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Feb 03, 2008


Julian Hardy

"For thinkers like Newton and Pascal, ignoring spirituality may have led to a no-go process of thinking: no God, no reason, no rationality, no rules, nothing to discover."

Hmmmm ... a lack of (religious) spirituality doesn't seem to have been much of an impediment to such thinkers as Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Hawking ...

Pete Yodis

1. God exists.
2. Therefore there are reasons for how the world works.
3. Therefore there are rational bases for all activity, biological and otherwise.
4. Therefore there are rules that underpin the rationality.
5. Therefore I can discover these rules.

These points sound similar to what Francis Schaeffer wrote about in "How should we then live" concerning the rise of modern science. A good read...


Pete Yodis

"Hmmmm ... a lack of (religious) spirituality doesn't seem to have been much of an impediment to such thinkers as Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Hawking ..."

Yes, but these men came after the rise of modern science and got the benefits of the christian world view that perhaps fostered the rise of modern science. Whether they liked it or not, these men had been affected and were operating in a world that was structured on the benefits of what drove Newtown and Pascal. Some might falsely argue that modern science came about because of a fight against the idea of God and maybe religion - when in fact men like Newtown, Pascal, and many others who were both deeply religious (I hate that word) and scientifically brilliant were making discoveries because their belief system caused them to even think that the world is discoverable in logical rules. Again, I highly recommend Francis Schaeffer's book "How Should We Then Live." It is thought provoking even if you don't agree with this conclusions. (which I do). Schaeffer will separate the scientific movement into 2 parts - what he calls "modern science" (fostered by Pascal, Newtown, etc..) and what he calls "modern modern science" (your examples of Einstein, Sagan, and others might fall into this category).


The idea that his involvement with the Catholic church encouraged Newton to discover the laws of physics is a bit self-contradictory. The Catholic church encouraged faith over rationality. Pinning God down with rules other than what is found in the Bible landed Galileo and others in hot water. I don't think you can ascribe his curiosity to the church in that way. Greek logic really didn't re-enter christianity until the reformation. If you listen to the difference between protestant sermons and catholic homilies, this difference is still aparent. Protestants are trying to argue with you, but catholics are simply telling you what to believe.

Also, I believe it is wrong to say that Einstein was not interested in God. He was of course Jewish, but not practicing, although the concept of God directly influenced his discoveries. When he was trying to formulate basic laws, he was said to have asked himself "If I were God, how would I have arranged things". Many of his famous quotes also talked about God, such as "God does not play dice". He definitely believed in God, although not a personal God who intervenes in everyday life. Einstein's God was essentially the collection of the laws that govern the universe.

Pete Yodis

Matt, don't quite understand the connection with Newton and the Catholic Church. Newton would be "classified" as a protestant. Don't think anyone was suggesting an involvment with the Catholic Church is what lead him to believe that things are discoverable and logically arranged - unless I missed something - did I? As far as faith and rationalism - to me they go and hand in hand and I am pretty sure Newtown would agree. As far as Galileo and what got him into hot water - I think we can learn that when organizations incorrectly assert things that are not true and then try to back them up with scriptural references that don't support what they are saying - its a bad thing. Galileo got into hot water because the Catholic church was holding onto a belief that was not true and not biblically based. I think Newton might have agreed with that assessment given his interest in scripture and what it is says...


It's a very interesting question why modern science started in Christian (plus Greek & Jewish roots) Western Europe, not in China, India or other such places.

The Catholic church has always stressed that faith and reason should be compatible (think Thomas Aquinas, John Paul II's Fides et Ratio) . On the flip side, scientists and scientific progress are much less rational than is taught in high school. The Galileo case is much more complex than "Galileo was right" - a good starting point is here (and I should note that Galileo is wrong - first, because he pushed Copernicanism (circular orbits) which was wrong (orbits are elliptical), and second, with Einstein & General Relativity, there are no absolute reference frames)

If you want a deeper look at faith, physics, and the start of science, Stanley Jaki's books are a good starting point.

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