Notes to accompany A History of Science and Christianity.
The ancient world: Chaos vs Cosmos
1. Thales (585 BC) Predicted a Solar Eclipse: Nature is predictable. Cosmos
and the human mind.
Melvin Calvin (atheist expert on the chemical origin of life): ?The fundamental conviction
that the universe is ordered [cosmos] is the first and strongest tenet [of scientists].
As I try to discern the origin of that conviction, I seem to find it in a
basic notion discovered 2000 or 3000 years ago, and enunciated first in the
Western world by the ancient Hebrews: namely that the universe is governed by
a single God, and is not the product of the whims of many gods, each governing
his own province, according to his own laws. This monotheistic view seems to be
the historical foundation of modern science.?
Christianity is the historical root of Science.
Answer from my final exam this past semester (please do not share it with my
SCI 110 students!)
5. T F Most of the scientists in the early history of science believed
the universe and its natural laws.
I THE RISE OF SCIENCE
2. Thomas Aquinas 1224-1274 Revived use of Greek logic and deductive reasoning.
3. Roger Bacon 1214-1292 Developed empiricism. Nature?s laws to be discovered through experiment.
The laws of nature will be describable using mathematical equations.
Bacon?s advice: To study Natural Philosophy, use;
?External experience, aided by instruments, and made precise by
4. William of Ockham 1285-1349. The first reformer? Rejected Vatican?s authority to determine
truth. An empiricist.
His philosophy of science:
?Nothing is assumed as evident unless it is known per se or is evident
by experience, or is proved by authority of scripture.?
?What can be accounted for by fewer assumptions in explained in
vain by more.?
5. Nikolai Copernicus 1473-1543 The first scientist. Revived heliocentrism (Anaxagorus)
Wrote: ?On the Revolution of Celestial Orbs?
His philosophy of Science: ?True assumptions must save the appearances.?
6. Galileo Galilei 1564-1642 The science vs. religion debate begins!
Published ?The Starry Messenger? 1610, Dialogue of the Two Chief World Systems, 1631
Letter to the Duchess Christina: ?The Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven,
not how the heavens go?
?In discussions of physical problems we ought to begin not from the authority
of scriptural passages, but from the sense-experiences and necessary demonstrations.?
?For the Holy Bible and the phenomena of nature proceed alike from the divine
Word, the former as the dictate of the Holy Spirit and the latter as the observant
executor of God?s commands.? (the debate over this view rages even today)
7. Francis Bacon (1561-1626) Apostle of Empiricism. Science to improve the human condition.
Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.
?Knowledge ought to bear fruit in work, that science ought to be applicable
to industry, that men ought to organize themselves as a sacred duty to improve
and transform the conditions of life.?
8. Robert Boyle (1627-1691) Wrote ?The Excellence of Theology or The Preeminence
of the Study of Divinity Above That of Natural Philosophy?
Theories are to be thought of as ?The best we have, but capable of improvement.? Modern
science has arrived.
Scientific discoveries are tentative. Science does not discover ?THE TRUTH? but only things
that are true.
9. The rise of deism: Isaac Newton (1642-1727), Joseph Priestley (1733-1810)
Newton: ?Whence is it that nature does nothing in vain; and whence arises all
that order and beauty which we see in the world?? 1687 Published ?Principia?
The next logical step:
II THE RISE OF THE NEW SKEPTICISM. (The ?Enlightenment?)
10. Voltaire (1694-1778)
Established religion is the enemy. Pure reason is the way to discover ?THE TRUTH?
The beginning of radical criticism. Christianity is not supportable by evidence, logic
and reason, and is to be rejected. Rejected Christianity on historical grounds.
11. David Hume (1711-1776)
"Hume is our Politics, Hume is our Trade, Hume is our Philosophy, Hume is our
Religion." This statement by 19th century British idealist philosopher James
Hutchison Stirling reflects a unique position that David Hume holds in intellectual
In 1751 Hume published his Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, which recasts
in a very different form parts of Book III of his Treatise. Although this work
does not attack religion directly, it does so indirectly by establishing a system
of morality on utility and human sentiments alone, and without appeal to divine
?Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof? (applied this to the resurrection
12. LaPlace (1749-1827) Materialistic Determinism. (a major philosophy today)
Napolean (critiqueing his M?chanique c?leste) ?Why does the book not mention God??
LaPlace: I have no need of that hypothesis.?
Believed we could use science/mathematics to determine morality and social customs.
13. James Hutton (1726-1797), ?Theory of Earth? and Charles Lyell (1797-1875),
Principles of Geology.
How old is the earth? Hutton: No vestige of a beginning, no concept of an end.?
Lyell: ?The present is the key to the past.?
Both has significant religious reservations. Nevertheless, by 1850 most accepted ?old earth.?
14. Charles Darwin. (1809-1882)
Voyage on the HMS Beagle: 14 species of finch.
?On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation
of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" (1859)
?The Descent of Man.? (1871)
Did Darwin?repent? of atheism? No!
This one book did more to create a religious backlash than any other.
III The ?Christian? Reaction: Creationism.
12. William Paley (1743-1805) The Teleological Argument. The argument from design. The blin
d watchmaker example.
From 1800-1900 the response of the Christian communities to Uniformitarianism
and even to evolution was fairly muted.
13. The Scopes ?Monkey Trial? (1925)Clarence Darrow vs William Jennings Bryant.
A reaction to the eugenic movement?
Does evolution = atheism?
14. Rise of the creationist movement (7th Day Adventist Movement). 1940?s,50?s.
Reference: ?The Creationists? Ronald Numbers (Univ. Calif. Press, 1993).
15. Institute for Creation Research. ?The Genesis Flood? (1961) Henry Morris.
Very bad science!! Young earth creationism, as taught by these groups if pseudoscience.
16. Intelligent Design Movement 1990?s. The teleological argument revisited.
But remember, Intelligent design may be true, but it is not science,
because it cannot be proven or even supported by any reproducible experiment. What is
worse it is irrefutable. ID is an attempt to make the anthropic principle ?scientific.? As such, I
predict it will fail.
IV A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
1. Remember Galileo vs. the Roman Curia.
Beware of pitting empirical evidence of science against a particular interpretation
of the Bible.
Acts 26:25 Paul: ?What I am saying is true and reasonable?
Example: Augustine and Manichaeism. ?I was told to believe in these views of Manes; but
they did not correspond with what had been established by mathematics and my
own eyesight; in fact they were widely divergent.?
i.e. inspired writings should agree with what we can observe.
Manichaeism?s greatest teacher Faustus could not answer his questions about
Augustine left Manichaeism and became a Christian.
2. Science and religion are incommensurate ways of knowing.
In other words, they ask (mostly) different questions and seek to answer them
by different means. Science seeks consistency. Religion seeks truth.
3. Science and Christianity, correctly understood, kept within their proper
spheres of study do not contradict.
4. Do not overreact. 1 Peter 3:15,16 Always be prepared to give an answer… with gentleness
and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who see your good behavior
in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
5. Do not be defensive. 1 Peter 2:23?When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate?
Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.?
Albert Einstein and deism.
?Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.?
What should our response be?