This section is not meant as an A-Z of world history, but rather as a specific look at some key historical events between the Greek Enlightenment and European Renaissance that led to what might be described as today's predominant, although not globally accepted, worldview. In this context, history is part of a process of trying to understand how we, i.e. humanity, have gone in search of the truth about the universe and, in so doing, it becomes apparent that there is not, and possibly never will be, one single version of the truth. However, in the spirit of Clifford's duty of inquiry, substantiating historical facts may be the first rational step in any attempt to find the truth:
Galileo was born in 1564, within the period to be described as the European Renaissance. Galileo's birth was nearly 2000 years after Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, whose ideas about the workings of the universe had, in part, been 'integrated' into the worldview dominated by the Roman Catholic Church. However, in his Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo supported the Copernican idea that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, but rather one of several planets revolving around the sun. Subsequently, because of this work, he was imprisoned by the Inquisition and forced to publicly renounce the idea that the Earth moves around the Sun. A poignant quote is attributed to him as he was led from the trial: "And yet, it moves." As stated, this section is essentially about the history between the Greek Enlightenment and European Renaissance, which led to a worldview struggling to come to terms with the philosophical, theological and scientific definitions of the truth. In the process, we shall try to examine some of the historical events that were to forge a collective worldview based on the sometimes volatile mixture of philosophy, theology and science:
It is recognized that some may contest not only the simplicity, but the implications of the table above, but let us first try to explain the intention of this terminology. In a semantic context, to be `rational` means to use reason and logic, while `empirical` implies the use of experience, often based on observation.
Note: It is accepted that from a philosophical perspective there is a more fundamental distinction between rationalism and empiricism based on the dependency of sensory experience to gain knowledge. A `rationalists` support the claim that there are ways to gain knowledge independent of sensory experience, while an `empiricists` supports the claim that sensory experience is the primary source of our knowledge. However, these issues will be expanded, when we move deeper into our search.
So how do we justify this classification?
If a theology can be based solely on a belief, then this belief may not necessarily require any rational or empirical proof - it is simply a belief. Of course, this definition does not imply that all beliefs are irrational or without empirical evidence. In contrast, it is argued that philosophy does require some level of rational logic, but does not always require empirical or tangible evidence. Finally, science being the acquisition of facts requires not only rational logic, but also some level of empirical proof, at least, in principle. While it is recognized that there are ambiguities in all these cases, it is hopefully a sufficient framework with which to begin. So, from a historical perspective, we need to consider how our view of the universe may have become subsumed within the institutions of religious belief. We also need to consider how a cosmological view may have evolved from similar mythical origins to become more of a philosophical description, without reliance on God or any other type of supernatural deity. However, it is worth noting, while each approach may differ, the underlying motivation behind the questions may essentially remain the same, e.g.
Is the universe finite or infinite? :
If finite, how big is finite?
Did the universe always exist? : If not, how did it begin?
Why is there a universe? : What is its purpose?
What is the universe? : How does it work?
These basic, but profound, questions have frustrated the minds of countless generations of men and women, who have sought to rationalize their existence with rational truths. The process by which they have help forged our understanding of the universe is worthy of our review and consideration.