Science and Faith: Friendly Allies, Not Hostile Enemies - page 2


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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

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 Newton could see what, sadly, many people nowadays seem unable to see, that God and science are not alternative explanations. God is the agent who designed and upholds the universe; science tells us about how the universe works and about the laws that govern its behavior. God no more conflicts with science as an explanation for the universe than Henry Ford conflicts with the laws of the internal combustion engine as an explanation for the motorcar. The existence of mechanisms and laws is not an argument for the absence of an agent who set those laws and mechanisms in place. On the contrary, their very sophistication, down to the fine tuning of the universe, is evidence for the Creator’s genius. For Johannes Kepler, German seventeenth-century mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer: “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order which has been imposed on it by God and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”3
  As a scientist, then, I am not ashamed or embarrassed to be a Christian. After all, Christianity played a large part in giving me my subject.
  The mention of Kepler brings me to another issue. Science is, as I said earlier, by and large a collaborative activity. Yet real breakthrough is often made by a lone individual who has the courage to question established wisdom and strike out on his or her own. Johannes Kepler was one such. He went to Prague as assistant to the astronomer Tycho Brahe, who tasked him with making mathematical sense of observations of planetary motion in terms of complex systems of circles. The view that perfect motion was circular came from Aristotle and had dominated thought for centuries. But Kepler just couldn’t make circles fit the observations. He took the revolutionary step of abandoning Aristotle, approaching the observations of the planets from scratch, and seeing what the orbits actually looked like. Kepler’s discovery, that the planetary orbits were not circular but elliptical, led to a fundamental paradigm shift for science.
 Kepler had the instinct to pay careful attention to things that didn’t fit into established theory. Einstein was another such groundbreaker. Things that don’t fit in can lead to crucial advances in scientific understanding. Furthermore, there are matters that do not fit into science. For, and it needs to be said in the face of widespread popular opinion to the contrary, science is not the only way to truth. Indeed, the very success of science is due to the narrowness of the range of its questions and methodology.
  Nor is science coextensive with rationality. If it were, half our university faculties would have to shut. There are bigger matters in life—questions of history and art, culture and music, meaning and truth, beauty and love, morality and spirituality, and a host of other important things that go beyond the reach of the natural sciences, and, indeed, of naturalism itself. Just as Kepler was initially held back by an assumed Aristotelianism, could it not be that an a priori naturalism is holding back progress by stopping evidence from speaking for itself?
 It is to such things that my mind turns when I think of Jesus, the human, above all others, who did not fit into the preconceptions of this world. Just as Johannes Kepler revolutionized science by paying close attention, observing why the planets did not fit in to the mathematical wisdom of the time, I claim that my life and that of many others has been revolutionized by paying close attention to Jesus and why He did not, and still does not, fit in to the thinking of this world. Indeed, the fact that Jesus did not fit in is one of the reasons I am convinced of His claim to be the Son of God.

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