Monday, April 13, 2009

"First Do No Harm"

In pondering the beginnings of our Society, I think it best to take the very wide view - what I consider the Chestertonian view - of our work. It may be a point of discussion (not of quarrel, I hope) to consider how Jaki and Duhem - and other scientists or historians - have had this "Chestertonian" viewpoint. I mean, the idea of trying to see things for the first time, to see things as the Common Man sees, to see things in ways that others might not see them - the view that is catholic in the Greek sense. So far in my own work as a computer scientist, I have found that way to be the best for design:
I revert to the doctrinal methods of the thirteenth century, inspired by the general hope of getting something done.
[GKC Heretics CW1:46]
One of the first steps in our process of founding this organization is to acquire and maintain that view.

And since we are trying to study, understand, consider, and build upon, the work of such great authors, one of the first duties we have is to enumerate their work.

Pierre Duhem: his works are listed in Jaki's Uneasy Genius pp 437-456.

Fr. Stanley Jaki: his works are listed (up to 2002) in his A Mind's Matter, pp 261-309. Part of this list is available from the Seton Hall site for his vita, his books, and his booklets.

I do not know if a more complete list for Jaki or any list for Duhem is available out here in the e-cosmos (I mean in some electronic form, acessible by anyone) - if you know of a web site, please tell us as a comment. Eventually, once we are on a more formal footing, I hope that we'll have a website to supply such data.

Having done that, we shall also need to consider several other matters, which will begin to suggest our initial list of projects. Chief among these is (in Duhem's case) arranging for translations, at least of his major works, into English. Another will be making a beginning on what we might call an intellectual catalog: an enumeration of specific topics which are considered in the collection of their works, or of topics of interest to current students of the history of science and religion - as well as a chart of the "hot" matters which are of perennial concern. Here we can group the largest matters, which these scholars were always pursuing, such as the nature of the link (or the divide) between science and religion, the origin of science, the failures of science, creation, Galileo, Darwin, artificial intelligence, bioethics, and all those matters which produce debate.

I do not know if our work will suffice to eventually produce something like a "CRC Handbook of the History of Science" - but there is no reason that we cannot work with such a goal in mind. It took our predecessor scientists centuries of labor to attain all the details one finds in the typical CRC handbook - but we must stay true to our discipline and work with dedication, and with respect for our colleagues all over the world.

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