From Thales to Newton: Science for smart people

From Thales to Newton: Science for smart people

Author: Santiago Collado
review by Juan Meléndez Sánchez, De Tales a Newton: Ciencia para personas inteligentes, Ellago Ediciones, Castellón 2014, 408 pp.
Published in: Aceprensa
Date of publication: 29 April 2015

The history of science is a discipline that has developed during the twentieth century. Despite its youth, there is an abundant literature with very different approaches. The book written by Juan Meléndez -Senior Associate Professor of the University Carlos III of Madrid - makes history of science from a very peculiar perspective. It does not attempt to present a simple exhibition of the vicissitudes and achievements of science over the centuries. What it intends is to introduce the reader to the real context of the scientific finding . The task is not simple because it means getting the reader to face the same problems that the thinkers studied faced. This implies understanding why they tackled them, and resorting only to the intellectual tools they had at their disposal.

In these pages, for example, the Aristotelian distinction between the celestial world and the sublunar world ceases to be trivial, the consideration of the creative genius of the inventors of geometry is heightened, the beauty of the Greek descriptions of the movements of the celestial bodies is appreciated, and we are amazed by the incredible precision of the calculations that they achieved using their ingenuity and patience. Along with the greatness of the ancient constructions of human thought, the author financial aid to discover the qualitative leap that the intellectual process led by distinguished figures such as Galileo or Newton, which is the end of its history, meant for the modern science training .

This work is a demonstration that when you understand how science is done, the ghosts of conflict and dangerous obscurantism that have hindered scientific progress vanish. The clichés then appear clearly for what they are: clichés. Interesting are the considerations of Galileo's relationship with the Inquisition, which cannot be separated from his relationship with the rest of his scientific colleagues and the scientific and cultural worldviews of the time.

The author ends with his staff vision of the Philosophy of science. He shows that he is familiar with the authors who have most influenced this discipline but, coherently with the approach adopted, he relativises and de-dramatises some of the exaggerations which, rather than being made by them, were spread by some of their followers. sample What is at stake is the truth that science provides us with and, in relation to it, the overcoming of two conflicting visions: that of scientific realism, which we could describe as naïve for defending the idea that science gives us reality exactly as it is, and that of pragmatic instrumentalism, which ignores the truth of what it knows and is content simply to put nature at our service without further consideration.

Professor Meléndez offers a balanced view of the truth that we can reach through the sciences and which is reminiscent in its basic lines of Mariano Artigas' notion of "contextual truth".

The book, apart from arousing admiration for science and gratitude to the people who have made it possible, also allows us to understand that rationality is not exhausted in the purely scientific, but that there are various dimensions of rationality that feed back on each other positively, as a matter of course.