Relationship between Science and Faith: the ‘conflict-myth’

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There is a popular conception that the historical relationship between science and religion has been one of conflict or even all-out warfare. Historians of science call this commonly held notion the “conflict thesis.” In this video, historians of science Lawrence Principe and Edward Davis examine the historical roots and social context of the origin of the conflict thesis. Principe and Davis explain that the beginning of the conflict thesis can be traced primarily to the popular works of two 19th century Americans: John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White. Principe and Davis evaluate Draper and White’s conflict thesis to show that the language of warfare falls far short of historical reality. Nevertheless, the popularity of these two works and the global influence of Draper and White’s thesis has ensured a lasting legacy that still informs our current understanding of how science and religion typically relate.

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Carl Linnaeus: Blessed by the Natural Sciences

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Picture: Carolus Linnaeus by Hendrik Hollander (1853) depicts Linnaeus in the traditional dress of the Sami people of Lapland, holding the twinflower (Linnaea borealis) that became his personal emblem.

On 10 January 1778, Carl Linnaeus (Carl von Linné) (1707–1778) died in Uppsala (Sweden). He was a Swedish naturalist and zoologist. Animated by an intense religious faith, he established the first systematic classification of all animals, plants, and minerals (divided into kingdoms, classes, orders, genera, and species), convinced it was a task entrusted to man by God. His classification of man among the quadrupeds created a lively controversy at the time.

Linnaeus later dropped the term quadrupeds and introduced “mammalia” for two main reasons: “Homo Sapiens” can better fit into this classification, and – as John Ray (1627–1705), the great English naturalist, had first pointed out – whales, porpoises, and manatees shared key features with quadrupeds (red blood, a heart with two ventricles, and lungs) but did not have four feet.

Quote from the book: Garden Flowers of the Year (1847):

“Every day now adds to the charms of the meadow land. ‘Blessed be the Lord for the beauty of summer and spring, for the air, the water, the verdure, and the song of birds.’ This was the exclamation of Linnæus; and who, in looking on the April mead, is not ready to respond, ‘Blessed be God for the green earth’?”

Quote: “Garden Flowers of the Year. ”(London, GB: Religious Tract Society, 1847), 45.

Original text: von Linné, Carl . Lachesis Lapponica, Or, a Tour in Lapland. Trans James E. Smith. (London, GB:  Linnæan Society, 1811), 244.

 

Kepler’s third law of planetary motion

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On 8 March 1618, Johannes Kepler, in his work Mysterium Cosmographicum (in the 2nd edition, 1621), indicated today’s date as the date that marks the discovery of the third law of planetary motion. In his own words:

“Found the true intervals of the orbs, thanks to the observations of Tycho Brahe, after many continuous work sessions (Latin: “plurimi temporis labore continuo”). Finally found the genuine proportions of the periodic cycles of the planets in terms of the dimensions of their orbits . . . . If you were to ask me, it was March 8, 1618. However, the calculations gave me unfruitful results, and therefore I rejected them as false. In the end, taking up the endeavor again on May 15, light overcame darkness in my mind (Latin: novo capto impetu expugnavit mentis meae tenebras). The convergence between the observations of Tycho Brahe over seventeen years and my own elucidations were such that at the beginning I thought I had been dreaming and had engaged in circular reasoning. But it is absolutely true and accurate that the relation between the periods of any given two planets is in exact proportion to the power of 3/2 of the two distances” (Lib. V, cap. III).

In mathematical terms, if P₁ and P₂ are the periods of revolution around the sun of any two planets, and a₁ and a₂ are the larger axes of their orbits, the law finds that the ratio of the squares of the periods (P₁)² / (P₂)² is equal to the ratio of the cubes of the axes (a₁)³ / (a₂)³.

Source: www.inters.org, 08 March

Kepler Mysterium cosmographicum

Johannes Kepler, Mysterium Cosmographicum, (1596), diagram of the planetary spheres

 

C.S.Lewis on What Makes Us Human

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SC Lewis on Man

 

“Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say “I” and “me,” which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past.”

C.S. Lewis, On the Problem of Pain

Stromatolites, science and the Bible

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One of my friends, Peter Ross, was convinced that Science has it wrong and the Bible has it right: God created the universe and our earth 6.000 years ago. And he loved fossils: wherever he went, he collected them. And then he realized that these tiny stomatolites indicated that this earth is billions of years old:

“Thanks to study of these tiny bacterial fossils, we have ample evidence that the world has radically changed over the many billions of years, for example, recent studies in Stomatolite fossils have evidenced that the early earth contained very little to no free oxygen in the atmosphere. See a stromatolite is a living pillar of bacteria, specifically cyanobacteria (formerly called blue-green algae).

Cyanobacteria carry out photosynthesis by splitting water and release oxygen as a byproduct. Stromatolite fossils housed microbial mats safely within their rock layers. The layers formed bands that show how the sediments settled, similar to tree rings, revealing information about Earth’s past. According to the modern time scale, 3.5 billion years ago, stromatolites appeared on Earth. During times of high activity, these microbial mats produced abundant oxygen, which reacted with iron to form iron oxide that was deposited in sediments. When photosynthetic activity was low, little oxygen was produced, and we find no iron oxide formed which resulted in light colored bands of minerals deposited. After over 50 million years of this process, we see through the fossil record that all the banded iron bearing stromatolite fossils disappear, replaced by solid iron oxide layers of rock. Scientists deduce that it was at this time the stromatolites had produced enough oxygen to significantly and permanently change the atmosphere to an oxygen-containing one. This means that life, in the form of these stromatolites, existed prior to an oxygen rich atmosphere, and thanks to their life cycles, we see such a slow gradual rise of oxygen in the fossil record.”

And he understood that God’s eternal plan can cover these long time span easily.

This story was shared in the facebook group Celebrating Creating by Natural Selection. If you wish to discuss  the idea that evolutionary science and God are harmonious truths, please join us! “We are open to everyone, especially anyone who loves science and wants to celebrate Darwins’ powerful theory and would like to worship the creator who designed such an elegant system and works through it!”

Werner Heisenberg, From the known to the unknown

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“The existing scientific concepts cover always only a very limited part of reality, and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite. Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown we may hope to understand, but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word ‘understanding’.”

Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976)
German theoretical physicist and one of the key pioneers of quantum mechanics

 

Pope Francis: Finding truth and joy in research

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On 11 June 2016, Pope Francis said to the summer course participants at the Vatican Observatory:

“God’s creation, and our own place in it, is shared by men and women of very diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. All of us dwell under the same sky. All of us are moved by the beauty revealed in the cosmos and reflected in the study of the heavenly bodies and substances. In this sense, we are united by the desire to discover the truth about how this marvellous universe operates; and in this, we draw ever closer to the Creator.

He also mentioned hardship and joy that we can find in  the daily work as scientists:

“Dear brothers and sisters, scientific research demands great commitment, yet can sometimes prove lengthy and tiresome.  At the same time, it can, and should be, a source of deep joy.  I pray that you will be able to cultivate that interior joy and allow it to inspire your work.  Share it with your friends, your families and your nations, as well as with the international community of scientists with whom you work.  May you always find joy in your research and share the fruit of your studies with humility and fraternity.”

2016-06-11 P Francis

read more here: Radio Vatican: Pope Francis speaks to participants of Vatican Observatory summer course