As I write this, the world has just experienced a much-ballyhooed "great debate" at the Creation Museum in Kentucky between self-proclaimed expert Bill Nye the Science Guy and creationist Ken Ham, the museum's founder. In the end, nothing much came of it. Ham stood his ground, claiming that biblical stories were not torn asunder by science, and Nye defended science admirably at times and much of the rest of the time wandered off on nerdy tangents. It certainly proved that both men craved publicity, if nothing more.
But it does serve as a reminder of appreciating where true science came from. Most of human history consisted of a set of mythological and supernatural beliefs, until a Greek philosopher named Thales came along. In Miletus, Anatolia, in what is now extreme western Turkey, Thales (ca. 624 B.C.-ca. 546 B.C.) became the first person in history to categorically reject mythological explanations and to stress that views of reality should be based on observations of nature -- repeated observations.
Every time we appreciate science, whether it's being debated or moved forward with research, we should remember that we owe a great deal to this ancient philosopher, who opened up a new way in which to see the world.
Could Thales of Miletus have imagined the graceful swirls of spiral galaxies?
Credit: Tony Hallas