Alexander von Humboldt: Adapting to Providence

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On 06 May 1859, Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) passed away in Berlin, Germany. Educated at Freiberg School of Mines (1792) (w/ subsequent studies at Frankfurt, Göttingen, and Berlin), he was a natural scientist, explorer, ecologist and geographer.

From the Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography:

“Humboldt, although indisputably one of the founders of geography as a science, had as his major goal a comprehensive view of nature to which the earth sciences would contribute significantly. As a Prussian government official, there would be difficulties for him in pursuing such a major undertaking, but upon his mother’s death in 1796 he became financially independent. Leaving the civil service, he looked ahead to a ‘great journey beyond Europe.’

“The Kosmos is a popular scientific book in the best sense of that term. The entire material world from the galaxies to the geography of the various mosses, the history of physical cosmography, the needed stimulation for nature study—he sought to present all in vivid, ‘pleasing’ language. Volumes III through V, containing his special research findings and added material, were not equally successful; Humboldt died before completing the fifth volume. The index was prepared according to his specifications and he credited each contemporary to whom he felt in debted. The work cites over 9,000 sources and is thus an important reference for the history of science.”

For further reading, see an online article on the influence of von Humboldt on Charles Darwin (1809–1882): —van Wyhe, John. “Humbodlt’s Personal Narrative and Its Influence on Darwin.” The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online. 2002.

Quote from a letter dated September 6, 1825:

“I will not insist on this as an ordinance of religion, but simply on the grounds that life, even in its utmost extent, is so short, in comparison with eternity, which is wholly veiled to us as regards the nature of our being, that we must take care not to limit it by our wishes, but to allow it to continue as it will, for really the manner in which a man views his fate is more important than what his fate is. It is a saying, that every one creates his own fortunes, and, indeed, we make them good or bad by our reason or our folly. One may, however, so receive his lot as ordained by Providence, and so adapt himself to it, as to find it good, however opposite it may seem.”

Referenced:–Biermann, Kurt-R. “Alexander von Humboldt.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography.© Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008. — Humboldt, Friedrich Wilhelm C.K.F. Letters to a Lady. Trans. Henry Stebbing (London, GB: Arthur Hall, 1849), 126-127.
Image: Alexander von Humboldt in his library (1856), by Eduard Hildebrant (1818–1868).

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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

 

 

Pope John Paul II on Creation Continua and Providence

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On 07 May 1986, Pope John Paul II, during one of his Wednesday General Audiences dedicated to the theme of Divine Providence within creation, affirmed: “By creating, God called into being from nothing all that began to exist outside himself. But God’s creative act does not end here. What comes forth from nothing would return to nothing if it were left to itself and not conserved in being by the Creator. Having created the cosmos, God continues to create it, by maintaining it in existence. Conservation is a continuous creation (conservatio est continua creatio).

Here is the complete text from Pope John II:

Divine Providence Continues to Care for Creation

Today we continue the catechesis on divine Providence. By creating, God called into being from nothing all that began to exist outside himself. But God’s creative act does not end here. What comes forth from nothing would return to nothing if it were left to itself and not conserved in being by the Creator. Having created the cosmos, God continues to create it, by maintaining it in existence. Conservation is a continuous creation (conservatio est continua creatio).

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