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Cormack - - Isis 96 1 Slava Gerovitch. Pittsburgh, Pa. London: Palgrave Macmillan, Doug Millard. Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age. London: Science Museum, Harvey J. Undisciplining Knowledge: Interdisciplinarity in the Twentieth Century.

A New Look at Western Science and Technology

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Tony Crilly. Karen Hunger Parshall. Abeles - - Isis 98 3 Ido Israelowich.

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New York: Palgrave Macmillan, David A. Joanna Bourke. He argues that recent discoveries in these latter fields, which are rarely followed by historians, have direct relevance in addressing the big questions about the reasons for the emergence of science and technology. Most pre-modern science or natural philosophy, regardless of cultural context, was a product of conformity with pre-existing CKS biases that governed how humans understood the physical and biological worlds, whether it was the Aristotelian tradition or the structures that undergirded Chinese medicine.

Even in contemporary times, these CKS structures impede the ability of modern college students to learn subjects like physics and evolutionary biology 61, Grounded in an enhanced ability for working memory, KGS represents an evolutionary advantage that placed humanity above other species, but it was still subject to fundamental limitations.


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These include a tendency to default to established patterns of regularity, and a dependence on trial-and-error learning that proved difficult to dislodge. This, in turn, often locked all civilizations and cultures into established patterns of thought that proved difficult to challenge. The former is defined by humans readily accepting received knowledge and beliefs, and only questioning them when they receive conflicting information. Jin then seeks to apply this structural framework to the course of human history, starting with the oft-made observation that human history seems to be marked by long periods of stasis, followed by bursts of activity that have led to rapid advancement, such as the appearance of the First Agricultural Revolution in prehistoric times after many millennia in which human groups lived only in hunter-gatherer societies.

For Jin, the advances of the Axial Age are found not in the development of rational modes of thought, growing expressions of self-consciousness, or growing interchange between culturesCthese things had been proven to exist in other cultures of the period as well, and did not generate the same outcome. Instead, what characterizes the widely-variegated developments of Axial civilizations was a growth in systematic skepticism and disenchantment caused by military, economic and technological advancement This led to lengthy periods of stasis that simply treated the foundations created by Axial thinkers and philosophical systems as an unquestionable given, and intellectual life subsequently aimed at reinforcing the authorities and foundational ideas that undergirded those systems.

The obvious superiority of Muslim scientists and natural philosophers over that of Europeans prior to the sixteenth century cannot be denied.


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  • So why did Muslims not make the jump to a scientific revolution, whereas Europeans ultimately did in part by acquiring the legacy of Muslim thinkers over the centuries as an important precondition? While this did not preclude the emergence of individual figures who might make the attempt, the political, social and intellectual structures of most societies did not allow these figures to proliferate, and they rarely achieved significant influence.

    The exception, therefore, was European Christianity, which was beset with a need to acquire knowledge from outside and often hostile sources who were superior to their own, and inherited religious and philosophical ideas that proved difficult to reconcile with a rapidly-increasing knowledge base accelerated by the discovery of the Americas, among other things.


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    • He focuses specifically on the idea of the Trinity, which is especially challenging to basic human understandings of natural categories and raises questions like how can Father and Son be one and equal, or how can God have both divine and human natures? For Jin, these counterintuitive doctrines increasingly became combined with the revival of Aristotelian philosophical traditions, which included a principle of non-contradiction as a requirement for the acceptance of ideas.

      Ultimately, this created a situation where early modern European thinkers became so mired in unresolvable intellectual conflicts that small but influential groups of intellectuals came to be radically skeptical of all inherited thought and tradition, not just individual aspects of it—a fate which is more radical monotheisms like Islam, which rejected the Trinity, could avoid. When combined with the environment of conflict that surrounded the schisms in Christianity after the Protestant Reformation, this skepticism led to various forms of artificial experimentation that disproved the basis of all human common-sense understandings of the world that had been previously held as part of the Aristotelian tradition, which was mostly congruent with the aforementioned human cognitive biases.

      Interestingly, the growing scientific revolution largely expanded within the regions that had the most reason to question established religious and political authority, such as England, whereas regions where the Counter-Reformation prevailed proved better able to suppress skeptical thought. It was instead because their religious, political and intellectual systems were so weak and contradictory that they forced serious intellectual thinkers to engage in a sustained quest to question the basis of everything, and thereby demand methods of scientific experimentation to generate certain knowledge that ultimately upended the basis of human thought processes.

      While this process was lengthy and uneven, and marked by attempts to revert to older modes of thought, it ultimately succeeded because of the conditions that allowed it to be sustained, more widely spread amongst a wider network of thinkers, and broadly accepted. Ironically, subsequent human historical understandings of this process have obscured its uniqueness. However, one critique that can be advanced of the work is that it proved a bit repetitive at times, with the same arguments often recurring across different chapters in multiple places.

      One comes away with the sense that a stronger editorial hand might have been in order here, and that the work could be pared down to a much smaller and more efficient size, which would have the added benefit of making it more accessible to a wider audience.