Yes, Newton was the greatest scientist ever

by Neil Rickert

According to Larry Moran, Darwin was the greatest scientist ever.

Most of us know that Charles Darwin was the greatest scientist who ever lived but one still finds the occasional misguided physicist/mathematician who thinks that the honor should go to an eighteenth century Englishman named Isaac Newton (1642-1727).

I agree that Darwin was a great scientist.  But I will stick with Newton as the greatest ever, even though Larry thinks that misguided.

Yes, Newton had some weird religious ideas.  And parts of Newton’s science have since been displaced by relativity and QM.  But it is not Newton’s laws themselves that make him great.  Rather, it is his involvement in the transformation of how we do science.

For sure, that transformation was the work of a number of people.  Copernicus was important, and Galileo was very important.  Others, such as Boyle and Hooke were important.  But the greatest credit must go to Newton, for why science today is so different from what it was at, say, the time of Aristotle.

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3 Responses to “Yes, Newton was the greatest scientist ever”

  1. I hate to choose who the “greatest scientist ever” was, as every one of them couldn’t have done what they did without the works of everyone else (some more than others). However, if I had to pick between Darwin and Newton, I would have to say that Darwin was more important than Newton.
    One must ask themselves what they consider more important in Science, the study of mechanics or the study of the evolution of life. Once one considers that relativity and quantum mechanics are really the fundamental systems governing all matter and energy (despite our failure of finding a T.O.E.), the most important thing one gets from Newton, really, is his contribution to the Scientific Revolution which laid the major foundations for modern science. However, Newton didn’t start this Revolution — it was Copernicus and Vesalius with their works on planetary motion and human anatomy respectively. While it is true that most would say that Newton was involved with this revolution during it’s climax, it was Copernicus and Vesalius who “pushed the envelope” to begin this revolution.
    Now let’s take a look at Darwin. He developed a theory that ultimately unified all of the life sciences, and in doing so, explained the diversity of life. To me, evolution is a very far reaching subject that can even be applied to science in general and how it has changed over time. If there’s anything that “pushed the envelope” in refuting religious creationist views of the universe (non-science) more than the scientific revolution, it would have to be Darwinian evolution a.k.a. “natural selection”. How did science develop? Well, because it was favorable to do so. It developed because the causal chain of natural selection over time included the evolution of human beings with brains complex enough to care about such things. It developed because once human beings evolved, those humans realized that science was a way to predict events and better understand how things work, this in itself being more favorable for human survival. If we look at the interest one may have in science — that spark of curiosity, our brains evolved to be incredibly good at pattern recognition. What more is science other than pattern recognition? Natural selection, in part, explains why science itself developed or evolved the way it has over time — both through human evolution, and scientific evolution (evolution of human thought among other things). So I see natural selection as a much more far reaching and important contribution as it encompasses the evolution of science itself as well as the life that developed it.

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  2. DARWIN WAS A DAMNED FOOL! HE HAD FAIR ABILITIES AS A NATURAL SCIENTIST IN OBSERVING AND NOTING DETAILS CONCERNING PLANT AND ANIMAL LIFE FORMS. HIS DEVELOPMENT OF THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION, AKA EVOLUTION, WAS A TOTALLY MISGUIDED JUDGEMENT OF HIS DATA. DARWIN TO THIS DAY IS THE GREAT PROPONENT OF “BOGUS SCIENCE”, BS FOR SHORT. DARWIN DOES NOT EVEN BELONG ON THE LIST OF THE TEN THOUSAND GREATEST SCIENTISTS WHO EVER LIVED. HIS FOOLISH CONJECTURES HAVE HELD TRUE SCIENCE BACK EVER SINCE HE FIRST PRESUMED TO PUBLISH HIS ABSURD NONSENSE. – NEIL CAMERON / 6443

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