Saturday, August 29, 2009

"...they can only blame themselves..."

Another busy week, and an interesting one. I added two new books to my collection of ancient texts - books which though apparently not referred to by SLJ, can offer some insights into one of our main subjects: the history of science. They are very interesting, and quite old - alas, I only have them in English, though I do hope to obtain them in the original some day:

1. The Didascalicon of Hugh of St. Victor: a Medieval Guide to the Arts translated by Jerome Taylor. Regarding the word "Arts" in the subtitle, I must quote Taylor's footnote 40 to Book Three: "That Hugh uses the terms 'art' and 'science' interchangably is evident from a comparison of the title and opening sentence of this chapter [three]." The title reads: "Which Arts are principally to be read" and the first sentence begins "Out of all the sciences above named..." There is much meat in this book, and I hope to consider it more fully as time permits.

2. Science and Creation in the Middle Ages: Henry of Langenstein (d. 1397) on Genesis bby Nicholas H. Steneck. This is a study and commentary of Henry's Lecturae super Genesim, but does not contain the text (even in translation). As it mentions Duhem, Buridan and Oresme and others, and examines issues which SLJ also examines, we shall also consider it. It came out in 1976, which was after SLJ's The Relevance of Physics and Science and Creation, but it does not seem to mention SLJ; so far I have not yet noted any mention of Henry in SLJ's writing, though it is possible I have missed the reference. From my casual investigation, it looks to be a relevant and interesting book - certainly the title jumps out!

Now, it is Saturday, so let us have a bit of fun while we learn. Today's excerpt is speaking about the universe....
Taken in itself, any object, in its ontological limitedness, points to God as its only reason for its existence. As Chesterton said somewhere, even a telephone pole proves the existence of God. [Note: I have not yet been able to locate this reference. Dr. T] But no consideration of any object taken separately can demonstrate that it had been produced by God out of nothing in a separate action. All individual objects can be traced to one another. Indeed, this is what science does. It reduces the quantitative aspects of a thing or a group of things to the quantitative aspects of another thing or another group of things. But science cannot assure us about the reality of the totality of things. No matter how many galaxies have been counted or postulated by astronomy, their total sum as calculated or postulated does not necessarily constitute the universe.

The notion of the universe, or the totality of things, is a most philosophical notion. One can argue that totality, for instance, on the epistemological ground that any knowledge is a knowledge of some kind of totality. But anything more here on the intimate epistemological connection between the universals and the universe, would be out of place. There is, I believe, a less abstract argument about the existence of the totality of things, or universe, which is still independent of the actual scientific extent to which man has penetrated into cosmic spaces, either observationally or through his scientific theories. Since the argument begins with real matter, it is not a scientific argument. Science assumes the reality of such matter and only by doing so can it deal with its quantitative properties. Science as such cannot even prove the reality of its very instruments, such as telescopes and microscopes, or even the very existence of scientists. Reference to reality is a philosophical reference, whether some scientists like it or not. And if philosophers or theologians do not like this, they can only blame themselves if in the not too long run they will find themselves with their conceptual pants down.

Now any real matter has quantitative properties. In one way or another all matter can be counted and measured. Scientists as such cannot account for this fact. Some philosophers, like Descartes, tried to do the trick by positing extension as the essence of material reality. In the process, Cartesians lost out not only on reality, but also on science. They even had to give up on God, for good measure. The best approach to the countability of matter is still to be found in the Book of Wisdom where one reads that "God arranged everything according to measure, number, and weight" (11:20). Belief in the Creator is not at all counterproductive when one wants to use the scientific method with a fair dose of logic.
[SLJ "Creation: Once and for All" in The Gist of Catholicism and Other Essays 224-5, emphasis added]

Thursday, August 27, 2009 an extraordinary mountain....

When ten years ago man stepped on the moon, even the sceptics must have sensed that the step was only the start of man's march into the realm of planets. An extraordinary realm, to be sure, which unlike things and processes on earth, appeared to man since ancient times as the realm of exactness. The regularity and precision of the motion of planets became ultimately, in the hands of Newton, the clue to a physics which has not ceased unfolding more and more of the exactness that after all rules this globe of ours as well. One of the great triumphs of that physics was the demonstration by Laplace that the system of which our earth is a principal member has a very large measure of stability, though not an absolute one. The solar system, like anything else, is a child of time. It was born and has grown into its present frame which is destined to collapse in the long run. Indeed, it was a famous hypothesis submitted by Laplace that first assured scientific respectability to an evolutionary approach to the system of planets. In almost two centuries following the first publication of Laplace's nebular hypothesis, and especially during the last three generations, much effort has been spent on elucidating the history of the planetary system. That history is still to be traced out in an essentially satisfactory manner.

Such may seem relatively little progress but even less has been made in what should seem a far easier task, namely, the historiography of those efforts aimed at tracing out that history, or the history of theories of the origin of planetary systems. In fact, there seems to exist on this topic no monograph sufficiently detailed and steeped in the reading of the original documents. While some essay-reviews of the state of the art covering the last few decades are of distinct help to the historian for a primary orientation, he should be rather suspicious of accounts concerning the first three decades of this century. Suspicion should yield to distrust as he tries to orient himself from texts and histories of astronomy about the 19th-century part of the story. Finally, he should not be unwilling to take the attitude of plain disbelief with respect to most secondary information about what had been really proposed during the 18th and 17th centuries on the question. This sad record is largely the making of those who in proposing theories on the evolution of the solar system offered a review of what had been said previously, and of those, also mostly scientifically trained men, who drafted histories of such theories. Their cavalier handling of the facts of scientific history may seem a small matter. Yet a reasonably correct presentation of those facts is of paramount importance with respect to the cultural impact of science. A scientific explanation influences culture in the measure in which it is believed, rightly or wrongly, to be the crowning of past developments. As such, it is apt to be invested with the aura of being the long-sought solution to an age-old problem.

It seems unlikely that there should result beneficial cultural effects from a long chain of unfounded assertions that the final solution had been secured. The many theories already proposed on the evolution of the solar system form such a chain. It hardly ever happened over almost four centuries that a theory on the origin of planets was proposed with a genuine touch of diffidence. This diffidence should have been all the more proper as all theories were held together not so much by solid scientific considerations as by the wish to have tile solution. No wonder that all theories were plagued either by the dubious technique of assuming what was to be explained or by a baffling oversight of the bearing on the question of some basic laws of physics. That first-rate scientists could be guilty on either or both counts should give pause to anyone still fancying that a scientific mind, or any mind using the scientific method, is easily safe from errors, let alone from some elementary mistakes in plain logic.

The search for a satisfactory explanation of the evolution of the system of planets has for its most obvious motivation the urge to know. The system of planets is like an extraordinary mountain in the vast array of the phenomena of nature and it exerts as much an overpowering attraction for scientists as do high peaks for mountaineers. The parallel can be extended further. The conquest of a mountain turns it into a well explored terrain, into one of the various types mountaineers contend with. The explanation of the origin of the system of planets also implies finding in it a typical feature. Typically enough, the preference has always been in favour of finding an explanation which provides assurance that systems of planets are typical, that is, regularly occurring features of the universe. Theories, on the basis of which our own planetary system had to be viewed as an exceedingly rare product of the forces of nature, produced, as a rule, considerable uneasiness.

This difference in appraisals derives from an instinctive commitment to the idea of plenitude, according to which living forms of all grades should be present everywhere in the universe. Since planets are the only known possible abodes for life, theories which promised planets in great numbers found not only ready acceptance, but were also, time and again, embellished with copious remarks, even with lengthy sections, on denizens of other planets. Whether this close tie between theories on the evolution of planetary systems and wishful vistas about planetarians helped or obstructed rigour in scientific reasoning should not be difficult to guess. At any rate, as long as such theories are being constructed with an a priori desire to assure high frequency for planetary systems, the chances remain meagre for an objective evaluation of the possibility that a planetary system like ours may be after all an extremely rare phenomenon, a product of a long chain of interactions of very small probability. A careful survey of the history of the question, and particularly of its most recent phase, may suggest precisely this, especially in view of the fact that although a very wide range of mechanisms have been tried, none of them worked.
[SLJ, introduction to Planets and Planetarians]

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SLJ: Wells on Spencer

[SLJ is writing about Vatican I and cosmology]

As to the prophetic character of the definition which had pantheism for its target, this should seem abundantly clear in view of the deification of the earth and of the universe which is turning into a vogue nowadays. To make matters worse, the vogue is fanned time and again by those who should know better. They would profit by studying John Henry Newman whom they often take for their theologian. He proved himself a saintly prophet when in 1838 he spoke of pantheism as "the great deceit which awaits the Age to come."

It was, however, a curious facet of the schemes and their discussions at Vatican I that in connection with that definition nothing was said about new cosmogonies. By the time of Vatican I, Laplacian cosmogenesis had become a chief vehicle of pantheism, especially through its recasting by Herbert Spencer. According to it, the universe had its origin in a supposedly homogeneous fluid, a primordial nebula. Scientists knew only one thing about it, namely, that it was nebulous, but then as now such defects in scientific parlance were readily overlooked by the public increasingly eager to be saved by science. And that cosmogony certainly seemed to assure the naively unwary that since that primordial nebula was homogeneity incarnate, it needed no explanation. The reasoning merely lulled the mind into believing that the universe with such a starting point needed no Creator. For the mind is awakened only when it is confronted with specifics, the very opposite to homogeneity.

It seems indeed that the periti at Vatican I may have missed a good point or two concerning Creed and Universe. At any rate, scientists at that time were not too eager to speak of the universe as such. For most of the time, Laplace's theory meant a discourse only about the evolution of the planetary system, where it failed miserably, a point amply shown by the time of Vatican I. Worse, it was not from within the Neo-Thomist revival sparked after Vatican I that there came the most incisive rebuttal of a cosmogenesis with a homogeneous starting point. It was, of all people, H. G. Wells, a professed agnostic and sometime atheist, who noted, though only a generation after the death of Herbert Spencer: "He [Spencer] believed that individuality (heterogeneity) was and is an evolutionary product from an original homogeneity, begotten by folding and multiplying and dividing and twisting it, and still fundamentally it."
[SLJ Universe and Creed 17-19]

Note: See also chapter 2, "Nebulosity Dissipated" in SLJ's God and the Cosmologists and chapter 6, "The Angular Barrier" in SLJ's Planets and Planetarians: A History of Theories of the Origin of Planetary Systems . The Wells quote is from his First and Last Things: Confession of Faith and Rule of Life.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jaki on C. P. Snow

A friend from the ACS blogg asked if I had ever heard of C. P. Snow. I answered, yes, not of my own, but as he is mentioned occasionally by Fr. Jaki.... and then I wondered just how often SLJ cites Snow. Such plodding tasks are often left to grad students, but I couldn't find any just now, so in a spare moment, I looked around to see what I might find. There are rather more citations than I could hope to quote today.... so if one wants project for a Snow Day (!!!) perhaps a little monograph or journal article, it would no doubt be helpful for our Society.

Probably the best starting point would be "A Hundred Years of Two Cultures" in Jaki's Chance or Reality and Other Essays, but I will just give a few excerpts from other places:
Humanities have either been turned into mysticism as was done in Polanyi's doctrine of personal knowledge in which science too becomes ultimately mystical, or they have been turned into mere epiphenomena as shown by the writings of Bronowski, or they were merely given charming literary lip-service as illustrated by the oracular utterances of the late high-priest of two cultures, C. P. Snow. The common delusion of all these efforts is the inability of their proponents, or their lack of courage, to recognize and to proclaim that science is a limited knowledge.
[SLJ "Maritain and Science" in Chance or Reality and Other Essays 56]

The total, if not totalitarian, response of society to science was advocated by many others in a way which usually gives itself away by its crudeness. Of the sophisticated advocacies of the same idea, one deserves to be mentioned in particular, and for two reasons. First, because it was proposed recently; second, because its message was uncritically swallowed in academic circles. What I have in mind is C. P. Snow's famous Rede Lecture of 1959, better known as The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. From the viewpoint of composition it is certainly a masterpiece. It shows Lord Snow at his literary best. He dazzles his reader with gem-like phrases and fascinating little stories. They seem to serve one principal purpose, namely, to disarm the reader's critical sense. For unless one's mind is dazzled, how can one accept a reasoning which runs like this: Among educated men, scientists know more about culture than non-scientists or literary people. Among scientists, practical scientists or engineers are more attuned to culture than are theoretical scientists. As a third step, Lord Snow claimed that among engineers the so-called inventive engineers, who usually work individually, if not individualistically, are less sensitive to culture than engineers who work in teams on the technologization of society. And finally, Lord Snow suggested that the capitalist West should take a leaf or two from the program of the Soviet Union, because it trains far more engineers than do France, Germany, England, and the United States taken together. Six years later, in 1965, in a lecture given in Washington, Lord Snow remarked that the Soviet Union is far more successful politically, because not a few of its leaders were originally trained as engineers, and, therefore, they think more systematically and more scientifically.
In raising these matters it is not politics that I want to emphasize. My sole purpose is to illustrate the trend which thinks that culture and progress should be entrusted to engineers, and specifically to one type of engineer. One of the troubles with this trend is that it does not even understand what it purports to explain, the so-called social roots of science. Lord Snow himself unwittingly admitted this as he commented on the very effective use of science in industry during the late 1800s in Germany. As Lord Snow put it, the spectacular rise of German industrial organization around 1880 or so, made for him "no social sense." The trouble with that remark is that if the meaning of making sense is restricted to the meaning of "making social sense, " then many important things are not going to make sense. Among these things is science itself.
[SLJ "The Last Century of Science: Progress, Problems, and Prospects" in The Absolute Beneath the Relative and Other Essays 163-4]

Leighton acknowledged that quantum electrodynamics could not cope with phenomena that directly involved nuclear forces, weak interactions, and gravitation. For all that, quantum mechanics seemed to him to hold the key to all physics. "With the rapid advances that are being made in particle physics," wrote Leighton, "perhaps it is not too much to expect that in a few more decades all physical phenomena will be equally well understood." A generation earlier, C. P. Snow, the future novelist-laureate of the scientific community, had already diagnosed the same conviction as he let scientists speak of what had just been achieved by the discoverers of quantum mechanics: "They had found the boundary of knowledge, something would remain unknown forever." What this implied for all men of science, of those times and of all times to come, was put in their mouths by Snow as follows: "One of the results of this new representation of matter was to tell us what we could not know as well as what we could. We were in sight of the end." To be in sight of the end can easily provoke a peculiar feeling, especially in moderns who had replaced God, the infinite, with an endless search in an allegedly infinite universe, and who had grown accustomed to setting (with Lessing's Nathan) a higher value on the search for truth than on the possession of truth itself. No wonder that they were deeply perplexed by being in sight of the end. As Snow voiced the feeling of one of them: "It seemed incredible to me, brought up in the tradition of limitless searching." This limitless search meant a distrust of limits, an uneasiness about the limited field, however vast. Commitment to the infinite implied the absence of agoraphobia, the very opposite of fear of the circumscribed, the only fear with intellectual, or rather scientific respectability. As Snow's scientist mused of that limitless search: "Í resented leaving it."
Snow's scientist spoke in the name of practically all his colleagues in theoretical physics, but they certainly did not include Einstein. The ones Einstein could count as his allies were few and far between though hardly negligible. In addition to Planck, there was Schrödinger, one of the architects of quantum theory. In a letter of August 8, 1939, to Schrödinger, Einstein spoke to him of his viewpoint which, as Einstein put it, "has driven me into a deep solitude." The viewpoint related above all to the question of whether reality existed independently of the observer, a question which most cultivators of quantum mechanics answered in the negative. Schrödinger had them and their often arcane formulas in mind when a decade or so later he remarked in a lecture dealing with the modern, scientific notion of material reality: "A widely accepted school of thought maintains that an objective picture of reality - in any traditional meaning of that term - cannot exist at all. Only the optimists among us (and I consider myself one of them) look upon this view as a philosophical extravagance born of despair in face of a grave crisis. We hope that the fluctuations of concepts and opinions only indicate a violent process of transformation which in the end will lead to something better than the mess of formulas that to-day surrounds our subject."
In its original form the crisis consisted in the inability to accomplish anything more than an ad hoc systematization of some of tens of thousands of spectral lines carefully measured during the decades straddling the turn of the century. In 1913 Bohr's atom model brought some relief, but it promised more than it immediately delivered. Once it was applied beyond the simplest lines of the hydrogen atom, an increasing number of arbitrary corrections had to be grafted onto it to make it work. The situation appeared so unsatisfactory as to prompt Ehrenfest to remark that teaching mathematical physics in its present confusion gave him insight into Hegelian dialectics, "a succession of leaps from one lie to another by way of intermediate falsehoods." About the same time Pauli wrote: "At the moment physics is again terribly confused. In any case, it is difficult for me, and I wish I had been a movie comedian or something of the sort and had never heard of physics." A few months later, after the publication in 1925 of Heisenberg's paper on matrix mechanics, Pauli wrote: "Heisenberg's type of mechanics has again given me hope and joy in life. To be sure, it does not supply the solution to the riddle, but I believe it is again possible to march forward." Pauli by then was famous through his contribution of the fourth quantum number, later known as spin, which permitted the derivation of the periodicity in the table of elements. But the spin was still an ad hoc device, however successful. When something of its logic was unfolded in 1929 through the work of Dirac, the perspective of Einstein was once more vindicated, but this was noted only many years later and by Dirac himself.
[SLJ "The Horns of Complementarity" in The Road of Science and the Ways To God 197-9]

Our Society: A Plea On Behalf of Truth

For your consideration: some more about our purpose, and a strong appeal to work, yes, even as scientists, for the conversion of others... did you know that Jaki's work was a driving force in conversions? What are we waiting for? Be sure to make your work - at your lab bench or desk or computer, at home or at play or in church - a plea on behalf of truth.
--Dr. Thursday

The question, whether one can know that there is a universe, a concept which Kant disqualified as a bastard product of the metaphysical craving of the intellect, is of course constantly staring any and all scientific cosmologists in the face. It will not be avoided by replacing the term universe, this most catholic entity insofar as it stands for the totality of consistently interacting things, with the term rnultiverse, which is but a verbal cover-up for endorsing cosmic incoherence, a most unscientific perspective indeed. On a different level, work in biology, especially in genetics, brings up with ever greater pressure questions that are ethical in that supreme sense in which ethics relates to the very catholic core of personhood.

A Catholic intellectual must be ready to face up to such questions and in a genuinely Catholic sense. And if he has not acquired the ability to cope with such questions, he at least must have a vivid conviction that Catholic answers can be given to such questions, and indeed have been given time and again. And, most importantly, the Catholic intellectual must not turn the truth of those answers into a function of the measure of their acceptance in secular academia, which is well nigh zero in most cases.

A Catholic intellectual must be ready to swim against the tide which will flow against him until the end of time. He must not dream about a new Middle Ages, partly because those Ages were very mediocre in many ways, and partly because history cannot be replayed. Utopia and history are mutually exclusive notions. The Catholic intellectual cannot meditate often enough on an often overlooked statement in the Documents of Vatican II about the grim struggle between the Church and the World, a struggle that shall never abate. A Catholic intellectual is, of course, fully entitled to wonder about the strange disproportionality between that gigantic struggle and its brief portrayal in those Documents.

The Catholic intellectual must be ready to recognize opportunities for Catholic research in his own field. The case of Pierre Duhem (1861-1916) remains most instructive. He did not dream of what he would eventually find as he started searching for the historical origin of the principle of virtual velocities, a cornerstone of the science of motion. He wanted to do no more than show that historically too, the exact science of physics was an economic coordination of data of measurements and therefore unqualified to say anything ontological, let alone metaphysical.

This is not to suggest that a vast portrayal of this point would not have contained a great liberating vision, the prospect of sidelining once and for all the specter of scientism. But when Duhem found that the first intimation of that principle was done in the medieval Sorbonne, he did not hesitate to put everything aside. The result was a portrayal in a dozen or so vast volumes of the medieval Christian origin of Newtonian science.

Duhem himself, a staunch and devout Catholic from childhood, gave a priceless account of this intellectual odyssey of his in his essay, "Physics of a Believer," which should be compulsory reading for all Catholic intellectuals, whether scientists or not. Perhaps the meditative reading of that essay will give them the inspiration to put a great deal aside when even a remotely similar opportunity arises before their searching eyes.I mentioned Duhem partly because I found in his lifework, combining the task of a physicist, of an historian and philosopher of science, and of an artist to boot, a truly catholic and Catholic inspiration, in more than one sense. Certainly inspiring should seem his resolve not to be discouraged by secular academia's systematic slighting of him during his life. He held it to be his greatest satisfaction when he received word about the intellectual support which Catholic university people and students found in his writings.

The fact that some non-Catholic readers of my The Relevance of Physics and of my Gifford Lectures, The Road of Science and the Ways to God found in them a major incentive to join the Catholic Church remains for me far more precious than some prestigious prizes. Not that either of those books was apologetics in any sense. They were mere pleas, as any intellectual effort should be, on behalf of truth.
[SLJ "The Catholic Intellectual" in The Gist of Catholicism and Other Essays 34-5, emphasis added]

Postscript from Dr. Thursday: Confer, if you will, this parallel thought from Chesterton:
A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it. A dead dog can be lifted on the leaping water with all the swiftness of a leaping hound; but only a live dog can swim backwards. A paper boat can ride the rising deluge with all the airy arrogance of a fairy ship; but if the fairy ship sails upstream it is really rowed by the fairies.
[GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:388]

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Science: Einstein and Aquinas (and others)

The essence of that post-metaphysical philosophy is summed up in that phrase of Sartre: "We can go no further." What he meant to say was that philosophy cannot go as far as the universe. This was exactly Kant's major contention. But this is exactly what many scientific cosmologists, and scientists in general, find difficult to accept since Einstein published that great memoir of his in 1917. This is not to say that prior to that scientists in general doubted the existence of the universe. They always felt it in their bones that scientific findings, insofar as they helped establish scientific laws, had universal significance or a signification relating to the universe itself. They knew this long before Popper testified to an old truth with a new phrase, namely, that all science is cosmology. But since that memoir of Einstein no one can repeat Kant's cosmological antinomies and still appear scientific, a trick by which Kant had set so great a store.

Those philosophers who try to dissipate the great shadow which Einstein is casting on them can do no better than be very brief about Einstein's science. And lest they should thereby appear either incompetent or contemptuous, they should follow Sartre's art of throwing a red herring in the form of a pleasing but brief metaphor. "Life is limited by life: it becomes like the world of Einstein, finite but unlimited," - was Sartre's sole reference to Einstein's cosmology in a context that dealt with being as very distinct from nothingness.

Indeed, for Einstein the world was a being, and the most encompassing being at that. For him the universe was not his world, the world of his ideas, but a reality best revealed by the best in science. He was most conscious on this point. A decade before Sartre was to reject the Nobel Prize in literature in 1965, there appeared in Paris the correspondence between Einstein and M. Solovine, his friend from student days. To Solovine's query whether Einstein had become a believer, nay a Catholic, on the basis of his cosmology, Einstein replied, of course, in the negative. But he also stated that only the step from the universe to God was illegitimate but not the march to the universe itself.

Einstein, of course, thought that science took him as far as the universe. It did not. Science does not take the scientist even as far as the reality of his most trivial scientific instruments. The scientist assumes the reality of things before he can engage in his only legitimate business which is to establish the quantitative properties of things existing. Reasoned discourse about the existence of things is the very business of that ontology for which modern philosophy has no use. Ontology is subtly reduced to the art of aping what science does when one reads with approval W. Quine's declaration: "To be, I have persistently held, is to be the value of a variable." Obviously, Quine did not mean Aristotle's or Thomas's analogy of being. Although they both admitted the various realizations of being, they did so only because they held, in their own ways, that there was an ultimate being which was not variable.
[SLJ Universe and Creed 64-6, emphasis added]

"Reason is itself a matter of faith."
[GKC Orthodoxy CW1:236]

Without pretending to span within such limits the essential Thomist idea, I may be allowed to throw out a sort of rough version of the fundamental question, which I think I have known myself, consciously or unconsciously since my childhood. When a child looks out of the nursery window and sees anything, say the green lawn of the garden, what does he actually know; or does he know anything? There are all sorts of nursery games of negative philosophy played round this question. A brilliant Victorian scientist delighted in declaring that the child does not see any grass at all; but only a sort of green mist reflected in a tiny mirror of the human eye. This piece of rationalism has always struck me as almost insanely irrational. If he is not sure of the existence of the grass, which he sees through the glass of a window, how on earth can he be sure of the existence of the retina, which he sees through the glass of a microscope? If sight deceives, why can it not go on deceiving? Men of another school answer that grass is a mere green impression on the mind; and that he can be sure of nothing except the mind. They declare that he can only be conscious of his own consciousness; which happens to be the one thing that we know the child is not conscious of at all. In that sense, it would be far truer to say that there is grass and no child, than to say that there is a conscious child but no grass. St. Thomas Aquinas, suddenly intervening in this nursery quarrel, says emphatically that the child is aware of Ens. Long before he knows that grass is grass, or self is self, he knows that something is something. Perhaps it would be best to say very emphatically (with a blow on the table), 'There is an Is". That is as much monkish credulity as St. Thomas asks of us at the start. Very few unbelievers start by asking us to believe so little. And yet, upon this sharp pin-point of reality, he rears by long logical processes that have never really been successfully overthrown, the whole cosmic system of Christendom.
[GKC St. Thomas Aquinas CW2:528-9]

Monday, August 17, 2009

Some great pictures...

Visit Casa Santa Lidia for some great pictures!

For Jaki's birthday: Chesterton on SLJ

I can hear my poor readers moan: You're talking Chesterton - again?

In case you had any lingering doubt about me as your blogg-host - why, yes, I do mean to drag Chesterton into all my discussions of Jaki and Duhem and science! Why should I avoid doing so, when Jaki quotes Chesterton in most of his books, and wrote several essays and an entire monograph on Chesterton, the Seer of Science?

Yes.... I have had the distinct honour to have met both these great men through their books, and you can also have that delight. Their work ought to be a lantern for us and a light to our path - a light leading us on to Light - to Jesus Christ, the Everlasting Man, the Savior of Science, the Monogenes, the Unigenitus. After all, it is our belief in Jesus as "the only begotten Son" which guarantees us the ability to DO science.

I also had the delight in meeting Father Jaki at three Chesterton Conferences and also for lunch on several occasions. When one met him, he was not what one might expect: it was easy enough to tell he was a priest from his garb, and when he spoke one knew his English was his fourth or fifth language (or seventh or eighth!) But even more one would not expect the reality hidden by his simple, slight appearance. It was much like what Valentin noted when he first encountered Father Brown:
The little priest was so much the essence of those Eastern flats; he had a face as round and dull as a Norfolk dumpling; he had eyes as empty as the North Sea; he had several brown paper parcels, which he was quite incapable of collecting. The Eucharistic Congress had doubtless sucked out of their local stagnation many such creatures, blind and helpless, like moles disinterred.
[GKC "The Blue Cross" in The Innocence of Father Brown]
It may seem strange to you that I compare this prolific and brilliant priest with Chesterton's fictional dumpling, I mean detective - but I think the comparison is uncanny if not prophetic, for the first words we hear Father Brown speaking is the tail of a most powerful and Jaki-like (if not Duhem-like!) sentence:
"...what they really meant in the Middle Ages by the heavens being incorruptible."
In the preface to the 2001 edition of his book on Chesterton Father Jaki expresses his doubt that GKC ever knew any of the works of Pierre Duhem. However, this very strange phrase surely hints that perhaps he did... or at least knew something about the matter - for what they "really meant in the Middle Ages by heavens being incorruptible" was expressed in a most scientific phrase in the mid 1300s by John Buridan:
Also, since the Bible does not state that appropriate intelligences move the celestial bodies, it could be said that it does not appear necessary to posit intelligences of this kind, because it would be answered that God, when He created the world, moved each of the celestial orbs as He pleased, and in moving them He impressed in them impetuses which moved them without His having to move them any more except by the method of general influence whereby He concurs as a co-agent in all things which take place; “for thus on the seventh day He rested from all work which He had executed by committing to others the actions and the passions in turn.” And these impetuses which He impressed in the celestial bodies were not decreased nor corrupted afterwards, because there was no inclination of the celestial bodies for other movements. Nor was there resistance which would be corruptive or repressive of that impetus.
[Buridan, Quaestiones super octo libros physicorum Book 8 Question 12 (his commentary on Aristotle's Physics), quoted in Clagett, The Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages, quoted in many places by SLJ]
Please note: I do not wish to debate the point; if someone wishes to undertake the research on the question, I look forward to reading the report, be it favorable or otherwise - though we all know it is hard to prove the negative - that is, that Chesterton NEVER read any Duhem! No; I am merely pondering two of my dear friends, and noting some of the places where their work touches each other.

I will give you a few others - perhaps a bit wide of the mark, perhaps more uncanny junctions - you can ponder them for youself. However, let us not forget: though this is the birthday of a superlative scholar, it is not a day for scholarly quibbles, but for joy, for festival, for jokes and laughing, for eating and drinking with friends... if we cannot do this in the flesh, let us at least do it by the great gift of electronics - and let us pray for Father and for others who have gone home, and ask them to intercede for us.

Eternal rest grant unto Stanley L. Jaki, O Lord,and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

Happy birthday, Father! Please remember us in your prayers.

--Dr. Thursday

* * *

Perhaps there are no things out of which we get so little of the truth as the truisms; especially when they are really true. We are all in the habit of saying certain things about Asia, which are true enough but which hardly help us because we do not understand their truth; as that Asia is old or looks to the past or is not progressive. Now it is true that Christendom is more progressive, in a sense that has very little to do with the rather provincial notion of an endless fuss of political improvement. Christendom does believe, for Christianity does believe, that man can eventually get somewhere, here or hereafter, or in various ways according to various doctrines. The world's desire can somehow be satisfied as desires are satisfied, whether by a new life or an old love or some form of positive possession and fulfilment. For the rest, we all know there is a rhythm and not a mere progress in things, that things rise and fall; only with us the rhythm is a fairly free and incalculable rhythm. For most of Asia the rhythm has hardened into a recurrence.
[GKC, The Everlasting ManCW2:262-3]

It will appear only a jest to say that all religious history has really been a pattern of noughts and crosses. But I do not by noughts mean nothings, but only things that are negative compared with the positive shape or pattern of the other. And though the symbol is of course only a coincidence, it is a coincidence that really does coincide. The mind of Asia can really be represented by a round O, if not in the sense of a cypher at least of a circle. The great Asiatic symbol of a serpent with its tail in its mouth is really a very perfect image of a certain idea of unity and recurrence that does indeed belong to the Eastern philosophies and religions. It really is a curve that in one sense includes everything, and in another sense comes to nothing. In that sense it does confess, or rather boast, that all argument is an argument in a circle. And though the figure is but a symbol, we can see how sound is the symbolic sense that produces it, the parallel symbol of the Wheel of Buddha generally called the Swastika. The cross is a thing at right angles pointing boldly in opposite directions; but the Swastika is the same thing in the very act of returning to the recurrent curve. That crooked cross is in fact a cross turning into a wheel. Before we dismiss even these symbols as if they were arbitrary symbols, we must remember how intense was the imaginative instinct that produced them or selected them both in the East and the West. The cross has become something more than a historical memory; it does convey, almost as by a mathematical diagram, the truth about the real point at issue; the idea of a conflict stretching outwards into eternity. It is true, and even tautological, to say that the cross is the crux of the whole matter.
{GKC The Everlasting Man CW2:265-6]

Very little is left free in the modern world; but private buying and selling are still supposed to be free; and indeed still are free; if anyone has a will free enough to use his freedom. Children may be driven by force to a particular school. Men may be driven by force away from a public-house. All sorts of people, for all sorts of new and nonsensical reasons, may be driven by force to a prison. But nobody is yet driven by force to a particular shop.
[GKC The Outline of Sanity CW5:89-90, emphasis added]

If you wonder why I quote that one, here is the correlative passage from SLJ, with his famous "spark plugs of science"...

If we proceed as at present in a proper orderly fashion, the very idea of property will vanish. It is not revolutionary violence that will destroy it. It is rather the desperate and reckless habit of not having a revolution. The world will be occupied, or rather is already occupied, by two powers which are now one power. I speak, of course, of that part of the world that is covered by our system, and that part of the history of the world which will last very much longer than our time. Sooner or later, no doubt, men would rediscover so natural a pleasure as property. But it might be discovered after ages, like those ages filled with pagan slavery. It might be discovered after a long decline of our whole civilization. Barbarians might rediscover it and imagine it was a new thing.
Their resolve to reshape society by a so-called "scientific sociology" prompted him to speak of the "great scissors of science." The immediate context of that priceless phrase was Chesterton's letting his wrath descend on the "sociological doctors" who in the name of public hygiene proposed that schoolgirls coming from poor homes with no bathrooms have their long braids, their sole pride, cut short. Were Chesterton alive today, he would perhaps speak of the great "spark plugs of science" which drag small schoolchildren on three-to-four hour round-trip bus-rides daily in the name of cultural hygiene.
[SLJ Chesterton a Seer of Science 48-9]

Anyhow, the prospect is a progress towards the complete combination of two combinations. They are both powers that believe only in combination; and have never understood or even heard that there is any dignity in division. They have never had the imagination to understand the idea in Genesis and the great myths: that Creation itself was division. The beginning of the world was the division of heaven and earth; the beginning of humanity was the division of man and woman. But these flat and platitudinous minds can never see the difference between the creative cleavage of Adam and Eve and the destructive cleavage of Cain and Abel. Anyhow, these powers or minds are now both in the same mood; and it is a mood of disliking all division, and therefore all distribution. They believe in unity, in unanimity, in harmony. One of these powers is State Socialism and the other is Big Business. They are already one spirit; they will soon be one body. For, disbelieving in division, they cannot remain divided; believing only in combination, they will themselves combine.
[GKC The Outline of Sanity CW5:198-9, emphasis added]

This answer was like the slash of a sword; it sundered; it did not in any sense sentimentally unite. Briefly, it divided God from the cosmos. That transcendence and distinctness of the deity which some Christians now want to remove from Christianity, was really the only reason why any one wanted to be a Christian. It was the whole point of the Christian answer to the unhappy pessimist and the still more unhappy optimist. As I am here only concerned with their particular problem, I shall indicate only briefly this great metaphysical suggestion. All descriptions of the creating or sustaining principle in things must be metaphorical, because they must be verbal. Thus the pantheist is forced to speak of God in all things as if he were in a box. Thus the evolutionist has, in his very name, the idea of being unrolled like a carpet. All terms, religious and irreligious, are open to this charge. The only question is whether all terms are useless, or whether one can, with such a phrase, cover a distinct idea about the origin of things. I think one can, and so evidently does the evolutionist, or he would not talk about evolution. And the root phrase for all Christian theism was this, that God was a creator, as an artist is a creator. A poet is so separate from his poem that he himself speaks of it as a little thing he has "thrown off." Even in giving it forth he has flung it away. This principle that all creation and procreation is a breaking off is at least as consistent through the cosmos as the evolutionary principle that all growth is a branching out. A woman loses a child even in having a child. All creation is separation. Birth is as solemn a parting as death.
[GKC Orthodoxy CW1:281]

[note: The Hebrew word bara, which is used in Genesis for God's act of creation, means to slash or hack. See SLJ's Genesis 1 Through the Ages.]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

St. Clare and SLJ: " you believe in cooks?"

I did not post on Saturday, wishing to keep a kind of silence during our novena. But today, the feast of St. Clare, I was inspired to see what if anything Fr. Jaki had to say about her - and I was surprised, as you shall be also. The quote is in an unusual place, and also supplies the hearty humour for my missing Saturday post... but first I must mention yesterday's feast, the feast of the deacon St. Lawrence. As you may recall he laughed and joked as he was being grilled, but I wish to give you something even more serious, which will give the cross-links we have come to expect in our study. Jaki recalls
a remark of the Saint of Assisi as to what he would do were he to meet Saint Lawrence and a priest at the same time: "I would first kiss the hand of the priest and say: Forgive me, Saint Lawrence, but the hands of the priest touch the body of our Lord each day!"
[SLJ The Theology of Priestly Celibacy 186]
As you will expect from our scholarly master, the quote bears a footnote. I try to avoid too much of the distraction of footnotes here, but this time the note has some substance beyond the bibliographic citation:
5. Saint Francis could, of course, extol the dignity of the priesthood in distinctly theological terms as well. The occasion was the long letter he addressed to the General Chapter of the Order, gathered on Pentecost 1226. There, in turning to the priests of the Order, he referred to the veneration due to the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the hands of St. John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, and to the tomb in which Jesus laid, and drew the following lesson: "How worthy, virtuous, and holy ought to be he, who touches with his fingers, receives in his mouth and in his heart, and administers to others, Christ, no longer mortal, but eternally triumphant and glorious!" Quoted from O. Englebert, St. Francis of Assisi: A Biography (1965; Ann Arbor, Ml: Servant Books, 1979), p. 263. Equally important, by showing fun respect towards priests of ill-repute, Francis rebuffed heretics who claimed that the unworthiness of a priest voids his sacramental powers. See M. E. Habig (ed.), St. Fancis of Assisi. Writings and Early Biographies (4th rev. ed.; Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, l983), pp. 1605-06.
Now that I have mentioned St. Francis of Assisi, I can easily mention St. Clare - rather, I can quote Jaki's mention of her. It is a bit long, but it countains a great piece of humour, and is well worth your study - indeed, your contemplation, for it touches deeply to the heart of science.
In view of the threats, mental and moral, that envelop man’s understanding of his true relation to the universe, a recourse to everyday reasoning about its true provenance may have more merit than one would dare to assume. I mean such rebuttals of unbelief that may not stand up in the courts of logic-chopping but reveal an unerring grasp of some basic logic. One such rebuttal I witnessed when in late September 1947 I was on a train on my way to a town near the Hungarian-Austrian border. My preoccupations about my eventual crossing that border through fields loaded with mines were momentarily dissipated when a fellow traveler, a newly blossomed Communist, needled me (traveling in cassock) with objections to the existence of God. A gracious woman in the same compartment chimed in on seeing the ineffectiveness of my replies. "Why don’t you ask him," she turned to me, "whether he has ever seen boots that made themselves?" Another rebuttal of the same sort took place some time ago in this University. [Oxford] The president of one of the colleges was having an evening discussion with one of the undergraduates about theological matters. At the end of the discussion the student said, "Well, I am sorry, Sir, but I still don’t believe in God and as it is dinner time I must now go to my dinner." As he rose, the president said to him, "I hope you enjoy your dinner - by the way, do you believe in cooks?"

To speak of cooks and cosmology in the same breath is far less incongruous than it may appear. Modern scientific cosmology has in fact discovered in the early stages of the universe a situation that may be best compared to a cosmic soup into which a very specific number of ingredients were placed with utmost attention to their respective proportions. That cosmic soup is indeed of such great refinement as to provide sustenance to the immense chain of living forms. They all rise and perish. This picture of universal death, often going together with an apparently senseless waste of life, appeared to Darwin as irreconcilable with the reality of a Creator. In his case too, the argument was a cover-up for an earlier loss of faith, a process in which concern for suffering had no part. At any rate, human suffering seems to be the only serious argument against God’s existence. Yet all that suffering, insofar as it is a purely physical process, takes place in terms of laws that also govern the entire universe. Those laws are a powerful beacon in a mental landscape which, whatever its dark areas, is lit up by not a few beacons. They all reinforce one another and give enormous justification to that trust in the Creator which is more than an intellectual recognition of His existence. This is why a deep and broad resonance is found in most human hearts and minds to the chorale in Bach’s St Matthew Passion:
Commit your way,
And whatever troubles your heart,
to the trustiest care
of Him who controls the skies;
He who gives clouds, air, and winds
their paths, courses, and tracks
He will also find ways
where your feet can safely pass.
The cult that inspired that chorale reaches to points where, if taken for a mere esthetic item, it can be of no use. Such points are those of excruciating pain, of disasters, and last but not least of the approaching moment of one’s death. In itself a most esthetic description of that moment is a favorite saying of Francis of Assisi that one should await the last hour as if an invisible sister were to come to close one’s eyes. Had Francis been a mere esthete, however extraordinary, he could not have inspired followers such as Clare, who said as she died: "Blessed be Thou, Lord, who has created me." Of course, both Francis and Claire took their inspiration from a cult of which the daily recitation of the Psalms was an integral part. They both, along with countless others, repeated at least once a week the Psalmist’s words: "I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonders of all your creation."
[SLJ God and the Cosmologists 227-9]
P.S. I wanted to quote Chesterton on Clare, but it would take us far afield for today. However, if you have GKC's St. Francis of Assisi please read the portion in chapter 7 "The Three Orders" where St. Clare is compared to Juliet (CW2:99] and you will be even more surprised.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Announcing a Special Project For the Society

In a little over a week, Monday August 17 2009 will mark the 85th anniversary of the birth of Stanley L. Jaki.

It would be appropriate if we could have our first international congress around then, but I have a feeling it would be hard to schedule such a grand event at this late date. We'll have to try again next year. And I don't think we'll be ready with the first issue of our journal. That will also take some planning.

But there is something we can all do. Starting on Sunday, August 9, you can join us in a novena of prayer for Father Jaki. Anyone who can should arrange to attend Holy Mass on that day for the repose of his soul.

It had been hoped, several times, that we might produce a "Festschrift" for Father Jaki. If you do not know this interesting word, it is a gift book, written for the occasion of an anniversary or other event in the life of a man of letters. The friends of that person arrange to have various essays or articles written about his work and thought, which are collected and published - or at least bound in an elegant form - and this unique gift is presented to him at a reception or banquet in his honour at the appropriate time. We may yet assemble such a volume, as a memorial tribute - but we can render a spiritual gift without the fuss of typographical errors and binding charges. Let us consider how we might participate by prayer.

Let us also ask God to enlighten us, to show us how we might carry out His will, whether through the Society or in our own professional lives, by writing or working or studying, by living a more perfect life of love and of truth in whatever place He has given us in His wonderful universe.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Some thoughts about Duhem and his philosophy

Perhaps I have been neglecting Duhem in my recent selections. The difficulty for me is that I have only three books by him, a biography by Martin, and the works by Jaki... and I do not know French... and as enticing as it is, I have no time to learn French at present.
So for now, I will try to proceed with what I do have.

Here, then, is a brief view of Duhem's thought...
--Dr. Thursday

...Pierre Duhem held firmly to separating physics from metaphysics: he saw in the history of physical theories, whether they were based on continuous or discontinuous images, or whether they were of the field or atomic type of physics, a proof of our radical inability to reach the depths of reality. It was not that Pierre Duhem, a convinced Catholic, rejected the value of metaphysics; he wished to separate it completely from physics and to give it a very different basis, the religious basis of revelation. This preoccupation with a complete separation of physics from metaphysics led him, as a logical but curious consequence, to be ranked, at least with respect to the interpretation of physical theories, among positivists with an energetistic or phenomenological tendency. In fact, he summarized his opinion concerning physical theories in the following conclusion: "A physical theory is not an explanation; it is a system of mathematical propositions whose aim is to represent as simply, as completely, and as exactly as possible a whole group of experimental laws."

Physical theory would then be merely a method of classification of physical phenomena which keeps us from drowning in the extreme complexity of these phenomena. And Duhem, arrived at this positivist and pragmatist conception of nature bordering closely on the conventionalism (commodisme) of Henri Poincaré, was in complete agreement with the positivist Mach in proclaiming that physical theory is above all an "economy of thought." For him all hypotheses based on images are transitory and infirm; only relations of an algebraic nature which sound theories have established among phenomena can stand imperturbably. Such, in the main, is the essential idea which Duhem produced about physical theory. It certainly pleased the physicists of the school of energetics, his contemporaries; it certainly is also favored by a great number of quantist physicists of the present day. Others were already finding it or will still find it a little narrow, and will reproach it for diminishing too much the knowledge of the depth of reality which the progress of physics can procure for us.

We must be fair and emphasize the fact that Duhem did not fall into the extremes to which his views might perhaps have led him. He believed instinctively, as all physicists do, in the existence of a reality external to man, and did not wish to allow himself to be dragged into the difficulties raised by a thoroughgoing "idealism." Hence, taking a position which is a very personal one at that, and separating himself on this point from pure phenomenalism, he declared that the mathematical laws of theoretical physics, without informing us what the deep reality of things is, reveal to us nonetheless certain appearances of a harmony which can only be of an ontological order. In perfecting itself physical theory progressively takes on the character of a "natural classification" of phenomena, and he made precise the meaning of the adjective "natural" by saying: "The more theory is perfected, the more we apprehend that the logical order in which it arranges experimental laws is the reflection of an ontological order." In this manner, it seems, he had been led to mitigate the rigor of his scientific positivism because he felt, and we think justifiably so, the force of the following objection: "If physical theories are only a convenient and logical classification of observable phenomena, how does it come about that they can anticipate experiment and foresee the existence of phenomena as yet unknown?" In order to answer this objection he really felt that we must attribute to physical theories a deeper bearing than that of a mere methodical classification of facts already known. In particular, he was clearly aware, and some passages of his book show this to be so, that the analogy of the formulas employed by physical theories bearing on different phenomena most often do not reduce to a mere formal analogy but may correspond to deep connections among diverse appearances of reality.

Such in the main is the conception which Duhem propounded concerning the scope of physical theories - an idea more subtly nuanced in the end than one might first believe. ...

[Prince Louis de Broglie, 1953, from the Foreword to Duhem's The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory, ix-x. Translated by Philip P. Weiner from the second edition, 1914]

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Curé, the Devil, the Catechism... and a Planet

The New York Times.... is most eager to publish the latest results about search for other planets around other stars. And each time that daily puts, preposterously enough, the best spin on the findings. The most recent of these is presented in the June 14, 2005 issue of that daily leader in dishing out with great seriousness mental and moral slime. The slime this time was a write-up about a planet around the star Gliese 876, fifteen light years away in Aquarius. The report admits that the planet is so close to its sun that it has to turn always its same side toward it and that it completes its orbit in every 1.9 days. But because the planet is only seven times larger than our earth, it is described as the Earth's distant cousin and a real indication that life and intelligence exist outside the earth. The script might have been written by Screwtape whose tactic is to bedazzle man's mind with specious non-sequiturs. But the final inference in that script is not better than the logic of going to a doctor and telling him: I have a circulatory problem, but since many others whose blood circulates, have been cured, a cure must be on hand for my ailment. Surely, such a man deserves to be taken to a mental hospital.

If one then asks why such hapless reasoning can be crafted and presented in reputable publications, one has to go outside science, and back to good old theology, indeed to the Baltimore Catechism. There one can read about original sin, and its secondary consequences, as well as about the devil, whose mention in the title of this lecture must have been the chief reason for most of you to come here. In this age, when everything has become "positive" and cheerful in Catholic religion, original sin, and even more so the devil, are not to be mentioned in good company. We have matured "spiritually" so much during the last forty years that it would be beneath our adult dignity to waste a moment on original sin, let alone on the devil. This in part is due to the fact that neither that sin nor the devil figure prominently in the Documents of Vatican II.

Whether we like it or not our religion began with the devil, who surely put on a pleasant appearance in the Paradise Garden. Otherwise Eve would have thought twice before eating the forbidden fruit. Ever since mankind has suffered the consequences of that sin, of which there is little in the 800 pages of the New Catechism, where the devil is mentioned but passingly. And this pleases the devil more than anything else, For the devil's chief stratagem is not to show himself. He displays his true form only when in his ultimate despair he tries to sway the saint. Just read the life of Saint John Vianney and you will know what I mean. You will smell brimstone and hear hoofs clicking, in the measure in which you progress in spiritual life.

[SLJ "Christ, Extraterrestrials, and the Devil" in A Late Awakening and Other Essays 103-4]

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Time for a Cold One: Jaki, Planck and Einstein and you!

It is August the first, and it's hot in the northern hemisphere... we mark the "Dog Days" as with the ancient Egyptians we give a nod to the heliacal rising of Sirius. [See e.g. SLJ's Science and Creation 71]

No, just as no astronomer will be shunned for using non-Copernican terms like "sunrise" and "sunset"... one imagines a smallminded character stomping out of a theatre when that song begins in "The Fiddler on the Roof"! No, it is not a heresy, even for astronomers, to celebrate the dog days, and perhaps you are feeling thirsty - if you are, then this posting is for you, to be read along with your favourite lager, ale, or stout.

Besides - it's Saturday, our "half-holiday" when we get to enjoy the writings of our masters even while we study them. Isn't it time for a nice cold beer? You may be surprised to know that Father Jaki appreciated beer, as do I. In an essay in A Late Awakening Father quoted the exceedingly famous Chesterton dictum which ought to be on every beer mug and wine glass of our Society:
...we should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them.
[GKC Orthodoxy CW1:268]
I do not think SLJ quoted the parallel commentary where GKC examines, with a most Jaki-esque style, what we might call The Purpose Of It All:
It is quite a mistake to suppose that, when a man desires an alcoholic drink, he necessarily desires alcohol. Let a man walk ten miles steadily on a hot summer's day along a dusty English road, and he will soon discover why beer was invented. The fact that beer has a very slight stimulating quality will be quite among the smallest reasons that induce him to ask for it. In short, he will not be in the least desiring alcohol; he will be desiring beer.
[GKC ILN Apr 20 1907 CW27:444]
No doubt you are wondering how Planck and Einstein figure into the equation.

Well, Plank, Einstein, Jaki, and Chesterton walk into a pub, and... oh, oops, sorry. Wrong notebook. (Wow, wouldn't that be a great joke? Once we have our Society journal, we'll have a contest for the best conclusion to that joke, or any close approximation. Gotta get Plank's constant in there somehow. But let's leave it for today.)

Actually , Father Jaki doesn't mention Chesterton in today's selection, but he does mention beer together with Planck and Einstein, and before you die of thirst, perhaps I ought to give it to you:
Of course, it was not the word "quantum" that Planck had to defend, a word that long before 1900 had become part of everyday German. Soldiers called quantum their daily ration of food. Schiller spoke of people who insisted on having their daily "quantum of stuff," that is, "quantum of beer." This did not invalidate the fact that there was something like half a loaf and an amount of beer that did not fill a mug. What Planck had to defend was the idea that the quantum of energy did not allow such a parceling. Years later Einstein facetiously expressed the energy quantum with a reference to a guzzler who insisted on having beer only by the pint. Numbers, or data of observation that lead Planck to the right formula, eventually imposed on him the view that there was something indivisible in the radiation coming out of black bodies or cavities.
[SLJ "Numbers Decide or Planck's Constant and Some Constants of Philosophy" in Numbers Decide and Other Essays 14]