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A few perspectives on "Joseph Needhams's Thesis"

Bo Zhongxin (Shenzhen, China)

In its initial phase of studying the Chinese science and technology history over half a century ago, Dr. Needham raised an important question, known as the so-called 'Joseph Needham's Thesis' today, that "why didn't the modern science as a whole occur in China?" With the recent global concerns over Chinese science and technology history, the question becomes increasingly predominant in academic circles. Scholars have tried to trace in some respects of politics, economy, society, ideology, methodology, culture and social structure, even of geography and climate. However, no convincing and cogent answer has ever been found. Everyone has his own opinions, which sound more paradoxical than logic. Why?

We can not ignore the fact that "J. N. Thesis" is trying to seek answers on something that never existed or happened in this planet. When we make studies in the history, we would likely focus on things that really happened people that really existed. Little have we studies things that didn't happen, and people that didn't exist. What happened is tangible and possible, while what didn't happen is untraceable, if not impossible. No matter how many answers we think we find for something unhappened, the conclusion is full of our imagination, which may prove neither true, nor apocryphal. In short, there is not an infinite answer for the question.

In this essay, such reasons as political, economical, social and ideological ones, found in some popular opinions raised in the research of the "J. N. Thesis", will be queried. Clearly, the research of the topic in this way is not of great importance to the development of modern science ang technology. During the research of this thesis, the arising queried of how ancient Chinese science ideology effects modern science in the next century, according to the author, is more significant, and should be paid greater importance and effort to.

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