The Great Rift: Literacy, Numeracy, and the Religion-Science Divide

The Great Rift: Literacy, Numeracy, and the Religion-Science Divide

by Michael E. Hobart


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In their search for truth, contemporary religious believers and modern scientific investigators hold many values in common. But in their approaches, they express two fundamentally different conceptions of how to understand and represent the world. Michael E. Hobart looks for the origin of this difference in the work of Renaissance thinkers who invented a revolutionary mathematical system--relational numeracy. By creating meaning through numbers and abstract symbols rather than words, relational numeracy allowed inquisitive minds to vault beyond the constraints of language and explore the natural world with a fresh interpretive vision.

The Great Rift is the first book to examine the religion-science divide through the history of information technology. Hobart follows numeracy as it emerged from the practical counting systems of merchants, the abstract notations of musicians, the linear perspective of artists, and the calendars and clocks of astronomers. As the technology of the alphabet and of mere counting gave way to abstract symbols, the earlier "thing-mathematics" metamorphosed into the relational mathematics of modern scientific investigation. Using these new information symbols, Galileo and his contemporaries mathematized motion and matter, separating the demonstrations of science from the linguistic logic of religious narration.

Hobart locates the great rift between science and religion not in ideological disagreement but in advances in mathematics and symbolic representation that opened new windows onto nature. In so doing, he connects the cognitive breakthroughs of the past with intellectual debates ongoing in the twenty-first century.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674983632
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/16/2018
Pages: 520
Sales rank: 1,209,491
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Michael E. Hobart is Professor of History Emeritus, Bryant University, and recently Adjunct Professor in the History Department at Western Washington University.

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: The Rift between Science and Religion 1

Part I A Prayer and a Theory: The Classifying Temper

Religio and Scientia 19

1 A World of Words and Things 34

2 Demonstrable Common Sense: Premodern Science 55

Part II From the "Imagination Mathematical" to the Threshold of Analysis

Teeming Things and Empty Relations 81

3 Early Numeracy and the Classifying of Mathematics 95

4 Thing-Mathematics: The Medieval Quadrivium 115

5 Arithmetic: Hindu-Arabic Numbers and the Rise of Commerce 139

6 Music: Taming Time, Tempering Tone 157

7 Geometry: The Illusions of Perspective and Proportion 178

8 Astronomy: The Technologies of Time 203

Part III Galileo and the Analytical Temper

The Moment of Modern Science 227

9 The Birth of Analysis 239

10 Toward the Mathematization of Matter 267

11 Demonstrations and Narrations: The Doctrine of Two Truths 289

Epilogue: The Great Rift Today 317

Appendixes 327

Illustration Credits 345

Notes 349

Index 493

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