After the collapse of the Soviet Union,
we all found ourselves in a different world, one driven by different forces, developing along different paradigms and torn apart by different conflicts. Use of the oxymoron "postmodernism", to
mean the era following the modern one, became common place not only in popular culture but also in academia. The beginning of the postmodern world put a question mark next to many
characteristic features of the modern world, including the most characteristic one - amazing development of scientific thought in Western Europe.
The thrust of this article to analyze the characteristic features of Western philosophy during the modern history
that made scientific progress possible, and what makes this work important is that the present crisis in scientific method is obvious. Indeed, after Sir Isaac Newton published in 1687 Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, science has been changing its paradigm of development every 50 years, and in the 20th century this cycle decreased
to every 20 years. But after the flight to the moon in 1969, the scientific progress slowed and there have been no
important discoveries in fundamental science for almost 40 years. In order to make sure that this is really so, one can
analyze the following table detailing the chronology of change over the past 320 years:
Discovery and development of differential and integral calculus by Sir Isaac
Newton and Leibniz.
Laws of classical mechanics published by Sir Isaac Newton.
Mass conservation law discovered by Russian scientist Lomonosov.
Positive and negative electric charges and charge conservation law discovered by
Universal steam power machine designed by James Watt and the beginning of the first
The first electric battery designed and Ohm's law discovered.
The law of electromagnetic induction discovered by Michael Faraday.
Faraday laws used by James Maxwell to notate equations of electromagnetic field,
implicitly determining the special relativity theory.
The concept of rotating magnetic field discovered by Nicola Tesla, which enabled
him to invent AC electric motor and begin the second industrial revolution.
Formulation of the main laws of quantum mechanics by Max Planck and Albert Einstein
Special relativity theory [SRT] published by Einstein.
General relativity theory [GRT] published by Einstein.
Non-stationary equations of Einstein [GRT] solved by Alexander Friedman, which
begins the foundation of the theory of expanding universe.
First computer with von Neumann architecture designed.
First nuclear bomb exploded.
Double helix as a secondary structure of DNA discovered.
First nuclear power station launched in Soviet Union.
First man in outer space - Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
Apollo 11 with three American astronauts on board makes moon landing.
After 1969 scientific progress not only slowed, its character changed. The amount of investment in digital technology
and electronic communication since 1969 surpasses the total investment in science and all other industries from 1684
to the present, including development of the nuclear bomb. Meanwhile, the quantum computer is still a fantasy, work
on thermonuclear reactor design has been stopped, because energy resources were so cheap, space exploration is
limited to communications and military satellites and research on the third structure of DNA has been replaced by pure mechanical genome mapping and cloning experiments.
From an epistemological point of view, the present development of quantum mechanics and general relativity theory
appear to be the most characteristic of this crisis:
Max Plank and Albert Einstein established the quantum nature of energy as an independent postulate in order to
explain the thermodynamic equilibrium of radiation and photo effect. The wave nature of particles was initially
introduced by Niels Bohr in order to explain stability of electron orbits in hydrogen atom and was somewhat
complementary to the idea of quant. But de Broigle in 1926 introduced the concept of wave nature of particles (quants)
as an independent postulate, which was later confirmed by electron diffraction experiments. Later, when the linear
equations of Schrцdinger became the foundation of quantum mechanics, the duality of wave and quantum nature
appeared to be a consequence of Schrцdinger equations having a discrete spectrum of solutions. While Schrцdinger
equations produced wonderful results when applied to elementary particles, their application to the description of the
internal structure of these particles, as well as to nana-objects, encountered substantial difficulties and logical
contradictions. This is a consequence of the fact that the solutions to nonlinear Schrцdinger equations, which are
necessary to describe these effects, do not have discrete spectrum and thus the quantum nature appears to be lost.
(Actually, very little is known about solutions to nonlinear equations, no matter how small their nonlinearity is. Even
continuous spectrum of these equations was discovered only recently.) Instead of returning back to the original
concept of quantum mechanics as it was suggested by Plank and Einstein, modern physics is trying to overcome this
difficulty by using vagueness of mathematical apparatus– the so-called Gauge invariance and procedure of
renormalization. Unfortunately, this theory appears to be dependent on too many free parameters and that makes
comparison of theoretical results with experiment meaningless - indeed any theory based on this method can fit any
experiment if the right values are assigned to this free parameters. It is very characteristic to the postmodern era that
physicists are trying to discover laws of nature from mathematical apparatus, while mathematicians – understanding
the doubtful outcome of these attempts – are trying to derive from physics some hint about ways to solve
mathematical problems, calling these hints "real physics," as opposite to what physicists are trying to do on a basis of perturbation theory and gauge invariance as something not "real"..
The development of the general relativity theory appears to be even more upsetting. In spite of the fact that GRT is no
doubt one of the main achievements of the 20th century science, whose importance can be compared to the
formulation of classical mechanics by Sir Isaac Newton, it is basically denied by modern physics and is implicitly
replaced by the so-called theory of gauge field. While Einstein formulated general relativity on the basis of equivalency
principle, stating that gravitational force is a pseudo-force equivalent to "forces of inertia", concluding that gravitation
and geometry are equivalent to each other, the gauge field theory postulates that gravity is just another field, similar to
electromagnetic one. Thus the mathematical apparatus of general relativity theory appears to be filled with physical meaning opposite to the original one.
It is very interesting that the solutions to Einstein's equations obtained by the great Russian scientist Alexander
Friedman and later on supported by the works of Stephen Hawking inevitably have singularity in the past, which
basically means that our universe as a unified complex of matter, energy and space-time in the forms possible for
observation did not exist prior to a certain moment in the past. This result of the general relativity theory coincides with the Judeo-Christian concept of creation ex nihilo or creation out of nothing and for all practical purposes denies the
basic axiom of materialism and atheism – that matter always existed. One can get an impression that the general
relativity theory was replaced by the Gauge theory for the sole purpose of denying this result of general relativity and the cosmological model of Friedman.
Economics theory is also going through a very difficult crisis caused by the absence of criteria of adequacy of financial
instruments and any reality check of economic numbers. In order to confirm this, one need only recall the pyramid of
"dot com" businesses causing the Dow Jones to rise approximately 60% per year during Bill Clinton's presidency. The
super-profitability of these basically virtual businesses, which was impossible to estimate objectively, caused an
investment drain from the real sector, under financing of electric power generation and the inability of the U.S.A.,
although it is the richest country in the world, to maintain an uninterrupted power supply on its own territory. Nor must
one overlook such notable results of these liberal economic theories as the failure of market reforms in the post-Soviet
republics, the $9 trillion national debt of the U.S.A. and the inevitable crash of Alan Greenspan's pyramid of creative
financial instruments. It is also very characteristic that in economic theory, exactly as in quantum mechanics and
general relativity, there appeared the term "real economics," which implicitly assumed that the rest of the economy
was not real, despite the fact that it accumulated more investment than the real sector.
Describing the same crisis in history is impossible due to the limited size of this article, however, suffice it to say that,
so-called "D-Day," when the United States and Great Britain landed off the shores of Normandy, is an event which is
generally accepted by western historiography as being the decisive moment of World War II, in spite of the very well
known fact that at the same moment the Soviet Army was chasing fascists in Poland and Romania and that the
military machine of Fascist Germany had been destroyed in the Battle of Kursk a half a year earlier.
One can conclude that this crisis in the development of both humanitarian and natural sciences has been caused by
the degradation of the term "reality" as a philosophical category, i.e., that science as a method has no criteria of
adequacy, and that the crisis in scientific thought has a systematic, fundamental character. As mentioned previously,
in order to overcome this crisis of postmodernism the scientific community and particularly specialists in the history of
science and philosophy must go back to the roots of scientific thought in the Middle Ages. From the time of Galileo and
Newton, the scientific method appeared to be a fine-tuned and very fragile unity of theory and experiment. Theory is
necessary to plan an experiment, but only contradiction between experiment and a theory enables scientist to discover
new theories. Without pre-existing knowledge establishing an experiment is impossible, as at any given moment one
observes simultaneously many different processes overlapping in reality and it is absolutely necessary choose one of
the effects as the most important and the subject matter of this experiment, while abstracting from the others. This can
be achieved only on a basis of some kind of theory. For instance, when Galileo found out in his experiment that
different objects dropped from a tower simultaneously hit the land simultaneously; he ignored the influence of wind;
while in general air-resistance was taken into account in order to explain such deviations of newly discovered laws of
nature as the fall of a feather. On the other hand, when theory cannot be checked experimentally science tend to
separate itself from reality and that makes the collective opinion of experts and their so-called qualifications the only
criteria for the adequacy of a theory. This process very quickly transforms science into some kind of quasi-religion and
scientists become the priests of this basically pagan religion. In this role such scientists typically attack traditional
monotheistic, Abrahamistic religions quite aggressively, in spite of the fact that, as will be shown in this article, these
traditional religions can be credited with developing the epistemological foundation of the scientific method.
In English-speaking countries one can observe the widespread opinion that the scientific method was invented by the
great philosophers and scholars of the 13th century, the Franciscan monks William of Ocham and Duns Scotus.
Indeed, William of Ocham was the first scholar to articulate the concept of scientific abstraction and founded the
philosophy of nominalism. But the fact that there is no evidence for the direct influence of his ideas on the father of
modern science, Sir Isaac Newton, forces one to look at these ideas and their historic consequences more attentively.
For instance, it is impossible to explain why there were 400 years separating the fundamental scientific thought of William of Ocham and Duns Scotus from that of Sir Isaac Newton.
The first thing that comes to mind while studying the works of William of Ocham and Duns Scotus and their historical
background is that their ideas influenced the appearance of certain specific features of Western European mentality,
especially that of the Anglo-Saxons, rather than scientific method. Sir Isaac Newton, who on the other hand was a
medieval thinker, preoccupied with the Book of Daniel and Tiho Brahe astrology. Even more so, while the works of
William of Ocham greatly influenced all philosophical theories of modern and postmodern world beginning with Francis
Bacon and Pierre Laplace to August Kont and Sir Karl Raymond Potter, they had no impact on Sir Isaac Newton, whose works—including Acta Mathematica—were opposite in mindset to the mentality of William of Ocham.
In popular culture the most famous concept appears to be so called "Razor of Ocham," usually formulated as "Do not
create entities that are not necessary." In actuality this concept does not exist in the original works of William of
Ocham, and was introduced by the famous English mathematician Sir William Hamilton. During modern history the
concept of Razor of Ocham was often used as a foundation for atheism, with the unnecessary entity of course
appearing to be God. The most famous usage of this concept was the answer of the great mathematician Laplace to
the question of Napoleon Bonaparte. After analyzing Laplace's theory of the development of the solar system,
Napoleon said "I don't see in this theory that there is a place for God." "I found no necessity for this hypothesis," replied
Laplace. Of course, William of Ocham, being a religious man, never made such a statement. More than that, this
concept contradicted not only his mindset but even elementary logic. To verify this one must read the basic works of William of Ocham, Summa Logicae and About Interpretation – The Interpretation of Terms. These works indeed
formulated principles of scientific method and drew the boundaries of this method and its impossibility for analyzing
any scientific proofs of the Divine Existence. It is extremely interesting that recently Russian
academicians—including some Nobel Prize laureates—wrote a letter to President Putin demanding that he stop the
real or imaginary clericalization of the Russian education system; and in this letter they basically reproduced all the
arguments used by William of Ocham against Thomas of Aquinas and theology as a science, stating that theology is
based on faith, not rational thinking. The problem is that these very well respected Nobel Prize laureates are turning
the logic of William of Ocham inside out because they are applying the limitations of natural science formulated by
William of Ocham to limit theology, which is not science according to William of Ocham and their own logic. What is
even more important in the context of this article is that the logic of William of Ocham and these very famous
academicians is applicable only to Western European mentality, while in Russia, where culture and intelligence are
formed by Orthodox Christianity, it often plays a destructive role and one should use it with great care and with a clear
understanding of the differences in mentality. Meanwhile the history of Russia proves that scientific thought is not
bound to Western mentality but appears to be developing in different cultural backgrounds quite successfully.
In order to solve these problems one should consider the historic context in which the ideas of William of Ocham
appeared. The concept of scientific abstraction was developed by William of Ocham during the discussion of so-called metaphysical realism, the father of which was the great scholar of the 13th century, Thomas of Aquinas, and of
which the most characteristic proponent was Duns Scotus. Thomas of Aquinas, under the influence of Aristotle, the
great representative of the Judaic rationalism Rambam (Maimonedes), and Arabic philosopher Al Gazali, in his fundamental work, Summa Theologica, showed that the "sacred doctrine" of Christianity, appears to be the most
precise of all sciences because its source is omnipotent God. He was saying that this sacred doctrine, later named
theology, is a combination of natural science on the basis of rationalism and supernatural knowledge on the basis of
faith and revelation. This resulted in an attempt to synthesize the works of the Fathers of the Church with the
achievements of ancient philosophy, especially Aristotle. The driving controversy of that time was the necessity to
construct systematic knowledge on the basis of so-called universals appearing to be generalizing characteristic of
individuals, in spite of the fact that any given characteristic of different individuals appears to be different. For instance,
two individuals, Thomas Aquinas and William of Ocham, were different in absolutely everything, while it is absolutely
obvious that both were human and from this point of view the philosophical category "human" appears to be a universal. Metaphysical realists of the 13th century such as Duns Scotus were considering universals to be a manifestation of
essences having an ontological reality and that the reality of individuals appears to be a consequence of the reality of
these essences, their individualization and overlapping. Universals are absolutely necessary to construct any theory,
but a translation of their arguments into modern terminology appears to pose some difficulties. Thomas of Aquinas,
being a moderate metaphysical realist, was denying the reality of universals separate from the reality of individuals;
rather, he considered them to exist outside human intelligence as objective features of individuals. Natural science,
according to Thomas Aquinas, is based on the cognitive experience of the senses and, as universals do not exist
outside of individuals, they are grasped by the active intellect as a result of abstraction by reason. Theology is opposite
to natural science, according to Thomas Aquinas, as it is based on combination of reason and revelation as cognition
of the divine existence, but, as set forth in Roman Catholic doctrine, sensual experience of the divine energies is not
possible. William of Ocham denied the reality of universals outside the human mind and that they do not exist in the
Godhead or in things. He said that universals tend to characterize the intentions or habits of human mind rather than
objectively existing features of individuals. Objective existence, according to William of Ocham, can be ascribed only
to particulars recognized by the senses, while universals exist only as signs in human mind. It is universals that
appear to be these essences whose existence appeared to be unnecessary and denied by the "razor". William of
Ocham suggested beautiful system of substitutions, allowing one to construct logical theory of operating universals in
spite of the fact that their reality is denied. This outright attack on the reality of universals definitely helped to
understand that experiment is necessary criteria of adequacy of any theory, while mental concepts are not self sufficient.
The other contribution of William of Ocham to the formulation of scientific method appears to be declaration that any
statement about divine existence cannot be proved simultaneously by theology and by methods of natural science. He
is proving this statement using the quite Christian understanding of the fact that methods of natural science can be
applied only to the object limited in space and time. As methods of natural science cannot be applied to any aspect of
God's existence, unlimited by definition, the impossibility to sense the divine or uncreated energies, set forth by the
catholic doctrine, together with this declaration quite justifiably brought William of Ocham to the conclusion that theology cannot be a science.
But in order to understand why logic of William of Ocham can be inadequate in different cultural background one
should analyze another argument that he was using to prove that universals are not real. He derived it from the
concept of the unlimited freedom of God specified by the statement that the God must (!) possess the ability to destroy
a human being while not destroying all humanity. He is bringing this statement to a contradiction with the reality of
universals. Indeed, as the complete destruction of any human being implies destruction of "humanity" as real essence
that necessarily causes the destruction of this essence and all human beings at once. This interpretation of the freedom of God, showed that even in the 13th century the difference between basic concepts of Orthodox Christianity
and Roman Catholics (such as God, good, evil, freedom, etc) made dialogue between Western and Eastern Christianity even more difficult than the 4th Crusade did. It is even more important to understand that each of Thomas
of Aquinas, Duns Scotus and William of Ocham were starting from the statement that one cannot register any aspect
of the Divine existence through the senses, and without this statement, all theirs considerations collapse. From the
Orthodox Christian point of view, this statement is equivalent to the admittance, even by a Roman Catholic Saint
Thomas of Aquinas that within Catholic doctrine Christ is just a mental concept. Actually it is logical that this concept
in Western European civilization became the "unnecessary entity" to be cut off by the "razor of William of Ocham" On
the other hand, the teachings of St. Gregory Palamas about the ability of human beings to see the Uncreated Light appear to be a central and fundamental statement of Orthodox Christianity.
This mental abyss between Eastern and Western Christianity, appearing as a result of the Great Schism, most
explicitly manifested itself during the argument between St. Gregory Palamas, representing the East, and Barlaam the
Calabrian, representing the West. Barlaam the Calabrian was one of the most remarkable followers of William of
Ocham - later on he became Catholic Bishop of Gerace and the teacher of Greek for Francesco Petrarca and
Giovanni Boccaccio. He basically set up the whole mindset of the Renaissance and appears to have been a true
Renaissance man. These contradictions between Barlaam and St Gregory Palama revealed that philosophical
dialogue between East and West without proper interpretation appears to be mutually destructive, which was proven by later modern history.
Meanwhile success of scientific development in Russia started by Lomonosov and continued by Mendellev, Ioffe,
Semenov, Friedman, Kapiza, Kurchatov etc. proves that, while Western European scholars definitely contributed a lot
to the philosophical foundation of scientific method, one must recognize that there is no direct connection between
science and western mentality. Even more than that, as universals are absolutely necessary for any theory the denial
of the reality of universals by William of Ocham couldn't help at all to fine-tune this dialectic unity of theory and
experiment, but rather contributed a lot to present day crisis of postmodernism. It is obvious that the idea of scientific
method came to Sir Isaac Newton from some different source, not from William of Ocham. It should be pointed out
that Sir Isaac Newton derived the universal law of gravity by applying previously invented by him calculus to the laws of
Kepler, appearing to be mere systematization of observations of Dutch astrologist Tiho Brahe. This constitutes a
theoretical approach, while the famous apple, hitting Newton's head, is an anecdote. It is logical to hypothesize that Sir
Isaac Newton, while studying works of Kepler and Tiho Brahe, found some source or hint for the scientific method.
From this point of view it is remarkable that Tiho Brahe definitely had an opportunity to learn from the books of
Byzantine scientists brought to the West by the Greek refugees, amounted to 5000 only in Venice, after the capture of
Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. They brought with them libraries that later on facilitated an intellectual uprising,
known as the Age of Renaissance. One of these libraries that passed into the famous library of the Hungarian king
Matthias Kourvinus (1458-1490) contained mathematical articles about conic sections, written by the professors of
physics and mathematics of Constantinople University, Isidore and Anthimus. Emperor Justinian appointed Isidore
and Anthimus to oversee the construction of Hagia Sophia by medieval corporation of professional builders – masons,
so that they could derive the formula for the shape of the dome and make this formula available to anyone who would
be devoted enough to learn the corresponding mathematics. It is interesting that the dome was constructed twice,
because the first time the masons sabotaged the process of deriving this formula and the resulting incorrect form of
the dome caused it to collapse. Typical Roman justice administered by Justinian (i.e., decimation) convinced the masons that constructing the dome correctly was absolutely necessary. Isidore and Anthimus presented their results
in an article showing that the form of the dome of Hagia Sophia is an ellipse. This dome was the first one constructed
in Europe after the collapse of the Western Empire and appears to be direct ancestor of the Brunelleschi's Dome,
considered to be the archetype of renaissance architecture. This article by Isidore and Anthimus about the form of the
dome became a textbook for Byzantine architects and one of these textbooks appeared to be a part of "Bibliotheca
Corviniana" – library of famous Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus (1443-1490). Danish King Rudolph (1572-1608)
subsequently became the Hungarian king and later the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. He
inherited "Bibliotheca Corviniana" together with the kingdom of Hungary and no doubt his personal astrologer and
Danish aristocrat, Tiho Brahe, had an opportunity to study these books and use the corresponding mathematical
results to describe the movement of the planets. Tiho Brahe's student, Johan Kepler, used the conic sections
described by the professors of mathematics of Constantinople University to formulate the laws of the planetary
movement in the solar system, and that later became known as Kepler's Laws. The inventor of physics as a science,
Sir Isaac Newton, discovered his law of gravity by using differential calculus to analyselaws of Kepler (differential
calculus was invented by Newton a little bit before that). This way, the established connection of the books, describing
the building of Hagia Sophia and Newton's laws of classical mechanics, it can be shown that the real creator of the scientific method was the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, Justinian.
What is even more important is that the original idea of Justinian to connect professors of mathematics with actual
builders of the dome already contained all the necessary components of scientific method, including duality of theory
and experiment and mathematics as a language to describe laws of nature. Besides Emperor Justinian wasn't only an
administrator and law-giver, but also an outstanding theologian and philosopher of his time. As codex of Justinian
shows his laws were a direct product of his theology. Why his scientific method should be different?
This way, one can conclude that scientific method originally was a product of Byzantine civilization, represented by
the Emperor of Byzantium Justinian and to a large extent formed by Orthodox Christianity. That gives some hope that
religious revival of Russia together with remarkable scientific potential of the Russian Academy of Sciences will help to
overcome this postmodern crisis of scientific method, especially considering that only scientific progress can compensate the exhausting natural resources, and prevent world-wide economic crisis.
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