    The thing is, even during Newton's lifetime, people were saying that his work supported the clockwork universe idea, the idea that God had initially created the universe and then had no more supernatural contact with it.

    And I'm just guessing (I'm emphatically not a Newton scholar), but conceivably that was part of what might have motivated Newton to add his Scholium to the second edition of the Principia. I suspect that the Puritan in him might not have appreciated the suggestion that his work somehow made Biblical revelation superfluous.

    Newton later argued (I'm not sure what year the idea first appeared) that his physics indicated that God's hand was still required from time to time in regulating the orderly movements of the planets (otherwise their gravitational attractions would gradually distort their orbits) and that God hadn't walked away from the universe at all.
  9. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Was wondering, if Newton was asked:
    "What is science?"
    and what his answer would be.
    Then ask the same question of say, R Feynman, Albert Einstein and so on.
    What is science?

    The science of what?

    and draw a definition of God from that...
  10. river

    Science , knowledge , holistically
  11. AlexG Like nailing Jello to a tree Valued Senior Member

    IOW, he makes it up as he goes along.
  12. river

    Your ignorance continues
  13. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    hee hee it is sort of ironically funny in a twisted sort of way, that whilst Science rejects the notion of a God, it is doing all it can to become one..
  14. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    I'm not going to say much about that entirely untrue and ridiculous statement, but here's a video you may like to watch. It is Carl Sagan, his last Interview before he died.

    Anyway I hope you take the time to watch.
    It's 20 minutes long and probably covers most points I've been making here over the last few months.
  15. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    eh what!!?
    Do you deny that science is intent upon becoming master of his universe?
    That science seeks immortality [ or at least longevity ]
    That science searches for the ability to create mass, energy, etc?
    That science is determined to become omnipotent and omniscient?

    Yep Nietzsche was right... when he discusses the "Will to Power"

    Definition of God:
    An entity that can do as he pleases in a universe of his own making.
    Definition of Science:
    A collective entity that seeks to be able to do as it pleases in a universe of it's own making. [modification at least .. the making bit comes later]

    Do you still feel my statements to be untrue and ridiculous?

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  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Yes, to all five questions.

    You have a very odd idea of science indeed.
  17. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    Yes, even more so since your ridiculous reply.
  18. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Example: What did science hope to achieve by finding the Higgs?
    What is the point behind the Big bang model?
    What is the motive for learning how the universe came to be as it is?

    IMO Isaac Newton was only doing what science has always done, and that is "Come to understand the nature of God" (in his terms) or come to understand the nature of the universe (contemporary science view) but always with one objective in mind. To quell the fear of the unknown and control/master that which is known. (aka: God complex or Narcissistic Personality)

    If you disagree then perhaps you can explain why you would do so?

    What ration-al do you offer for your disagreement? (Other than asinine complaints made with out support, that render your protest as worthless)

    so I'll repeat my controversial statement:

    "It is sort of ironically funny in a twisted sort of way, that whilst Science rejects the notion of a God, it is doing all it can to become one.. "
  19. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    Yes,it is! Unfortunately, I lack your light-hearted sense of humor. That's something I'll have to work on. I often make the point that the forum members shouting the loudest about "the god botherers" and "fundies" are the very same ones who resemble them most. They object to self-righteousness, arrogance, narrow-mindedness, false accusations, false assumptions and unsubstantiated facts - their chief weapons in this war being: self-righteousness, arrogance, narrow-mindedness, false accusations, false assumptions and unsubstantiated facts .

    Hmm. why am I not laughing? :bugeye:
  20. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    Then there are those who have a blind faith in science - sure that it will solve such problems as nuclear waste storage, pollution, climate change and over-population just because they wear white coats and can think methodically.

    ...and then there are those who believe in Star Trek - quite sure 'this future will be' as one fanatic here put it. Surely, believing that just a few centuries from now (or ever) we'll have star ships that can travel ten times the speed of light, matter transportation and replicator technology that can bake a cherry pie quick as a cat can wink an eye is just as absurd as those Christians who mistake Harry Potter for a real person and reckon he's damned to Hell.
  21. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Sardonic humor is never funny! [chuckle]
  22. Arne Saknussemm trying to figure it all out Valued Senior Member

    I notice QQ, that our avatars are much in the same vein, although mine has more hair...
  23. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    hee hee... I can only say in response:
    "Life's a tease to those trying to figure it out..."
    and that's how I lost my hair...

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