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science revolution John Locke:  


An Historical Analysis of


His Thought and Life


Intro to Church History


Dec. 10/99


Box #260



John Locke (1632-1704) is perhaps one of the most influential philosophers the world has ever seen.  His writings became the basis of the eighteenth century enlightenment reason.  Basil Willey describes Lockes influence as such, Locke stands at the end of the seventeenth century, and at the beginning of the eighteenth; his work is at once a summing-up of seventeenth century conclusions and the starting-point for eighteenth century enquiries.[1]  This man was consumed with his ideas of liberty, freedom, and natural or inalienable rights.  He has been said to be, the Father of the American Revolution, which is thoroughly Lockean in its ideas and emphases.  Locke heavily influenced Voltaire, the French philosopher, as well as Rousseau, Jefferson, and Franklin.  He is the locus of every liberal[2] philosopher in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Thus, we see that Lockes influence is startling.  An examination of his views on epistemology, religion, and church-state relations will be given, in their relation to the church and Christianity.


Locke lived through some of the most tumultuous times in England, filled with religious squabbling, revolutions, and was himself the locus of philosophical and theological controversies.  He triumphed his thoughts on reason as the final arbiter of truth and instigated some of the first ideas of critical interpretation of the Bible.  He pioneered a simplistic Christian faith, over and against the scholastic Calvinism and Reformation theology of his day.  Locke, while being a part of his historical context, was one of those few individuals who seemed to be a revolutionary figure in himself.  


The man himself was born August 29, 1632 in Wrington, a village of Somerset.   He was born into a Puritan household.  Lockes mother died when he was only 22 years of age.  The knowledge on her is very scant, but Locke often referred to her as a very pious woman.[3]  Locke was raised in a very strict home, with his father exacting much discipline and authority.  However, Locke seems to have quite respected his father.  A friend, Lady Masham, recalls that Locke, never mentioned him but with great respect and affection.[4]  It was in this strict, Puritan home that Locke first became acquainted with ideas of religious liberty and mans inherent freedom.  His father continually reminded him of the peoples right to an elected parliament.  His father even fought in the Parliamentary army in the war of 1641, fought over the Kings right to impose taxes by executive order.  Squadrito writes, Economic, religious, and political conflicts were primary topics of conversations in the Locke household.  The influence that this early education had upon Lockes mature philosophical views was doubtless considerable.[5] Lockes thought definitely had its beginnings at home, but he transcended this arena as well, for he would depart his homes conservative views on scripture and a typical theistic epistemology.            


Lockes formal education began at Westminster.  He sharply criticized the harsh school environment and its intense program of classical philosophy and language (Greek, Latin, and Arabic) studies.  He disparaged the loss of time at the school because of its hyper-intellectualism.  He would later say that he had, lost a great deal of time at the commencement of his studies because the only philosophy then known at Oxford was the peripatetic, perplexed with obscure terms and useless questions.[6]  Locke would develop his common sense philosophical systems out of this environment.  His philosophy would seem to be in much contrast to the overly obscure philosophy of classical writers and contemporaries.  In 1656, Locke graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, focusing on such subjects as language, Aristotelian logic, metaphysics, history, astronomy, and natural philosophy.  


The seventeenth century is one of transition.  As Kathleen Squadrito correctly notes, The intellectual climate of the age was beginning to shift away from superstition and tradition toward the newly founded authority of reason and experimentation.[7]  Locke was one of the main instigators of this change.  Lockes philosophy developed out of a love for medicine and the natural sciences.  In 1649, Locke joined an experimental philosophy club, whose purpose was to apply philosophy to the natural realm.  Francis Bacon had already critiqued philosophy and medicine as needing a new foundation-empiricism.[8]  Locke ... more

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The Beak of the Finch

The Bogus Logic of The Beak


People who have served in the Armed Forces may be familiar with the expression, "If you can't dazzle then with your brilliance, baffle them with your baloney." The Beak of the Finch uses such laughable logic, it is remarkable that anyone would believe it. The book does such a terrible job of presenting a case for evolution and history, that the only logical conclusion is that the book's true intent is to disprove it.


 

Jonathan Weiner, The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. New York:

Alfred A. Knopf, 1994. ISBN 0679400036.


 

"It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof." --Thoreau, Walden

This book claims to be about evolution, centered in the location made famous by Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Islands. I read this book on the recommendation of a good friend who knows I am interested in birds and thought I might get something out of it. Indeed, the few parts of the book actually about the Gouldian Finches of the Galapagos Islands are fascinating. The book records in detail some of the trials the Dr. Peter Grant family endured in studying these birds on a hot volcanic rock. However, the writers and editors of the book avoid simple logic and put a spin on history that is misleading. The facts and logic presented in The Beak of the Finch really make the book's author out to be a closet creationist.


 

It just so happened that at the same time I read this book, I was reading The Storm Petrel and the Owl of Athena by Louis Halle. Half of The Storm Petrel is on the bird life of the Shetland Islands, another isolated natural system. Halle, though an evolutionist, devotes a whole chapter on how the Shetlands and other islands conserve species. (Halle. 1970, 155ff.) Where species have changed their habits, it is most often due to adaptation to humanity. He compares the wild starlings, house sparrows, and rock doves found on the Shetlands with the more domesticated versions of these birds found on the continents--and to some degree even in the main village of the Shetlands. The island birds are more like their original wild forebears. I mention this now because it will come back to haunt us later.


 

Logical Fallacies

By the first thirty or so pages I had found two logical fallacies and at least one historical inaccuracy in The Beak of the Finch. The fallacies were significant. The historical point was minor, but could be misleading. The fallacies would continue through the book.


 

Page 10 says "Evolutionists are watching life evolve" on different islands. Well, not on the Shetlands, if Halle's observations are accurate. One reason given is that islands are "a closed system." I am not sure how closed any place on earth is any more; however, the Grants (the scientist couple doing the research reported by The Beak) were certainly careful to keep their little island as closed as possible. They washed themselves carefully, watched for any alien seeds they might bring, and so on. The great irony is that after twenty five years of observing, the net result is no change: Individual variation from year to year, surely, but nothing even remotely approaching one species turning into something else.


 

The Problem with Using Breeders for Analogies

Page 30 describes the "law of succession" (not plant or forest succession). This is adjunct to evolution. Is it truly a law? Can it be observed? Can it be repeated experimentally? Well, he says, Darwin showed that breeders can produce varieties of breeds of dogs and pigeons. Both Darwin and Weiner spend a lot of time on pigeons.


 

There are several problems with this. One, breeders are outside intelligent operators. They are not natural forces. Second, and what will prove to be most significant, they still breed pigeons. The pigeons never become another species, regardless of the exotic traits they display. They are still pigeons. Even Darwin backer Sir Charles Lyell noted, "There is no good evidence of spontaneous generation, and breeders know only too well that they cannot change one species into ... more

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