Celestial and Terrestrial Physics in Historical Perspective [1969b]
Ingenious, but inconclusive, arguments about the hardness of the Moon’s surface have recently been settled in a very simple way: by scraping it. It is curious that this experiment has been accepted as the most natural thing to do, not only by the small community of scientists, but by the public at large. It has been hailed as a technological feat, but its whole conceptual background has just been taken for granted. Nobody doubts that the Moon is made of the same material as the Earth and that it is just a question of finding out how soft its soil is, much as one would do on the Earth. This sounds trivial enough, but think how revealing it is for the change of attitude undergone by, at any rate, a large part of mankind in the short span of two centuries under the impact of technological progress. I say ‘technological’ and not ‘scientific’, since the true spirit of science, which is of course the prime mover, has not yet taken hold of the minds of men; this will be, perhaps, the next stage on the path to happiness. Even in the late 18th century, while philosophers were discoursing about the ‘progress of enlightenment’, the peasants of western Europe held beliefs about the celestial phenomena hardly different from those entertained by the peasants of Egypt and Sumer four thousand years earlier.
KeywordsCelestial Body Celestial Mechanic Terrestrial Physic Copernican Revolution True Spirit
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