Whitehead on some scientists…

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“Scientists animated by the purpose of proving that they are purposeless constitute an interesting subject for study.”

Alfred North Whitehead, The Function of Reason, Princeton University Press, 1929

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Alfred N. Whitehead (15 February 1861 – 30 December 1947) was an English philosopher, mathematician, and logician co-authored the Principia Mathematica with Bertrand Russell. He elaborated process philosophy, which had a particular influence, especially in the Anglo-Saxon word, on how the relationship between God and nature was conceived, proposing an image of God as a “principle of concrescence” in a continually developing world.  (source: www.inters.org)

Bonhoeffer: God and scientific knowledge

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It has again brought home to me quite clearly how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Mathematician of God

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Maria Gaetana Agnesi (16 May 1718 – 09 January 1799) was an Italian woman of remarkable intellectual gifts and attainments. Her father was professor of mathematics at Bologna. When nine years old she spoke Latin fluently, and wrote a discourse to show that liberal studies were not unsuited to her sex: “Oratio qua ostenditur artium liberalium studia femineo sexu neutiquam abhorrere”. This was printed at Milan in 1727. She is said to have spoken Greek fluently when only eleven years old, and at thirteen she had mastered Hebrew, French, Spanish, German, and other languages. She was called the “Walking Polyglot”. Her father assembled the most learned men of Bologna at his house at stated intervals, and Maria explained and defended various philosophical theses. She devoted herself especially to the study of mathematics. Maria showed a phenomenal aptitude for mathematics. She wrote an excellent treatise on conic sections, and in her thirteenth year her “Instituzioni Analitiche” was published in two volumes (Milan, 1748), the first treating of the analysis of finite quantities; the second, the analysis of infinitesimals. This, the most valuable result of her labours in this field, was regarded as the best introduction extant to the works of Euler. It was translated into English by Colson of Cambridge, and into French by d’Antelmy, with the notes of Abbé Bossuet. The plane curve, known as versiera, is also called “the Witch of Agnesi”. Maria gained such reputation as a mathematician that she was appointed by Benedict XIV to teach mathematics in the University of Bologna, during her father’s illness. This was in 1750, and two years later her father died. Maria then devoted herself to the study of theology and the Fathers of the Church. Her long aspirations to the religious life were destined to be gratified, for after acting for some years as director of the Hospice Trivulzio of the Blue Nuns in Milan, she joined the order and died a member of it, in her eighty-first year.

(“mathematician og God”: see  book by Massimo Mazzotti, The World of Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Mathematician of God, 2007

Gregor Mendel – the Father of Genetics

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Gregor Mendel

The title “Father of Genetics” can be attributed to Gregor Mendel in two capacities: he laid the groundwork for the new discipline of Genetics and he was an ordained priest and Augustinian monk – therefore, he was called “Father”, like all priests.

Gregor Johann Mendel was born in Hyncice, Moravia on 22 July 1822 in what is now the Czech Republic. The only son of a peasant farmer, Mendel attended local schools and the Philosophic Institute at Olomouc. In 1843, he entered the Augustinian Order at St. Thomas Monastery in Brno (German: Brünn) and began his theological studies at the Brünn Theological College. He was ordained to the priesthood on 6 August 1847.

The Augustinians had been established in Moravia since 1350, and St. Thomas Monastery was a center of creative interest in the sciences and culture. Its members included well-known philosophers, a musicologist, mathematicians, mineralogists and botanists who were heavily engaged in scientific research and teaching. The library contained precious manuscripts and incunabula, as well as textbooks dealing with problems in the natural sciences. The monastery also held a mineralogical collection, an experimental botanical garden and a herbarium. It was in this atmosphere, Mendel later wrote, that his preference for the natural sciences was developed.

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Arthur S Eddington on atheists and scotsmen

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I could no more ram religious conviction into an atheist than I could ram a joke into a Scotchman. The only hope of ‘converting’ the latter is that through contact with merry-minded companions he may begin to realize that he is missing something in life which is worth attaining. Probably in the recesses of his solemn mind there exists inhibited the seed of humour, awaiting an awakening by such am impulse. The same advice would seem to apply to the propagation of religion; it has, I believe, the merit of being entirely orthodox advice.

Arthur S Eddington, (Britsch astrophysists) “The Nature of the Physical World”, 1935

 

Georges Lemaitre on the Christian scientist

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He (the Christian researcher) knows that not one thing in all creation has been done without God, but he knows also that God nowhere takes the place of his creatures.
Omnipresent divine activity is everywhere essentially hidden.
It never had to be a question of reducing the supreme Being to the rank of a scientific hypothesis.

George Lemaître, Astrophysicist and Catholic priest