Here we go again…

I know that I shouldn’t but I just couldn’t resist. A website called Telly Chat has a preview of the latest TV vehicle for the Poster Boy of Pop ScienceTM, Science Britannica. In the few brief lines of description we get told, amongst other thing, the following:

Over the three episodes, Professor Brian will teach us what science really is and about the British pioneers like Sir Isaac Newton who have helped shape it over the centuries.


Episode one of Science Britannica takes a look at the scientists themselves and how they were able to put personal desires and beliefs aside in their quests to discover the scientific truths.

[my emphasis]

Now anyone who has been regularly reading my blog over the years or who is up to date on the historical research on good old Isaac can stop reading and go away and drink a nice cup of tea or read a good book or maybe both at the same time if they’re feeling adventurous. For those few who bother to stick around I shall one again explain why the two statements quoted above are from the standpoint of the historian of science more than somewhat unfortunate.

For about the last sixty years an awful lot of excellent historians of science and Newton experts have very clearly and definitively shown that Isaac Newton’s scientific work was totally dependent on and driven by his very deep personal beliefs in religion, prisca theologia and alchemy and that he believed that he and he alone had been personally selected by (his) God to reveal the secrets of God’s universe that had been know to the ancients but had become lost through the degeneration of humanity. I don’t know but somehow I don’t think that quite equates with putting aside ones personal desires and beliefs.





Filed under History of science, Myths of Science, Newton

4 responses to “Here we go again…

  1. hoyawildcat

    If I am not mistaken,and please correct me if I am, Kepler’s careful analysis of Tycho’s data, which led Kepler to discover his three laws of planetary motion, was motivated by his desire to improve the accuracy of his astrological prognostications.

  2. Well, the Telly author certainly didnt put aside his beliefs and desires, which were clearly to show how superior science is to religion. Really rather ignorant!

  3. Eh, the blurb doesn’t actually say that Newton put his beliefs aside to pursue science. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if the show did end up making that claim, but not much point getting worked up about it until they do.

  4. The naïve idea that Newton worked in the way represented in the article is nothing less than the bowdlerisation of the scientific method. To what end, then, do historians of science research so assiduously into great but flawed characters such as Newton if the fruits of their investigations— fruits that even I— with the shameful gaps in my historical knowledge— am aware of, is completely ignored. Imagine— the whole thrust of the history of science discarded on the grounds of simplification!

    I shall watch of course— out of loyalty to the subject; I will fortify myself with the most wonderful palinka— it tastes of plum and honey, and it hits home about half an hour after drinking it. I hope I won’t have to cry into it.

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