Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Slow Work of the Developing Embryo

In a strict sense, cleavage is a fractionating process which provides uniform building units of convenient size.
[Arey, Developmental Anatomy 63]
I am sorry this is taking so long, but then there is much to be said for a slow and careful progress at the start. But I am busy as usual and today begins the sacred Triduum. Nevertheless, I shall try to proceed with fragments of development for our Society. I am by no means experienced in setting up organizations, far less such an unusual one as this one - but I will trust that God's assistance, my interest, and your courtesy and patience will supply for the defects.

First, I should say that I am gratified by your interest and hope that once there is a more formal organization you will join and help with the work. Also, if you find my management of this blogg unsatisfactory, whether in style or slowness or anything, please proceed to set up your own and go at your own pace. I do not say this to dissuade anyone, or in any kind of farewell tone - but I am slow at some things, and other matters do take time - this is not my only task at hand! Moreover, if you have bones to pick, or issues to raise, especially against Duhem or Jaki, this is most likely not the place for you: "those who believe in phlogiston would have no place in Lavoisier's club..."

Second, I am struggling with a large quantity of ideas for this thing. Sometimes it is just this blogg - with interested readers and commenters. Sometimes it is an academic society with rigor and meticulous scholarship, conferences and publications - but also like the American Chesterton Society in its camaraderie and its delight in vast interests. Why cannot we have both? I hope we shall.

But since I am behind, for today I shall merely give you a gleaning from my work, which may be the beginnings of a possible charter and statement of purpose, but more likely just an outline of projects, which thereby contain our purpose. For the rest let the charity of Duhem, the scholarship of Jaki, the childlike enthusiasm of Chesterton be our guides, our way lighted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The Duhem Society

A society of Catholic historians and philosophers of science and all who are ready to take a serious look at philosophy and history. Our primary guides are the works of Pierre Duhem and Stanley Jaki.

The Duhem Society is an academic venture but also one of friendship. This point must not be lost. We must maintain the highest standards of intellectual efforts, while keeping the Chesterton Conferences as a model for joyful and open meetings.

Our Fundamental Purpose: We shall study the relation between science and philosophy, as well as religion, both in the present and throughout history. We shall also be a clearinghouse and resource center for the study of the history of science, much as Marin Mersenne acted in the 1600s.
Now, if you have salient points to make about this, please do so in a polite manner - if they deal with phrasing or precision. But if you have a different purpose in mind, I advise you to organize your own society.

You may say that neither Duhem nor Jaki would do it this way, and certainly would have made better plans than I have. I know. I am nothing like them. Yet I hope in the end, its work will be worthy of these great scholars. Meanwhile we will plod along the path they have blazed.

In conclusion, since I shall not be posting here until after Easter, I will leave you with something serious to think about:
...God as an infinitely rational and purposeful being created all once and for all. There could be no endless repetitions of the world, an idea which was most central to all cosmologies in all ancient pagan cultures. They all were dominated by the idea of eternal returns. Duhem also saw that medieval Jewish and Muslim thinkers fully subscribed to that view, and that only Christianity was able to make a radical break with it. He had already made that point in the second volume of the Système du monde that came out in 1914. But why did Christianity alone make that breakthrough? Here Duhem left matters unexplored. Since by and large Catholic theologians in France and elsewhere failed to take proper note of his work, they missed a tremendous opportunity. It lay hidden in the obvious fact that Christian belief in the Creator and creation was Christian because riveted in Christ as the only begotten Son of God, the eternal Word, the Logos, eternally uttered by the Father. Already Athanasius argued against the Arians that a divine Logos could create only a fully logical or consistent, coherent world. Herein lay the first manifestation of Christian opposition to the Aristotelian splitting of the world into two parts, one fully rational, the superlunary part, and the other, the sublunary region, only partly rational. These two therefore had to be ruled by two essentially different sets of laws. Newton, a Puritan turned Unitarian, did not suspect the measure of his debt to orthodox Christology when he postulated that the moon's fall in its orbit was governed by the same law as the fall of a body on the earth.
[Jaki, "Myopia about Islam, with an Eye on Chesterbelloc" in Numbers Decide 117-8]

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