Teilhard de Chardin on scientific research

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“We Christians have no need to be afraid of, or to be unreasonably shocked by, the results of scientific research, whether in physics, in biology, or in history. Some Catholics are disconcerted when it is pointed out to them – either that the laws of providence may be reduced to determinisms and chance – or that under our most spiritual powers there lie hidden most complex material structures – or that the Christian religion has roots in a natural religious development of human consciousness – or that the human body presupposes a vast series of previous organic developments. Such Catholics either deny the facts or are afraid to face them. This is a huge mistake. The analyses of science and history are very often accurate; but they detract nothing from the almighty power of God nor from the spirituality of the soul, nor from the supernatural character of Christianity, nor from man’s superiority to the animals.”

– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in a lecture on 27 February 1921 in Paris titled “Christ and Science”

Source: http://www.inters.org

William Henry Bragg: We Need Both Religion and Science

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On 12 March 1942, Sir William Henry Bragg (1862–1942) passed away in London, UK.

With his son, William Lawrence Bragg (1890–1971), William Henry Bragg was co-awarded the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics, a unique Nobel honor shared by a father and son: “for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays.” The mineral Braggite is named after him and his son.

Quote from Sir William Henry Bragg (1862–1942):

“From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it. Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.”

Source:  “The Art of the Physicist.” (Abdus Salam). New Scientist. Vol. 35 (20 Jul 1967): 163.

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. They 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. It is shown that Draper and White’s conflict thesis and 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.

Alfred North Whitehead on some scientists…

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On 15 February 1861, Alfred N. Whitehead (1861–1947) was born in Ramsgate, GB.

Educated at University of Cambridge (BA, 1884/ScD, 1898), he was an important 20th century philosopher, physicist and mathematician who co-authored with his former student Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) the monumental text of formal predicate logic “Principia Mathematica” (1910–13), an effort later undermined by Gödel’s incompleteness theorems (1931).

He elaborated process philosophy, which had a particular influence, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, 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.

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

Referenced:
“Alfred North Whitehead – The Influence of Western Medieval Culture Upon the Development of Modern Science.” Inters. org: Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Science & Religion.
Whitehead, Alfred North. The Function of Reason, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1929), 9.

 

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 of 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 mendelOn 6 January 1884, Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) passed away in Brünn, Czech Republic.

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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