Saturday, January 1, 2011

Duhem and the New Year

Welcome to 2011, dear friends and scholars and members of our Duhem Society - and all interested and thinking men!

In just five years we shall see the centennial of Duhem's death and the semi-centennial of the appearance of Jaki's great The Relevance of Physics. With God's help I will try to get further into our projects and perhaps we shall see some more formal actions taken as we advance.

In a tiny attempt to assist my own work, I am re-reading Jaki's book on Duhem, which seems even more rich and fertile in ideas than it did the last time I read it. For today, just a tiny sample, but one which is joyful and revealing, as well as suited to the day:
RĂ©camier pointedly recalled that Pierre found very amusing the Ecole's New Year parties and added that "he certainly collaborated in them." In fact he wrote the text for one of those parties, including the poems to be sung by the chorus.
[SLJ Uneasy Genius: the Life and Work of Pierre Duhem 59]
Here is my own challenge for our members, be you a physicist or philosopher or simple student: write a suitable poem - yes, one that might be sung, if possible.

If, come 2016, God will permit us to have an international conference, good. We ought to have scholarly lectures and seminars and symposia and publish formal proceedings. But if we are true to Duhem and Jaki we ought to have poems and songs as well. We must always recall that we are men, members of the human species, who eat and sleep - and yes, who rejoice at festive times. If we forget this, we could never be scientists:
Science finds its facts in Nature, but Science is not Nature; because Science has coordinated ideas, interpretations and analyses; and can say of Nature what Nature cannot say for itself.
[GKC The Resurrection of Rome CW21:358]
And sometimes it may be better said as a good old rousing chorus in a sort of drinking song... Let us wear lab coats, let us drink our beer from 750-ml beakers, let us rhyme elements and equations - let Science and Engineering join Art and Music and Literature in proclaiming the glory of God!

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