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The Great Rift

Literacy, Numeracy, and the Religion-Science Divide

Michael E. Hobart



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Harvard Uni.Press Academi
16 April 2018
In their search for truth, contemporary religious believers and modern scientific investigators hold many values in common. But in their approaches, they express two fundamentally different conceptions of how to understand and represent the world. Michael E. Hobart looks for the origin of this difference in the work of Renaissance thinkers who invented a revolutionary mathematical system—relational numeracy. By creating meaning through numbers and abstract symbols rather than words, relational numeracy allowed inquisitive minds to vault beyond the constraints of language and explore the natural world with a fresh interpretive vision.

The Great Rift is the first book to examine the religion-science divide through the history of information technology. Hobart follows numeracy as it emerged from the practical counting systems of merchants, the abstract notations of musicians, the linear perspective of artists, and the calendars and clocks of astronomers. As the technology of the alphabet and of mere counting gave way to abstract symbols, the earlier "thing-mathematics" metamorphosed into the relational mathematics of modern scientific investigation. Using these new information symbols, Galileo and his contemporaries mathematized motion and matter, separating the demonstrations of science from the linguistic logic of religious narration.

Hobart locates the great rift between science and religion not in ideological disagreement but in advances in mathematics and symbolic representation that opened new windows onto nature. In so doing, he connects the cognitive breakthroughs of the past with intellectual debates ongoing in the twenty-first century.
By:   Michael E. Hobart
Imprint:   Harvard Uni.Press Academi
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 156mm, 
ISBN:   9780674983632
ISBN 10:   0674983637
Pages:   520
Publication Date:   16 April 2018
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Primary
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Reviews for The Great Rift: Literacy, Numeracy, and the Religion-Science Divide

A sturdy contribution to the history of science.--Kirkus Reviews (04/16/2018) The immense scope of the chronicle, the professional scholarship, and the depth of insight manifested in this complex and comprehensive study of the rise of Western science provides a narrative both engrossing and enlightening...This book is a gem.--Choice (11/01/2018) Hobart offers a new twist on a huge old metanarrative: the death of God. Something or other happened in Renaissance Europe, the story goes, and it eventually distanced scientists from religion. Hobart locates this great shift in the field of mathematics...To make [his] argument, Hobart presents a virtuosic array of evidence...The Great Rift contains a huge wealth of historical anecdote, and Hobart marshals it confidently.-- (04/27/2018) The Great Rift offers an innovative interpretation of the rupture between science and religion from the time of Galileo. Rather than new methods of experimental science or new cosmological conceptions as traditional accounts would have it, Hobart argues for a revolution in information technology that triggered new developments in early modern mathematics as the real culprit responsible for the 'Great Rift.' Informed by a lifetime of work on the history of mathematics as it relates to the history of information technology and intellectual history, this book is full of provocative arguments and fresh perspectives.--J. B. Shank, author of The Newton Wars and the Beginning of the French Enlightenment The Great Rift is a rich, original, and constructively provocative book that trumpets the value of history when examining the contrast between science and religion. Hobart presents a persuasive and deeply analytic overarching argument that avoids simplistic framing. Covering a wide range of material, this book is at once groundbreaking, satisfying, and a joy to read.--Joan Richards, Brown University

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