SCIENCE and FAITH
People assume wrongly that Science is against Faith and Faith is against scientific reason. The following extract from Otto Helweg’s article surprisingly shows that the Christian world view is actually a foundation for scientific inquiry.
THE ORIGIN OF MODERN SCIENCE
It surprises many to discover that modern science is basically a product of a Christian world view. The well known Cambridge historian, Herbert Butterfield in his book, The Origins of Modern Science, convincingly argues that what happened in the 16th century and following was not so much a result of new data, but of changed minds. While other cultures have given great discoveries to the human race, such as the introduction of zero from the Hindus and algebra from the Muslims, the Christian West had the unique set of assumptions required by science.
Three main assumptions of modern science are:
•the universe (world) is orderly; •this orderly universe can be known; and •there is a motive to discover the order.
The Greek and Roman cultures had none of these assumptions. The gods were fickle and unpredictable; who could know their intentions? Maths and philosophy were ends in themselves and not means to discover a rational universe. The traditional Hindu culture saw the universe as cyclical, again with the gods being capricious. Who could know the mind of Kali or Shiva? There was no incentive to show that they ruled over an orderly system. Islam would adapt the Judeo-Christian concept of a creator God and, therefore, conceive of an orderly universe, but Allah is so transcendent that he could not be known in the Christian sense, nor could his universe. There was, then, little incentive to argue for the order of his universe. Classical atheism must hold to strict metaphysical naturalism in which everything occurs by chance or random events. To many, such a world view takes more "faith" than belief in a Creator. At any rate, such a view in the 16th Century would hardly bespeak an orderly universe. If the world is illogical, how can one understand it? If all is a result of chance, what incentive would there be to discover order? Of course, we know that understanding science and technology greatly improves our quality of life, but this is insight after the fact and really borrows from the presuppositions of a Christian culture.
Only a Christian world view seems to fit the three criteria. The created universe is logical as can be seen from numerous Biblical references such as Jeremiah 31:35, "...the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night..." This universe can be known because the Creator can be known as Paul in Romans 1:19-20 declares, "For what can be known about God is plain ...his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." Finally, the incentive exists in the direct command in Genesis where God says to "...fill the earth and subdue it..." Thus mankind is to be not only a steward but to master God’s creation.
What surprises some is that many of the founders of modern science were not only Christians, but they were scientists in order to demonstrate that we lived in an orderly universe. They believed that such a demonstration would be powerful evidence that such a universe was created by an orderly God who could be known.For example Copernicus (1463-1543), one of the first to question Aristotlean cosmology and the geo-centric solar system, was a devout Christian and tolerant toward the reformation. Bacon (1561-1626), another outspoken Christian, formulated the "scientific method" and brought a more quantitative approach to science.
The conflict between the Roman Catholic Church and Galileo (1564-1642) has been used to support the anti-scientific bias of Christianity towards science, but for one who knows the history (see Hummel’s book, The Galileo Connection), Galileo had many high ranking Catholics on his side, among whom was Cardinal Baronius who wrote "[The Bible teaches] how one goes to Heaven, not how the heavens go." Galileo, no paragon of tact, delighted in alienating his fellow professors, who were Aristotelians and believed in a geo-centric solar system. It was mainly they who caused the Pope to condemn Galileo’s teachings, but Galileo’s other Catholic supporters helped broker the final plea bargain. Unfortunately, professors have a history of irrational actions which continues to the present. Kepler (1571-1630) upon whose discoveries our space program rests, wanted to be a minister of the Gospel, but was persuaded to pursue his talents in maths and astronomy. In his writings, he frequently quotes psalms and explicitly relates the order of his discoveries to God’s rational creation. Pascal (1625-1662) is certainly one of the greatest minds in this line of founders. He is credited with being the father of probability theory, hydrostatics, mass transit, modern French prose, computers, and Christian Apologetics. His Pensees (notes defending the Christian faith) is a classic work.
Newton (1642-1662) considered his theological writings more important than this scientific. Harvey (1578-1657), Boyle (1627-1691), Faraday (1791-1867), and Maxwell (1831-1879) to name a few, were all devout Christians. Boyle, the first to show the difference between compounds and elements, was a lay preacher. Faraday, the discoverer of electro-magnetic induction, once only read from the Bible for a sermon saying his words could add nothing to God’s. Maxwell, who discovered magnetic flux, wrote:
Lord, it belongs not to my care To love and serve Thee is my share and that Thy guard must give.
It is an interesting historical question as to why, science, conceived in a Christian culture by many Christians, was turned against Christianity and why Christians allowed this to happen. I give the Huxleys, starting with Thomas (1825-1895), considerable credit along with others who saw science, and especially biology, as answers to questions that had previously been attributed directly to God. Christians, instead of realising that their own creation was being used against them, "threw the baby out with the bath water" and considered science the problem rather than the misuse of science. There has (and continues to be) a confusion between primary causes and secondary causes. The study of natural science deals with secondary causes while theology studies primary causes. For example, we may explain rain by saying that moisture in the air is cooled below the dew point causing water molecules to condense around dust particles thereby generating precipitation. This is a secondary cause. The primary cause is simply, "God made it rain." In other words, God, who created the physical system, is the cause behind the observable cause.
Some people attempt to explain unknown causes in nature by God’s direct intervention. This has been called, "the God of the gaps." While God could certainly intervene in the natural process (called a miracle), to make God responsible for common natural phenomena means that as each scientific discovery finds a natural explanation of what was previously attributed to God, the direct intervention of God becomes unnecessary. That is, as the gaps in knowledge become smaller, the God of these gaps becomes correspondingly smaller. People with this mentality see science as a threat to their faith. Obviously, were such a view held by the founders of modern science, there would have been no incentive to find answers to the natural phenomena. Understanding these natural phenomena as secondary causes, places God above them where increased ability to explain how they occur not only does not "decrease" God, but adds wonder to His creation.
WHAT ARE THE REALMS OF SCIENCE AND THEOLOGY?
Having discussed the historical rise of modern science and some of the conflicts, the present day battles can be solved by understanding the limits of both science and theology. They do not conflict, they complement each other.
Those who see theology and science as completely unconnected miss the point. Historically, this intersection of nature has lead to what is called the "Teleological Argument," that is, the order of the universe points to an orderly creator, the same point made by many of the founders of modern science. Scientists may study this mechanistic universe and be impressed by it, but in order to understand anything about the Creator, they have to go outside of the four dimensional time-space continuum which limits their studies. Theologians may study the Creator who made this order, but they are bound by His revelations (the Bible) and cannot extrapolate these to make scientific pronouncements.
REALMS OF SCIENCE AND THEOLOGY
The order of the universe is all the more amazing when we understand that order contains information and, according to the more general Second Law of Thermodynamics, nature destroys order (information). That is, just as water runs downhill, the energy in the universe is "running down" and, baring some intervention, the sun and all the stars will burn out and all that will be left is low level radiation.
Robert Gange, in his book, Origins and Destiny, points out that the amount of information in the simplest bacterium is 7 million bits (not the computer bit, but information bits). Think of this number as an exponent. The question then becomes, if the information (order) in the universe is being destroyed, where did the original information come from? Moreover, the universe seems to have been designed to support life. The laws of the universe are so finely tuned to this end, that some scientists have called this order "The Anthropic Principle." For example, if the difference in expansion rate of the universe were different by 10-14 [1.0E-14], the universe would either collapse or no stars could form. It seems that more theoretical physicists than biologists are impressed with this order. The book by physicist Paul Davies’, The Mind of God give compelling evidence for a Creator.
Two quotations on the limits of science are instructive.
"Science proves nothing absolutely. On the most vital questions, it does not even produce evidence."
Vannevar Bush, past Chairman of the Board of MIT
"It has become increasingly evident our century that science is uncertain in its very nature.... Indeed one thing of which scientists can be quite certain is that they will not achieve a complete solution of any worthwhile problem."
George Gaylord Simpson, Professor of Vertebrate Paleontology, Harvard
Two quotations on the limits of theology comes from an unlikely source. It was St. Augustine, who wrote in the 5th Century:
"We must be on guard against giving interpretations of Scripture that are far-fetched or opposed to science, and so exposing the Word of God to ridicule of unbelievers."
He also wrote:
"The Spirit of God who spoke through them [authors of the Bible] did not choose to teach about the heavens to men, as it was of no use for salvation."
Notice that it was scientists who understood the limitations of their field and it was a theologian who understood the limits of theology. The final word is for both scientists and theologians to understand and use the "two book" model that goes back at least to Cardinal Baronius of Galileo’s time which says that the Bible reveals God’s words while nature reveals God’s works. In other words: The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go. Science and theology are meant to be complements, not combatants. Science gives theology perspective while theology gives science meaning. It is time for a truce.
Source acknowledged: Extracted from http://www.leaderu.com/science/helweg.html by Otto Helweg