Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Home Schooling

Anselm was supposed to go to Live Oak today for choir, and history & science enrichment but he was coughing, and given the events of Sunday afternoon, I thought I should keep him close.

So, today we worked on Math. All day. My goal was 2 hours math, then we'd do music, then we'd do chess. But he was so slow!!! Basil was always quick to distract and Anselm was always willing to be distracted. It took five hours to get through what should have taken two hours.

We are using ACE math curriculum. I like it a lot. (I used the their curriclum for all of high school.) It works a lot like Kumon but is not quite as repetitive, and includes instructions to pray before the tests.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The last couple of days

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning were all about homework; mine, Anselm's and Athanasia's. We are, pretty much, a family of scholars. We are totally out of space on the bookshelves. Books are piling up on tables, chairs, and in corners.

On Sunday afternoon I took Anselm and Basil with me to the Green Library at Stanford University. I have a big paper due on the roots of WWI and Stanford has quite a collection of WWI related literature. Then we went to the beach. (Athanasia needed some time to do her school work without me or the kids around.) I figured it would be our last beach outing of the year.

We were there for a couple of hours, Basil and I were watching a seal, when I heard a woman say, "Look at that boy way out there." I looked and saw than Anselm was out past the breaking waves (about 8 feet from trough to crest) and being driven by the current south, around the cliffs and out to sea. I don't remember getting to the water, but I remember tripping over my shorts as they fell to my ankles. The next thing I remember was being behind Anselm, between him and the open sea, pushing him toward the beach. A couple of times he panicked and tried to turn around to grab hold of me, but I turned him around and kept pushing him to the beach. I said, "don't grab me, swim to the beach." And he obeyed me. He was very afraid but kept paddling toward the shore with me pushing from behind.

By the time I got him back to the breakers I was really tired. A couple of times, at the crest of a wave I saw people standing on the beach watching us but they weren't coming to help. Anselm sank down and I swam under him to push him back up. I felt the sand under my feet so I knew we were almost there. But I was exhausted. My head and heart felt like they were going to explode. Finally, I saw someone else in the water coming toward us. I made one final push to get him up and over the breakers. I saw Anselm slide down the face of the wave to the man below, and I relaxed went over the edge, too. The man grabbed Anselm and all three of us washed into the beach. Before the wave washed us out again some people grabbed Anselm and the man (I learned later that his name is Albert. He gave Anselm a Rosary.) and a woman grabbed my hand.

Once I was back on the beach I discovered I was totally naked. By the time I got up the beach to Anselm he was already wrapped in a blanket and was coughing up water. He started to go into shock and I told the woman to elevate his feet. I'm afraid I was pretty useless after that. Once I was back on the beach I could hardly breath and couldn't stand up. Someone found my shorts and someone else found my glasses. My shirt was lost. Someone called 911 and paramedics, police, and the fire department were all there in what seemed like just a few seconds.

Anselm was flown in a helicopter to Stanford Hospital. I called Athanasia and told her what was happening. She took a taxi to the hospital, my brothers and sister and her sister met her there. They all arrived about the same time as the helicopter. Because of heavy traffic Basil and I didn't arrive until two hours later.

About midnight Anselm was released from the hospital. We were all happy to get home and into bed.

Early this morning I had to see the dentist to get a filling. I was pretty bummed by having to have a filling but my dentist cheered me up by saying I've been very lucky, that most people my age have had 2 or 3 times the number of fillings I've had. When I got home from that, at about half past 9 o'clock I went back to bed. Anselm slept with me until about noon while Athanasia worked on her homework and Basil played games on Sesame Street.

This afternoon Anselm had choir practice. Basil and I went shopping. We bought coffee, apples, olives, a baguette, milk, butter, yogurt, and oats. (It occurs to me had I bought cigarettes instead of oats I could emigrate to France.) We also went for a walk up Lincoln Ave. He looked in all the shop windows, we played "Pop goes the weasel" while spinning around the sign posts. We went out back to the pool and put our feet in and walked around making foot prints. he sure is a fun boy.

On Monday evenings the pizza parlour over on Lincoln Avenue sells 2 for 1. So almost every Monday we get a pizza. That is what we did today. After supper we read to the boys and got them ready for bed. Athanasia and the boys are in bed now. I have to do a little more reading then I will join them. God is very good to me.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Soundtrack: Evergreen

I have to admit that I don't think I actually liked this song when I was a little kid, which I was when it was all over the radio. But as I got older I began to like it more.

Lyrics by Paul Williams.
Music by Barbara Streisand.
The song won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe, but did not win a Grammy.

The video is from the 1976 remake of A Star is Born.

Why History?

"Why should the professional historian be expected to have a different relationship to the public than other professionals? Why should a professional historian care about the public's understanding of his or her work if this never enters the mindset of most physicists? "


It has to do - and I know some disagree with me - with the goal of history. St. Bede wrote that...

"[s]hould history tell of of good men and their good estate, the thoughtful listener is spurred on to imitate the good; should it record the evil ends of wicked men, no less effectually the devout and earnest listener or reader is kindled to eschew what is harmful and perverse..."

Physics and chemistry can not help people in this way. It might be able to help people in other ways but not in the way history can help. History has the potential to make people wise, to "imitate the good", to "eschew what is harmful and perverse".

But why should the historian do this? Why should the historian care about helping people be better people? If you allow me to appeal to authority - I do know it is one of Aristotle's fallacies but it seems to me to be the way the world really works - I will remind you that we all have a duty, as Al Gore said, echoing the words of countless sages and prophets and saints, a duty to reach down and pull our neighbor up. Even if that help is a mere smile that lifts a stranger out of a dark mood. How much more of a duty to help does the historian have? An historian has much more ability that the person who's only way to help is by smiling. Like bards, poets, and homilists, the historian has a special calling with specialized skills. The historian doesn't merely lighten a mood (Though how much mischief has been avoided because a joke was made at just the right time?), he imparts wisdom. If the historian does not use those skills to build up humanity, to impart wisdom, to help people be better people he is not worthy of the calling.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Church Authority

I just heard a man say "It was quite some time before a central authority developed in the Church that could dictate belief and practice."

What do they teach in schools these days? Don't they read Act 2:42 or Acts 15 anymore? It seems pretty clear from the text that the Apostles were the "central authority" from the get go.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This is neat

The dean of the Cathedral where we used to parish (we've been visiting around but still haven't made a decision) asked me to stay on as the lay delegate to the diocesan assembly next month. I offered my resignation but he said no. I think Cyndi is going to take the time off and go up with me for a couple of days. It ought to be a lot of fun.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I'm thinking of changing concentrations

AMU offers a a bunch of different history M.A. programs. Right now I am enrolled as as a Classical and Ancient History student. But I am taking a course right now called "Historical Research Methods" which is reading, among many other books, Major Problems in American Military History. The letters and reports in this book written by people who actually fought in so many of my country's battles is very moving. So, I am thinking of changing from Classical and Ancient to American. I am certainly interested in Classical and Ancient, but it doesn't make my heart pound. I've read scads of those old Greeksand Romans, and though their is wisdom in what they say, and sometimes humor, for me there is not much love. But reading Washington's report of the Battle of Ft. Necessity, or Iron Hawks account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, or Sherman's justification for his march to the sea are not only fascinating but full of emotion for me. Its my family history. I am not a Roman or a Greek. I am an American.

I will have to make my decision before next semester. The two courses I am taking this semester are required of all history grad students. But all the following semesters are concentration specific.


Below is something I wrote today. I have to write a few of these little things each week for the professor who seems bored.

Q: What makes the first person primary source particularly useful to historians?

A: Since the 19th century genius Leopold von Ranke wrote that the work of the historian is to write history "wie es eigentlich gewesen" most historians have made that their goal (1). In order to tell it as it really was the historian must know how the witness to events remembered and regarded those events.

Q: What criteria would you use to evaluate the usefulness of a first person source?

A: Before I could ascertain the usefulness of a source I think I would have to make a judgement about its accuracy. To do that I'd begin by asking these questions.:
1. What do other sources say? Can they all be reconciled?
2. Is the source trying to protect or embellish his reputation or the reputation of another person, group, or institution?
3. Is the source benefiting in some way from this account?

Once accuracy is ascertained it seems to me that the source can be used in one of two ways:

A. Proving the accuracy of other sources
B. Providing information not found in other sources

For example, let's take a look at Iron Hawks account (2) of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Does his account align with the other first person accounts? Yes. Though he was a witness to different details, the big picture he paints is in agreement with his enemy Lt. Benteen's letter (3), the Oglalas interviewed by Billy Garnett (4). Iron Hawk recounts his own confusion and fear so he seems to not be trying to embellish his own reputation. Neither does he seem to be exaggerating the fear of the Unites States soldiers nor the bravery of the Indians. And finally, I can't think of how he might be benefiting by retelling this story. I would judge Iron Hawk accurate

Having judged the accuracy of Iron Hawks account I would use it , primarily, for getting into the minds of the Indian warriors. For example, the admonition Iron Hawk received when he was slow to the fight, "The earth is all that lasts" (5) was revealing of the fatalism of the Indians the U.S. Army was facing that day. And Iron Hawk's account of the Shyela warrior being fired upon many times and not being hit, though dropping lead balls from his belt in front of the other Indian warriors can be seen in at least two ways; evidence of the Providential protection of the Indian warriors on that day, or of a psychological operation on the part of the Shyela warrior to make them believe they were under some sort of supernatural protection.

(1) Breisach, Ernst, "Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern (2nd Ed.)" (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 233
(2) Chambers, John Whiteclay & Piehler, G. Kurt, "Major Problems in American Military History" (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999), p. 198
(3) Ibid, p. 195
(4) Ibid, p. 205
(5) Ibid, p.199


I have two very different professors this term.

My professor for Research Methods is a Ph.D. from Harvard full-time professor. She assigned all readings and papers the first day of class. It is a lot of work but there is almost no interaction with her. Boring class but at least I know what is expected and am able to get it done. It is a tremendous amount of reading. The professor seems a little bored.

My professor for Historiography is a Ph.D. from University of Chicago. He knows everything and reads everything. He is only a part-time teacher and does it because he loves it. (He says he has "anon-academic job to make money) He offers extremely detailed comments to everything I write. Like the Research Methods professor, he assigned all the readings and papers (also a tremendous amount) at the beginning of term, or so I thought. As students post papers the professor is reminded of things that are "very interesting" remind this professor of other books and he adds them to the reading list. For example, I wrote something about de Touqeville, Justice Joseph Story, Hegel, some 18th century German legal historians, James Otis, George Bancroft, and how the roots of German legal positivism and Prussian state-idolatry lead to WWI,WWII, Nazi-ism and Communism. The next thing I know, the professor gets all excited writes an essay in response, asks the whole class for comments, and assigns a new book for the entire class to read. Thankfully I don't have to buy it because it is in the Public Domain and available on line. Unfortunately, it is another book I have to read. And he does this once or twice a week. I love his enthusiasm and how he wants us all to be the world's best historians, but now we are up to 9 additional books fort his class.

This Historiography class is a semester's worth of work all by itself!!! I'll be glad wen this semester is over and I can start taking the Ancient and Classical courses.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Two Prayers of Elder Leonid of Optina

Perhaps these prayers will be useful to someone.

For a suicide:
‘Seek out, O Lord, the lost soul of my father; if it is possible, have mercy! Unsearchable are Thy judgments. Account not my prayer as sin. But may Thy holy will be done!’

For a loved one who died outside the Holy Orthodox Christian Faith:

“Have mercy, O Lord, if it is possible, on the soul of Thy servant (name), departed to eternal life in separation from Thy Holy Orthodox Church! Unsearchable are Thy judgments. Account not this my prayer as sin. But may Thy holy will be done!”

There is much more said about these circumstances of death and the prayers an Orthodox Christian can and should pray. You can read the whole thing here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Vigil

Let all the trees of the wood, planted from the beginning of time, rejoice; for their nature hath been sanctified by the stretching of Christ on the Tree. Wherefore, now, we worship Him, lifted up, and magnify Him. --Orthros of the Feast, Tone 8

By the mere planting of thy Cross, O Christ, the foundation of death did shake; for him whom Hades did swallow eagerly, it delivered up with trembling; for verily, thou didst reveal to us thy salvation, O holy One. Wherefore, do we glorify thee, O Son of God. Have mercy upon us. --Orthros of the Feast, Tone 6

Anselm Samuel and I went to St. Nicholas Church in Saratoga for the Vigil of the Feast tonight. (We aren't going to be able to go to Liturgy in the Morning for the main event.) It was a beutiful service. All the clergy but one reader were out of town so he had to sing the whole service by himself. Actually, the whole congregation consisted of me, Anselm, one other man, and every saint and angel in heaven. It was a beautiful service.

The Universal Exaltation of the Life-Creating Cross (September 14)

An Exceprt of a paper written for Professor of the Faculrty of Orthodox Theology at the University of Joensuu, Finland.

The placement of this feast in the church calendar(18) has been a cause of no small amount of discussion. Why in early September? Wouldn’t it make more sense for this feast to occur closer to Pascha, when the Church celebrates the destruction of death? The best answer I have read comes from the pen of a monk of St. Tikhon’s monastery…“Truly, the Nativity of the Theotokos was seen as the beginning of our salvation, and the Cross is seen as the culmination of our salvation.” (19) Therefore, the two feasts are placed close to each other.
We find the origin of this feast sometime after A.D. 335 but before A.D. 347. (20) The historical accidents of the Feast, as reflected in the Icon are the raising of the Cross before a crowd of people by the Bishop of Jerusalem. It is thought that the Cross was presented to the people at the time of the dedication of the Basilica of the Resurrection, which temple is represented in the background of the Icon. (21)
But the date, location, and occasion of the elevation of the Cross are not the point of the Feast or the Icon of the Feast. The elevation of the Cross is a universal phenomenon. The Church in all places and at all times looks to the Cross as “the weapon of peace” (22) which grants victory over the adversary. This universality is seen in an interesting version of this Icon that is in the nave of Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco. At first glance it looks like any copy of the Icon of the Exaltation of the Cross. But upon closer inspection we see that the bishop lifting the Life Creating Cross is not the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Instead, he is the Patriarch of Moscow. And the crowd of people before whom he is raising the Cross is not the population of Jerusalem. It is the sacred throng of the Holy Martyrs of the communist persecution; St. Benjamin, the Royal Martyrs, St. Elizabeth, and tens of thousands of other bishops, children, priests, nuns, monks, lay men and women, all are looking to the Cross exalted by the Patriarch. And each of them is holding a small cross in his right hand. They saw the Cross that was lifted up before them and they embraced it. They exalted it not just at a Feast once a year, but in their hearts. They followed Jesus to Calvary and they received the “invincible trophy”. (23)

(18) There are other commemorations of the Cross during the year (e.g. every Wednesday and Friday, the Adoration of the Cross on the Third Sunday of Lent, and the Procession of the Cross on August 1) but they are not counted among the 12 Great Feasts.
(19) A Monk Of St. Tikhon’s Monastery, These Truths We Hold (South Cannan, Pennsylvania: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1986), page 156
(20) Ouspensky and Lossky, Op. Cit., 148
(21) Ibid
(22) Kontakion of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (tone 4)
(23) Ibid

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Uptown got it's hustlers, the Bowery got it's bums Forty-second Street got ...: A Sturday Soudtrack Post

I am not sure that I knew what this song was about when I was a little boy, but I liked the part about Superman's cape. And I would sing along, quite innocently, to a song about a man being sliced up in a fight.

The words to the song came back to me while I was on vacation a couple of weeks ago. Anslem Samuel was trying to spit, but he "spit into the wind". It was funny. Athanasia and I laughed and quoted part of the lyrics to him. Of course, Anselm asked over and over: "Who's Slim?"

Jim Croce died, at age 30, in a plane crash just a few hours after his last concert.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Good news, maybe. If I believe him.

Talked with my boss. He said he was really sorry we found out about the recruiter. He said he is thinking about moving us to a larger property (e.g. promoting us) but can't do that if he doesn't have replacements lined up. He said he doesn't want us to leave, I told him we don't want to leave, and we both agreed that the status quo is good. I asked explicitly if he is happy with our performance and he said he is. He asked if I am looking for another job. I said I wasn't until last night. We both laughed. Then we talked about an idea I have for bringing in more revenue. He said it sounds good and to try it.

I don't know if we'll be promoted. He said it depends on whether or not he gets the new buildings. I do know this: I don't like being so dependent on keeping one person happy. I have to buy my own apartment building so I don't have to worry about this sort of thing any more.

Boss Called

I guess he got the letter of resignation. He called and and left a panicky sounding message for me while I was in the shower:

"Matt,this is Bxxxx. I'm out of town looking at other properties but call me on my cell phone. I don't want you to get all excited. Call me on my cell phone so I can explain what [the recruiter] is doing. My cell number is xxx-xxxx. Bye. Call me."

Oh, well. I have errands to run. I'll call him in a couple of hours. I am not sure he can say anything that would make me want to stay.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

What Next?

A couple of days ago a friend of Athanasia's sent her an email the friend had received from a friend who is a recruiter. The email was about a job that looked very familiar. In fact, it looked exactly like my job. Athanasia was worried. I wasn't. Our boss has never had any complaints about our performance, at least none he has voiced, and two weeks ago told me we were doing a good job here. But, I guess, I should have been.

Today Athanasia called the recruiter and found that she is, indeed recruiting for this position we've been in for the last 14 months. 13 hours ago I called my boss and left a message for him to call me. He hasn't called. Trust is broken.

I just wrote our letter of resignation. Tomorrow morning, after Athanasia signs it I'll fax it to our boss. I have no idea what we are going to do.


After a great run with Whole Foods Markets that almost completely restored the value I lost in 2008, I am only holding three stocks.

Linear Technology is a maker of analog components. Their products are in thousands of machines, they have little competition, and the barriers to entry are so high that it is difficult for other companies to get into the business.

Navios Maritime Holdings. This is a shipping company with very little debt and a well pleasing P/E ratio. Because almost all of their ships are dry bulk instead of containers they have the ability to grow at the front end of an economic recovery.

Silver Wheaton Corporation is a silver streaming corporation. Essentially, they bought the rights to the silver coming out of some of the worlds most productive silver mines. They do not own or operate the mines, they just own the silver, and sell it onthe world market. I anticipate that as the dollar declines in value because of deficit spending this Canadian company sitting on a mountain of silver will go up greatly in value.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos

As I was pumping gas today I was whistling a happy little song. The woman filling the Toyota Sienna on the other side of the pump caught my eye and said, "I like your song".
I said, "It's a good song. Where do you go to church?"
"In Morgan Hill. Beth-El Baptist."
"Oh, good church."
"Where do you go", she asked, her smile growing.
"I'm eastern Orthodox."
There was a slightly confused look on her face as she asked, "Are there many Orthodox churches in the Bay area?"
"A surprising number. Several right here in San Jose."
"like Armenian Orthodox?", she asked as she hung her nozzle back on the pump.
I didn't want to get into a thousand years of history, and since the theologians say it was really a semantic difference I said, "Yeah. Like the Armenian Orthodox."
"The song...?", still with a friendly but now confused expression on her face.
"It's a true song".
Confusion disappeared and her smile spread from ear to ear. "Bye." she said.
"Bye. God bless you." I said.

The song I was whistling was "Trust and Obey" by John Sammis (1887)

1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
* Refrain:
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
2. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
3. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.
4. But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.
5. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.

Now here is my question, what are good Reformation Christians doing singing a song that says obedience is a requirement? They're supposed to be all about Sola Fide, right? The answer, I think, is that most Protestants are not as radical as the 16th century Reformers. Some are, but not most. Most are like the woman I met at the gas station. They know that the same Paul who said we are saved by faith also said fornicators and gossips have no place in the Kingdom of Heaven. So how is it explained? How do these children of the Reformation wind up singing songs like Trust and Obey, which to me sounds a lot like faith plus works? Jesus said "ask and you'll receive". Heresy can not last forever as long as people pray for truth. They have most of the Bible and they have the will of God on their side, the will that no one perish. The people of Beth-El Baptist Church in Morgan Hill are now on my prayer list.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

What I do in history class

Perhaps you are interested in what I am doing in this history progam. Aside from real research papers I have to make entries on an on-line discussion board. One particular class requires that I make one post of my own and then make "scholarly comments" on the posts of at leasttwo class mates.

Here is an example of one of my posts. The assignment was to discuss the effects of three different eras on historiography.


Maybe I am a little dense here, but I am not seeing that the Renaissance did anything new historigraphically other than change the subject of history. Instead of demi-gods and heroes, kings and armies, bishops and heretics the Renaissance historians wrote about merchants and cities. Maybe that is a big change, but I don't see it as one. They are still telling a story, relying on sources, and trying to fit things together so they make sense. I don't see that as being very different from what Polybius and Eusebius did. In fact, Bruni, even made up speeches and put them in the mouths of the people when wrote about Renaissance-era Florence. (Breisach, p. 154) Except for subject matter that is the same thing Herodotus and Thucydides did. They did it with kings, he did it with Florentine republicans. Sure it might be a fun and informative read, but is it true? I have a novel on my shelf about an English bridge builder in the same period. It is likewise informative and entertaining, but it isn't true. It doesn’t tell me what really happened.

With the Reformation I have a different problem: Polemics. It seems to me, that if Martin Luther "developed a conception of history to suit and to legitimize his critical view of the earthly life of the church." (Kelley, p.1) he didn't really advance history so much as he enslaved it to propaganda. Sure, he had nice things to say about the Biblical historians (Kelley, p.2), but we can see in his "allein" (Kelley, p. 4) how he is willing to pervert even the Biblical text to reach his theological ends. For Luther, I think, it was all about reaching that end. He castigates those who " embellish or besmirch histories" (Kelley, p.2) but isn’t that what he does?

Luther, as much as those he criticizes, "writes and ignores, praises, and decries whatever he likes" (Kelley p.3) and willing adopts positions that have noting to do with truth but have everything to do with expediency. (Edwards, p.134)

In summary, I do not think Renaissance historians contributed anything very significant to historiography besides a change in subject matter, and, I think the Reformation historians, as exemplified by Martin Luther were a step backward.

This leaves the historians of the Scientific Revolution. But as the hour is late half past eleven o'clock in California, and I am tired, I will take that up tomorrow.


Breseich, Ernst, "Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern (2nd Ed.)", Chicago,1994
Kelley, Donald, "Versions of History from Antiquity to the Enlightenment", New Haven, 1991
Edwards, Mark, "Luther's Last Battles", Concordia Theological Quarterly, Volume 48, Nos. 2 & 3, April-July 1984, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

(part 2)

Having stated what I think are the defects of Reformation Historiography, or at least the less than desirable influence of the Reformation on Historiography, and having shown why I think the Reneiassance historians were interesting but not unusually important, I want to talk about the Scientific Revolution and its effect on historiography. What I am not going to talk about is the related, but different topic, history of science.

It is generally true that prior to the Scientific Revolution things we moderns think of as areas of scientific inquiry were ruled by tradition and ancient texts. How many limbs were lost to gangrene because physicians followed Galen's prescriptions instead of cleaning wounds and stitching them up? Our own first president was bled to death because Galen's ancient texts ruled medicine even into the 18th century.
But the Scientists were less enthralled by the opinions of the ancients. The fact that something had been written down did not make it true. Neither did the position or reputation of the proponent of an idea have any impact on the veracity of the idea. As Sir (1) Francis Bacon, said "Those who have taken upon them to lay down the law of nature as a thing already searched out and understood, whether they have spoken in simple assurance or professional affectation, have therein done philosophy and the sciences great injury."(2)

In that statement lay the foundation of the Scientific Revolution, and upon that foundation Bacon built the philosophical construct for establishing the "progressive stages of certainty" (3) we now call the Scientific Method: Hypothesis, theory, experimentation, revision of theory, more experimentation, etc. It is this font that watered and continues to water historiography. For, now, if there is no documentary evidence to show Washington camped at Valley Forge, that the phoenix was born again from its ashes, that Nero played the harp, or the Titanic had plenty of life boats, the historian that asserts the truth of those claims is derided and considered no historian.

But that is not all. The Scientific Revolution held, contra Pontius Pilate, that truth was knowable (4). Here is a river; jump in you're wet. My hand has been burned; touched by fire. But truth mixed with lies is untrue. Bacon said discussed mixing gold with silver to make the coin stronger, but also how the silver "embaseth" the gold. Likewise he said mixing truth with fiction might make a better story but a less true story. (5) Thus, the propagandizing of Martin Luther and the inserting of speeches in historical figures' mouths by Bruni are repudiated.

There is another thing the Scientific Revolution did for historiography. It gave historiography a new purpose. In the past one read history, such as Plutarch's "Lives of the Noble Greeks" or St. Patrick's "Confessio" or Herodotus' "Persian War" for moral instruction. And, historians wrote history, as many writers write other things, as actors act, and as singers sing, that is for acclaim. That is not why the scientists did science. They did science to solve problems. Galileo didn't improve and build a telescope to become famous for building better telescopes than Johann Lippershey. He didn't even build it to have a telescope. He built the telescope to solve a problem. Likewise, Bacon says it should be for increasing wisdom in "understanding of plots and the marshalling of affairs", that is, for solving practical problems, that men study history (6). And if that is why men should study history, that is how historians should write history. In such manner we see Bacon using history in his writing. When dealing with the problems of placement and design of houses he looks to a conversation between Pompey and Lucullus (reported by Cicero)(7) for an idea of how to solve the problem. When looking at Britain, which during his lifetime was beginning to grow into a great empire, Bacon wanted to address the problem of the greatness of kingdoms. He attempted to solve the problem by looking at the history of Rome, Spain, and other great empires.(8)

In summation, the effect of the Scientific Revolution on historiography consists, at least, in these elements:
A. That truth can be known
B. That knowledge can be tested
C. That truth is always better than fiction, even if the fiction is of some utility
D. That history can be a tool for solving problems and should be written for that purpose

1 - Actually, though he was a knight, he ranked much higher than that as Viscount St. Albans)
2- Bacon, Francis, "Novum Organum", 1620, http://www.constitution.org/bacon/nov_org.htm
3- Ibid
4- Bacon, Francis, "Essays" (1972, Dent: Melbourne & London), p. 4
5- Ibid
6-Op. Cit., 150
7-Op.Cit., 133
8-Op. Cit., 89