Showing posts from March, 2008

The Shoulders of Giants

The scientist Isaac Newton once said:

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on ye shoulders of giants."

By "giants" he was referring to people like Copernicus and Galileo and other "scientists" (they would probably have described themselves as either philosophers or theologians) who went before him, allowing him to discover things like the fact that what keeps the moon in orbit is the same thing that pulls apples to the ground.

I think there are two parts to this quote: (1) standing on the shoulders of giants, and (2) seeing further. I think we are meant to use the knowledge, writings, and tradition of those who've gone before us in order to look to a farther horizon, and push our knowledge, action, and tradition out to places unseen and even unimagined by the giants beneath us.

It would be a poor scientist who said, "I have stood on the shoulders of giants, and they are very nice giants." Looking merely at the accomplishments of those in…