Robert Grosseteste: Mathematics Needed to Study Nature

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On 09 October 1253, Robert Grosseteste (1175–1253) died in Buckden (England). A Franciscan philosopher and theologian, he taught theology at Oxford and was then chancellor of the University of Lincoln. He promoted a reevaluation of Platonism at the expense of Aristotelianism, principally maintaining the use of mathematics in studying nature, and enunciating the principle that nature operates in the most simple and efficient way. Grosseteste’s physics is founded on a unique ‘metaphysics of light.’ He understands light as the originating cause and form of bodies and the ultimate reason for their beauty. He was an expert in astronomy and his work “De generatione stellarum” advanced the hypothesis, contrary to the medieval establishment, that just like the Earth, the stars were composed of four material elements (earth, air, water, and fire). He also translated Aristotle’s ‘Nicomachean Ethics’ into Latin.  [Source: inters.org]

See also: McLeish, Tom, Giles Gasper and Hannah Smithson. “Our Latest Scientific Research Partner was a Medieval Bishop.” The Conversation. 7 Jun 2015. 

Gregorian Calendar Reform

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On 04 October 1582, the Gregorian Calendar was implemented in most countries throughout Europe, replacing the Julian Calendar. Pope Gregory XIII had instigated the reform, which the German Jesuit mathematician Christopher Clavius gave its final touch. On behalf of the Pope, he set the first day of the Gregorian Calendar as October 15, skipping ten days from the last day of the Julian Calendar on October 4, in order to synchronize the new calendar with the seasons.

Saint Hildegard of Bingen

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On 17 September 1179, Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) died in the monastery of Rupertsberg in Germany. She was a Catholic nun, scientist, theologian, and writer. While she did not get any academic degree, she still managed to become a very accomplished person in all fields she pursued. She was a keen observer of natural events, interested in botany, physiology and natural medicine. Her most famous book on the science of medicine was “Physica : Liber Simplicis Medicinae” (Physician: Simple Drug Book). In which, she wrote done various known symptoms of diseases and common treatment. She distinguished what waters were safe to drink. She even wrote on the health aspects of sexual relations and even has given the world the first description of a female ‘climax’.

She wrote musicals and plays like Ordo Virtutum (Play of Virtues) that told Christian virtues through actors with dance and song.

Different people tried to get opinions and advices from her, given her unique mystical gifts, peculiar wisdom, and good sense driven by an intelligent relationship with nature. She was in contact with popes Eugenius III, Anastasius IV, Adrian IV and Alexander III.

Pope Benedict XVI declared her “Doctor of the Church” on 07 October 2012.

She was part of the 12th century “mini Renaissance” that would lay the basis for developments in the 16th century. She lived just before Albertus Magnus (1193-1280), another exemplar of a knowledgeable scholar and protoscientist of the era.

Picture: Hildegard am Schreibpult, from the Lucca-Codex of „Liber divinorum operum”, around 1220/1230, Biblioteca Statale in Lucca

Sources:

inters.org,

Robert Macke, Religious Scientists: Abbess St. Hildegard of Bingen OSB (1098-1179), Doctor of the Church, https://www.vofoundation.org/…/religious-scientists-abbess…/

Arthur Holly Compton: a Physicist on the God, Science and the Freedom of Man

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Arthur Holly Compton (10 September 1892 – 15 March 1962) was an American physicist. In 1927, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of what is called the Compton effect, in which a photon can interact with an accelerated particle. From 1941 to 1945, he directed a program to produce plutonium for military use within the scope of the Manhattan Project. He had ethical and religious doubts about continuing the project; yet, he did go on to participate with Enrico Fermi in achieving the first nuclear reactor, deciding that producing the atomic bomb would bring the war to a close more quickly. His work The Atomic Quest (1956) delves into the issues surrounding the production of the atomic bomb.

He was also interested in philosophical problems involving science, becoming vice-president of the American Philosophical Society. Among his interdisciplinary works are The Freedom of Man (1935) and The Human Meaning of Science (1940). He was the son of a Presbyterian pastor from whom he inherited a deep religious faith.

From 1938 to 1947, he was Protestant Co-Chairman of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, an important interfaith organization founded in 1927 as a united front to combat bigotry and promote understanding, and he served three terms on its Board of Directors after the war.

In his book The Freedom of Man, he said:

“We could, in fact, see the whole great drama of evolution moving toward the making of persons with free intelligence capable of glimpsing God’s purpose in nature and of sharing that purpose. In such a case we should not look upon consciousness as the mere servant of the biological organism, but as an end in itself. An intelligent mind would be its own reason for existence. “ (p. 140)

In 1957, he stated in :

“The great task is nothing less than developing a civilization in which men grow in true liberty, in order to be worthy of their magnificent heredity as sons of God”

“Lebengestaltung und Menschheitsziele im Atomzeitalter,” in Universitas. Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft, Kunst und Literatur, Stuttgart 1957, 6, p. 613.

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Recommended further reading:

Edward B. Davis, Three part series: Prophet of Science: Arthur Holly Compton on Science, Freedom, Religion, and Morality (available on ResearchGate)

No, evolution is not “just a theory”

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In his 2008 paper, the biologist TR Gregory explains this as follows:

The common and scientific definitions of “theory,” […] are drastically different. In daily conversation, “theory” often implicitly indicates a lack of supporting data. Indeed, introducing a statement with “My theory is…” is usually akin to saying “I guess that…”, “I would speculate that…”, or “I believe but have not attempted to demonstrate that…”. By contrast, a theory in science, again following the definition given by the [National Academy of Sciences] (NAS), is “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.” Science not only generates facts but seeks to explain them, and the interlocking and well-supported explanations for those facts are known as theories. Theories allow aspects of the natural world not only to be described, but to be understood. (1)

(1) Gregory TR “Evolution as Fact, Theory and Path” Evo Edu Outreach (2008) 1:46-52

St. Augustine and the Book of Nature

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On 28 August 430, St. Augustine died. He was bishop of Hippo Regius (present-day Annaba, Algeria) located in the Roman province of Africa. An early Christian theologian and philosopher, his writings have been influential in the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy. Among the original ideas expressed by Augustine was the theological concept of the Book of Nature as the complement to the Book of Scripture:

“Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it, Read it. God, whom you want to discover never wrote that book with ink. Instead He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that? Why, heaven and earth shout to you: ‘God made me!’”

 

 

Abbé Henri Breuil, “Father of Prehistory”

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Abbé Henri Breuil studying the collections of the Moravian Museum in 1923. Photo: Archives of the Anthropos Institute, Moravian Museum.

Abbé Henri Breuil (28 February 1877 – 14 August 1961) was a French Catholic priest, archaeologist and paleontologist, sometimes called “Father of Prehistory” and famous for his studies of prehistoric cave art. He was the first to record the first cave art discovered in the Dordogne region in France in 1901 and 1902. He authenticated them as late Paleolithic (Magdalenian) and then copied the images, engraved onto the wall.

He was also the first to render color illustrations from the paintings in the Altamira caves (near Santander, Spain), presented to the public in 1906. The paintings in the cave had been discovered already in 1879, but the archaeological community considered them as forgery. Only in 1902, it was finally realized, that the Altamira cave paintings were genuine and the earliest paleolithic cave paintings. 

Through his recording of the details of such art he was able to develop a system, which has continued to be useful, to analyze the styles of art and the time periods in which they were produced, as well as interpret the meaning underlying the images. His imaginative writings, combined with beautiful illustrations, inspired readers and were instrumental in bringing the art of ancient peoples to the attention of the world.

Double-page spread from the Illustrated London News, showing eight Breuil drawings of animal paintings at Altamira, 1912 (Linda Hall Library)

Among his many important contributions to the field was a system of classification and chronology that he assigned to objects of art from the Ice Age. In particular, his paper “Les Subdivisions du Paléolithique supérieur et leur signification” (1912; “The Subdivisions of the Upper Paleolithic and Their Meaning”) established for the period a classification system that is of enduring value.

In 1940, the Lascaux caves were discovered and Abbé Breuil was asked to visit and investigate. He provided a summary description of the paintings, working there in 1940, and again in 1949 and following years.

Abbé Breuil also was a good friend and mentor of Dorothy Garrod.

Figures:

Portrait: Upload by Petr Kostrhun in: Karel Absolon (1877-1960) and the research of signigicant Paleolothic sites in Moravia

Cave paintings: Linda Hall, Henri Breuil