May’s Book is The First Scientist: Anaximander and His Legacy by Carlo Rovelli
Carlo Rovelli, a leading theoretical physicist, uses the figure of Anaximander as the starting point for an examination of scientific thinking itself: its limits, its strengths, its benefits to humankind, and its controversial relationship with religion. Anaximander, the sixth-century BC Greek philosopher, is often called the first scientist because he was the first to suggest that order in the world was due to natural forces, not supernatural ones. He is the first person known to understand that the Earth floats in space; to believe that the sun, the moon, and the stars rotate around it—seven centuries before Ptolemy; to argue that all animals came from the sea and evolved; and to posit that universal laws control all change in the world. Anaximander taught Pythagoras, who would build on Anaximander’s scientific theories by applying mathematical laws to natural phenomena.
A quote from the book:
“Anaximander is the first geographer. The first biologist, contemplating the possibility that living beings evolved over time. He is the first astronomer, making a rational study of the movements of heavenly bodies and seeking to reproduce them with a geometrical model. He is the first to propose two conceptual tools that would prove fundamental to scientific activity: the idea of natural law, guiding the unfolding of events over time and by necessity; and the use of theoretical terms to postulate new entities, hypostases used to make sense of the observable world. More important, Anaximander founds the critical tradition that forms the basis of today’s scientific thinking: he follows his master’s path while at the same time searching for his master’s mistakes.
Finally, Anaximander realizes the first great conceptual revolution in the history of science. For the first time, the map of the world is redrawn in depth. The universality of falling bodies is questioned, and a new image of the world is proposed, where space is not structured in “up” and “down,” and the Earth floats free is space […]
Knowledge is born from a respectful but radical act of rebellion against what we currently think. This is the richest heritage the West has bequeathed to today’s global culture, its finest contribution”. Pages 180 – 181 Anaximander, Carlo Rovelli.
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We will start the meeting at 7:30 pm.
At 7:35 pm we will break up into small groups. Those familiar with CLH Book Group meeting know how this works: in each group we take turns introducing ourselves and giving our 1 minute thoughts on the book. It’s important not to go over a minute and not to interrupt other people’s minute so that everyone gets a chance to participate. After this first round, each group discusses for another 20 minutes or so. Then we momentarily all go back to the main meeting before being allocated to the next small group where we repeat our introductions and 1 minute thoughts. We’ll do this a couple of times before coming all together at the end in one last big group. We’ll answer questions on the day or write them in the comments below.
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