Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Arthur Koestler Sleepwalkers review

Mr Koestler begins trying to relate and show how science comes out of pre-science - namely religion and mythology.  He ends up making one of the best accounts of church and state - in terms of the whole Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo stories and issues.
The book is pretty good, perhaps for its time.  Well, when was Ernst Cassirer and Suzanne K. Langer writing?  About his time and before.  But, well, that's an indication of how much knowledge is out there; it's hard to be objective.  All one can do is say where you're getting your knowledge and what knowledge you're using.  Here, Koestler excells; he's make your college compositon teachers proud!
The book begins with great poetic paragraphs, and I was like, "oh boy, here we go; a poetic account of the development of science; this could get . . . exciting!"  Only, he quickly turns his writing style to pure scientific account.
He starts out by suggesting that science and mathematics comes out of a mythological past, which I agree.  But, as I hinted at above, he clearly doesn't know about or think about the nature of abstraction and how that relates to science and mathematics(see Suzanne K Langer's "Introduction to Symbolic Logic" for the best account of the how abstraction works and its relation to symbolic logic; and that symbolic logic can be derived out of pure language.  See Ernst Cassirer and Jacob Bronowski for an further understanding of the nature of mythology and mathematics; Suzanne K Langer translated Cassirer's "Myth, Language, and Logic"; see Jacob Bronowski's 'Science and Human Values", and "Origin of Knowledge and Imagination" . . . and "Science, Magic, and Civilization"; all these are short but sweet books, and just as intellectually exciting as Koestler's book here!).  He also can't see like Jacob Bronowski for one how science relates to the human condition.  This is why I dock him one star.  This is where he goes wrong in his book - in terms of relations between faith and reason.
What got me to buy and read this book was a reference to it in John Stillwell's "Mathematics and It's History."  It seemed an odd reference.  I looked it up, read some reviews here at amazon mostly!  and thought, that sounds familier!  I went and looked up Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" references, and found it referenced!  The two major and most important chapters/episodes in Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" are three and seven; the chapters about Kepler and the Greek science.  Well, now I know where he got the majority of his material to make those chapters!  As for Plato and Christianity?  I'd reference the first post of my "Jacob Bronowski Scientific Humanism" blog!  Or, how about The Origins of Christianity & the Bible 
by Andrew D. Benson.  The pace of research in new testament and old testament studies is of course fast and hugh.  I'd recommend The Jesus Puzzle, Christ in Egypt.  Robert Eisenman's "James Brother of Jesus." Bottom line, Jesus Christ is a hellenistic sungod overwright for James the Just.
I'm going to go to his chapters about Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo now.  I've never read a hundred pages about Copernicus, now I know why!  Copernicus's work is inaccurate!  Still, I've found one more example of how the vagueness gamers play their games.  For instance, they justified not burning Copernicus at the stake by saying his work is just a mathematical fiction; convenient, but not to be taken seriously.  Meanwhile, beleive in god, or you'll go to hell(and pay me money at church).  I mean, why has science had such a powerfull affect for atheism?  Because scientists have noted that they never need the god hypotheses to prove or calculate anything.  Try calculating 1+1 by saying god over and over again.  Sure, you could do it; but, the point is you don't need to do so to calculate anything mathematical. 
Anyways, Kepler . . . Kepler figured out the elliptic orbits before Galileo figured out that unequal masses fall in the vacuum at the same rate(and noted that objects thrown in the air follow an parabolic path), and before Newton/Liebniz figured out the calculus; it's one of the most amazing human accomplishments in all human history!  The human story is one of horrendous odds of dealing with rather unprofessional messing around society from Tycho Brahe to Castle owners.  Arthur Koeslter uncovers great details like he came up with his second law of equal areas before he figured out the elliptic orbits, and that Copernicus new of the eight minutes of arc discrepency in the orbit of Mars.  He traces how they went from obvious wrong ideas like epicycles, but then he tries to say how they couldn't possibly have taken them seriously. He contradicts himself, and due to his lack of knowledge about the nature of abstraction(see above), he doesn't know how to find and trace how constructive knowledge comes out of previous vague knowledge(like natural language).  While Kepler almost certainly believed in god, due to Arthur's great work, I thougth I detected a hint that even Kepler may have had moments of pause in his later years(as he did acknowledge that astrology maybe wrong).  It's curiose and makes for great reading(Arthur Koestler's book here) how the Greeks from Homer to some passages here and there in Plato(Plato did believe in god)  but, Kepler, Galileo struggled with science and what it could mean.
What Galileo's science meant for god and the bible is what got him into trouble. Koestler tries to say that Galileo's troubles came from being a jerk to Kepler and telling Jesuits they're a bunch of numbnuts; but, ultimately, when talking to some daughter or wife of some church guy and telling her that yes, the bible is wrong is what really set the wheels in motion.  Koestler mentions this episode as well. But, he tries to justify it all because Galileo was a jerk to Kepler. Once again, thanks Arthur for the great historical details of the scientific episodes; but, in the end, the conclusion is that the Christian church tried to put the flame of rational light out when things looked like they were getting out of control for them.
I actually got tired, and didn't read the last half of the Galileo trials, the Newton stuff(I've read Morris Kline's Calculus which teaches calculus by means of learning Newtonian mechancis and solving the kepler problem; i don't think I need to read this section), and his last philosophy of science chapter(see above comments of mine).
If you want the gory details about Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo's life and scienc's struggle, great read this book!(just like reading the gory details about christianity; read Robert Eisenman's books!).  As for his account of mankinds path from pre-science to science, I'd recommend Morris Kline's "Mathematics in Western Civilization", E.T. Bell's "The Development of Mathematics", or James Burke's "Connections", and "The Day the Universe Changed." Point is that, either through knowledge being too big for even Koestler to read up and synthesize it all, or science and mathematics progressing, his accounts of that progress and evolution of consciousness and intelligence in this sector of the universe is now outdated.  I've tried, and will no doute continue to try(one reason why I read this book is to try again and get more details, which was great).  I would recommend my blog again because that is a big part of what I try to do there.

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