By Glen James, Contributing Writer
Does being a Christian or believing in God and/or the Bible really mean that your worldview is against science and reason? Although this mantra likely started with atheists trying to ridicule and intimidate Christians into doubting or being ashamed of their own worldview, over the last few years it has expanded to include the political left in America using it as a means to ridicule Republicans and political conservatives (and what they view as “the Religious Right”). The obvious intent of this tactic is to create derision of the Christian worldview in an attempt to prevent Christians from having influence in the arena of political ideas, or to prevent them from even participating in the discussion. So, should Christians be intimidated or dissuaded by this mantra? Not if you know a little about the history of what we know as “science.”
The word “science” is derived from the Latin term “scientia” which simply means “knowledge”. One thing we should all recognize about knowledge is that it is always changing – as we learn more about things, what we once thought we “knew” may be completely disproved (as has happened countless times in the scientific realm). Historically, Christianity and science have never been considered to be mutually exclusive propositions, including by many of the greatest scientific minds throughout history. In fact, many of the scientists that created the very basis and methods of what we know as scientific inquiry today were very devout Christians. Here are a few names you might recognize if you took science/physics courses in high school or college along with some of their accomplishments (although you probably weren’t taught that they were all firm believers in God including many of them being devout, “traditional” Christians). To a great extent, these men collectively created the very foundations of modern scientific inquiry as we know it today:
Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) – a mathematician, astronomer, lawyer, physician, economist, artist and Catholic cleric among other things, he was the first person to formally hypothesize that the earth was not the center of the universe, but that the earth and other planets in our solar system revolved around the sun (known as heliocentricity, which directly contradicted Catholic teaching).
Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) – he established the methodologies (planned, regimented procedures of investigation) for what today is known as the scientific method; he was instrumental in creating British colonies in North America (including Virginia and the Carolinas) and was revered by Thomas Jefferson for his contributions to the “physical and moral sciences.”
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) – a mathematician and astronomer, he was best known for his “laws of planetary motion” that shaped modern astronomy; his work was fundamental to the fields of optics and physics and he was known for incorporating theological reasoning and arguments into his works.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) – he was a physicist, mathematician, philosopher and astronomer that validated Copernicus’ work on heliocentricity using his knowledge to improve the telescope which he used to discover the four largest “moons” of the planet Jupiter and view and analyze “sun spots”; he spent the latter years of his life under house arrest for contradicting the pagan scientific view (adopted by some Christians) that the earth was the center of the universe.
Rene Descartes (1596-1650) – a devout Catholic, he was also a philosopher and mathematician whose writings on philosophy are still studied and contemplated today in western philosophy and he is recognized for promoting science based on reason (he is known as the “father of modern philosophy”); the Cartesian Coordinate System which specifies numerical coordinates in relation to two-dimensional planes was named after Descartes.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) – a mathematician, physicist and Catholic philosopher, Pascal is considered the inventor of the calculator (a mechanical version which modern computer calculations are based on) and his work in fluid dynamics resulted in his invention of the hydraulic press and recognition of “Pascal’s Law” (the principle of transmission of fluid pressure); during the later years of his short life, he concentrated on theological philosophy and is probably most famous for the theological argument known as “Pascal’s Wager.”
Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) – a very passionate student of the Bible and the early “church fathers”, he is more recognized for being one of, if not the greatest scientist and mathematician that ever lived; his work laid the foundation for much of classical physics theory on light and sound as well as the law of gravity; he developed integral and differential calculus and also built the first reflecting telescope that used mirrors to reduce optical distortion.
Michael Faraday (1791-1867) – he was a devout Christian with little formal education but outstanding intelligence and he became one of the most influential scientists in history with his work on magnetic fields and electro-magnetic properties; he developed the first electrical generator and his work laid the foundation for the invention of electric motors and the use of electricity in modern technologies including the technological marvels we have today.
Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) – known as “the father of genetics” he was a Catholic friar that essentially started the science of genetics by studying pea plants and documenting patterns of specific traits of inheritance; DNA wouldn’t be officially “discovered” until 1953 with the advent of the electron microscope, but Mendel had accurately described genetic traits and properties almost a hundred years earlier.
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) – known as an ardent Christian, he was the creator of the first rabies and anthrax vaccines and he is known as “the father of germ theory and bacteriology” (along with his colleague, Robert Koch); he made great breakthroughs that enabled medical recognition of microbes (germs) and was a strong proponent of doctors washing their hands and sterilizing their instruments (which was not done as a practice at the time); the process of pasteurization which is the heating of foods and liquids to a specific temperature in order to kill germs was named after him.
William Thomson Kelvin (1824-1907) – a devout Anglican and student of the Bible, he made important contributions to the 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics and originated the idea of temperature having an absolute minimum known as absolute zero – his scale of absolute temperatures is divided into units of Kelvin.
John Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945) – a Christian minister and inventor of the vacuum tube and other electronic advances which made wireless communications of today possible; he was also the originator of the “left hand rule” for determining the rotation of electric motors and the “right hand rule” for electric generators which was also applied to assist in understanding 3D vectors in physics, and engineering statics and dynamics.
Max Planck (1858-1947) – founder of quantum physics theory and the originator of “Planck’s Constant” which is a widely used factor in performing calculations to quantify electromagnetic energy; in a speech he noted that “Both religion and science require a belief in God.”
This is by no means a complete list as there have been many more brilliant scientific minds who were Christians and believers in God and/or the Bible that were contemporaries of these men, and many who lived before and after these men. The men in the above list are many of the “originators” of what is known today about physics, chemistry, genetics, astronomy, electronics and many other scientific fields and disciplines, and indeed, most of what we know about the method of scientific inquiry itself. Although I remember many of these names from my engineering and work background, I only recently became aware of their religious beliefs. It would be worth anyone’s time to research biographical accounts of these men to help realize just how important their contributions are to modern science and technology (Wikipedia has informative write-ups on all of them).
Even Albert Einstein (who was a friend and contemporary of Max Planck) believed that God created the universe although he didn’t consider himself a Christian. One of my favorite quotes from Einstein is “God does not care about our mathematical difficulties. He integrates empirically”. If you break down the meaning of the last two words of this quote, the meaning of this quote becomes very clear. The word “integrate” means to “to form, coordinate, or blend various parts into a functioning or unified whole.” The word empirically means “originating in or based on observation or experience” and an expanded meaning is “relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory.” If anyone knew the difficulty of trying to explain the universe and the world as we know it in mathematical and theoretical terms and how it all transpired (and how it all works together so marvelously), it was Albert Einstein.
Being as brilliant as he was, Einstein not only believed in God but also understood that God didn’t need complicated mathematical equations or complex theories to create the universe. God created the universe and everything in it in the incredibly vast fullness and complexity in which it exists. . . all without higher order mathematics, theoretical conjecture or “systems theory.” As Einstein intimated, God really has no regard for whether mankind can come up with complex mathematical equations and theories to explain His magnificent creation – He just created it all using His infinite power and wisdom and God doesn’t care if man can explain it or not! Truthfully, for all that science knows (or believes it knows) about the universe, in reality mankind is still only barely beginning to “scratch the surface” of truly understanding the basics of the universe and how it works.
Without the contributions of all these brilliant scientific minds that also recognized with certainty that God exists, modern science would be nowhere close to the advanced state that it is today. Many of these men lived 300 to 600 years or more ago, and most if not all of the discoveries made by scientists that have followed in recent years were built on the foundation of knowledge and discoveries made by these men. Thus, in today’s world, people claiming that Christians are ignorant, unscientific, unintelligent rubes simply because they are Christians truly know very little if anything about Christianity or science. Historical facts prove that many of the most brilliant scientific minds throughout history were indeed devout believers in God and the Bible.
If we accept this mantra from the left as having any validity, we have to believe that some of the greatest scientific minds of all time that sincerely believed in God and / or were devout Christians were really just ignorant, anti-science, anti-reason, anti-intellectual, “knuckle-dragging” morons as some in today’s society try to characterize Christians for their belief in God. I would side with these brilliant men any day of the week rather than the people that today would try to ridicule them for their well-considered, heartfelt beliefs in God (or people that share their theological beliefs today). Clearly, these men were uniquely informed by their superior scientific knowledge as compared to most of mankind, yet they saw no reason (“scientific” or otherwise) to discount or doubt the existence of God. In addition to his mastery of scientific theory, Einstein also apparently recognized human nature for what it truly is based on another of his quotes: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” I’m afraid Einstein’s view sums up the overall mentality of much of what is going on in today’s world quite succinctly, particularly in politics.
Editor’s Note: Glen James is a new author whose successful career in telecommunications engineering, marketing and management was cut short by a mysterious medical condition. Desperately looking for answers to address his own medical condition as well as life in general, he undertook years of in-depth medical research on how the human body builds and maintains itself while deeply studying the Bible in its entirety. This experience along with his education as a mechanical engineer with an MBA has provided him with a very unique perspective and worldview reflected in his writings.