I remember recently I was talking to someone and they asserted that Christianity and science simply don’t mix. Often I run into the idea that somehow Christianity hinders science (and a great many people seem to believe science can hinder Christianity as well!).This is not only wrong, it is historically and demonstrably wrong. Science as it stands today would not exist if it were not for Christianity.
Christian presuppositions allowed science to develop. Science was built on the presupposition that God was rational. Because the universe was created by this rational God, “Christian Philosophers linked rationality with the empirical, inductive method” (Schmidt, 218). These philosophers included such giants as William of Ockham (1285-1347) and Francis Bacon (1561-1626).
Lynn White states that “From the thirteenth century onward to the eighteenth, every major scientist, in effect, explained his motivations in religious terms” (Quoted in Schmidt, 222). But it wasn’t just the motivations that were explained in religious terms. Too often it is the case that people argue, fallaciously, that they were only Christian because of the time these scientists were born into. They were too afraid, it is alleged, to state their true beliefs. Not only is this utterly without evidence, but it could not be farther from the truth. Many of these scientists spent as much time on theology as they did on science. They credited God with their discoveries. They believed that God had set the universe up in such a way as to be explored by His people. These convictions permeated the writings of scientists.
Alvin Schmidt, in his monumental work, How Chistianity Changed the World, outlines how Christianity changed science on every level. Gregor Mendel, Leonardo Da Vinci, Andreas Vesalius, Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Galileo, Isaac Newton, Liebniz, Pascal, Ohm, Andre Ampere, Kelvin, Boyle, and Pasteur are just a few of the almost limitless examples. All of these were Christians. It is wholly fallacious to assert that science and Christianity do not mix.
Some might immediately attack Christianity when names like Galileo are brought up. The problem with this is twofold:
1) In the case of Galileo or Copernicus, Christians were actually supporting these astronomers, just Christians of a different variety (Lutherans backed Copernicus financially and offered encouragement and support, while Roman Catholics, still basing their assumptions on Aristotelian astronomy, persecuted him [Schmidt, 231])
2) These men were, themselves, Christian. It’s easy to argue that Christians were putting down science when one can point to cases of persecution, but these men were Christians!
Perhaps it is now, however, that Christianity is opposed to science. Perhaps in the modern day, Christians are not scientists. This is not true. Take the case of Francis Collins, for example. He is the scientist who was the head of the human genome project. He is also a devout Christian and the author of The Language of God, in which he argues that science has lead him even more into his belief in God.
It is simply not the case that Christianity and science do not mix. Christian presuppositions allowed for the development of the empirical method. Christian philosophers and scientists were the “giants” on whom people like Newton (and modern scientists) built their theories (Newton himself asserts this). Science is just another of the many areas Christianity has helped transform for the better. Science can rightly say, “Thanks, Christianity.”
Collins, Francis. The Language of God. 2007.
Schmidt, Alvin. How Christianity Changed the World. Zondervan. 2004.
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