Monday, October 27, 2008

The Philosophical Foundations of Modern Science

It is ironic that modern science is so often seen as an enemy of faith. In the early days of modern science, many of the most influential scientists were motivated to pursue their interest in the sciences by theological considerations, and often by their own deep personal faith in God.

For example, I was recently reading a book, edited by Kathleen Stewart Howe, entitled Intersections. The book, which features articles by a number of different contributors, pertains to the relationship between photography and lithography in the early days of the 19th century, when both methods of producing images were extremely new.

In an article by Douglas R. Nickel, pertaining to William Henry Fox Talbot, it discusses the scientific method which enabled Talbot to essentially invent the form of photography which enabled people to create multiple prints from their original negatives:
The cornerstone of this approach was a belief in the interconnectedness of all matter: nature was understood as a book --- the book of God's universal and perfect design --- and the natural sciences were essentially reading tools, whose ultimate purpose was to detect and describe the divine organizational principles coded into all natural phenomena.
I find it particularly interesting that such truths are contained even in publications which are not in any way designed to promote religious belief.

While some would argue that Talbot was "merely" an inventor, he was hardly the only scientist to embrace theistic assumptions. Consider, for example, the following quote from an online article about Sir Isaac Newton:
A humble and reclusive figure, Isaac Newton was a Christian who studied the Bible daily and believed that God created everything, including the Bible. He believed that the Bible was true in every respect. Throughout his life he continually tested biblical truth against the physical truths of experimental and theoretical science and never observed a contradiction, according to his many biographers. Newton's writings reflected his belief that his scientific work was a method by which to reinforce belief in biblical truth.
It is sad that men such as Richard Dawkins waste their time trying to pit science against Christianity, and indeed, against all forms of religious belief. It is only by appreciating the nature of God that one can fully appreciate the universe which God has created.

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