UPDATE: Welcome, visitors from Free Canuckistan! Did you know that Binks is a web elf? It’s true!
Super-commenter ECM sent me this post from Pamela Geller’s blog, Atlas Shrugs. I thought that this was something wonderful because this is not an area of expertise for me, although it is something that I do get questions about, because atheists believe that Christianity is anti-science, and I need to know how to respond. The post discusses an essay by the blogger Fjordman.
And here’s how it starts:
Neither Roman, Egyptian, Chinese nor Indian civilization created the Scientific Revolution; they all stagnated after making initial gains in knowledge. This is because the natural human tendency is to want immediate results. If the research does not yield reasonably quick benefits, interest wanes. Yet you needed a critical mass of accumulated knowledge before the Scientific Revolution could be ignited. The Bible commands mankind to subdue the Earth, but in order to do so, men need to understand how the world works. In addition to this, the Bible portrays God as a Creator who made the universe work according to rational laws. Since God’s laws are immutable, it remains for us to discover them. Many of the scholars who created modern science, including Galileo and Newton, believed that they were honoring God by studying his Creation. They saw science as a religious duty.
Now, I’ve blogged on the vital importance of scientific progress to the Christian worldview. Let me be clear. We are in a period of economic abundance which exacerbates arrogance, hedonism and disdain for theology and morality. We absolutely must avail ourselves of every sign of creative and/or intelligent activity in the natural world. And that means science must progress.
The essay then cites an Oxford University Press textbook by James Evans as follows:
“…Kepler went on to become the most outstanding mathematical astronomer of his generation. His greatest gifts were inexhaustible patience, great calculating ability, and a relentless drive to understand. But his motives for astronomical research always involved a quest for higher knowledge. Everywhere, he sought for connections between apparently disparate realms of thought. He wanted to know God’s plan for the cosmos….”
Fjordman then continues:
While leading scholars during the Scientific Revolution such as Galileo, Kepler and Newton were indeed inspired by the mathematics of the ancient Greeks, their Christian world view made the connection between mathematics and the natural world even more powerful and explicit. Isaac Newton spent a great deal of time looking for hidden codes in the Bible, and undoubtedly believed that he was studying both of God’s Books: The Bible and the Book of Nature. Nothing similar happened in East Asia, or indeed in any other civilization.
But wouldn’t any old monotheism do in order to ground natural laws? Agnostic sociologist Rodney Stark says no:
…Rodney Stark agrees that Islam does not have “a conception of God appropriate to underwrite the rise of science…Allah is not presented as a lawful creator but is conceived of as an extremely active God who intrudes in the world as he deems it appropriate. This prompted the formation of a major theological bloc within Islam that condemns all efforts to formulate natural laws as blasphemy in that they deny Allah’s freedom to act.”
In contrast [with Islam], for Jews and Christians, God has created the universe according to a certain logic, which can be described. Kepler firmly believed the Solar System was created according to God’s plan, which he attempted to unlock. Sir Isaac Newton was passionately interested in religion and wrote extensively about it.
And it ends with this:
Does mathematics have an independent existence in nature or does the human mind invent it? The answer potentially has huge philosophical implications. The people who created modern science lived predominantly in Europe, an overwhelmingly Christian continent with an important Jewish minority. They apparently had an advantage when they assumed the universe to be designed by a rational Creator. I admit this is a challenging dilemma for those of us who are not religious: Why can nature apparently be described mathematically and rationally if it has not been designed by a rational Creator? As a non-religious man, this is the only religious argument that I find difficult to answer.
It’s an interesting essay. It made me think of this article by Walter Bradley in which he talks about the relationship between mathematics and nature as a pointer to an intelligent designer. For those interested in the relationship between Christianity and science, please take a look at the index of Christianity-related posts.