reply to post by king9072
I wouldn't necessarily say that Aristotle set back science. Rather, it was the lack of a structured methodology for discovery. Much as there were
absurd errors in early paleontology, the Greeks as pioneers of logic and reason held many misconceptions and flawed perceptions. One being the
argument from authority, wherein it was almost akin to heresy to question certain famous philosophers or philosophies. It was also fairly common to
deify individuals or hold respected individuals up to the same level of veneration as classic heroes like Heracles, Jason, or Achilles.
The process of discovery itself had to be discovered, and then refined. The Greeks loved debate, but didn't always hold the stringent measures of
accuracy we currently demand in Science. This is because they often speculated and debated on what they felt were rational truths about the world from
which they could extrapolate like a math equation. Regardless of accuracy, a debate could be won with convincing logic and a well presented case. In
this fashion, Greek scholars were more analogous to modern lawyers than scientists.
The roots of the scientific method date back to before written record, and while eminent Greek scholars such as Aristotle and Plato helped to advance
the progress of logic and reason, but the first true initial framework of the modern Scientific Method wouldn't come until around the turn of the
last millenium during the Islamic Golden Age. Islamic scholars combined Greek methodologies which largely focused on reasoned deductive logic and
mathematics with their own traditional methodologies focusing heavily on experimentation and evidence.
One of the earliest pioneers of this emerging methodology was Ibn Al-Haytham, the father of modern optics and who can rightfully be considered the
first "modern" scientist. He put strong emphasis on integrating many key components of the modern scientific method - such as a reliance on
empirical evidence or mathematics to support one's hypothesis, the testing of a hypothesis against reality for accuracy, as well as the peer review
process by arguing against the authority of the Ptolemys or any man. His reasoning being that only god is perfect, and this is true then all men are
capable of error and mistakes. Therefore, all hypothesis should be questioned and debated - regardless of the reputation of it's proponent.
However, the man who would be called the true father of the Scientific Method and the dethroner of Aristotle's authority would be Galileo. Galileo is
considered to be the first to recognize that scientific and mathematical logic were not compatible. Mathematics is deductive reasoning, which starts
with certain axioms and "truths". If these basic truths were right, then everything which followed would logically be right. This is a poor method
of discovery, however, because small errors in the basic truths would lead to compounding assumptions which have large discrepancies in
experimentation. Instead, Galileo "flipped the method on it's head" - advocating inductive reasoning as a means of discovering the reality of the
complex axioms which create our reality - which would in turn better explain our observations.
I only list the "big three" as I've come to know them - but the scientific method really was the collective work of thousands of scientists and
philosophers over thousands of years. New additions to the method are being added as they're conceived and shown to be workable. Concepts such as the
obfuscation of funding sources, double blind testing, and an emphasis on falsification have all been adopted as they have proven to be a valuable
means of strengthening the veracity of the scientific method and remove potential sources of bias. One of our biggest boosts, however, was the
Industrial and Computer Revolutions bringing with them the commercial interest and funding. Even the common people realized the enormous potential for
technology to make their lives easier, and that big money could be made in promoting new technology and scientific understanding. However, it may be a
bit of a double-edged blade. While the industrialization of science invoked a "knowledge gold rush" - I wonder if perhaps science isn't becoming a
bit too "product oriented", meanwhile neglecting the necessity for fundamental research which will not immediately return a profit - but is
necessary for the next generation of technology.
While I would argue that Islamic scholars like Ibn Al-Haytham added more substance to the advancement of science, their implementations were
ultimately all for naught without Galileo's simple correction. I find it remarkable how... elegant... the solutions to some of the most complex
questions can be. Evolution, for example, was postulated and accepted well before Darwin's time. However, while we knew it was occurring, we
couldn't explain the process. The entirety of the theory as Darwin outlined was already existent - but fractured. Greek philosophers knew of descent
with modification... the Islamic scholars postulated natural selection... and European scholars suggested common ancestry from microbial life. Yet it
took Darwin to put all the pieces together into a workable whole... and it was so simple and elegant, it's amazing nobody thought of it sooner. Yet
we can look to modern physics and the quest for the unifying theory of everything to find a similar skizm between Newtonian Mechanics, Einstein's
Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics.
I have a feeling that when the unifying theory of everything is found, we will collectively smack our heads for not thinking of it sooner... and it
will be a simple concept of supreme elegance. This, however, also holds true of the scientific method. What we now see simple, almost inherent,
reasoning were monumental discoveries and profound shifts in procedure that we had to discover incrementally as we went along.