sci.philosophy.natural FAQ (Long)
This may be a bit obscure but there may be some who are interested.
Cheers .... Gavan
>I believe that some of the subscribers to this list are interested in the
>following FAQ. Please pardon me if you have already seen this FAQ on
>another mailing list. It is also available in news.groups.
>SCI.PHILOSOPHY.NATURAL Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ)
>This FAQ was produced to answer some of the questions
>regarding the new, proposed newsgroup: sci.philosophy.natural.
>This FAQ was prepared by the proponent: Will Wagers
>Please repost this FAQ to other relevant mailing lists and
>newsgroups that have not been included in the initial posting
>(but, please be sure that it has not already been posted there).
>Table of Contents
> 1. What is sci.philosophy.natural ?
> 2. What is Natural Philosophy ?
> 3. With which historical periods are we concerned ?
> 4. With which cultures are we concerned ?
> 5. Isn't the range of possible subjects too broad?
> 6. Why is the group moderated ?
> 7. Why not change the name to soc.history.science.ancient ?
> 8. Where does the mysticism come in ?
> 9. What is a newsgroup ?
>10. Where is the gateway?
>11. How do I participate?
>1. What is sci.philosophy.natural ?
>sci.philosophy.natural is a proposed, moderated Usenet
>newsgroup dedicated to the discussion of and publications on
>ancient natural philosophy (science). The focus is the search for
>how ancient science influenced ancient mythology, philosophy,
>and theology, and their influences, in turn, upon science. The
>effort is multi-disciplinary in the extreme, drawing upon the
>contributions of scientists, scholars, and other specialists of
>The proposed newsgroup will replace any existing groups. There
>is a small overlap with *many* existing newsgroups and mailing
>lists in that subjects appropriate to sci.philosophy.natural are
>occasionally discussed there. One purpose of
>sci.philosophy.natural is to bring these discussions under one
>roof to facilitate interdisciplinary scholarship.
>This should result in off-loading some traffic from high volume
>newsgroups and mailing lists. It would still leave any and all
>posters the forums that currently exist, so there is no question
>of denying anyone an outlet for their ideas. The small number of
>newsgroups and mailing lists which regularly deal with topics
>appropriate to sci.philosophy.natural may regard the proposed
>newsgroup as a means of publishing finished articles after the
>rounds of specialist comment and criticism have occurred.
>The number of potential readers is difficult to estimate due to
>the interdisciplinary nature of the group. However, a small
>survey for a single subject area encompassed by
>sci.philosophy.natural - archaeoastronomy- drew 135 interested
>readers or contributors. Many mailing lists from which
>sci.philosophy.natural would draw participation have 300-1500
>2. What is Natural Philosophy ?
>According to the Oxford English dictionary, 'natural philosophy' is
>1) the study of natural bodies as such and of the phenomena
>connected with them; 2) physical science, physics, or knowledge
>or study of nature , or of natural objects and phenomena; 3)
>'natural knowledge" now usually called 'science'; 4) or, more
>generally, the study or knowledge of physical phenomena.
>In common parlance today, the term is used in two main contexts
>to mean either "ancient science" or "physics" (e.g. in the Physics
>Department at Glasgow University undergraduates sign up for a
>"Natural Philosophy" degree only to discover that it means
>Aristotle divided ancient science into three convenient
>=84contemplative=BE or =84theoretical=BE philosophies of nature: 1)
>Natural Philosophy (Physics); 2) First Philosophy (Theology); 3)
>Although there are many, many possible schemes for organizing
>the group, it is the premise of this group that all human studies
>relate ultimately to the study of nature, or, if you prefer, of
>reality, or of god(s). This represents the three viewpoints on the
>study of ultimate reality - scientific, philosophical, and
>theological. The group studies at what points the three
>viewpoints converge and diverge and the mutual influences
>among them. All three viewpoints, at times, use a mythological
>means of expression.
>Therefore, in our context, natural philosophy means the study or
>knowledge of reality, whether approached from a philosophical,
>scientific, or theological point of view. It is this simplifying
>assumption which will allow us to untangle the roles of the three
>viewpoints in their developments. The broadness of the term
>allows us to admit all viewpoints which bear on the problem. A
>more elaborate justification of this point of view is beyond the
>scope of this FAQ.
>3. With which historical periods are we concerned ?
>The primary focus of sci.philosophy.natural is the period up to
>and, overlapping to some extent, the 14th century in the West. In
>this century, the logarithmic increase in the number of inventions
>signals the onset of modern, experimental, scientific progress.
>After this time, philosophy, science, and theology grow ever
>more distinct, specialized, and incompatible. At the same time,
>the mythological expression of "truth" steadily declines.
>The use of the term "natural philosophy" extends way beyond
>period. To some, the term "natural philosophy" implies medieval
>science or the sciences of the 17th through 19th centuries in the
>West. These periods also exhibit the confounding of the
>philosophical, scientific, and theological viewpoints and are
>However, our primary targets are the pre-scientific periods of
>*all* cultures before myth and science completely diverged (if,
>indeed, they have). The dates of such developments vary by
>culture. Therefore, the focus of the newsgroup is not purely on
>Western natural philosophy, but includes African, Indian, Oriental,
>Southeast Asian, etc. The reason for such a broad scope is that it
>is only when comparing different cultures that certain
>synchretizing or de-synchretizing influences can be observed.
>Consequently, the dates of the relevant historical periods will
>vary by culture.
>4. With which cultures are we concerned ?
>All cultures displaying a distinctive philosophical, scientific, or
>theological viewpoint are appropriate objects of study. For
>example, Aztec, Mayan, and other American Indian cultures,
>Babylonian, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Indian, Islamic, and
>Southeast Asian - to name some of the most prominent. Again,
>the reason for such a broad scope is that it is only when
>comparing different cultures that certain synchretizing or
>de-synchretizing influences can be observed.
>5. Isn't the range of possible subjects too broad?
>The range of topics is, indeed, purposely broad. The group's very
>reason for being is to bring specialists, who are working
>elsewhere on more narrow subject areas, together. At this level,
>the scholarship on different periods and cultures can be
>compared to arrive at more universal themes and tendencies.
>Many postings will be finished, electronic, research papers. It is
>often these which will be discussed, both in their own contexts
>and in the larger context of natural philosophy. The subjects of
>postings will be tagged to indicate their primary focus, e.g.
>6. Why is the group moderated ?
>sci.philosophy.natural is for scholarly discussion, postings of
>papers, postings of professional interest, etc. Neither flames, nor
>unfounded 'speculative' postings, nor unrelated commercial
>postings can be permitted.
>Minority viewpoints are seldom embraced and are often actively
>discouraged on many specialist moderated newsgroups and
>mailing lists which are dominated by a small group of established
>leaders in a certain discipline. All new and revolutionary ideas
>begin as minority viewpoints. Therefore, sci.philosophy.natural
>*welcomes* minority and controversial viewpoints which are
>justified by scholarship and which pass moderation. It will
>encourage the development of novel themes and techniques, e.g.
>statistical textual analysis. The new newsgroup also recognizes
>and encourages the rise of the independent scholar with personal
>access to online resources and, often, superior computer skills.
>All viewpoints and levels of knowledge are welcome, subject to
>the moderation policy described in the Request For Discussion
>(RFD) posted in news.announce.newgroups. Because natural
>philosophy is such a broad subject and because lively debate on
>issues is encouraged, this group is moderated by a panel.
>Prospective articles are assigned to a moderator with skills
>appropriate for the relevant subject area. Articles will *not* be
>rejected based on whether the moderator(s) disagree with the
>views expressed. The posting will either be accepted as-is,
>rejected, or accepted with changes.
>7. Why not change the name to soc.history.science.ancient ?
>We seriously considered this possibility. A subgroup of
>sci.philosophy.tech was also considered. In the end, we decided
>to go with ''sci.philosophy.natural"; partly, because we want to
>attract scientists to the discussion. (Many people thought that
>soc.history.science should be classified as a sci group.) As you
>appreciate, there is a rainbow of possible categories to choose
>from, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. *Among*
>the groups we hope will contribute are archaeologists,
>astronomers, classicists, historians, independent scholars,
>linguists, mathematicians, philosophers, physicians, physicists,
>scientists, taxonomists, theologians, translators, etc. The point is
>that we seek contributions not just from *historians* of
>philosophy, but from *philosophers*, for example. Such an
>interdisciplinary effort will seem to some (like myself) to
>warrant its own major group, to others it may seem to fall
>logically into a subgroup of philosophy, religion, or science, as
>The discussions under soc.history.science are generally unrelated
>to the proposed newsgroup. Recent threads (11/18/95) in
>soc.history.science were discussions on:
> - Darwin, Lamarck, and DNA;
> - a query for a sociology report;
> - the politics of science;
> - paradigm in formulation;
> - the early history of the telephone;
> - evolution;
> - a query about a quote from the National academy of Sciences;
> - Dirac in Westminster Abbey.
>None of these threads shares the focus of sci.philosophy.natural.
>(A few of the topics might be suitable if the content were
>different.) So, the topics of sci.philosophy.natural are no more a
>subset of soc.history.science than of many other existing groups,
>although anyone already accustomed to classifying it as history
>will see the situation otherwise.
>A further proof is that many of the threads were cross-posted to
>groups in soc.history, sci.philosophy, and other newsgroups.
>Some of the topics we shall address have indeed come up in
>soc.history.science. However, they come up in many - well over a
>hundred - newsgroups and mailing lists. There are questions of
>archaeology, anthropology, astronomy, biology, history,
>linguistics, mathematics, natural history, palaeography, physics,
>symbology, textual interpretation, translation, and on and on. The
>purpose of sci.philosophy.natural is to give these discussions a
>home. The new group is not to be dominated by the points of
>view of any one academic discipline, e.g. historians. The current
>newsgroups tend to be too general for our purpose, making our
>topics unwelcome. Mailing lists tend to be too specialist, with no
>common forum for different specialties to contribute.
>Another reason for selecting .sci over .soc is that we hope to
>facilitate the use of scientific methods in the process of
>resurrecting, translating, and interpreting ancient symbols,
>texts, etc. Most of the potential "breakthroughs" in what is
>basically a 2,000+-year-old topic are coming from new scientific
>techniques and discoveries, e.g. biotechnology, signal processing,
>new dating metrics. Only a trained scientist fully understands
>their limitations and (scientific) significance. So, scientists and
>other specialists must work together in order to sort it all out.
>8. Where does the mysticism come in ?
>Some people seem to have misinterpreted "natural philosophy"
>as "natural theology". They then conclude that the topic is some
>form of mysticism. The subject of sci.philosophy.natural is
>*science*. It is not the proper forum for promoting or discussing
>mysticism except as it may have influenced or been influenced
>by ancient science.
>9. What is a newsgroup ?
>sci.philosophy.natural will be a Usenet newsgroup, not a mailing
>list. Newsgroups are widely distributed over the Internet. Rather
>than e-mail, newsgroups use a protocol called 'NNTP'. To access
>them, you need special client software - many are available as
>share-/free-ware for DOS, Macintosh, and Windows - connected
>to an NNTP server. Most universities and commercial Internet
>providers have such servers for the use of their subscribers.
>Among the advantages of a newsgroup are: 1) you only see it
>when you want to: the thread does not fill up your mailbox; 2)
>you view the entire thread of a discussion, rather than viewing it
>piecemeal scattered among other topics; 3) newsgroup reading
>can be automated; 4) world-wide exposure.
>Because it is a different medium, newsgroups routinely co-exist
>with mailing lists on similar topics without competition or
>interference, e.g. sci.philosophy.tech covers some of the same
>topics as PHILOSOP and PHILOS-L. Where overlap exists, many
>people will avail themselves of both media.
>10. Where is the gateway?
>Many people are either unacquainted with or unable to access
>Usenet newsgroups. Upon approval of the new newsgroup, I shall
>implement a mailing list gatewayed to this group. This will ensure
>that everyone will have the capability of accessing the group
>either via Usenet or via the mailing list.
>11. How do I participate?
>The first Call for Votes (CFV) either has been or will be posted
>shortly in news.announce.newgroups. In order to pass, the
>proposal must receive 100 more Yes votes than No votes and, at
>least, two thirds of the votes must be positive.
>The CFV will include directions for mailing votes to a neutral
>votetaker. The voting period will be at least 21 days. In order to
>count, your vote must be in the CFV format and posted to the
>neutral votetaker, not to me.
>We welcome your participation.
* Gavan McCarthy - Chief Archivist
* Australian Science Archives Project
* University of Melbourne
* 203 Bouverie Street
* Carlton, Vic. 3053 Australia
* Phone: +61 3 9347 9287 Fax: +61 3 9349 4630
* ASAPWeb! on http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/
* ------->Recovering Science and Technology in Australia