Cooking with Sami

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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

  

Through the history of mankind, men have been trying to find out why things in the universe go just the way that they do. In some cases, men have devoted their lived to the cause of science and new ideas in order to push the limits of human knowledge. We take for granted the incredible technology and scientific knowledge we posses today, seldom thinking of the great minds who started it all. A brilliant scientist, physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian, Sir Isaac Newton, once stated,

“If I saw further than the others, it is only because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.”  

No doubt he had the “mental giants”, of Archimedes, Pythagoras, Copernicus, Galileo, and Aristotle in his mind when he said that.  He saw that the reason why he was able to discover as much as he did was because he had the work of others who had tried to answer questions before him to start from. Aristotle was one of those early minds. A pupil of Plato’s, he was a student at Plato’s academy for nearly 20 years, although the two had many disagreements. Aristotle went on to tutor a young boy who later became one of the world’ s greatest leaders, Alexander the Great. Today we can see that most of Aristotle’s theories are false, but it is important not to overlook the impact that his ideas had on the world for almost 2,000 years.

  Aristotle believed that everything was one of four elements: earth, fire, water, and air, and that those elements always sought to return to their natural place. Indeed, from his perspective, it did make a great amount of sense. For instance, when you dropped a rock, it would fall down to the earth, because the rock was an “earth” element. Because earth elements were most dense, as well as being heavier, he thought that they would naturally seek the centre of the planet.  Upon the surface of the earth floated the water element, succeeded by the air element, and seeking to rise above all was the fire element. This explained the upward direction of flames. Following the same idea, if you were to throw a rock forward, it would not go straight to the ground, but would remain lifted for some extent by the rising air element, while at the same time the rising air element would fill the empty cavity behind the rock, thus pushing it forward. However: some objects, such as the planets and stars, did not fit with his theory. According to his theory, the planets would be earth elements, and would come crashing down earth instead of following the perfect, orbiting order in which they traveled. To answer this, Aristotle came up with a fifth element: aether.  Regulating the solar system, aether supposedly controlled everything beyond the moon and kept the planets and stars in order.

     In some other areas, Aristotle made some very hasty assessments. The theory of spontaneous generation began when he casually observed a rotting piece of meat, which had just recently been thrown out.  Before long, the rotten meat was covered in maggots and flies. He noticed that this happened in every situation where meat was left out. Aristotle then concluded that the flies and maggots had come from, and were formed by the nonliving meat. As further evidence for his theory, he noticed that the eels from a nearby pond had the same slimy, smelly, gross texture as the murky ooze which came from the pond bottom. Again, he decided that the eels must have come from the non-living ooze. Forasmuch as Aristotle’s theories were wrong in that area, he was the first one to guess that the earth was a sphere, and not flat, by the placement of the stars and the shape of the moon

 It is hard to believe that Aristotle’s ideas were held with unchallengeable, god-like authority for as long as they did, as far as the days of Galileo and Newton.(mid1600’s) Even the theory of spontaneous generation was proclaimed as gospel until it was crushed in 1760 by Louis Pasture, but there are some even today who believe a form of it called Abiogenesis: the belief  that  long ago, very simple life forms came from nonliving chemicals and matter.  The works of Aristotle dominated the dark ages, and were blindly accepted as fundamental truth.  Aristotle himself stated,

 “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

 We should be careful, and should deeply ponder a thought before accepting it just because someone great said it. While today we think his theories rather primative, they were a beginning. We owe a lot to Aristotle but science is  still unreliable and changing : what all the evidence and  facts might say today might be revealed tomorrow as untrue, just like what happened with some Aristotle’s theories. The only person you can trust is God, and the truths of his word will remain tried and true, no matter what the century, place, or complication.

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.~Isaiah 40:8~

 We are greatful to Aristotle. His reasearch has given science a place to ponder, recreate, build and rebuild and we think of him today as one of the great giants upon whose shoulders we are able to stand, and view with wonder the intelligence of God’s creation.

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December 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment