Monday, May 16, 2016

Review of «To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science» by Steven Weinberg

To Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern ScienceTo Explain the World: The Discovery of Modern Science by Steven Weinberg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It is good to see a mainstream physicist somewhat dispelling the myth that the Middle Ages were a scientifically dark era; however, he dismisses, with not much proof, the "continuity thesis" that modern physics is a natural, continuous result of 2000+ years of scientific thought (cf. Hannam's God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science ). Weinberg seems to think the Middle Age physicists were groping in the dark, stumbling upon discoveries they didn't know the meaning of. This couldn't be farther from the truth. The Middle Age physicists were able to formulate precise, very modern questions and offer penetratingly clear answers to questions on infinity (laying the foundations of calculus) and on the fundamentals undergirding even modern physics: place, time (and its relativity), void, and the "plurality of the worlds" (i.e., what's called "parallel universes" today), as shown in Medieval Cosmology: Theories of Infinity, Place, Time, Void, and the Plurality of Worlds .

Weinberg begins with Aristotle and also mentions prominent High Middle Ages physicists like Bishop Oresme and Buridan, in addition to those at Merton College known for the Mean-Speed Theorem, but overall his treatment of the Middle Age physicists and the question of modern vs. pre-modern physics was treated sloppily.

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