Georges Lemaitre on Physics and Providence

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Georges LeMaitre on Physics Chance Providence

 

« Physics does not exclude Providence. Nothing happens without its order or permission, even if this gentle action is not miraculous. Evolution, whether of the universe or of the living world, could be made at random by quantum leaps or mutations. Nevertheless, this chance has, from a superior point of view, been directed towards a goal. For us Christians, it was oriented towards the appearance of life. In what was done, there was life, intelligence and life was light in man and finally in humanity by the incarnation of the Man-God: the true light that illuminated our darkness.

Chance does not exclude Providence. Perhaps chance provides the strokes mysteriously actuated by Providence. »

Georges Lemaitre, 1966

 

« La physique n’exclut pas la providence. Rien n’arrive sans son ordre ou sa permission, même si cette action suave n’a rien de miraculeux. L’évolution, que ce soit celle de l’univers ou du monde vivant, a pu se faire au hasard des sauts quantiques ou des mutations. Néanmoins, ce hasard a pu d’un point de vue supérieur être orienté vers un but. Pour nous chrétien, il a été orienté vers l’apparition de la vie. En ce qui a été fait, il y avait de la vie, de l’intelligence et la vie était lumière chez l’homme et enfin dans l’humanité par l’incarnation de l’Homme-Dieu : la vraie lumière qui a illuminé nos ténèbres.

Le hasard n’exclut pas la Providence. Peut-être le hasard fournit-il les touches qu’actionne mystérieusement la Providence. »

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Lemaître, « L’expansion de l’Univers: Réponses à des questions posées par Radio Canada le 15 avril 1966 », Revue des Questions Scientifiques, t. CXXXVIII (5e série, t. XXVIII), avril 1967, n°2, pp. 153-162, version revue et adaptée par O. Godart. In: Dominique Lambert, Georges Lemaître : repères biographiques. Revue des Questions Scientifiques, 2012, 183 (4) : 1-59

 

 

John Henry Newman on Design

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“I believe in design because I believe in God;
not in God because I see design.”

John Henry Newman was not only theologian, but also very well versed in science, and always acknowledged that he felt rather comfortable with Darwin’s “new idea’s”.

Newman felt more and more uncomfortable, though, with William Paley’s Natural Theology, mainly for two reasons: ‘First, natural theology lacks the evidential and argumentative rigor to establish such a belief in the first place. Newman famously rejected traditional arguments from design: “I believe in design because I believe in God; not in God because I see design.” (A) Paley’s natural theology, Newman suggested, was as likely to lead to atheism as to belief in God. Second, Newman raises concerns about the “God” disclosed by natural theology…. Such a notion of God is limited to a rational principle of interpretation, lacking any sense of transcendence, holiness, or majesty. Physical theology, Newman insisted, taught “exclusively” only three divine attributes: power, wisdom, and goodness; yet it remained silent concerning the real essence of the Christian vision of God – namely, the divine holiness, justice, mercy, and providence.‘ (see Alister E McGrath, Darwinism and the Divine, Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology)

(A) J.H.Newman, letter to William Robert Brownlow, April 13, 1870; in Newman, John Henry, The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman, ed. Charles Stephen Dessain and Thomas Gornall. 31 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963–2006, vol. 25, 97.

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 20 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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