Intelligent Design

Mediaeval alchemists were real scientists, it turns out

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guy never gives up, finally learns something

In “The Alchemical Revolution,” Sara Reardon (Science 20 May 2011) tells us,

A growing number of science historians hold that alchemists—”chymists” is their preferred, less-loaded term—were serious scientists who kept careful lab notes and followed the scientific method as well as any modern researcher and are testing that hypothesis by recreating their experiments. If the alchemists saw what they claimed, these researchers say, then it’s high time for an “alchemical revolution” to restore them to scientific respectability. In the view of these advocates, alchemists have been unjustly ranked with witches and mountebank performers, when in fact they were educated men with limited tools for inquiring into the nature of the universe. (You have to pay to read the article.)

This follows on  the grudging recent admission at Nature that Christians have funded and done modern science for most of its history.  An admission made only for the purpose of trashing Christians for refusal to believe in the latest episode of Darwin Follies – for the same reason as we always knew that Fred Flintstone is a fictional character. Oh, and Christians’ refusal to believe in crackpot cosmologies, too.

(Note: Al-chemy includes the Arabic “al-”,  meaning “the chemistry” or “the art of mixing metals.” Many early contributors to chemistry were Arabic-speaking Muslims. They should feel some pride  in recovering their history too.)

5 Replies to “Mediaeval alchemists were real scientists, it turns out

  1. 1
    Chris Doyle says:

    It brings to mind an exchange in “The Days of Peleg” (Jon Saboe):

    Peleg: “I’m not sure what rumors you have been listening to, but if you actually lived in the real world instead of this cave, you might discover the great progress that manking has made in the last one hundred years!”

    Shem: “If only you knew how far mankind has regressed in the last three hundred!”

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution

    a href=”″>Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry, and the Scientific Revolution

    And if you’re into historical fiction and science:

    The Baroque Cycle, Neal Stephenson’s award-winning series, spans the late 17th and early 18th centuries, combining history, adventure, science, invention, piracy, and alchemy into one sweeping tale. It is a gloriously rich, entertaining, and endlessly inventive historical epic populated by the likes of Isaac Newton, William of Orange, Benjamin Franklin, and King Louis XIV, along with some of the most inventive literary characters in modern fiction.

    a href=””>The Baroque Cycle

  3. 3
  4. 4
    Robert Byers says:

    First thing I thought it was a attempt to bring to acclaim the Muslim and Jewish guys researchers in Alchemy in the Islamic world and so lower the acclaim to Christiandom.
    Identity matters. (or pride).
    Its fine with me to see alchemists as smart people. many would be. the same folks who studied much in nature.
    likewise in their presumptions or research they came to great error.
    later this was seen yet their presumptions and their presumed intelligence let them continue unquestioned.
    Modern Alchemists don’t mix metals but mix mutations.

  5. 5
    rpvicars says:

    If Darwin is to be proven right, then the capacity for accurate thought and discernment of truth must evolve and refine by Darwinian mechanism. So any validity in the old sciences (to include the queen of the sciences–theology), must NOT be acknowledged because we are more advanced than our predecessors. More advanced not only in our ability to observe (e.g. technologically more advanced) but also in our ability to reason and think (e.g. “evolutionally” more advanced).

    Anything we can learn from Alchemists, therefore, is invalid because their ability to reason is invalid.

    Got to love what Darwin has done to science…

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