Monday, March 31, 2014

Taylor Chapter 2: Revolutions

Chapter 2 of Taylor introduces the Industrial Revolution in England.  Before this time, people lived in the country and lived off of the country.  Now these people were surrounded by factories and machines and concrete.  They could no longer appreciate the beauty of nature without extra effort. 

Taylor explains that no scientific work happened between Aristotle and the 19th century.  I’d have to see his sources on that. Instead, any scientific discovery in this time was actually a rediscovery which had been lost in the past 2000 years.  Chapter 2 focuses on 19th century individuals who sought to bring nature closer to the concrete jungle of industry.

Carl Linnaeus studied botany and medicine, all in Latin because that was the academic language.  He laid the foundation of natural history by classifying all the plants and animals into genus and species, all with Latin names.  This was based on the study of kinds.  The Hebrew word for a created kind is “min.”  The Latin word is “species.”  Species was used to identify the different created kinds created on creation week: dog, cat, horse, shellfish, etc.  It was based on what animals could reproduce with each other.  His system did rate organisms from simple to complex, humans being at the top.  He even placed humans with the orangutan.  However, this was not evolution.  It was simply an appreciation of all the variety God created in life.  This idea was hijacked shortly afterward, but its idea is to rejoice in the different kinds of life and the variety within those kinds that cannot be reproduced with other kinds.

Comte de Buffon was born to a wealthy French family.  He could communicate his ideas about science and math to all his peers.  Having everything on a silver platter, he also had a high self-esteem.  “He once declared that there were only five great men in the history of mankind: Newton, Bacon, Leibniz, Montesquieu -- and himself.”  At some point he rejected the Christian faith and became the biggest critic of Linnaeus.  He was the first to really champion the idea that species change in reaction to their environment.  This went against Linnaeus’s teaching that all species were fixed.  He proposed that the earth was created as a chunk pulled from the sun, and then the moon was a chunk pulled from the earth.  This began millions of years ago.  Since the Church was more influential at this point, his views were censured as heresy.  However, the seeds grew 100 years later to influence Darwin and all his followers.

Buffon died before the French Revolution, and then the French Revolution came and ousted anything royal or religious.  They wanted to start the free society where people made their own decisions.  Buffon’s son was sent to the Guillotine.  Buffon had worked for the Royal Garden.  Now it was named the Palace Garden.  Jean-Baptiste Lamarck worked there.  He died in poverty and people discredited his theories.  He decided that fossils in the rock layer disappeared but then reappeared in a later era.  This caused him to believe that life could form spontaneously from the right conditions.  He also believed that animals could pass characteristics on to their offspring, changes that could occur in reaction to the environment.  “The inheritance of inquired characteristics” is called “Lamarckism.”  He rejected the Genesis Flood and replaced it with gradual changes over long periods of time.  The Church could not object because the French Revolution had destroyed it.

Secular scientists dismissed Lamarckism as silly.  Baldness is inherited by genetics and not from any environment.  Jews circumcise their boys, but that marking does not show up in the next generation.  Lamarckism was not cool.  However, it does resurface.

Georges Cuvier became part of the natural history museum in Paris at a time when people debated whether the flood caused the fossil record or if different catastrophes through time caused it.  Cuvier developed a paleontological technique that could identify an animal based on its bone, even an extinct one.  He believed in the Christian faith and developed a geological theory that could be reconciled with the Flood account.  “He explained that God had not provided us with details of the early stages but had simply given the record since the quiet time before the great Flood. The theory allowed six thousand years or so from the beginning of the Bible record to the present time. He believed in the fixity of species, but in mid-life wavered towards the theory of the ‘chain of being,’”  Between Creation and the Flood, it seems that God sent many catastrophes until the big Flood, and then he only rescued Noah’s family and the animals.

Despite the French Revolution, the pro-God ideas of Linnaeus and Cuvier seemed to prevail.  Lamarck and Buffon were not taken seriously until the 1800s when unpopular ideas could be published more easily.

I'm still not completely sure why the French and the Industrial revolutions are lumped together.  England and France are so close together in geography, but one made life more socialistic and the other made it more capitalistic.  Both countries were challenged with less appreciation for God and his nature, and both had Christians defending the truth against blatant fancies such as Lamarckism.  The fancies will become more cool in the 1800s, but for this era, even the secular scientists are laughing at spontaneous generation.

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