Friday, February 9, 2007

Motivation for Science

In two previous blogs ("The Antikythera Device" and "Foundations for Science"), I shared that modern science uniquely arose within a Christian worldview and that it is biblical presuppositions that provide the rational foundation for engaging in science. I thought it would be fun today to share--in their own words--how some of the founding fathers of science saw their Christian faith as providing the motivation for scientific endeavor.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626), English statesman and philosopher, is generally credited as being the first promoter of applying to the study of the world an inductive approach (observation, experimentation, hypothesis testing; often referred to as the Baconian or "scientific" method). Bacon wrote,
Let no one think or maintain that a person can search too far or be too well studied in either the book of God’s word or the book of God’s works.
Robert Boyle (1627-1691), the father of modern chemsistry, wrote,
God would not have made the universe as it is unless He intended for us to understand it.
This sentiment, incidentally, echoes through a wonderful recent book by astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher Jay Richards called The Privileged Planet.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), German mathematician, physicist, and astronomer, when asked why he engaged in scientific research, responded, obtain a sample test of the delight of the Divine Creator in His work and to partake of His joy.
Isaac Newton (1643-1727), the author of classical physics theory, belived that,
This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centers of other like systems, these, being formed by the likewise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One.
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), the brilliant French mathematician, inventor, physicist, and philosopher, was the first to discuss the limits of science. He recognized that while a scientific theory could be falsified, it could never be ultimately verified. He also acknowledged that while science is powerful toward understanding and improving aspects of the world in which we live, it is ultimately unable to bring men true joy and peace. Regarding a particular line of scientific inquiry in which he was involved, Pascal wrote,
If this matter be deemed worthy of further consideration, we shall attempt to push it to whatever point God shall give us strength to carry it.
This centuries-old motivation for science puts the lie to the modern naturalist's straw-man argument that appealing to a Creator/Intelligent Designer amounts to a science-stopper. For these, and many of the other founders of science, one of the common reasons for pursuing research was a desire to better understand how the universe was created and how it works, to "think God's thoughts after Him."

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