This post talks about the beginnings of science as an outgrowth of monetary systems rather than medieval alchemy, a point I have made before:
There is a well developed theory that a key impetus for the development of European science in the seventeenth century was magical thinking, developed and promoted through the sixteenth century by the likes of Paracelsus, John Dee and Emperor Rudolph II. While there is little doubt that Hermeticism and Alchemy had a significant influence on the development of natural philosophy, magical thinking cannot explain the uniqueness of the scientific developments in Europe in the 1600s, since magic is a feature of all cultures, notably China. But this factual observation is tempered with an opinion, that good science is open where as magic is hidden and secretive, this is a central theme in Mauss' A General Theory of Magic.And the ultimate point:
An alternative, minority, theory for the foundations of modern science is in European financial practice. I prefer this theory because, by their very nature markets are social, collaborative, open, forums (those queasy about markets might wish to consider my view). Evidence for the significance of financial practice in the development of science comes in the fact that Copernicus was trained in financial mathematics and wrote on money before he wrote on cosmology, the Merchant Adventurer Thomas Gresham was a more influential contemporary of Dee, despite relative number of contemporary biographies of the two Elizabethians, who laid the basis of the Royal Society with the establishment of Gresham College. Simon Stevin was trained in finance and founded the influential Dutch Mathematical School that inspired Descartes and performed many of the experiments that Galileo is famous for. While Newton's interest in magic has been promoted, the fact that he spent half his life running the Mint is often overlooked.
Furthermore, magic was most influential in central Europe, centred on Rudolph's court, while the scientific revolution was centred in western Europe, by the likes of Huygens and Bernoulli who were as likely to work on financial problems as physical ones. Finally, my observation of good financial practitioners is that, contrary to popular belief, they do not believe they can control the markets, rather they have to navigate through its intrinsic uncertainties using the best tools available - specifically mathematics. This contrasts with the image of the magician controlling nature.
It might seem to be splitting hairs to argue in favour of science originating out of finance rather than magic, but I am of the opinion that creation myths have a critical role in how cultures view themselves. If science believes it emerges out of magic it will be forever associated with secret knowledge that enables the magician to control nature and convert base metal into gold. If we regard science as originating out of markets constructed social instruments, then it is natural that we think of science as being "just another" social construction and it is made more human, and possibly more relevant. Simultaneously, and this is my ultimate objective, we shall start observing markets from a scientific perspective, rather than having them hidden from public oversight by a veil of mystery and obscure incantations.Magic, Markets, and Models of Science (Magic, Maths and Money). And see also this post: Creation Myths:
This deﬁnition of science allows economics to base itself on an unjustiﬁed myth that barter evolves into money. However, it could alternatively allow economics to build itself on the Pandora myth, a myth that is remarkably similar to the story of the Fall in the Bible. It might be argued that the barter-money myth is un-scientiﬁc, since it is not supported by evidence, just as the Biblical myth is not supported by evidence. However, the barter-money myth endures because it conforms to two key characteristics of mainstream contemporary science. The myth is progressive, it describes a linear process where by the system evolves from a primitive beginning to the complex end we experience, and it is material, its explanations, involving people, goods and metal tokens, do not rely on metaphysical concepts such as society, trust or