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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year. Welcome to 1140 AD

We just watched the TV adaptation of Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth, a romp through the period of The Anarchy in 12th Century England.  I do love historical fiction and this one is set in the war of succession after King Henry I died.  The rival heirs to the Crown and their armies fought each other and dealt with intrigue of their supporters and the church.

While watching the interplay between the rivals for the Crown and the aggressive representatives of the Church, it brought to mind a line I read from the book's sequel, World Without End.  I had thought the following quote was completely and totally asinine:

"Mankind is fallible, so we should not rely on our own reasoning. We cannot hope to understand the world - all we can do is stand amazed at God's creation. True knowledge comes only from revelation. We should not question received wisdom."
- Father Prior Godwyn

Father Godwyn was correct in one sense.  We should not rely solely on our own reasoning; we must trust empirical data, physical evidence.  If the choice is between a beautiful, well thought out theory, and overwhelming physical data that contradicts that theory, then the data wins.  True knowledge does not come from revelation, it comes from a complete, thorough and exhaustive investigation of the physical universe.

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