Sir Isaac Newton’s achievements ranged across the fields of mathematics, physics, astronomy and natural philosophy. Perhaps no other scientist’s work was as important to the development of modern science as was his achievement. Newton, through his observations on gravity, limits and calculus, provided scientist with valuable tools through which to view the world and better understand its phenomena. What he described was an orderly world governed by natural laws that could be defined and understood. His three laws of motion and the universality of gravitation showed that a ball falling on the earth and a planet orbiting a star were subject to the same rules. In his tireless pursuit of an ordered explanation for the universe, Newton recognized the necessity of God’s truth. For him, God was the master craftsman who had created a world of such intricate beauty that his existence was manifest. However, he understood his laws as beginning a process that would lead to understanding all natural phenomena, and show that God was not intervening constantly in the world, but that he had set it up to work according to his laws. Newton believed God to be within the realm of comprehension of Human reason, and rejected the idea of the trinity and other religious memories. His ideas would lead to the Deist movement becoming prominent among the scientific community.
Sir Charles Darwin’s work was more closely caught up with his faith than most people realize. In his early work aboard the HMS Beagle, Darwin was looking for “centers of creation”—that is areas that he believed God had created separate species. He did, however, begin to doubt that the Bible contained literal historical truth, which became a stumbling block in his faith. He was heavily influence in his work by the problem of evil—that is, how a good God can allow evil things to happen? His predecessors like Malthus had sought to solve this problem by showing that the world was governed by immutable natural laws put in place by the creator. Thus even though these laws might cause great suffering—as in famines and starvation due to inadequate food supplies an overpopulation—eventually these laws would tend towards humanities greater good. Darwin saw the same violence and competition in nature, and sought through evolution to show that the good of adaption was achieved without the direct involvement, and therefore complicity, of the creator. The more he studied, however, the harder he found it to reconcile a benevolent creator with the suffering he observed in nature and human society. He was especially hard hit by the death of his daughter, at which point he ceased attend church.
Albert Einstein is known for solving many of the world's previous scientific problems. He moved around throughout his early years, living in Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. Eventually he would become a citizen of the United States, but before that happened, much of his scientific work was already world-renowned. The theory of relativity is particularly well-known, I'm sure most of you can tell me that E=mc^2. He also got involved in quantum mechanics later in life. But Einstein is also known for his views and philosophy on faith. He was born into a Jewish family and left Germany before World War II because he argued with the politics of the country. Although he was Jewish and lived a good life, he did not believe in an immortal soul or free will, both of which are crucial elements of Christianity. He was, however, a pacifist and spent much time speaking out against war and he considered himself to be religious in that "The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavor in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind" ('My Credo' from a speech given in Berlin in 1932, http://www.einsteinandreligion.com/credo.html). He considered this to be the true basis of religion and therefore considered himself to be a religious person.
All three of these scientists (including Galileo as well) made significant strides in the realms of science, religion, and to a degree philosophy. There are several questions we can ask ourselves and discuss, and we've included a list for you here.
~ Discuss some of the differences that have been made in our world thanks to these scientists' theories. How have they changed the way we live from the way things used to be?
~ Darwin's theories in particular rocked the world and the Church's way of thinking. How have the two reconciled to each other (or are they still disagreeing)?
~ If these scientists were to go out to lunch together, would they end up agreeing on matters of science and religion or growing farther apart?
~ For centuries, the Catholic Church and the Pope ruled the world just as much as the kings of France, Spain, England, etc, but by the time of Einstein, the Church had more or less fallen out of power as a monarchy of sorts and exists today as solely a religious institution. How did the scientific discoveries by these and other scientists act as a catalyst for that change? Was science what caused this or were there other factors that were more influential?
~ Lastly, has the Church grown more or less vigilant and how has that affected scientific discovery throughout the centuries, especially as these particular scientists published their discoveries?
- Jade and Sam
- Jade and Sam