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Isaac Newton
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I finished James Gleick's biography of Isaac Newton recently.

I admit not knowing much about Newton's personality, demeanor, or personal life prior to reading the book. I knew about his laws of motion, his work on gravity, and that he had invented calculus (though this is still debated, sort of).

But one of the most interesting revelations was his intense religiosity and even moreso his interest in alchemy. In many ways, Newton was something of a mystic, which is strange for someone who is also perhaps the greatest scientific thinker in history (or at least in the top ten).

A couple of years ago, I wrote about the compatibility of religious and scientific thought:

This incongruence is not reconcilable. Either one has reasonable standards of believing that something is true (via empiricism and reason), or one is willing to swallow whatever a guy in a robe dishes out, simply on the basis of authority and "holy" texts.

One of these paradigms is useful in discovering true things about the world. One is utterly abysmal. They are not compatible.

I stand by the assertion that applying both modes of thought to particular domains is inherently contradictory. But it still fascinates me that the same person can apply one mode of thinking so vigorously to one aspect of life and apply the other to another aspect.

Newton seems to be one of the most glaring and interesting examples of this.

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