History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Stark’s false thesis and bad historical analysis

February 15th, 2014 · No Comments

We have discusses Stark’s thesis several times over the years. More here on that:

Stark’s thesis seemed convincing to many no doubt, when it come out, and the novelty created a kind of jolt. But the novelty has worn off and his arguments now look so weak that the stance he was attacking now seems stronger than ever.

The fallacy of Stark’s argument is 1. taking incremental sources as ultimate causes (one instance of capitalism in the middle ages proves the connection to Xtinaity) 2. failing to look at the sources of Xtianity itself, and its predecessors.
At that point it is suddenly obvious that the first scientific revolution occurred in the Greek Axial Age. It is hard to avoid this conclusion, and the evidence of the master sequence from the Presocratics to Archimedes, thence to the fading of science in the Occident, In this larger picture it is suddenly obvious how wrong Stark is: a majestic beginning to science begins with the Greeks, and peters out very rapidly. Thus the assertions that the medieval period created science are so upside down as to be ridiculous. Setting the record straight may well show some aspects of science being carried, moderately advanced, with a few original ideas in the process, but to the long view that starts at the beginning of the first millennium BCE the unnerving sequence:
science ascendant, waning, early Greeks through Alexandria…
science damping out, almost gone, Rome to high middle ages,
science newly ascendant, take off in the seventeenth century….
Note the alternating rhythm. We can, and should, scratch our heads, and push this argument back one more time to the era of early Sumer, Egypt, but the evidence begins to thin. But we ought to suspect, at least enough to keep looking, that before the birth of Science in Axial Greece, there was a still earlier nascent set of cultural phenomena that could be evidence of a still earlier birth of science. Actually we see the birth of ‘almost science’, and a lot of technological innovation, which isn’t the same thing. The birth of science is not the same as technological evolution/revolution: science is a hybrid of philosophy becoming self-critical, creating a new world view ( ultimately of causal explanations), and discovering experimental thinking. The Greeks came to the threshold and essentially crossed it. Archimedes came to the doorstop of calculus, and then the tide starting moving backwards.
This is the way many have always seen the matter, and the evidence shows why. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that science nearly died out in the medieval period. In any case, Stark’s argument is an example of false periodization, and the equally dubious assumption that the immediate predecessor of something will show its ultimate ‘creative causality’. Since the waning of Greek science was essentially complete before the coming of Xtianity, so we should be fair and not blame religion, as such. In fact, many have argued that Islam helped to carry the embers forward. And Xtianity keep the legacy alive in the preservation of texts. But in the end the world view of religion wasn’t fully supportive of science, where it was not openly antagonistic. And so we are back to the view that was pretty standard for a long time here. Here we can bring in the histories of the Orient, especially Chinese science/technology. But the macro effect can help us to see why scientific revolutions hug the mainline of the macro sequence. The tecnological brilliance of the Chinese is remarkable, but not the same as the birth of science.

What is puzzling here is the rhythm of alternation: I recommend taking a look at the ‘eonic/macro’ effect, and we can see that the birth of science, its dying out, and rebirth is directly correlated with the macro effect.
Check out:
http://history-and-evolution.com/whee4th/chap7_5_4.htm The Case of the Missing Centuries

Stark’s thesis on Xtianity and capitalism shows the very effect of Weber’s analysis that he attempts to reject. The toxic ideology of capitalism at its worst was never a part of the Xtian world view, whatever the tidbits of innovation from Aquinas, and it modern hybrid with such figures of the American Bible Belt as Stark is a thorough modern fiasco that was swiftly addressed by another modern innovation (or recycling once again of the Greek Axial Age, via Plato), the idea of communism. It is sad but true that the figure Jesus expressed ideas of an ur-communist, but we don’t see it these days, and the motion beyond capitalism is likely to be a motion beyond Xtianity, after the hopeless confusion created by rearguard Xtians to all the questions they address so sophistically.

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