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Religion and natural philosophy [“science”] in earth studies* Cosmogonies Chronologies Natural theology. J. Bourgeois 2007 ESS 408/508. *Europe in the 16 th to early 19 th centuries . Warnings about confounding scripture and nature from influential early Christian thinkers/writers.

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Cosmogonies

Religion and natural philosophy [“science”]

in earth studies*

Cosmogonies

Chronologies

Natural theology

J. Bourgeois 2007 ESS 408/508

*Europe in the 16th to early 19th centuries


Cosmogonies

Warnings about confounding scripture and nature from influential early Christian thinkers/writers

When it is asked what we ought to believe in matters of religion, the answer is not to be sought in the exploration of the nature of things, after the manner of those whom the Greeks call “physicists.” . . .

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds as certain from reason and experience. Now it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

Augustine of Hippo

[St. Augustine]

A.D. 354 – 430

from

Enchiridion

c. 420

quoted in Lindberg, D.C., 1986. “Science and the early Church,” in D.C. Lindberg and R. Numbers, eds. God and Nature, Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, Univ. of California Press, p. 19-48.


Cosmogonies

Warnings about confounding scripture and nature from influential early Christian thinkers/writers

First, the truth of Scripture must be held inviolable. Secondly, when there are different ways of explaining a Scriptural text, no particular explanation should be held so rigidly that, if convincing arguments show it to be false, anyone dare to insist that it still is the definitive sense of the text. Otherwise unbelievers will scorn Sacred Scripture, and the way to faith will be closed to them.

[St.] Thomas Aquinas

c. 1225 – 1274 A.D.

from Summa theologiae

1265 - 1274

quoted in Grant, E., 1986. “Science and theology in the Middle Ages,” in D.C. Lindberg and R. Numbers, eds. God and Nature, Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, Univ. of California Press, p. 49-75.


Cosmogonies

Archbishop James Ussher influential early Christian thinkers/writers

1581 - 1656

Ussher was NOT the first to calculate time since the first day of Genesis

But his work was footnoted in

the King James Bible

1650

Ussher’s chronology


Cosmogonies

De Emendatione Temporum influential early Christian thinkers/writers (1583)

a cosmogony which

outlined world history – assumed universal;

scale of time traditional [Mosaic] 6000 years

Joseph Justus Scaliger

1540-1609

religious leader and scholar,

expanded the notion of classical history

from [just] Greek and Ancient Roman

to include

Persian, Babylonian, Jewish and Ancient Egyptian

Univ. of Leiden library


Cosmogonies

Bruno being burned at the stake, after refusing to recant, influential early Christian thinkers/writers

even after torture

February, 1600, Rome

Giordano Bruno

1548 - 1600

Mystic, heretic, pantheist

Denied original sin

Excommunicated itinerant

Described a cosmos without center or boundaries

-- infinite, eternal, possibly uncreated

-- allowed possibility of plurality of worlds


Cosmogonies

c. 150 A.D. influential early Christian thinkers/writers

A.D. 1543

Ptolemy (left) and

Copernicus (right)

both imagined a

fixed sphere of stars

c. 1584 A.D.

“Bruno visualized a planetary system similar to the one of Copernicus with a new concept that the stars extended outward infinitely”

“It was not Copernicus or Galileo but Giordano Bruno who grasped the great truth that the so-called fixed stars were actually huge suns like our own. Bruno conceived of a universe extending outward infinitely, containing suns without end, each, perhaps, racing through space with its own family of planets; Bruno's cosmos was a bold concept indeed, when compared with the stiffing, enclosed systems of Ptolemy and Copernicus.” W. Hollister, UCSB


Cosmogonies

Galileo Galilei influential early Christian thinkers/writers

1564 - 1642

Galileo before the Holy Office,

a 19th century painting by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury

Beginning in 1614, finally culminating in trial and condemnation in 1633,

Galileo and his writings got him in trouble with Catholic dogmatists


Cosmogonies

Philosophiae Principia influential early Christian thinkers/writers

1644

read excerpt in

reading packet

René Descartes 1596 – 1650

champion of rational thought

mechanistic view of cosmos

Earth starts as glowing mass, differentiates into three zones,

outer region further layered,

arranged by density.

Ruptures of the outer crust

generate topography, e.g.


Cosmogonies

air influential early Christian thinkers/writers

water

4th ed. published

posthumously

I – incandescent, glowing center; M – opaque solid?

C,E – solids, with C being “very solid and very heavy”


Cosmogonies

Strategies to avoid trouble -- influential early Christian thinkers/writers

Due to Galileo’s trial (1630s),

Descartes “denies” his own theory

René Descartes 1596 – 1650

Universe of indefinite limits

Earth and possibly countless other bodies

had own origins and histories

Detached Earth history from cosmic history

Possible to conceive human history in Bible

as separate from history of cosmos

sounds like Giordano Bruno…


Cosmogonies

Newton, reacting to Descartes’ mechanistic view, writes letters to Thomas Burnet

Newton tries to reconcile religion

with the “laws of Nature”

Evidence for divinity:

regularity of solar system

“perfection” of creation

Isaac Newton

1643 - 1727

Attempted to reconcile Genesis with “science”, but also wrote to Burnet

his view that Genesis was written for common folk, was not sophisticated

Still, he tried to reconcile Mosaic account using natural laws;

e.g., perhaps Earth not turning on the first day,

which in that case could be very long.


Cosmogonies

Sacred Theory of the Earth letters to Thomas Burnet

[1680s]

Thomas Burnet

1635 – 1715

frontispiece

S.J. Gould writes about Burnet

Mosaic account is a brief and finite Earth history

in an ocean of past and future cosmic time

Used natural knowledge to amplify and illuminate biblical narrative

– can we use the laws of physics [first principles of Newton]

to explain . . . ?


Cosmogonies

Strategies to avoid trouble letters to Thomas Burnet

– don’t publish your cosmogony in your own lifetime

Protogaea [1749 – 33 years after death]

1) incandescent molten globe –

2) crystalline granite and gneiss

3) sphere of water, universal ocean

Fossils are animal forms transformed in Earth history

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

1646 - 1716

Telliamed [de Maillet spelled backwards]

[1748 – 10 years after death]

universal ocean gradually drying up

valleys eroded as water retreats

ridicules use of Noah’s flood in cosmogonies

much of Telliamed quite fanciful

Benoit de Maillet

1656 - 1738


Cosmogonies

Lisbon, Portugal, catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in 1755

-- major impact on philosophy of the time

challenges philosophy that creation is perfect and God benificent

ref. Voltaire, Candide, e.g., “the best of all possible worlds” [not]


Cosmogonies

Histoire Naturelle 1755 1749 

Introduction was a

theory of the Earth

Epoques de la Nature 1778

read excerpt in

reading packet

Italian edition of

Buffon’s Natural History

Georges Louis le Clerc de Buffon

1707 – 1788

Cosmogony starts with molten Earth, six epochs plus a 7th – man

Finite age of Earth [c. 100,000 yr], experiments with cooling iron balls

Separated science and religion, no attempt at reconciliation

Most persuasive cosmogony of late 18th century, but many didn’t accept it

Paley’s Natural Theology (1802) condemns Buffon


Cosmogonies

1 1755st edition was 1796

Popular account

of cosmology

Rejects supernatural,

Calculates odds that

solar system

could be “accidental”

Pierre Simon Laplace

1749 - 1827

nebular hypothesis

4th edition 1815

  • Start with hot gaseous mass – expanded sun, rotating and cooling

  • rings abandoned as mass contracts, accreted to planets

  • one ring left—asteroid belt

  • moons—same process on smaller scale

  • 1790s to early 1800s nebulous matter discovered [Herschel]


Cosmogonies

While not atheists, and working within a world largely controlled by the church,

these cosmogonists were attempting, primarily, to generate cosmogonies that

explained the world naturalistically,

without requiring a strict adherence to the Mosaic accounts.


Cosmogonies

Cosmogonies with reference to Mosaic accounts controlled by the church,

&

handiwork of God


Cosmogonies

De Emendatione Temporum controlled by the church, (1583)

  • a cosmogony

  • outlined world history – assumed universal;

  • scale of time traditional [Mosaic] 6000 years

Joseph Justus Scaliger

1540-1609

religious leader and scholar,

expanded the notion of classical history

from [just] Greek and Ancient Roman

to include

Persian, Babylonian, Jewish and Ancient Egyptian

Univ. of Leiden library


Cosmogonies

Sacred Theory of the Earth controlled by the church,

[1680s]

Thomas Burnet

1635 – 1715

frontispiece

S.J. Gould writes about Burnet

Mosaic account is a brief and finite Earth history

in an ocean of past and future cosmic time

Used natural knowledge to amplify and illuminate biblical narrative

– can we use the laws of physics [first principles of Newton]

to explain . . . ?


Cosmogonies

Kircher’s controlled by the church,Mundus Subterraneus

“the standard geological treatise of the 17th century”

was more of a cosmology than a cosmogony

Kircher referred to his world as the handiwork of GOD

Athanasius Kircher

1602 - 1680

read excerpt in

reading packet

Remember this excerpt when we read about

neptunism, volcanism and plutonism

Mundus Subterraneus, 1678


Cosmogonies

1696 controlled by the church,

Comets explained great physical events

in earth history

– deluge & conflagration

Earth in harmonious equilibrium derived from original chaos

His “physics” defied Newtonian principles

William Whiston

1667 - 1752

A diagram from William Whiston's book, A New Theory of the Earth [1696]

showing the trajectory of the earth

and the flood-causing comet. 

Also wrote

Astronomical Principles of Religion

Natural and Revealed [1717]


Cosmogonies

John Woodward controlled by the church,

1667 - 1728

Essay towards a Natural History of the Earth [1695]

  • Studied strata and fossils

  • Claimed whole sequence had settled in order of specific gravity out of chaotic global mixture at the time of the flood [Noah’s flood]

  • Flood benificent

  • His physical interpretation DIVERGES from literal interpretation, but invokes assistance of supernatural power

Response of some: Noah’s flood more local

And occurred after MOST of Earth history


Cosmogonies

Anton Lazzaro Moro controlled by the church,

1689 - 1740

  • Criticizes Burnet and Woodward

  • Rejects Noachian deluge to explain strata

  • Claimed he did not contradict but only supplemented Genesis account

De Crostacei degli altri Marini Corpi che si trovano su Monti [1740]

Testament at end wherein reformers of studies state that book contains nothing contrary to the Holy Catholic faith


Cosmogonies

Problems with traditional chronology by 17th century controlled by the church,

Histories Egyptian and Chinese civilizations was of comparable length as Mosaic calculation

Hard to explain distribution of plants and animals around the globe

Difficult to fit accumulating written and natural history into narrative framework of Genesis and following books

Were accounts indicating greater antiquity fraudulent?

Was God testing scholars’ faith?


Cosmogonies

Lettres Physique et Morales controlled by the church,[1779]

  • Conceded vast time scale of

  • pre-human history

  • But criticized eternalistic theories

  • Flood only a few thousand years

  • ago--tremendous disturbance

  • Christians need only be concerned with creation and history of mankind

  • For rest of history,

  • Genesis should be seen as symbolic

Jean André deLuc

1727 - 1817


Cosmogonies

By the late 18th to early 19th century, most “scriptural geologists” have left the “scientific” community

Strata show long history before any fossils [azoic period]; creation of all life separated from time of Earth’s origin

Traditional literal chronology [6000 yrs] can’t explain Earth history without supernatural causes

However, work like Woodward’s and others

helped establish the discipline of stratigraphy [see Hallam, Ch. 3]

AND the tradition of Natural Theology persisted


Cosmogonies

Natural theology geologists” have left the “scientific” community is the attempt to find evidence of a God or intelligent designer without recourse to any special or supposedly supernatural revelation. [Wikipedia]

Wikipedia also says:

From the 8th century, the Mutazalite school of Islam, compelled to defend their principles against the orthodox Islam of their day, looked for support in philosophy, and are one of the first to pursue a rational theology, called Ilm-al-Kalam (scholastic theology).

Extra credit: Submit one or more examples of “natural theology” in earth sciences from these or other religious traditions.


Cosmogonies

Francis Bacon geologists” have left the “scientific” community

1561 – 1626

Counsel to King James

champion of empirical/inductive method

from

The Advancement of Learning 1605

Let no man upon a weak conceit of sobriety or an all-applied moderation think or maintain, that man can search too far, or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the

book of God’s works, divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficience in both;

only let men beware… that they do not unwisely mingle or confound these learnings together.

[emphases added; this is called the Baconian compromise, or the “two books” concept]

quoted in Moore, J.R., 1986. “Geologists and interpreters of Genesis in the nineteenth century,” in D.C. Lindberg and R. Numbers, eds. God and Nature, Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science, Univ. of California Press, p. 322-350.


Cosmogonies

The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation geologists” have left the “scientific” community (1693)

As in the Baconian

“two books” tradition,

Nature is a revelation of the Divine

[the Creator]

John Ray (1628 – 1705)

Botanist and zoologist

“father of natural history”

“Aristotle of England”

1692 – Miscellaneous discourses concerning the dissolution and changes of the world

Can only understand world in terms of accepted religious principles of Judeo-Christian world, but

Criticized Woodward as fanciful

noted that specific gravity did NOT match order

of fossils in strata -- “simplest empirical test”


Cosmogonies

William Paley geologists” have left the “scientific” community

1743 – 1806

Natural Theology or

Evidence of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearance of Nature

[1806]

Inferred existence of God from evidence of exquisite design in nature

Provided credible explanation for why organisms were so perfectly adapted to their environments

Made watch/watchmaker argument –

design, e.g., of eye, hand

No historicism, no geology;

argument based only on present things


Cosmogonies

1829 – Francis Henry, Earl of Bridgewater, leaves geologists” have left the “scientific” community£8000 to the Royal Society of London to be paid to persons to write, print and publish 1000 copies each,

On the power, wisdom and goodness of God,

as manifested in the Creation

Buckland writes one of these treatises

See reading packet


Cosmogonies

1808 – ordained in ministry geologists” have left the “scientific” community

1813 – fellow, mineralogy and chemisty,

Oxford; then Professor

1818 – Royal Society, readership in Geology

1820 – Vindicae Geologiae

1823 – Reliquiae Diluvianae

1825 – Canon of Christ Church

1825 – married Mary Morland,

illustrator and collector of fossils

1836 – Bridgewater Treatise [see below]

reading packet excerpt from:

William Buckland

1784 - 1856

Some doubts were once expressed

about the Flood

Buckland arose, and all was clear as mud

Shuttleworth*

*Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night

God said, Let Newton be, and all was light

A. Pope, 1730


Cosmogonies

Buckland’s Bridgewater Treatise is scanned and on the web!!!

http://www.geology.19thcenturyscience.org/books/Bridgewater-Treatises/06-1837-Bridgewater-Buckland/text.htm/%20entry.htm


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