Divined Explanations. The Theological and Philosophical Context for the Development of the Sciences (1600-2000)


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Critical junctures in the historical development of science owe their origins to ideas, concepts, and theories that became definitive in the minds of leading scientists who lived in a more or less religious culture. Scientists are never solitary, but always internal to a network of scientific relationships and friendships. They have a well-attested genius, nurtured not only by their scientific training but also by ideas and stimuli received from the cultural and social contexts in which they lived. In particular, metaphysical and theological aspirations guided the genesis of many scientific ideas. This book offers twelve examples of the development of scientific ideas that were shaped by religious factors and which changed the course of science itself. The interwoven nature of science, philosophy, theology, and culture is pervasive in these cases, thus demonstrating that throughout the modern era, natural philosophy enjoyed a deep coherence with theology. That entanglement lingers in the minds of scientists into the contemporary period, and it continues to nourish scientific creativity in subtle and profound ways. New explanations of the world have emerged through illuminative, revolutionary and, one might say, divined ways.

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Paul Allen, Ph.D. (2001), is Dean, Corpus Christi College, and Professor of Theology at St. Mark's College, Vancouver, Canada. He specializes in science-theology relations, theological anthropology and political theology. His works include: Ernan McMullin and Critical Realism in the Science-Theology Dialogue (2006), Theological Method (2012), and Augustine and Contemporary Social Issues (2023) as well as numerous book chapters and articles.

Flavia Marcacci, Ph.D. (2005, 2016), is a Professor of History of Scientific Thought at the Pontifical Lateran University (Vatican State). She has published monographs, edited books and many articles in international journals about the history of science and its interactions with theology. Among her books: Galileo Galilei. Una storia da osservare (2015), Cieli in contraddizione. Giovanni Battista Riccioli e il terzo sistema del mondo (2018).
List of Figures

Notes on Contributors

1 Introduction: How Scientific Theories Emerge in a Matrix of Philosophy and Theology
  Flavia Marcacci and Paul Allen

Part 1
Early Modernity – 19th Century
2 The Paradox of Foundation: Descartes’ Eternal Truths and the Evil Genius
  Simone Guidi

3 Franciscan Syncretistic Theology and Physics: The Science of Fortunato of Brescia (1701–1754)
  Paolo Capitanucci

4 In lumbis Adami et Evae: Questioning the Generation of Humankind in the Early 18th Century
  Luca Tonetti

5 Bolzano on God as the Ground of the Existence of the Actual Infinite
  Fábio Bertato

6 From Thermodynamics to Theology through Philosophy: The Debate on the Second Principle in the Late Nineteenth Century
  Stefano Bordoni

7 Social Darwinism and Race: Christian Thought, Evolution and Historiography
  Paul Allen

Part 2
Twentieth Century
8 Einstein, “Cosmic Religion,” and Theology
  Don Howard

9 The “Primeval Atom Hypothesis”: Where Did It Come From? What Is Its Status?
  Dominique Lambert

10 Max Planck, Causality, and the Necessity of God
  Flavia Marcacci and Gino Tarozzi

11 The Mystery of Cosmos: Negative Issues of Scientific Holism in Quantum Mechanics and Wittgenstein
  Fausto Fraisopi

12 Kurt Gödel and the Logical Existence of God
  Andrea Vestrucci and Christoph Benzmüller

13 John Wheeler, a Seeker in the Atomic Age
  Stefano Furlan and Rocco Gaudenzi


This book is of interest to historians, historical theologians, historians of science, philosophers of science, historians of philosophy, intellectual historians, theologians, theologians of science, and sociologists.
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