Relationship between religion and science - Wikipedia
Philosophy, Science and Religion mark three of the most fundamental with a tour of the relationship between the various brain sciences and religious belief. RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENTIFIC THEORY IN THE In this regard, the theme of the relation between theology and natural sciences will be .. markings of animals or tropical plants in regions with a cool or cold climate. Philosophy, Science and Religion mark three of the most fundamental modes and easily misunderstood issue of the relationship between science and religion. and religion. just amazed and the professors taught this in a very impressive.
In anthropology, the idea that all cultures evolve and progress along the same lines cultural evolutionism was widespread. Cultures with differing religious views were explained as being in an early stage of development. For example, Tylor regarded animism, the belief that spirits animate the world, as the earliest form of religious belief.
Comte proposed that all societies, in their attempts to make sense of the world, go through the same stages of development: The psychologist Sigmund Freud saw religious belief as an illusion, a childlike yearning for a fatherly figure.
The full story Freud offers is quite bizarre: The sons felt guilty and started to idolize their murdered father. This, together with taboos on cannibalism and incest, generated the first religion. Authors such as Durkheim and Freud, together with social theorists such as Karl Marx and Max Weber, proposed versions of the secularization thesis, the view that religion would decline in the face of modern technology, science, and culture.
Philosopher and psychologist William James was interested in the psychological roots and the phenomenology of religious experiences, which he believed were the ultimate source of institutional religions.
From the s onward, the scientific study of religion became less concerned with grand unifying narratives, and focused more on particular religious traditions and beliefs.
Their ethnographies indicated that cultural evolutionism was mistaken and that religious beliefs were more diverse than was previously assumed. They argued that religious beliefs were not the result of ignorance of naturalistic mechanisms; for instance, Evans-Pritchard noted that the Azande were well aware that houses could collapse because termites ate away at their foundations, but they still appealed to witchcraft to explain why a particular house had collapsed.
More recently, Cristine Legare et al. Psychologists and sociologists of religion also began to doubt that religious beliefs were rooted in irrationality, psychopathology, and other atypical psychological states, as James and other early psychologists had assumed. In the United States, in the late s through the s, psychologists developed a renewed interest for religion, fueled by the observation that religion refused to decline—thus casting doubt on the secularization thesis—and seemed to undergo a substantial revival see Stark for an overview.
Psychologists of religion have made increasingly fine-grained distinctions among types of religiosity, including extrinsic religiosity being religious as means to an end, for instance, getting the benefits of being in a social group and intrinsic religiosity people who adhere to religions for the sake of their teachings Allport and Ross Psychologists and sociologists now commonly study religiosity as an independent variable, with an impact on, for instance, health, criminality, sexuality, and social networks.
A recent development in the scientific study of religion is the cognitive science of religion.
Philosophy, Science and Religion | The University of Edinburgh
This is a multidisciplinary field, with authors from, among others, developmental psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and cognitive psychology. It differs from the other scientific approaches to religion by its presupposition that religion is not a purely cultural phenomenon, but the result of ordinary, early developed, and universal human cognitive processes e.
Some authors regard religion as the byproduct of cognitive processes that do not have an evolved function specific for religion. For example, according to Paul Bloomreligion emerges as a byproduct of our intuitive distinction between minds and bodies: Another family of hypotheses regards religion as a biological or cultural adaptive response that helps humans solve cooperative problems e.
Through their belief in big, powerful gods that can punish, humans behave more cooperatively, which allowed human group sizes to expand beyond small hunter-gatherer communities. Groups with belief in big gods thus outcompeted groups without such beliefs for resources during the Neolithic, which explains the current success of belief in such gods Norenzayan Natural philosopher Isaac Newton held strong, albeit unorthodox religious beliefs Pfizenmaier By contrast, contemporary scientists have lower religiosity compared to the general population.
There are vocal exceptions, such as the geneticist Francis Collins, erstwhile the leader of the Human Genome Project. They indicate a significant difference in religiosity in scientists compared to the general population. Surveys such as those conducted by the Pew forum Masci and Smith find that nearly nine in ten adults in the US say they believe in God or a universal spirit, a number that has only slightly declined in recent decades.
Atheism and agnosticism are widespread among academics, especially among those working in elite institutions. Ecklund and Scheitle analyzed responses from scientists working in the social and natural sciences from 21 elite universities in the US. In contrast to the general population, the older scientists in this sample did not show higher religiosity—in fact, they were more likely to say that they did not believe in God.
On the other hand, Gross and Simmons examined a more heterogeneous sample of scientists from American colleges, including community colleges, elite doctoral-granting institutions, non-elite four-year state schools, and small liberal arts colleges. They found that the majority of university professors full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty had some theistic beliefs, believing either in God Belief in God was influenced both by type of institution lower theistic belief in more prestigious schools and by discipline lower theistic belief in the physical and biological sciences compared to the social sciences and humanities.
These latter findings indicate that academics are more religiously diverse than has been popularly assumed and that the majority are not opposed to religion. Even so, in the US the percentage of atheists and agnostics in academia is higher than in the general population, a discrepancy that requires an explanation.
One reason might be a bias against theists in academia. For example, when sociologists were surveyed whether they would hire someone if they knew the candidate was an evangelical Christian, Another reason might be that theists internalize prevalent negative societal stereotypes, which leads them to underperform in scientific tasks and lose interest in pursuing a scientific career.
Kimberly Rios et al. It is unclear whether religious and scientific thinking are cognitively incompatible. Some studies suggest that religion draws more upon an intuitive style of thinking, distinct from the analytic reasoning style that characterizes science Gervais and Norenzayan On the other hand, the acceptance of theological and scientific views both rely on a trust in testimony, and cognitive scientists have found similarities between the way children and adults understand testimony to invisible entities in religious and scientific domains Harris et al.
Moreover, theologians such as the Church Fathers and Scholastics were deeply analytic in their writings, indicating that the association between intuitive and religious thinking might be a recent western bias. More research is needed to examine whether religious and scientific thinking styles are inherently in tension. Science and religion in Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism As noted, most studies on the relationship between science and religion have focused on science and Christianity, with only a small number of publications devoted to other religious traditions e.
Relatively few monographs pay attention to the relationship between science and religion in non-Christian milieus e. Since western science makes universal claims, it is easy to assume that its encounter with other religious traditions is similar to the interactions observed in Christianity. However, given different creedal tenets e. It developed in the first century AD out of Judaism from a group of followers of Jesus.
Christians adhere to asserted revelations described in a series of canonical texts, which include the Old Testament, which comprises texts inherited from Judaism, and the New Testament, which contains the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John narratives on the life and teachings of Jesusas well as events and teachings of the early Christian churches e.
Given the prominence of revealed texts in Christianity, a useful starting point to examine the relationship between Christianity and science is the two books metaphor see Tanzella-Nitti for an overview. Augustine — argued that the book of nature was the more accessible of the two, since scripture requires literacy whereas illiterates and literates alike could read the book of nature.
During the Middle Ages, authors such as Hugh of St. Given that original sin marred our reason and perception, what conclusions could humans legitimately draw about ultimate reality? He argued that sin has clouded human reason so much that the book of nature has become unreadable, and that scripture is needed as it contains teachings about the world.
Christian authors in the field of science and religion continue to debate how these two books interrelate. Concordism is the attempt to interpret scripture in the light of modern science. It is a hermeneutical approach to Bible interpretation, where one expects that the Bible foretells scientific theories, such as the Big Bang theory or evolutionary theory.
However, as Denis Lamoureux Thus, any plausible form of integrating the books of nature and scripture will require more nuance and sophistication. Theologians such as John Wesley — have proposed the addition of other sources of knowledge to scripture and science: Several Christian authors have attempted to integrate science and religion e. They tend to interpret findings from the sciences, such as evolutionary theory or chaos theory, in a theological light, using established theological models, e.
John Haught argues that the theological view of kenosis self-emptying anticipates scientific findings such as evolutionary theory: The dominant epistemological outlook in Christian science and religion has been critical realism, a position that applies both to theology theological realism and to science scientific realism.
Barbour introduced this view into the science and religion literature; it has been further developed by theologians such as Arthur Peacocke and Wentzel van Huyssteen Critical realism has distinct flavors in the works of different authors, for instance, van Huyssteendevelops a weak form of critical realism set within a postfoundationalist notion of rationality, where theological views are shaped by social, cultural, and evolved biological factors.
Peter Harrison thinks the doctrine of original sin played a crucial role in this, arguing there was a widespread belief in the early modern period that Adam, prior to the fall, had superior senses, intellect, and understanding. As a result of the fall, human senses became duller, our ability to make correct inferences was diminished, and nature itself became less intelligible.
They must supplement their reasoning and senses with observation through specialized instruments, such as microscopes and telescopes. As Robert Hooke wrote in the introduction to his Micrographia: As a result, the Condemnation opened up intellectual space to think beyond ancient Greek natural philosophy.
For example, medieval philosophers such as John Buridan fl. As further evidence for a formative role of Christianity in the development of science, some authors point to the Christian beliefs of prominent natural philosophers of the seventeenth century. For example, Clark writes, Exclude God from the definition of science and, in one fell definitional swoop, you exclude the greatest natural philosophers of the so-called scientific revolution—Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Boyle, and Newton to name just a few.
In spite of these positive readings of the relationship between science and religion in Christianity, there are sources of enduring tension. For example, there is still vocal opposition to the theory of evolution among Christian fundamentalists.
Additionally, it refers to a culture which flourished within this political and religious context, with its own philosophical and scientific traditions Dhanani As the second largest religion in the world, Islam shows a wide variety of beliefs. Beyond this, Muslims disagree on a number of doctrinal issues. The relationship between Islam and science is complex. Today, predominantly Muslim countries, such as the United Arabic Emirates, enjoy high urbanization and technological development, but they underperform in common metrics of scientific research, such as publications in leading journals and number of citations per scientist see Edis Moreover, Islamic countries are also hotbeds for pseudoscientific ideas, such as Old Earth creationism, the creation of human bodies on the day of resurrection from the tailbone, and the superiority of prayer in treating lower-back pain instead of conventional methods Guessoum The contemporary lack of scientific prominence is remarkable given that the Islamic world far exceeded European cultures in the range and quality of its scientific knowledge between approximately the ninth and the fifteenth century, excelling in domains such as mathematics algebra and geometry, trigonometry in particularastronomy seriously considering, but not adopting, heliocentrismoptics, and medicine.
A major impetus for Arabic science was the patronage of the Abbasid caliphate —centered in Baghdad. The former founded the Bayt al-Hikma House of Wisdomwhich commissioned translations of major works by Aristotle, Galen, and many Persian and Indian scholars into Arabic. It was cosmopolitan in its outlook, employing astronomers, mathematicians, and physicians from abroad, including Indian mathematicians and Nestorian Christian astronomers.
Throughout the Arabic world, public libraries attached to mosques provided access to a vast compendium of knowledge, which spread Islam, Greek philosophy, and Arabic science. The use of a common language Arabicas well as common religious and political institutions and flourishing trade relations encouraged the spread of scientific ideas throughout the empire.
Some of this transmission was informal, e. The decline and fall of the Abbasid caliphate dealt a blow to Arabic science, but it remains unclear why it ultimately stagnated, and why it did not experience something analogous to the scientific revolution in Western Europe.
Some liberal Muslim authors, such as Fatima Mernissiargue that the rise of conservative forms of Islamic philosophical theology stifled more scientifically-minded natural philosophers.
This book vindicated more orthodox Muslim religious views. As Muslim intellectual life became more orthodox, it became less open to non-Muslim philosophical ideas, which led to the decline of Arabic science. The study of law fiqh was more stifling for Arabic science than developments in theology. The eleventh century saw changes in Islamic law that discouraged heterodox thought: Given that heterodox thoughts could be interpreted as apostasy, this created a stifling climate for Arabic science.
In the second half of the nineteenth century, as science and technology became firmly entrenched in western society, Muslim empires were languishing or colonized.
Scientific ideas, such as evolutionary theory, were equated with European colonialism, and thus met with distrust. In spite of this negative association between science and western modernity, there is an emerging literature on science and religion by Muslim scholars mostly scientists.
The physicist Nidhal Guessoum holds that science and religion are not only compatible, but in harmony. Nevertheless, Muslim scientists such as Guessoum and Rana Dajani have advocated acceptance of evolution. In contrast to the major monotheistic religions, Hinduism does not draw a sharp distinction between God and creation while there are pantheistic and panentheistic views in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, these are minority positions.
Many Hindus believe in a personal God, and identify this God as immanent in creation. This view has ramifications for the science and religion debate, in that there is no sharp ontological distinction between creator and creature Subbarayappa Philosophical theology in Hinduism and other Indic religions is usually referred to as dharma, and religious traditions originating on the Indian subcontinent, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, are referred to as dharmic religions.
One factor that unites dharmic religions is the importance of foundational texts, which were formulated during the Vedic period, between ca. More gods were added in the following centuries e. Ancient Vedic rituals encouraged knowledge of diverse sciences, including astronomy, linguistics, and mathematics. Astronomical knowledge was required to determine the timing of rituals and the construction of sacrificial altars. Linguistics developed out of a need to formalize grammatical rules for classical Sanskrit, which was used in rituals.
Large public offerings also required the construction of elaborate altars, which posed geometrical problems and thus led to advances in geometry. Classic Vedic texts also frequently used very large numbers, for instance, to denote the age of humanity and the Earth, which required a system to represent numbers parsimoniously, giving rise to a base positional system and a symbolic representation for zero as a placeholder, which would later be imported in other mathematical traditions Joseph In this way, ancient Indian dharma encouraged the emergence of the sciences.
Around the sixth—fifth century BCE, the northern part of the Indian subcontinent experienced an extensive urbanization. The latter defended a form of metaphysical naturalism, denying the existence of gods or karma. The relationship between science and religion on the Indian subcontinent is complex, in part because the dharmic religions and philosophical schools are so diverse. Such views were close to philosophical naturalism in modern science, but this school disappeared in the twelfth century.
He formulated design and cosmological arguments, drawing on analogies between the world and artifacts: Given that the universe is so complex that even an intelligent craftsman cannot comprehend it, how could it have been created by non-intelligent natural forces?
From toIndia was under British colonial rule. This had a profound influence on its culture. Hindus came into contact with Western science and technology.
For local intellectuals, the contact with Western science presented a challenge: Mahendrahal Sircar — was one of the first authors to examine evolutionary theory and its implications for Hindu religious beliefs.
Sircar was an evolutionary theist, who believed that God used evolution to create the current life forms. Evolutionary theism was not a new hypothesis in Hinduism, but the many lines of empirical evidence Darwin provided for evolution gave it a fresh impetus. While Sircar accepted organic evolution through common descent, he questioned the mechanism of natural selection as it was not teleological, which went against his evolutionary theism—this was a widespread problem for the acceptance of evolutionary theory, one that Christian evolutionary theists also wrestled with Bowler The assimilation of western culture prompted various revivalist movements that sought to reaffirm the cultural value of Hinduism.
Responses to evolutionary theory were as diverse as Christian views on this subject, ranging from creationism denial of evolutionary theory based on a perceived incompatibility with Vedic texts to acceptance see C.
Brown for a thorough overview. Authors such as Dayananda Saraswati — rejected evolutionary theory. More generally, he claimed that Hinduism and science are in harmony: Hinduism is scientific in spirit, as is evident from its long history of scientific discovery Vivekananda Sri Aurobindo Ghose, a yogi and Indian nationalist, who was educated in the West, formulated a synthesis of evolutionary thought and Hinduism.
He interpreted the classic avatara doctrine, according to which God incarnates into the world repeatedly throughout time, in evolutionary terms. He proposed a metaphysical picture where both spiritual evolution reincarnation and avatars and physical evolution are ultimately a manifestation of God Brahman. Brown for discussion. During the twentieth century, Indian scientists began to gain prominence, including C. Raman —a Nobel Prize winner in physics, and Satyendra Nath Bose —a theoretical physicist who described the behavior of photons statistically, and who gave his name to bosons.
However, these authors were silent on the relationship between their scientific work and their religious beliefs. By contrast, the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan — was open about his religious beliefs and their influence on his mathematical work.
He claimed that the goddess Namagiri helped him to intuit solutions to mathematical problems.
Philosophy, Science and Religion
Likewise, Jagadish Chandra Bose —a theoretical physicist, biologist, biophysicist, botanist, and archaeologist, who worked on radio waves, saw the Hindu idea of unity reflected in the study of nature. He started the Bose institute in Kolkata inthe earliest interdisciplinary scientific institute in India Subbarayappa Contemporary connections between science and religion Current work in the field of science and religion encompasses a wealth of topics, including free will, ethics, human nature, and consciousness.
Contemporary natural theologians discuss fine-tuning, in particular design arguments based on it e. Collinsthe interpretation of multiverse cosmology, and the significance of the Big Bang. For instance, authors such as Hud Hudson have explored the idea that God has actualized the best of all possible multiverses.
Here follows an overview of two topics that generated substantial interest and debate over the past decades: This doctrine of creation has the following interrelated features: Differently put, God did not need any pre-existing materials to make the world, unlike, e. Rather, God created the world freely. This introduces a radical asymmetry between creator and creature: Third, the doctrine of creation holds that creation is essentially good this is repeatedly affirmed in Genesis 1.
The world does contain evil, but God does not directly cause this evil to exist. Moreover, God does not merely passively sustain creation, but rather plays an active role in it, using special divine actions e. Fourth, God made provisions for the end of the world, and will create a new heaven and earth, in this way eradicating evil. Related to the doctrine of creation are views on divine action.
Theologians commonly draw a distinction between general and special divine action. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted definition of these two concepts in the fields of theology or science and religion.
One way to distinguish them Wildman Drawing this distinction allows for creatures to be autonomous and indicates that God does not micromanage every detail of creation. Still, the distinction is not always clear-cut, as some phenomena are difficult to classify as either general or special divine action. Alston makes a related distinction between direct and indirect divine acts.
God brings about direct acts without the use of natural causes, whereas indirect acts are achieved through natural causes. Using this distinction, there are four possible kinds of actions that God could do: God could not act in the world at all, God could act only directly, God could act only indirectly, or God could act both directly and indirectly.
In the science and religion literature, there are two central questions on creation and divine action. To what extent are the Christian doctrine of creation and traditional views of divine action compatible with science? How can these concepts be understood within a scientific context, e. Note that the doctrine of creation says nothing about the age of the Earth, nor that it specifies a mode of creation. This allows for a wide range of possible views within science and religion, of which Young Earth Creationism is but one that is consistent with scripture.
The theory seems to support creatio ex nihilo as it specifies that the universe originated from an extremely hot and dense state around The net result of scientific findings since the seventeenth century has been that God was increasingly pushed into the margins.
This encroachment of science on the territory of religion happened in two ways: While the doctrine of creation does not contain details of the mode and timing of creation, the Bible was regarded as authoritative. Second, the emerging concept of scientific laws in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century physics seemed to leave no room for special divine action. These two challenges will be discussed below, along with proposed solutions in the contemporary science and religion literature.
Christian authors have traditionally used the Bible as a source of historical information. Biblical exegesis of the creation narratives, especially Genesis 1 and 2 and some other scattered passages, such as in the Book of Jobremains fraught with difficulties.
Are these texts to be interpreted in a historical, metaphorical, or poetic fashion, and what are we to make of the fact that the order of creation differs between these accounts Harris ? Although such literalist interpretations of the Biblical creation narratives were not uncommon, and are still used by Young Earth creationists today, theologians before Ussher already offered alternative, non-literalist readings of the biblical materials e.
From the seventeenth century onward, the Christian doctrine of creation came under pressure from geology, with findings suggesting that the Earth was significantly older than BCE. From the eighteenth century on, natural philosophers, such as de Maillet, Lamarck, Chambers, and Darwin, proposed transmutationist what would now be called evolutionary theories, which seem incompatible with scriptural interpretations of the special creation of species.
Ted Peters and Martinez Hewlett have outlined a divine action spectrum to clarify the distinct positions about creation and divine action in the contemporary science and religion literature. They discern two dimensions in this spectrum: At one extreme are creationists. Like other theists, they believe God has created the world and its fundamental laws, and that God occasionally performs special divine actions miracles that intervene in the fabric of laws.
Creationists deny any role of natural selection in the origin of species. Within creationism, there are Old and Young Earth creationism, with the former accepting geology and rejecting evolutionary biology, and the latter rejecting both.
Next to creationism is Intelligent Design, which affirms divine intervention in natural processes. Intelligent Design creationists e. Like other creationists, they deny a significant role for natural selection in shaping organic complexity and they affirm an interventionist account of divine action.
For political reasons they do not label their intelligent designer as God, as they hope to circumvent the constitutional separation of church and state in the US which prohibits teaching religious doctrines in public schools Forrest and Gross Theistic evolutionists hold a non-interventionist approach to divine action: God creates indirectly, through the laws of nature e. For example, the theologian John Haught regards divine providence as self-giving love, and natural selection and other natural processes as manifestations of this love, as they foster autonomy and independence.
While theistic evolutionists allow for special divine action, particularly the miracle of the Incarnation in Christ e. God has laid out the laws of nature and lets it run like clockwork without further interference. Deism is still a long distance from ontological materialism, the idea that the material world is all there is. It did not involve only a discussion in which scientific reasons flourished, based on the observation of the terrestrial surface.
Rather, arguments of a theological and erudite nature were used; at first, to an overwhelming extent. This was the logical result in an intellectual environment so profoundly saturated with religious beliefs, which, besides, appraised humanistic criticism of historical-philological nature. It can be said that, in general, theological arguments were in opposition to accepting the idea of change and evolution, in the same way as they confronted the idea of the original chaos and an eternal world.
But it is also certain that the efforts, realized since the 17th century, of rationally interpreting the Biblical tale, and the discussions which they in turn produced, contributed to the acceptance and diffusion of new ideas.
In this regard, the theme of the relation between theology and natural sciences will be undertaken in the present work. The analysis of ideas of certain Spanish writers of the 17th century and of the first half of the 18th century will allow us to demonstrate how important were the discussions in regard to the theme of the Creation and universal Flood, thus opening a path that leads to the acceptance of the idea of change on the terrestrial surface. In addition, it produced such profound fissures in the consciences of many scientists that insurmountable obstacles appeared obstructing the integration of observation data into the accepted system of beliefs.
In a manner similar to what has been put forth since the time of Max Weber concerning the problem of the influence of Protestant ethics on economic activity, one can also state the problem of the possible influence of religious ideas on scientific activity. In fact, ideas concerning the Creation, the world as the contemplation of a divine plan, providence, or the consequences of the original sin also affected the way in which the scientist looked at nature and interpreted the data observed in it.
The study of the assumptions of Calvinist and Lutheran theology has already allowed certain authors to demonstrate the close relation between religion and natural sciences in the 16th and 17th centuries Buetner, ; Huebner, Their results are less valid for Catholic countries. Those of religious orders, for example, could support contradictory positions. It is worth remembering that the Augustines, Franciscans and Capuchins elaborated the theology based on Saint Augustine, and, consequently, on the Platonic root; while on the other hand, the Dominicans have been shaping their theology with Aristotelian concepts since the 13th century.
Since the 16th century, the Jesuits have sometimes maintained positions eclectic and moderately open to new philosophical trends, such as Cartesianism. Catholic philosophers and scientists who were incorporated into the Platonic tradition could easily identify--as they have since the 12th century-- the Demiurge of Timeo with God as Creator, who gives form to the world in accordance with an established plan.
Greater difficulties were encountered from Aristotelian tradition, since the Christian concept of the. That demanded many equilibria and intellectual matices. According to Christianity, the Earth had been created by God and would be destroyed before the Final Judgement. Time was lineal and progressive since the creation until the coming of Christ to redeem mankind.
Religious beliefs, philosophy and scientific theory
However, nature was essentially static and unchanging, as instructed in the Bible. During the Modern Age all this began to be questioned upon discovering that the Earth had a history-not only that which was narrated in the Scriptures, but also the one revealed in the traces of fossils and the disposition of stratum.
But between one history and the other, that of the Biblical tale and that of natural history, no disagreement could exist. Because of this, the essential effort of many scientists during that period was directed at interpreting the Scriptures rationally, in a manner that would make it possible to integrate the conclusions obtained, beginning with the observation of nature.
Not all the scientists, however, saw the necessity of this rationalization. For some it seemed extremely dangerous to adhere to an allegorical interpretation of the Biblical tale, also because it might presuppose a threat to the science as independent from the scope of faith.
This represented, therefore, an anthropocentric and theological vision in which the existence of the earth was conceived only in relation to the existence of man. The history of the world was narrated in the Scriptures and it was to the Scriptures that it had to be necessarily referred.
The traditional thesis of the Creation of the world in seven days was still widely spread in the 18th century, not only through religious books. In any case, it is certain that in this instance the author accepts the possibility of asking questions about the manner in which God had carried out the Creation.
This sentence shows that even while accepting in its essence the Biblical tale, it was possible to rise above it to diverse speculations. The denial of the original chaos and the postulate that God did not act in vain nor had the necessity to change His plans, led to the acceptance of the fact that the earth had been formed only for one time, with all the attributes necessary for its functioning and for the life of man.
In any case, in spite of the declaration of principles concerning the immutability of the Earth, the description of the first periods after the Creation, and in particular the interpretation of the Great Flood, could have placed some writers in positions that implied in some way the acceptance of change on the terrestrial surface.
In the 17th century, some Spaniards dared to make an important step in the interpretation of the Biblical tale by defending different configurations of the carth before and after the Great Flood. The arguments for this were not of a scientific nature, but rather derived from an interpretation of the Scriptures. This is the case with the historian and scholar Jose Antonio Gonzalez de Salas, who was connected with the neo-stoical circles of Madrid in the middle of the 17th century.
Ihis text openly contradicts the thesis of Aristotle, who admitted that the area covered with water was ten times greater than that of the land. The discovery of America weakened the theory of Aristotle, but at any rate, the proportion, between the lands already known and the extension of the oceans was far from that noted in the text of Esdras. The need to accept as certainty that passage of the Scriptures had unexpected consequences.
As a matter of fact, there were only two solutions. Either that there existed more lands which had emerged from water than those that were known, or that the configuration of the lands and seas had experienced changes. The first path led to assuming the existence of a large continent in a part of the Universe not yet known; that is, in the Southern Hemisphere. The second path called for the re-interpretation of the history of the Earth, accepting the existence of important changes on its surface.
This is the path that the Spanish scholar followed, and that led him to propose his thesis about the difference of the Earth before and after the Great Flood.
The cause of that difference would have been rooted in the indignation of God with regard to the sins commited by man and His desire to carry out an exemplary punishment that would strike not only mankind but also Earth itself. Thus, the land that emerged after the Great Flood would be totally new since, in the words of Saint Auguste, "the ancient world of the Creation would come to an end with the Great Flood".
Gonzalez de Salas tried to reconstruct the geography of the land inhabited by Adam, based on the data given in Genesis, and from its analysis he made a final judgement of the difference between that land and that which emerged after the Great Flood. He concluded that "a parcel of continuous land was what is now our sea", and he also considered that "land which today is a continent, was sea in the past and it was land that today is covered with the sea".
He speculated at the same time about the possible machanism of the inundation and receding of the seas. Finally, in view of certain arguments that the sea invades some lands and abandons others, Gonzalez de Salas felt obligated to argue about the normal character of this phenomenon, supporting it with the testimony from the classics. The opimons of Gonzalez de Salas were audacious in Spain of his epoch, even though his work seems authorized by the respective religious and civil censorship, among which was the censorship of his friend, the writer Francisco de Quevedo.
But his theses were immediately argued and rejected by various authors, who accused them of being barely faithful to the Biblical tale. In fact, the ideas that he defended opened a path towards the theses of a "Second Creation", which ten years later was defended with great commotion by the Frenchman Lapeyrere.
But the interpretation most adaptable to the Bible that the others pretended to have could also signify a rational discussion that would equally lead to unexpected results. It was the Great Flood, as a matter of fact, that inundated the whole American Continent and allowed Noah and his family to leave by sailing towards the Old Continent.
Thus, he goes against the idea of punishment of the world, and, in turn, against the idea of decadence, as he writes: His acceptance of the profound stability of the Universe brought him to reject the possibility of important changes on the surface, even though he admits to the erosive force of the sea and atmospheric agents. He claims that the land and sea maintain a permanent equilibrium and what is removed from one part is later restored in another.
The testimony accumulated in ancient times and then brought to view by Renaissance men of learning gave information that could not be disavowed about the topographical modifications experienced in some lands; particularly, changes in coastlines, variations in the courses of rivers, and effects of volcanic eruptions.
In Spain, such testimonies were brandished by certain authors during the 17th century to demonstrate the existence of erosive processes.
In any case, in spite of this process of wearing away, the earth maintains its essential topography, since the mountains can grow "from the perpetuations and everlasting exhalations and vapors that are sublimated from its interior parts and mixed with many earthy portions". From this, it can be clearly seen that the decrease in the surface of the mountains "gradually repairs itself in the interior part due to the continuous elevation of vapors and exhalations that surge over and sublime it".
Concerning ideas about causes of earthquakes in 18th-century Spain, see Capel: The controversy concerning this problem multiple links and derivations, and is. The Bible, the classic fables, the legends of various primitive peoples among them the Aztecsand the finds of gigantic bones, supported this belief that was still strong at the beginning of the 18th century.
But the theme of giants. This conclusion was already put forth by the authors of Renaissance treatises, and the cosmographer Pedro de Medina affirmed in that "the lesser vital force of contemporary men was due to the fact that the heavens and the elements do not have effect on the earth with that same power and strength that they had before to nurture things at perfection". At the end of the 17th century, the problem continued to be raised and a Capuchin, Brother Antonio de Fuentelapena, alluded to it in his work, El Ente Dilucidado He opposed the thesis of decadence with philosophical arguments, and defended the view that human stature and the duration of life "has always been the same"; at the same time he considered as false the idea that "the world is being deteriorated little by little; while even though is is certain that the world is approaching its end, it will not approach it by diminution little by little, nor will it end by curtailment, rather the earth will be nurtured and preserved so completely and vigorously until the final day when, scorched in flames, it will be entirely consumed".
In a similar manner he opposed the so-called disappearance of animal or vegetable species from the time of antiquity, with arguments that were at the same time theological and scholarly, and defended the concept of a stable and balanced nature.
Naturally, as the testimony of the Scriptures with respect to the existence of giants was undeniable, there remained open only one path to Fuentelapena and to those who argued like him, namely to accept the existence of giants in his epoch.