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Christianity Gave Birth to Science
Enza Ferreri Blog ^ | 5 August 2013 | Enza Ferreri

Posted on 08/12/2013 5:04:22 PM PDT by Enza Ferreri

Jesus Christ

Science is the systematic application of a logico-empiricist method to look at and understand things, and was born in Christian Europe first with the Scholastic philosophy and then with Leonardo da Vinci, Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei.

The necessary foundation for scientific research is the belief in one God that created a universe regulated by immutable laws which can be understood by man exactly because God's mind and man's are similar except in extent. The Christian God is a person.

Galileo famously talked about the "book of nature", that scientists try to read, being written by God. This is possible because both God and man have a similar mind. If you read a book, you think you can understand the author because you speak the same language and your mind works in an analoguous way. Galileo also said that the book of nature is written in mathematical language.

The ancient people who went closest to developing science were the Greeks. But they were hindered by their polytheism and, after the 4th century BC, by the dominance of the Aristotelian method.

The latter consists in deducing phenomena from fixed principles. The many, capricious deities of the Olympus were also an obstacle to the rise of scientific thought, not being believed capable of creating a rational universe.

As historian of science Bernard Cohen (1914-2003) wrote, ancient Greeks were interested in explaining the natural world only through abstract general principles. The first technical innovations, dating back to prehistoric ages, Greco-Roman times, the Islamic world and China, were not science but are best described as observations, knowledge, learning, wisdom, arts, trades, crafts, technology, engineering. Even without telescopes, the ancient excelled in astronomic observations but without connecting them to testable theories.

It is no coincidence that many of the disciplines which are now part of science were once part of philosophy.

Science is made of theories which are subject to independent confirmation or falsification. The intellectual achievements of Greek or Oriental philosophers were either fruit of atheoretical empiricism or non-empirical theories.

Historian of science Harold Dorn considers the Greeks' atheoretical knowledge a barrier to the birth of science in Greece and Rome and also in the Islamic world, which preserved and studied Greek teachings.

This in no way diminishes the immense value of Greek culture and its great impact on Christian theology and European intellectual life. However, as historian of religions Rodney Stark observed, the birth of science was not the continuation of classical knowledge but the natural consequence of Christian doctrine: nature exists because it was created by God and, to love Him and honour Him, it is necessary to have a profound appreciation of the wonders of His actions.

The Chinese, when they came into contact with Western culture, found the idea of laws of nature and an order in the universe absurd. We now take it for granted, but it is by no means an easy notion to arrive at.

Bertrand Russell found the absence of science in China puzzling, but in fact it is understandable, since the Chinese scholars did not assume the existence of rational laws. Therefore, over millennia, what was sought was "enlightenment", not explanations.

British biochemist and science historian Joseph Needham (1900-1995), who devoted most of his career to the history of Chinese technology, reports that in the 18th century the Chinese rejected the idea of a universe governed by simple laws capable of being investigated by man - idea brought to them by Western Jesuit missionaries. Chinese culture, according to Needham, was not receptive to such concepts. He concluded that the obstacle to science in China was its non-Christian religion, because that prevented the development of the conception of a heavenly, divine legislator imposing laws on non-human nature. The Chinese believed that the natural order was not established by a rational individual being.


TOPICS: History; Religion; Science; Society
KEYWORDS: aristotle; christianity; galileo; monotheism; notasciencetopic; origins; realscience; revisionistnonsense; science; syllogism; truescience

1 posted on 08/12/2013 5:04:22 PM PDT by Enza Ferreri
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To: Enza Ferreri

Bookmarked for later read


2 posted on 08/12/2013 5:06:31 PM PDT by NEWwoman (God Bless America)
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To: Enza Ferreri
Quote from Churchill's famous polemic against Islam:

"No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."
Wikipedia entry: The River War.
3 posted on 08/12/2013 5:08:37 PM PDT by Steely Tom (If the Constitution can be a living document, I guess a corporation can be a person.)
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To: Enza Ferreri

Are you sure cause the Chinese invented everything except for the moslemites who invented everything and everything we have is just the fallout.


4 posted on 08/12/2013 5:15:22 PM PDT by bigheadfred (INFIDEL)
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To: Enza Ferreri
This is the oddest article I've read in a long while and I don't understand what you're saying. You can't have science without Christianity? Science didn't exist before Christ?

I don't get your point.

5 posted on 08/12/2013 5:21:13 PM PDT by Jean S
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To: Jean S
Science in this case is defined an attempt to discover laws of nature through rational explanations that can build on each other.

Science didn't exist before Christ?
br>Science did not really exist outside of western Europe or prior to Christianity. You can't have science without Christianity?

You need a certain mindset almost exclusive to Christianity. Judaism also has it, but Judaism was a very small religion.
6 posted on 08/12/2013 5:30:36 PM PDT by ronnietherocket3
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To: ronnietherocket3

Sorry for poor formatting.


7 posted on 08/12/2013 5:30:59 PM PDT by ronnietherocket3
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To: Jean S
The point is that the Christian mindset was the soil in which the seeds of modern science germinated.

I don't have time right now to read the article and evaluate the supporting facts, but modern science did indeed spring from Christian Europe so the point may be valid.

It would be interesting to hold that theory up to the info in a book I am presently reading on the birth of science, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe by Arthur Koestler

8 posted on 08/12/2013 5:32:39 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (People are idiots.)
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To: Jeff Chandler

It’s pretty well established that the ancient greeks invented the scientific method. Now a case could be made that Christianity isn’t anti-science like many other religions, but to claim it gave birth to science is utter drivel.


9 posted on 08/12/2013 5:37:20 PM PDT by drbuzzard (All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.)
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To: Jeff Chandler
I don't have time right now to read the article and evaluate the supporting facts, but modern science did indeed spring from Christian Europe so the point may be valid.

Well, the weasel word is "modern." A more accurate description would be to say that Christian Europe, especially Christian northern Europe, was far more encouraging to the mode of thought that led to modern science, a mode which had existed well back into ancient Greece and before. And, more likely than not, it was Christian northern Europe, specifically the theological determinism of Calvin, that led to the deterministic materialism of naturalism.
10 posted on 08/12/2013 5:47:25 PM PDT by aruanan
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To: Enza Ferreri

‘Einstein gives birth to gravity’ makes as much sense.


11 posted on 08/12/2013 6:03:58 PM PDT by deadrock (I am someone else.)
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To: drbuzzard
It’s pretty well established that the ancient greeks invented the scientific method.

Actually, they did not. In fact, it wasn't until mathematicians and other thinkers turned away from the influence of Aristotle that the scientific method was developed. Roger Bacon in the thirteenth century and Johannes Kepler 400+ years later took the first steps out of the ancient thinking into the modern world.

The Christian religion did not give birth to science--that would be overstating the case to the point of silliness, but there are characteristics intrinsic to Judeo-Christianity which turned out to be essential to the development of modern science, characteristics that were lacking in other religions, including ancient paganism. Christianity provided the proper soil.

12 posted on 08/12/2013 6:16:02 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (People are idiots.)
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To: Jean S
I don't get your point.

Self promotion.

13 posted on 08/12/2013 6:23:22 PM PDT by humblegunner
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To: aruanan
the mode of thought that led to modern science, a mode which had existed well back into ancient Greece

Yes and no. Pythagoras was on the right path, but Plato and Aristotle came to dominate to the exclusion of Pythagoras's methods for nearly two thousand years. Until Kepler, scientific knowledge was only built upon a priori assumptions. Kepler took the first baby steps of deducting scientific theories from observed facts.

14 posted on 08/12/2013 6:30:16 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (People are idiots.)
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To: Jeff Chandler

This is FUN!

(But I’m supposed to be working. Bye.)


15 posted on 08/12/2013 6:33:01 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (People are idiots.)
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To: Enza Ferreri

I am surprised that the name of the late Fr Stanley Jaki did not come up (if it did, I missed it). Fr Jaki was one of the foremost historians of science in the 20th and early 21st century.

Fr Stanley was a Benedictine priest who was born in Hungary. He survived WWII and was able to escape to New Jersey when the commies took over after the war. He earned Ph.D’s in theology and later in physics. His advisor for the physics Ph.D—whose name I can’t remember at the moment—taught at Fordham and went on to share the Nobel Prize in physics. Fr Stanley’s teachers were of the highest caliber.

Fr Jaki himself won the Templeton Prize for advancements in the field of religion, and gave the famed Gifford Lecture Series at the University of Edinburgh in 1975-76. These lectures were published under the title of, “ The Road of Science and the Ways to God.” The book is a challenging read, but indispensable if you are interested in the history of modern science.

An easier introduction to his writings would be through his many essays. The collection, “Numbers Decide and Other Essays” would be good for quant types. My own favorite is a book called, “The Absolute Beneath the Relative.” Also excellent and accessible to the general reader is his autobiography, “A Mind’s Matter.”

Fr Jaki was a lifelong anti communist and used to be published in all the conservative journals such as the old National Review, et al. His thumbnail sketch of the history of modern science is called “The Baby and the Bathwater.” I highly recommend it.


16 posted on 08/12/2013 7:01:12 PM PDT by ishmac (Lady Thatcher: There are no permanent defeats in politics because there are no permanent victories.)
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To: Jeff Chandler

Once could argue that Aristotle took things off the rails, but before him people had developed empiricism which really is the method at its heart.

I will certainly concede that the modern scientific method came about after rejecting Aristotle’s errors. That took longer than it should have since he was so well regarded.

As you say, and I agree, Christianity was a religion that at least didn’t get in the way of the development (with hiccups, eg Galileo). Other religions, Islam, Bhuddism, Hinduism have mysticism and anti-scientific thinking at their cores.


17 posted on 08/12/2013 7:03:54 PM PDT by drbuzzard (All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.)
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To: Enza Ferreri

It seems overwhelmingly obvious that Christianity made science possible.

Even medical science was broken free from fatalism by the miraculous.

We don’t have to be sick.

Atheists are unable to explain why the universe is ordered or why observed laws remain consistently in effect.

I think this essay understates Christianity as causation.

Even the classic case of Galileo misses why Galileo refused to recant.

Galileo believed that God made the world in an ordered rational manner and so he was willing to defy the church order.

Jesus’ advice in John 8 about the truth setting us free established an intellectual paradigm that allows us to resist the normative practice of propaganda that continues to dominate us today.

Secular scientist ought to be grateful for science.


18 posted on 08/12/2013 7:35:41 PM PDT by lonestar67 (I remember when unemployment was 4.7 percent)
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To: drbuzzard
Christianity was a religion that at least didn’t get in the way of the development (with hiccups, eg Galileo).

The Christian perspective encouraged the biblical tradition of testing the validity of information in the belief that the furtherance of knowledge would increase our understanding of Scripture.

.

Other religions, Islam, Bhuddism, Hinduism have mysticism and anti-scientific thinking at their cores.

In addition, the Greek concept of the divinity of nature was an impediment for them.

19 posted on 08/12/2013 7:47:46 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (People are idiots.)
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To: Jeff Chandler

Nicely put.


20 posted on 08/12/2013 8:13:49 PM PDT by onedoug
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To: Jeff Chandler
One could make the case that modern science is, in some sense, the bastard child of Christianity, if you consider science as the descendant of what used to be called Natural Philosophy. The scientific method, hence science, fell out of Natural Philosophy during the renaissance when Greek and Latin writings concerning the ancient Hermetic Arts reached European scholars(mostly churchmen) from the middle east. They presented an alternate to Holy Scripture; one that described the Universe in terms of knowledge and that could be tested by experiment and observation instead of faith. The goal was to understand what Newton called the 'ultimate frames of nature' using the methods laid down by Francis Bacon and others. Their goal, the Philosophers Stone, was a chimera, but the methods set the stage for what came after.
21 posted on 08/12/2013 8:15:19 PM PDT by Old North State
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To: bigheadfred
Are you sure cause the Chinese invented everything except for the moslemites who invented everything and everything we have is just the fallout.

The famous islamic discover of the concept of "zero" wasn't even theirs. Ask the Indians.

22 posted on 08/12/2013 8:18:21 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (People are idiots.)
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To: Old North State

Hermeticism had only a peripheral contribution to the development of the scientific method. Considering the frequently accidental nature of scientific progress, it wouldn’t be surprising if it had a greater role, but it didn’t.


23 posted on 08/12/2013 8:35:26 PM PDT by Jeff Chandler (People are idiots.)
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To: Jean S

Modern science, science as we know it, is indeed a product of the Christian west. Other cultures had some very powerful intellects (for example, the Greeks for math and philosophy, the Chinese, Babylonians, and Indians for mathematics) and gave the world powerful speculative systems (the Aristotelian cosmic model is a notable one). But modern science as a self-sustaining enterprise, which discovers the quantitative regularities of material things in motion and provides a built-in basis for its own corrections is the fruit of Christian Europe.

The discovery of the quantitative regularities of material things and the expression of these regularities in mathematical expressions and equations are what characterize modern science. You will scarcely find anything similar in past cultures — at least not on our scale of systematization. And although other cultures had times of breakthrough and discovery, within a generation or two their creative impulse flags and stagnation sets in. The sages end up teaching the “same old, same old.” Only in the west (and areas of the globe deeply influenced by the west) does this adventure of discovery sustain itself over centuries. Only in the Christian west (and again, in those places and peoples strongly influenced by the Christian west) does the process of discovery develop an ongoing impetus that gives rise to permanent institutions.

There’s a lot more to be said about this and I know my views on this are debatable. One thing you should know, however, is that most modern “classics” in the history of science try to downplay the Christian cultural background of its origins. These writers are usually secularists who soft-pedal any possible any connection between Christian faith and the origin of modern science.

This attempt to drive a wedge between modern science and Christianity has a long history. It goes back to at least Voltaire. It is one of the main drivers of secularization in our time. I would suggest picking up a copy of some of Fr Stanley Jaki’s books on the history of modern science. He can give you a fact-based history of how modern science developed from a conservative Christian point of view that isn’t merely apologetics.


24 posted on 08/12/2013 8:37:36 PM PDT by ishmac (Lady Thatcher: There are no permanent defeats in politics because there are no permanent victories.)
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To: Enza Ferreri

If atheist Chinese scientists in 2013 can come up with valid, peer-reviewed scientific papers today, then science isn’t dependent on Christianity.

The entirety of the original post is mere trumpet-blowing. You might as well argue that without the fire making skills of the pagan caveman, modern science would not have been possible.


25 posted on 08/12/2013 8:48:08 PM PDT by James C. Bennett (An Australian.)
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To: Jeff Chandler
A lot of people think that, but if you ever get chance to look at the writings of the precursors of the scientific method you will see what I mean. The term ‘science’ itself was not widely used until the 17th century. Before then, the ‘scientists’ were practitioners of Natural Philosophy including 12th century Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon.
All of them were Alchemists and their alchemical studies were picked up in the 16th and 17th centuries by Francis Bacon, Newton, Boyle, etc., who were themselves ardent Alchemists. Newton wrote over one million words in journals describing his Alchemy experiments and studies. Francis Bacon first described the modern scientific method in a text titled; Novum Organum, playing on his departure from Aristotle as the arbiter of knowledge and fact, and went on to found the College of Invisibles(Alchemists) which morphed into the Royal Society which lay at the heart of the Age of Enlightenment. This line of inquiry had to hidden from Crown and Church, of course, and is still one of the great little known stories of history.
26 posted on 08/13/2013 7:15:18 AM PDT by Old North State
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To: Jeff Chandler

They have made up for it in our precious Barry though huh.


27 posted on 08/13/2013 4:55:08 PM PDT by bigheadfred (INFIDEL)
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To: James C. Bennett

You confuse the creation or invention of something with its use.

Of course many people can use a tool which they would have been incapable of inventing, prevented as they were, as in this case of the ancient Chinese and other non-Christians, by notions that were of obstacle to that development.

The concept of laws of nature is the tool in this case, which the Chinese couldn’t grasp, let alone create. Once the concept exists and is widely used, even they can employ it.

Your irrelevant example of fire-making skills reveals that your knowledge and understanding of what is science is very limited.


28 posted on 08/14/2013 8:40:01 AM PDT by Enza Ferreri
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To: Enza Ferreri

You’re obviously incapable of proper reading comprehension, so let me break it down for you:

I’m not talking about ancient Chinese there, but present-day Chinese (atheist) scientists who do contribute valuably to the body of scientific works.

The fire example was to point out to you that without the cavemen inventing fire, humans wouldn’t have advanced to the stage where they could have enough societal stability to perform scientific inquiries. The logical deduction being that without the cavemen inventing fire, science wouldn’t be possible.


29 posted on 08/14/2013 9:15:14 AM PDT by James C. Bennett (An Australian.)
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To: Enza Ferreri

I’ve never read a more bombastic, boastful claim than the one you make about Christianity being a prerequisite for being able to perform scientific inquiry. I guess all the works of Ancient Greece, India and other cultures would be bulldozed into landfills by the likes of you.

You’ll rightly be laughed out of the halls of academia of repute if you went public with that claim and got anywhere (you won’t).

Have a wonderful day!

:^)


30 posted on 08/14/2013 9:25:46 AM PDT by James C. Bennett (An Australian.)
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To: James C. Bennett

There is no need for ad hominem attacks, insults and rudeness, my friend.
I understood you perfectly. Unfortunately I can’t say the same about you understanding me.

It’s perfectly obvious that you were not talking about ancient Chinese, but contemporary Chinese atheist scientists. The clue is in the fact that you said so (do you remember “atheist Chinese scientists in 2013”?). Why you chose Chinese rather than atheist scientists of other nationalities I don’t know. It didn’t confuse me, but it obviously confused you.

You said: “If atheist Chinese scientists in 2013 can come up with valid, peer-reviewed scientific papers today, then science isn’t dependent on Christianity.”

We are talking about Christianity being necessary for the birth of science, not for doing science. Don’t you understand the difference?

Because one thing - as I’ve explained, but obviously it needs repeating because it didn’t sink in the first time - is to create the concept of laws of nature in an ordered universe, which is the necessary foundation for scientific work, and another is to use and apply this concept once others have created it.

Your Chinese atheist scientist friends would not have been more capable of developing science *before it was created* than any other non-Christians of the time of Galileo.

Only Christians were capable of inventing this concept, for the reasons explained in my article. I haven’t got time to rewrite everything for you, perhaps you should read it more carefully.

If you really are interested in the subject and not just in polemicize, I also advise you to read some good text of philosophy of science, so that not just one of us knows what she’s talking about. Start with Popper or Kuhn.

That you’re not familiar with the history and philosophy of science you reveal yourself when you say that you’ve never heard a “more bombastic etc”, because what I wrote is just a tenet of mainstream epistemological research.

Your last few sentences about academia bring home even more forcefully your extensive unfamiliarity with the subjects we are treating because, as I said, many academics and scholars hold these views (have you even read my article, I wonder?)

The fire example is totally irrelevant.


31 posted on 08/14/2013 4:44:26 PM PDT by Enza Ferreri
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To: Enza Ferreri
Your entire article is a polemic piece devoid of factual, water-tight supporting arguments, it's a shame I even have to break this down for you.

Here are two examples:

British biochemist and science historian Joseph Needham (1900-1995), who devoted most of his career to the history of Chinese technology, reports that in the 18th century the Chinese rejected the idea of a universe governed by simple laws capable of being investigated by man - idea brought to them by Western Jesuit missionaries. Chinese culture, according to Needham, was not receptive to such concepts. He concluded that the obstacle to science in China was its non-Christian religion, because that prevented the development of the conception of a heavenly, divine legislator imposing laws on non-human nature. The Chinese believed that the natural order was not established by a rational individual being.

Firstly, the "simple laws" concept of the "laws" governing the universe is itself an approximation. Classical mechanics gets ripped new ones all over when the scales go into the Angstrom levels and beyond. Add quantum effects to that and you have a lot of "spooky action at a distance" type mysteries that confounded the likes of Einstein.

This in no way diminishes the immense value of Greek culture and its great impact on Christian theology and European intellectual life. However, as historian of religions Rodney Stark observed, the birth of science was not the continuation of classical knowledge but the natural consequence of Christian doctrine: nature exists because it was created by God and, to love Him and honour Him, it is necessary to have a profound appreciation of the wonders of His actions.

The underlined portion of your article above is not in conflict with Islamic theology. It's not "unique" either, any other religion could argue on the same basis. There are parts of the world that has been (and some, to this day) Christian a lot longer than Europe has been Christian. Their contribution to science is practically absent. Why?

So, by logical deduction, it would seem true that Greek concepts of investigation and logic were more important to Western science than Christianity itself.

The fire example is totally relevant. It's an extension of the same "logic" you've used in your thesis. Without fire, there would be no science. There is a firm antecedent-precedent order requirement here for the development of science.

32 posted on 08/14/2013 5:18:23 PM PDT by James C. Bennett (An Australian.)
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To: Enza Ferreri

you made an excellent article.

as far as modern scientist go, they ride on the discoveries of earlier generations.
the concept of individual freedom as well (west)

You stepped on c. bennet’s big toe of evolutionary thought or the pride science religion ???

OOUUCH!!!


33 posted on 09/17/2013 12:40:19 PM PDT by kimtom (USA ; Freedom is not Free)
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