Science and Faith: Friendly Allies, Not Hostile Enemies - page 1

 



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From the Winter 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Science and Faith: Friendly Allies, Not Hostile Enemies

by John Lennox Ph. D.
Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College

 

ontemporary science is a wonderfully collaborative activity. It knows no barriers of geography, race, or creed. At its best it enables us to wrestle with the problems that beset humanity, and we rightly celebrate when an advance is made that brings relief to millions. I have spent my life as a pure mathematician, and I often reflect on what physics Nobel Prize–winner Eugene Wigner called “the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.” How is it that equations created in the head of a mathematician can relate to the universe outside that head? This question prompted Albert Einstein to say, “The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.” The very fact that we believe that science can be done is a thing to be wondered at. 
  Why should we believe that the universe is intelligible?
  After all, if, as certain secular thinkers tell us, the human mind is nothing but the brain and the brain is nothing but a product of mindless unguided forces, it is hard to see that any kind of truth, let alone scientific truth, could be one of its products. As chemist J.B.S. Haldane pointed out long ago: if the thoughts in my mind are just the motions of atoms in my brain, why should I believe anything it tells me—including the fact that it is made of atoms? Yet many scientists have adopted that naturalistic view, seemingly unaware that it undermines the very rationality upon which their scientific research depends!
  It was not—and is not—always so. Science as we know it exploded on to the world stage in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Why then and why there? Alfred North Whitehead’s view, as summarized by C.S. Lewis, was that “men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator.” It is no accident that Galileo, Kepler, Newton, and Clerk-Maxwell were believers in God.
 Melvin Calvin, American Nobel Prize laureate in biochemistry, finds the origin of the foundational conviction of science—that nature is ordered—in the basic notion “that the universe is governed by a single God, and is not the product of the whims of many gods, each governing his own province according to his own laws. This monotheistic view seems to be the historical foundation for modern science.”2
  Belief in God, far from hindering science, was the motor that drove it. Isaac Newton, when he discovered the law of gravitation, did not make the common mistake of saying “now [that] I have a law of gravity, I don’t need God.” Instead, he wrote Principia Mathematica, the most famous book in the history of science, expressing the hope that it would persuade the thinking reader to believe in a creator.

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