The Impact of Religion on Kelvin’s Physical Insights. Thermodynamics and the Age of the Earth
Keywords:Influence of religion on science, Kelvin’s religious and physical insights, Thermodynamics and the age of the earth, Scientific controversies in 19th century
Thermodynamics developed as a new branch of physics in the 19th century helping to go beyond a purely mechanistic understanding of nature. Among its founding fathers, it is William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) who offers a most promising perspective in order to highlight the influence of religious views in the improvement of science. In this article, I will focus on the controversy about the age of the Earth—which confronted Kelvin with many geologists and defenders of the theory of evolution—and I will explain the connections between Kelvin’s credo and his scientific attack on uniformitarianism. Kelvin’s contribution, even if ultimately proven wrong, was right in spirit and served the transition from qualitative to quantitative geology.