Essay on Division Between Ancient and Modern Science

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Division Between Ancient and Modern Science


Power has played a significant role in the motivation of scientific progress, specifically in comparing modern science and ancient science. Power-seekers have been greatly attracted to scientific pursuits, seeking monetary, life-giving or glory-earning ends. In ancient science "the lure of health, wealth, and eternal life charmed many an alchemist to the poorhouse, madness, or an untimely death" (Coudert 35), while modern society itself has embraced scientific development with a similar fervor.

Amidst many similarities, the rift between ancient and modern science is enormous and has frequently left historians puzzled. Although it is clear to historians that the stagnant
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"Economic realities compelled craftsmen to keep the secrets of the arts guarded from public view" (Eamon 81). There was in fact, no motive which would encourage experimenters to share their attained knowledge with others; sharing knowledge gave the power of the knowledge to another person who could take credit for someone else's discovery or use the knowledge to his or her advantage.

It is not surprising that ancient scientists recorded their successful recipes and experiments using cryptic, allegorical methods, as a further accessibility-limiting tactic. "There is a strong tradition in Western thought that important truths are most properly expressed in a veiled, obscure or difficult way" (Roberts 67). Such valuable and powerful knowledge was recorded in allegorical sketches, prose, woodcuttings stories and songs. "One of the things that sharply divides alchemy from chemistry is that from the earliest times the instructions for practical craft operations and chemical processes went hand in hand with figurative expression and elaborate metaphorical language" (66). This information was powerful because "the message implicit in the literature of secrets was that nature was power-laden and that this power could be exploited by those who knew, by experience, its secrets" (Eamon 79).

With the dawn of 17th-century rationalism, the allegorical language of ancient science quickly became outdated. "The notion of speaking

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