Astronomers of the first half of the nineteenth century viewed our solar system entirely differently from the way twentieth-century astronomers viewed it. In the earlier period the dominant image was of a set of planets and moons, both of which kinds of bodies were inhabited by intelligent beings comparable to humans. By the early twentieth century, science had driven these beings from every planet in our system except the Earth, leaving our solar system as more or less desolate regions for (...) the most part bereft of intelligent life. This essay traces this extinction and its relation to religious thought, noting the role played in it by Sir John Herschel and especially by William Whewell. The inverse square laws for gravitation, heat radiation, and light receive special attention, as does the question of the relevance of the Christian notions of a divine incarnation and redemption. (shrink)
From antiquity to the present, humans have debated whether intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe. This presentation will survey this debate, examining the roles played in it by science, religion, philosophy, and other areas of human learning. One thesis that will be developed is that whether or not extraterrestrials exist, ideas about them have strongly influenced Western thought.
The first part of this paper consists of an exposition of the views expressed by Pierre Duhem in his Aim and Structure of Physical Theory concerning the philosophy and historiography of mathematics. The second part provides a critique of these views, pointing to the conclusion that they are in need of reformulation. In the concluding third part, it is suggested that a number of the most important claims made by Duhem concerning physical theory, e.g., those relating to the Newtonian method, (...) the limited falsifiability of theories, and the restricted role of logic, can be meaningfully applied to mathematics. (shrink)