Here’s the second part of a series highlighting the founding fathers of modern science and the roles they played. Although forgotten today, faith and science went hand-in-hand. Science was founded on the belief that God created a consistent universe; there were laws that could be observed, described and understood. To that end, this post will focus on Galileo Galilei, Robert Boyle and Michael Faraday, Bible believing Christians who accepted creation.
1: Galileo Galilei (1564- 1642) is one of the most well-known scientists in history. He’s famously known for a controversy often referred to as the “Galileo Affair”, which saw him put on trial, fighting against both scientists and the Vatican. Despite the opposition, his science and faith worked together, and he argued from the biblical text.
Among his accomplishments, Galileo was the first to use the telescope for astronomical purposes. This allowed him to see sunspots and many more stars than were believed to exist. He gathered further evidence to support the heliocentric model proposed by Copernicus when he observed Venus passing through certain phases, which would only be possible if the planet were orbiting the sun. He also saw moons orbiting Jupiter, demonstrating that a moving body, such as a planet or sun, could travel without leaving their satellites behind, which was a concern of the Ptolemaic model.
Galileo believed his science was consistent with Scripture, and he wrote a letter to the Grand Duchess Christina defending his beliefs, which had long been widely accepted during Copernicus’ day. As such he affirmed the Bible is divine, holy, authoritative, and derived from the Holy Ghost. He referred to God as a great, glorious, almighty creator, worthy of thanks. In the letter he argued that, not only were his observations consistent with Scripture, but his opponents failed to demonstrate otherwise.
He applauded church fathers, like St. Augustine, who took great pains refuting physical matters contrary to the Bible. Galileo welcomed sincere criticism of his work and insisted, if his ideas really did contradict Scripture, then he agreed his work should be declared “undoubtedly false”.
2: Next is the chemist and physicist Robert Boyle (1627-1691), who was born in Ireland and known as ‘the son of the Earle of Court, and the father of Chemistry’. A man who loved knowledge, Boyle was one of the pioneers of the scientific method. He discovered the relationship between gas pressure and volume, which states that the pressure of a given quantity of gas varies inversely with its volume at constant temperature. He’s also one of the founders of the Royal Society of London, established to increase scientific knowledge.
To him, studying nature was done for the glory of God and to benefit man. He’s one of many scientists who sought to “think God’s thoughts after Him”, and he freely mixed science and the Bible. He was a six-day creationist and believed in Noah’s flood, and, in addition to his scientific writings, he wrote on many Biblical subjects.
He believed Scripture’s revelation made his scientific discoveries all the more glorious, and considered that illiterate Christians armed with biblical knowledge of God’s revelation understood the world better than the wisest scientists who didn’t. He believed the earth was as young as “five thousand and some odd centuries of years”, and rejected the idea of treating Genesis as allegory; instead, it should be accepted as literal history. Although Darwinian evolution wasn’t a thing then, he spoke against it, stating, “the soul of man had not such an origination as those of other animals, but was God’s own immediate workmanship”. The rainbow existed “to preach (God’s) goodness to all nations, and fortify the faith of mankind against the fear of a second deluge.”
Not only was Boyle a young earth creationist, but he was one of the earliest intelligent design proponents, explaining that, in the same way the words on a page don’t come about without a writer, author or intelligent agent, so there are things matter could not accomplish on its own accord, such as bringing everything into existence.
3: We’ll conclude Part 2 with Michael Faraday. Born in Sussex, England (1791- 1867), Faraday was a chemist and physicist. Among his achievements includes the discovery of benzene, improving steel alloys, liquifying chlorine, and, among other things, designing a new type of glass for telescope lenses. His work laid the foundation for electric motor technology. But perhaps his greatest invention was the transformer, which is still in use today. He discovered the laws governing electrochemistry, and had an electrical unit named after him- the farad, which is a unit of electrical capacitance. He was accepted into the Royal Society in 1821 and worked at the Royal Institute.
Physicist Ernest Rutherford stated, “When we consider the magnitude and extent of his discoveries and their influence on the progress of science and of industry, there is no honour too great to pay to the memory of Faraday, one of the greatest scientific discoverers of all time.”
Faraday thanked God and gave Him credit for the gifts and talents he possessed. His faith was an integral part of his scientific work, and this is recognized by secular sources, such as New Scientist, which stated, “a strong sense of the unity of God and nature pervaded Faraday’s life and work.
According to writer H. Schlesinger in his book, The Battery, “Faraday was deeply religious and viewed science—exploration of nature—as an extension of his heartfelt faith.” And, “Although we in the 21st century debate the conflict of science and religion, Faraday saw no such division… unravelling the mysteries of nature was to discover the manifestations of God.”
Sadly, many in today’s secular culture (ex. Bill Nye) would ridicule these scientists and, in fact, refer to them as “anti-science” for mixing faith and science, insisting that science can’t progress if we allow the two to intermingle. Of course, they’re ignorant of the past, not knowing science was founded on Christianity, God, and the Bible, and science progressed BECAUSE of their faith.
These early scientists freely intermingled their faith and science, contrary to what many secularists assert today. Christianity was the driving force in the rise of modern science, and I’d suggest our society would be better off recognizing the value of science and Christianity.
Portrait of Galileo Galilei by Justus Sustermans
Portrait of Robert Boyle by Sir Peter Lely
Portrait of Michael Faraday- Art UK