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Monday, October 29, 2007

The downfall of Italian science

Steve Sailor apparently buys into the Galileo myth:

I was wondering what impact Galileo's conviction had on science in Italy, so I took a look at the database Charles Murray sent me of the 4002 eminent artists and scientists he compiled from leading reference books for his 2003 book Human Accomplishment.

From 1000 AD to Galileo's conviction in 1632, Italy furnished 34.7% of the world's scientific eminence. From then up through 1950, it only accounted for 3.46%. Now that's what I call an order of magnitude!

This is a remarkably silly notion. For one thing, the science which Galileo was "defending" wasn't Italian, wasn't Galileo's and had been published for more than 80 years. For another, Sailor himself notes that "Italian contributions to science continued on fairly strong for the rest of the 17th Century...."

Now, what else happened during the 17th Century? Among other things, it marked the end of the Italian city-state that, like its Greek counterpart, was the source of so much artistic, scientific and intellectual brilliance. Once Ludovico Sforza invited the French and Germans into Italy in 1494, the fate of the Italian peninsula was sealed. It took 300 years, but in the end, even the Most Serene Republic of Venice succumbed to the continental powers.

There is a salient lesson to be drawn from the data, although not the incorrect one that Sailor draws. If rivalries between diverse loyalties tend to drive scientific development, as the histories of Greece and Italy sugges, then the continued evolution of unifying entities such as the European Union and the United Nations can be expected to retard human development rather than enhance it.

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