Archive for June, 2007

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (12/20)

June 30, 2007

The following is a continuing list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked. The first page in this list is here.

1629-1695: Christiaan Huygens: A notable physicist, astronomer, and mathematician, Huygens made an extraordinary number of significant contributions to a range of fields. In mathematics he contributed to the development of modern calculus and wrote the first work on probability theory (1657).

In physics he correctly argued that light exists in the form of a wave (later studies showed that it exists as a wave and particle), formulated a law which Newton later developed as the second law of motion, and made discoveries regarding the motion of pendulums (published as ‘Horologium Oscillatorium’, 1673), which led to his revolutionary new designs in time keeping devices, specifically the pendulum clock (which he patented in 1657), the balance spring clock (though he was narrowly preceded in this invention by the Englishman Robert Hooke), and the pocket watch (which he patented in 1675). His improvements in time keeping contributed significantly to naval navigation, a field in which accurate time keeping was essential.

In astronomy Huygens invented a new telescope design (used in today’s modern telescopes), discovered Saturn’s rings (which he correctly identified as consisting of rocks), as well as Saturn’s moon Titan, examined the Orion Nebula (his drawings of which were the first ever made), accurately identifying it as made up of different star groups. He believed the universe must be full of life, and speculated that there existed earth-like conditions and inhabitants on other planets (‘Cosmotheoros: The celestial worlds discover’d: or, conjectures concerning the inhabitants, plants and productions of the worlds in the planets’, 1698).

Article here.

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Is Christianity At War With Science? (11/20

June 29, 2007

The following is a continuing list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked. The first page in this list is here.

1577-1674: Jan Baptist van Helmont: Applied the scientific method to his investigations of the natural world. He made discoveries in the physics of gas, and advances in the application of chemistry to the preparation of medicine

1618-1663: Francesco Maria Grimaldi: Applied the scientific method to his investigations of the natural world. He made major advances in physics, optics and light, discovered the principles of free fall acceleration, discovered the refraction of light, observed geological features on the Moon and drew an accurate map of its surface. His studies enabled later scientists to prove light is a wave, and his research on light was used by Sir Isaac Newton in his own study.

1564–1642: Galileo Galilei: One of the most famous astronomers and astrophysicists in history, Galileo’s contributions to science have resulted in him being called the ‘father of astronomy’ and the ‘father of modern physics’. Albert Einstein even called him the ‘father of modern science’. He rejected the concept that faith should be based simply on authority, and is recognised for having made the scientific method of experimentation the basis of his studies.

Galileo made improvements to the telescope and compass, invented a thermometer, was the first to use a telescope as a compound microscope, proved a number of Aristotle’s scientific theories to be wrong (notably the idea that the sun moves around the earth), and contributed significantly to physics (mainly in the areas of motion, such as inertia and acceleration).

Like many Christians before him, Galileo believed firmly that the ‘two books’ of God (the Scriptures and the creation), were both in harmony, and that any apparent contradiction between the two was the result of misinterpretation by human error.

Article here.

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (10/20)

June 27, 2007

The following is a continuing list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked. The first page in this list is here.

1561-1626: Francis Bacon: He is credited with developing the earlier forms of the scientific method into a complete system of investigation (still used today), and made important contributions to astronomy.

Bacon believed strongly that there was sufficient evidence in the natural world to prove the existence of God, and that miracles were unnecessary for the purpose:

‘I had rather believe all the fables in the Legend, and the Talmud, and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind. And therefore, God never wrought miracle, to convince atheism, because his ordinary works convince it.

It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.’

Francis Bacon, ‘Of Atheism’, Essay XVI, in ‘Essays Of Francis Bacon’, 1625

Bacon also believed that God reveals Himself through ‘two books’, one being the Scriptures and one being the natural creation. Bacon believed firmly that the two complimented each other, and would never be in contradiction.

Article here.

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (9/20)

June 24, 2007

The following is a continuing list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked. The first page in this list is here.

1546-1595: Thomas Digges: An astronomer and ward of John Dee (mentioned below), Thomas Digges invented the theodlite (a surveying instrument for measuring vertical and horizontal angels which is still used today). Arguably more important even than this invention was his popularization of the Copernican theory of astronomy, which he published in English as an appendix of a new edition of his father’s almanac, under the title ‘A Perfit Description of the Caelestiall Orbes according to the most aunciente doctrine of the Pythagoreans, latelye revived by Copernicus and by Geometricall Demonstrations approved’.

Consisting of chapters translated from Copernicus’ groundbreaking work ‘De revolutionibus orbium coelestium’ (on which Digges commented extensively), this appendix was the first time that Copernican theory had been published in English, and made the model immediately accessible to a far wider audience than ever before. The result was that the Copernican theory (previously not well known), became popularized and better known to the English scientific establishment.

Another important contribution made by Digges was in his accompanying illustration of Copernicus’ work, in which he depicted an infinite series of stars rather than the fixed number usually found in standard astronomical works.

1548-1600: Giordano Bruno: Ordained a Dominican priest (though he later left the order), Bruno demonstrated a remarkable capacity for understanding and training human memory. Bruno’s personal system of mnemonics enabled him to perform prodigious feats of memorization and recall, which were so remarkable that they were attributed by some to magical powers.

Bruno was also important for promoting the theories of Copernicus, which were still unpopular. He believed that the planets moved under their own impetus (a power imparted to them at the time of their creation), that the entire universe was made of the same basic elements (a return to the conclusions of John Philoponus almost 1,000 years earlier), meaning that the planets and stars were not made of two distinct kinds of material (and thus that the stars must obey the same physical laws as the planets and everything on earth), and that space and time were unlimited. He believed that the sun was simply one star among countless stars, and that the earth consisted of a part of one solar system out of many such solar systems scattered throughout the universe.

Article here.

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (8/20)

June 22, 2007

The following is a continuing list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked. The first page in this list is here.

1401-1464: Nicholas of Cusa: Applied the scientific method to his investigations of the natural world. He made important contributions to mathematics, astrophysics, and optics. In the field of astrophysics he made the significant discovery that the earth is not a perfect sphere that it orbits the sun, and that stars are distant suns of other solar systems. In the field of optics, he corrected short sightedness with convex glass lenses, a technology still used in today’s glasses and contact lenses.

He proposed revolutionary ideas in astronomy, such as that the universe (instead of being a finite sphere with a definite centre, as Aristotle had taught), was a limitless expanse filled with countless stars, without a definite centre, that the earth was not the centre of the universe, and that the stars themselves rotated (rather than being fixed to a larger spherical body which carried them as it rotated, the model held by Ptolemy). He further suggested that the movements of the stars and planets were not perfect circles.

1452-1519: Leonardo Da Vinci: Applied the scientific method to his investigations of the natural world. He made a massive number of discoveries in optics, physics, astronomy, light, anatomy, engineering, aerodynamics, physiognomy, and designed the first robot. He preceded Sir Isaac Newton in a number of discoveries.

1488-1534: Otto Brunfels: Called the ‘father of botany’ by Carolus Linnaeus (the famous 18th century botanist who contributed to modern botany, taxonomy, zoology and ecology), he contributed significantly to botanical science because of his practice of relying on personal experience and discovery, rather than simply repeating the opinions of previous men who were held to be ‘authorities’ on the subject.

His work on the medicinal properties of plants was based on scientific principles, and made contributions which helped discredit the superstitious herbalism of earlier ages, laying the foundation of modern pharmacology.

Article here.

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (7/20)

June 21, 2007

The following is a continuing list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked. The first page in this list is here.

1193-1280: Albertus Magnus: Recognized as one of very few genuine polymaths in recorded human history. He applied the scientific method to his investigations of the natural world, and taught that
science is a useful tool of the Christian. He made contributions to chemistry, and encouraged the study of science and the natural world.

1219-1294: Roger Bacon: Applied the scientific method to his investigations of the natural world, and encouraged Christians to study science. He made important discoveries in optics, mathematics and
physics, as well as contributions to astronomy and chemistry.

1265-1308: John Duns Scotus: Applied the scientific method to his investigations of the natural world, and believed that God can be known through observation of the universe. He wrote extensively on
metaphysics, ethics, theology, and moral psychology.

1250-1310: Dietrich von Frieberg (also known as Theodoric of Freiberg): His study of light led him to a theory which explained accurately the colours in the rainbow, a theory which was not proven until centuries later by Newton’s experiments with the prism.

1280-1347: William of Ockham: Applied the scientific method to his investigations of the natural world. Occham contributed to the relationship of mathematics to science, and established a principle (now called ‘Ockham’s Razor’), which is considered fundamental to the scientific method of investigation.

1300s: John Dumbleton: He made important contributions to physics and mathematics, and helped discover ‘The Law Of Falling Bodies’ 200 years before Galileo.

1300s: Richard Swyneshead: Nicknamed ‘The Calculator’ for his great skill in mathematics (which was called ‘almost superhuman’ 400 years later by Leibnitz, himself one of the greatest mathematicians who ever lived), he made important contributions to physics and mathematics, especially in the field of motion.

Article here.

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (6/20)

June 20, 2007

The following is a continuing list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked. The first page in this list is here.

10th century: Gerbert of Aurillac: Contributed to mathematics, including creating his own abacus and introducing new mathematical methods to the European mathematical tradition. He also contributed to geography by making both celestial and terrestrial globes, and contributed to time keeping and mechanics by making a mechanical clock.

1137: Adelard of Bath: Applied the scientific method to his investigations of the natural world. He was convinced that true faith should derive from evidence, not simply authority such as the authority of the church). Adelard rejected the concept of ‘blind faith’, taught that science is a useful tool of the Christian, and believed that scientific knowledge provides a witness to God and His creation. His scientific contributions include the theory of the conservation of matter (proved centuries later to be a law), an understanding of the centre of gravity, and a basic theory of how gravitational pull explains the position of the earth in space in relation to the other planets.

‘Those who are now called authorities reached that position first by exercise of their reason

Wherefore, if you want to hear anything more from me, give and take reason…’

Adelard of Bath, ‘Natural Questions’, 1116

Adelard believed that God had ordained natural laws which the universe followed, rejecting the popular idea that unexplained phenomena were necessarily the work of God, and did not believe that God regularly intervened to disrupt the natural order.

Article here.

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (5/20

June 18, 2007

The following is a continuing list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked. The first page in this list is here.

7th century: Sisebute of Hispania: Contributed a remarkably accurate explanation of how and why lunar eclipses occur. He argued that the moon had no light of its own but only reflected light from the sun, and that the earth sometimes obstructed that light when it was between the sun and the moon. In an age when such events were clouded in superstition, and attributed to supernatural causes, Sisebute (a Christian and firm defender of the Catholic faith), countered the myths of the day with a sound, rational, and scientific explanation.

673-735: Bede of Jarrow: A monk in Northumberland (England), also known as Beda or ‘The Venerable Bede’. A famous medieval historian, whose writings are one of the most important primary sources for his era. Bede discovered that the earth’s spherical shape affects the length of daylight in different parts of the world, observed a relationship between the moon and the tides, gave a scientific explanation of the changing appearance of the moon throughout the seasons, and improved the accuracy of the calendar.

‘What is more pitiable than to say that a thing is, because God is able to do it, and not to show any reason why it is so, nor any purpose for which it is so; just as if God did everything that he is able to do! You talk like one who says that God is able to make a calf out of a log.

But did he ever do it? Either, then, show a reason why a thing is so, or a purpose wherefore it is so, or else cease to declare it so.’

Bede, ‘Elementa Philosophiae’, 8th century

Article here.

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (4/20)

June 15, 2007

The following is a list of Christians down through the centuries who, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked.

190 AD: Tertullian: He believed that reason is a gift from God by which we understand the world around us, and that God’s character is discernable from the blessings of nature He gives to all men, good and evil.

Reason, in fact, is a thing of God, inasmuch as there is nothing which God the Maker of all has not provided, disposed, ordained by reason – nothing which He has not willed should be handled and understood by reason.

All, therefore, who are ignorant of God, must necessarily be ignorant also of a thing which is His, because no treasure house at all is accessible to strangers. And thus, voyaging all the universal course of life without the rudder of reason, they know not how to shun the hurricane which is impending over the world.’

Tertullian, ‘On Repentance’, chapter 1, sections 2-3, 190 AD

‘There has been given to us as a model in the practice of patience no [merely] human product fashioned of the dullness of Cynic indifference, but the divine ordinance of a life-giving and heavenly way of life which points out as an exemplar of patience God Himself.

Long has He been scattering the brilliance of this light [of the sun] upon the just and unjust alike and has allowed the deserving as well as the undeserving to enjoy the benefits of the seasons, the services of the elements, and the gifts of all creation.’

Tertullian, ‘Letter On Patience’, chapter 2, 190 AD

Article here.

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Article: Is Christianity At War With Science? (3/20)

June 13, 2007

It cannot be denied that the greatest number advances in scientific knowledge and achievement have taken place in Western Europe, during the Christian era. No other place on earth, and no other era in recorded human history, has achieved anything comparable.

If Christianity has genuinely been a repressive and persecuting enemy of science, retarding progress and knowledge, then we would expect to see some evidence of this. In fact, we would expect to see a very great deal of evidence for this, given that Christianity has been the dominant religious influence in Western Europe for over 1,500 years.

The historical evidence, however, is the exact opposite of what we expect:

‘The Greek concept of God caused a deep confusion between cosmology and theology and was a dead-end to science, as we know it in our time.

The Judeo-Christian God provides the ground upon which a scientific culture can be pursued. This is a fact not well enough appreciated in our time.’

John McKenna, article ‘John Philoponus, Sixth Century Alexandrian Grammarian, Christian Theologian and Scientific Philosopher’, Quodlibet Journal, Volume 5, Number 1, January 2003

Over the following pages, a large body of evidence will be presented demonstrating that Christians down through the centuries, far from being constantly at war with science (commonly called ‘natural philosophy’ in previous times), took an active interest in seeking to understand how the universe worked.

Article here.

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