Una scienza senza Dio

Science without God – Science and Christianity in Pulpit and Pew by Ronald L. Numbers

La scienza “senza Dio” è affare relativamente recente…

… Students of nature have not always shunned the supernatural. It took centuries, indeed millennia, for naturalism to dominate the study of nature, and even at the beginning of the twenty-first century, as we shall see, a tiny but vocal group of “theistic scientists” is challenging…

La doppia valenza del termine “naturalismo”…

… Historians have employed the word naturalism to designate a broad range of views, from a purely methodological commitment to explaining the workings of nature without recourse to the supernatural, largely devoid of metaphysical implications about God, to a philosophical embrace of materialism, tantamount to atheism…

Il conio di Huxley era però in funzione “anti-cristiana”…

… When Thomas H. Huxley (1825-1895) coined the term “scientific naturalism” in 1892, he used it to describe a philosophical outlook that shunned the supernatural and adopted empirical science as the only reliable basis of knowledge about the physical, social, and moral worlds…

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La prima forma di pensiero naturalista risale ai filosofi greci milesiani

… Recorded efforts to explain naturally what had previously been attributed to the whimsy of gods date back to the Milesian philosophers of the ancient Greek world, who, six centuries before the birth of Christianity, declared such phenomena as earthquakes, lightning, and thunder to be the result of natural causes…

Ippocrate

… Hippocratic physicians expanded the realm of the natural to include most diseases, including epilepsy, “the sacred disease.”…

Seneca

… The first-century Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, ever suspicious of supernatural causation, calmed the fears of fellow citizens by assuring them that “angry deities” had nothing to do with most meteorological or astronomical events: “Those phenomena have causes of their own…

Il cristianesimo fu particolarmente a suo agio con la filosofia naturale…

… belief in natural causes and the regularity of nature antedated the appearance of Christianity, with its Judaic notion of God as creator and sustainer of the universe… Christianity could, and sometimes did, encourage the quest for natural explanations. Long before the birth of modern science and the appearance of “scientists” in the nineteenth century, the study of nature in the West was carried out primarily by Christian scholars known as natural philosophers, who typically expressed a preference for natural explanations over divine mysteries….

Un caso medievale

… for instance, Adelard of Bath (ca. io8o-ca. 1150), a much-traveled Englishman familiar with the views of Seneca, instructed his nephew on the virtues of natural explanations: “I will take nothing away from God: for whatever exists is from Him and because of Him….

Giovanni da Buridano

… The University of Paris cleric Jean Buridan (ca. 1295-ca. 1358), described as “perhaps the most brilliant arts master of the Middle Ages,” contrasted the philosopher’s search for “appropriate natural causes” with the common folk’s erroneous habit of attributing unusual astronomical phenomena to the supernatural…

Altro caso…

Nicole Oresme (ca. 1320-1382), who went on to become a Roman Catholic bishop, admonished that, in discussing various marvels of nature, “there is no reason to take recourse to the heavens…

Galileo buon cattolico…

… The Italian Catholic Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), one of the foremost promoters of the new philosophy, insisted that nature “never violates the terms of the laws imposed upon her.” In a widely circulated letter to the Grand Duchess Christina, written in 1615, Galileo, as a good Christian, acknowledged the divine inspiration of both Holy Scripture and the Book of Nature-but insisted that interpreters of the former should have no say in determining the meaning of the latter. Declaring the independence of natural philosophy from theology, he asserted “that in disputes about natural phenomena one must begin not with the authority of scriptural passages but with sensory experience and necessary demonstrations.”…

Qui andrebbe ricordato che la lotta contro Galileo ebbe per oggetto il merito più che il metodo delle sue ricerche.

L’anglicano Bacone

… the Anglican philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was preaching a similar message of independence, warning of “the extreme prejudice which both religion and philosophy hath received and may receive by being commixed together; as that which undoubtedly will make an heretical religion, and an imaginary and fabulous philosophy.”…

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La filosofia naturale rischiava di emarginare Dio. Il buon cattolico Cartesio fu il primo, secondo molti, a correrlo…

… When the French Catholic natural philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-165o) boldly constructed a universe of whirling ethereal fluids and speculated how the solar system could have been formed by the action of these vortices operating according to the God-ordained laws of nature, he acquired considerable notoriety for nearly pushing God out of the cosmos altogether…

L’accusa di Pascal a Cartesio…

… His pious fellow countryman Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) accused Descartes, somewhat unfairly, of trying to dispense with God altogether, according Him only “a flip of the finger in order to set the world in motion.”…

Forse per non perdere lo stipendio, Cartesio rinnega Galileo…

… Fearing clerical retribution in the years after Galileo’s trial, Descartes disingenuously declared his cosmogony to be “absolutely false.”…

Boyle, la ricerca scientifica come preghiera

… The English chemist Robert Boyle (1627-i6gi)-as ardent an advocate of the mechanical philosophy as Descartes yet as pious as Pascal-viewed the discovery of the divinely established laws of nature as a religious act…

La profonda religiosità di Newton

… No one contributed more to the popular image of the solar system as a giant mechanical device than the University of Cambridge professor of mathematics Isaac Newton (1642-1727), a man of deep, if unorthodox, religious conviction, who unblushingly attributed the perfections of the solar system to “the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”…

Forse vale la pena di introdurre una sottile distinzione tra cattolici – più inclini alla superstizione – e protestanti…

… the search for natural laws and mechanical explanations became a veritable Christian vocation, especially in Protestant countries, where miraculous signs and wonders were often associated with Catholic superstition…

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Superstizioni in campo medico: cinquecento secolo chiave…

… Already by the sixteenth century, supernatural explanations of disease had largely disappeared from medical literature except in discussions of epidemics and insanity, which remained etiological mysteries, and venereal diseases, the wages of sin…

I preti favoriscono la diffusione delle medicine

… Priests and theologians may have placed greater emphasis on supernatural causes and cures, but in general they, too, easily accommodated new medical knowledge by maintaining that God usually effected His will through natural agencies rather than by direct intervention…

Il caso esemplare del vaiolo nelle colonie americane…

… Christians had long regarded smallpox, a frighteningly deadly and disfiguring disease, as God’s ultimate scourge to punish sinners and bring them to their knees in contrition. Thus when an epidemic threatened to strike New England in 1721, the governor of Massachusetts called for a day of fasting and repenting of the sins that had “stirred up the Anger of Heaven against us.” However, the Puritan Cotton Mather (1663-1728), one of the town of Boston’s leading ministerial lights, offered an alternative to repentance-inoculation with an attenuated but live form of smallpox-in hopes of preventing the disease by natural means. Having heard rumors of successful inoculations against smallpox in Africa and the Middle East, Mather, a fellow of the Royal Society of London and a natural philosopher in his own right, proposed that the untested, potentially lethal procedure be tried in Boston. The best trained physician in town, William Douglass (1691-1752), fearing that inoculation would spread rather than prevent the disease and resenting the meddling of ministers in medical matters, urged Mather to rely instead on “the all-wise Providence of God Almighty” and quit trying to thwart God’s will. Mather and five other clerics countered that such reasoning would rule out all medical intervention. Cannot pious persons, they asked, give into the method or practice without having their devotion and subjection to the All-wise Providence of God Almighty call’d in question? … Do we not in the use of all means depend on GOD’S blessing?…

Un caso parallelo: la diffusione della meteorologia scientifica. Il tempo è voluto da Dio? Anche la ricerca scientifica!…

… The same process occurred in meteorology. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), who as a teenager in Boston had backed Douglass in his quarrel with Mather over smallpox inoculation, found himself on the opposite side of a similar debate a few decades later, after announcing the invention of a device to prevent another of God’s judgments on erring humanity: lightning. When a French cleric denounced lightning rods as an inappropriate means of thwarting God’s will, the American printer turned scientific celebrity scornfully replied, “He speaks as if he thought it presumption in man to propose guarding himself against the Thunders of Heaven! Surely the Thunder of Heaven is no more supernatural than the Rain, hail or Sunshine of heaven, against the Inconvenience of which we guard by Roofs & Shades without Scruple.” Reflective Christians quickly accepted Franklin’s logic…

Terremoti

… Reactions to the great earthquakes of 1727 and 1755 further illustrate the inroads of scientific naturalism on popular culture. On the night of October 29, 1727, a violent earthquake shook the northern colonies of America, producing widespread damage to property. Terrified residents, humbled by this apparent display of divine anger, set aside fast days and begged God… Thomas Prince (1687-1758), the Puritan pastor of Boston’s Old South Church, preached a sermon entitled Earthquakes the Works of God and Tokens of His Just Displeasure… “Let the Natural Causes of Earthquakes be what the Wise Men of Enquiry please,” he wrote. “They and their Causes are still under the government of HIM that is the GOD of Nature.”… Professor John Winthrop IV (1714-1779) of Harvard College calmed the timorous with the assurance that, although God bore ultimate responsibility for the shaking, natural causes had produced the tremors…

I timori di chi si opponeva al naturalismo…

… Some people credited the mechanical philosophy with pushing God further and further into the distance, making him virtually irrelevant to daily life…

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Nessun trauma nel passaggio tra filosofie naturali e scienza naturalista…

… No single event marks the transition from godly natural philosophy to naturalistic modern science…

Dio veniva gradualmente escluso dallo studio dei fenomeni naturali…

… As we have seen, natural philosophers had often expressed a preference for natural causes, but few, if any, had ruled out appeals to God…. In contrast, virtually all scientists (a term coined in the 183os but not widely used until the late nineteenth century), whether Christians or non-Christians, came by the late nineteenth century to agree that God-talk lay beyond the boundaries of science…

Ma l’avversione per il concetto di Dio è altra cosa. Le sue radici sono nell’illuminismo francese. Importante la figura di Cartesio, ma solo come punto di partenza…

… Although not a materialist-he believed in God and the existence of immaterial souls-Descartes had pushed naturalism to the point of regarding animals as mere machines…

L’uomo robot

… The French physician Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709-1751), for example, suggested that humans are nothing but “perpendicularly crawling machines,” a claim that even the French found sensational…

Buffon

… Buffon called for an emphasis on the regularities of nature and a renunciation of all appeals to the supernatural… A theist, though not a practicing Christian, Buffon acknowledged that the Creator had originally set the planets in motion, but considered the fact of no value to the natural philosopher….

Laplace: “non ho bisogno di Dio”…

… Laplace in 1796 proposed that the planets had been formed from the revolving atmosphere of the primitive sun, which, as it cooled and contracted, had abandoned a succession of Saturn-like rings, which had coalesced to form the planets. On the occasion of a visit in 1802 to the country estate of Napoleon Bonaparte, Laplace entertained his host with an account of his so-called nebular hypothesis. When the French leader asked why he had heard no mention of God, Laplace supposedly uttered the much-quoted words “Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis.”… Laplace’s thoroughly naturalistic hypothesis, authored by a notorious unbeliever, represented the secularization of natural philosophy at its baldest…

La risposta teistica a Laplace viene dal mondo anglosassone…

… John Pringle Nichol (1804-1859), a minister-turned-astronomer at the University of Glasgow and an avid popularizer of the nebular hypothesis, offered one plausible answer… laws simply designated divine order: “LAW of itself is not substantive or independent power; no causal influence sprung of blind necessity, which carries on events of its own will and energies without command.”… Many Christians concluded that these laws had been instituted by God and were evidence of His existence and wisdom… The nebular hypothesis thus strengthened, rather than weakened, the argument from design…

Il modello di Laplace prevedeva solo leggi di natura? Ma chi ne era l’autore? Chi era il geometra?

Dio venne facilmente reintegrato nelle sue funzioni. Cio’ non significa che la dottrina della Provvidenza non subì cambiamenti…

… Christian apologists proved equally adept in modifying the doctrine of divine providence to accommodate the nebular hypothesis. Instead of pointing to the miraculous creation of the world by divine fiat, a “special” providential act, they emphasized God’s “general” providence in creating the world by means of natural laws and secondary causes…

Al centro il concetto di “causa secondaria”…

… Daniel Kirkwood (1814-1895), a Presbyterian astronomer who contributed more to the acceptance of the nebular hypothesis in America than anyone else, argued that if God’s power is demonstrated in sustaining and governing the world through the agency of secondary causes…

Il metodo scientifico per i teisti…

… In 1829 the English astronomer John Herschel (1792-1871) published A Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1830), described by one scholar as “the first attempt by an eminent man of science to make the methods of science explicit.”… Herschel asserted that sound scientific knowledge derived exclusively from experience… Although this stricture ruled out supernatural causes, Herschel adamantly denied that the pursuit of science fostered unbelief….

L’esperienza rafforza la fede. Dall’esperienza traiamo indizi sull’esistenza di Dio e sulle sue caratteristiche (teologia naturale).

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Darwin e la spiegazione naturale dell’uomo…

… The person most responsible for naturalizing the origin of species-and thereby making the problem a scientific matter-was Lyell’s younger friend Charles Darwin (18og-1882). As early at 1838 Darwin had concluded that attributing the structure of animals to “the will of the Deity” was “no explanation-it has not the character of a physical law & is therefore utterly useless.”…

L’obbiettivo di Darwin: annientare il dogma della “creazione separata” degli esseri viventi (non della creazione)…

… In his revolutionary essay On the Origin of Species (1859), Darwin aimed primarily “to overthrow the dogma of separate creations” and extend the domain of natural law throughout the organic world…

Molti credenti dapprima esaltarono Darwin come un semplice estensore del metodo naturalista tanto caro ai cristiani…

… All of these statements welcoming Darwinism as a legitimate extension of natural law into the biological world came from Christian scientists of impeccable religious standing: Rice, a Methodist; Gray, a Presbyterian; Wright, a Congregationalist. Naturalism appealed to them, and to a host of other Christians, in part because it served as a reliable means of discovering God’s laws. As the Duke of Argyll, George Douglas Campbell (1823-1910), so passionately argued in his widely read book The Reign of Law (1867), the natural laws of science represented nothing less than manifestations of God’s will…

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Solo a fine ottocento i materialisti attaccano frontalmente la religione usando il sapere scientifico in modo strumentale. E’ più una guerra di potere culturale che di scienza: i materialisti volevano una società secolarizzata

… The relatively smooth passage of naturalism turned nasty during the last third of the nineteenth century, when a noisy group of British scientists and philosophers, led by Huxley and the Irish physicist John Tyndall (182o-i893), began insisting that empirical, naturalistic science provided the only reliable knowledge of nature, humans, and society. Their anticlerical project, aimed at undermining the authority of the established Anglican church and dubbed “scientific naturalism” by Huxley, had little to do with naturalizing the practice of science but a lot to do with creating positions and influence for men such as themselves. They sought, as the historian Frank M. Turner has phrased it, “to expand the influence of scientific ideas for the purpose of secularizing society rather than for the goal of advancing science internally. Secularization was their goal; science, their weapon…

Dichiarazione di guerra

… For centuries men of science had typically gone out of their way to assure the religious of their peaceful intentions. In 1874, however, during his presidential address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Tyndall declared war on theology in the name of science…

Lo scientismo nelle scienze sociali di fine ottocento…

… The rise of the social sciences in the late nineteenth century in many ways reflected these imperialistic aims of the scientific naturalists. As moral philosophy fragmented into such new disciplines as psychology and sociology, many social scientists, insecure about their scientific standing, loudly pledged their allegiance not only to the naturalistic methods of science but to the philosophy of scientific naturalism as well…

Dio diventa mera illusione, così come la coscienza e la libertà umana.

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L’ Intelligent Design segna nel novecento un tentativo di riportare il concetto di Dio nella scienza…

… The roots of the intelligent design argument run deep in the soil of natural theology, but its recent flowering dates from the mid-i98os. The guru of ID, a Berkeley law professor named Phillip E. Johnson (b. 1940)… Johnson’s writings inspired a Catholic biochemist at Lehigh University, Michael J. Behe (b. 1952), to speak out on the inadequacy of naturalistic evolution for explaining molecular life. In his iconoclastic book, Darwin’s Black Box (1996), Behe maintained that biochemistry had “pushed Darwin’s theory to the limit… The partisans of ID hoped to spark “an intellectual revolution” that would rewrite the ground rules of science to allow the inclusion of supernatural explanations of phenomena…

Ma il mainstream della comunità scientifica bocciò sonoramente il progetto…

… Most scientists either ignored it or dismissed it as “the same old creationist bullshit dressed up in new cloths.” The British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (b. 1941) wrote it off as “a pathetic cop-out of [one’s] responsibilities as a scientist.”…

Tuttavia, la vicenda suscitò un salutare dibattito nella comunità dei credenti…

… Significantly, the most spirited debate over intelligent design and scientific naturalism took place among conservative Christian scholars. Having long since come to terms with doing science naturalistically, reported the editor of the evangelical journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, “most evangelical observers-especially working scientists-[remained] deeply skeptical.” Though supportive of a theistic worldview, they balked at being “asked to add `divine agency’ to their list of scientific working tools.s42 As the editor’s response so graphically illustrates, scientific naturalism of the methodological kind could-and did-coexist with orthodox Christianity. Despite the occasional efforts of unbelievers to use scientific naturalism to construct a world without God, it has retained strong Christian support down to the present… scientific naturalism was largely made in Christendom by pious Christians. Although it possessed the potential to corrode religious beliefs-and sometimes did so-it flourished among Christian scientists who believed that God customarily achieved his ends through natural means….

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Da queste osservazioni emerge un chiaro messaggio: non collegate secolarizzazione e naturalizzazione…

… nothing characterizes modern science better than its rejection of God… It would be wrong, however, to conclude that the naturalization of science has secularized society generally… As late as the 19gos nearly 40 percent of American scientists continued to believe in a personal God, and, despite the immense cultural authority of naturalistic science…

La naturalizzazione è, tutto sommato, un fenomeno che ha sempre accompagnato il cristianesimo, il quale, anzi, è stata una delle sue forze propulsive. La secolarizzazione è qualcosa di radicato altrove.

 

 

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