The relationship between science and faith is one to which Anglicans have made notable contributions in recent times, while in addition, Anglican clergy have historically been prominent both as scientists and among those reflecting philosophically upon the issues arising.
As part of the Prayer Book Society’s engagement with apologetics we have featured presentations on this theme on this website by Dr Paul Julienne and in our 2017 Conference, and we are also holding a one day Colloquium, in February 2018, at the Church of St Francis Potomac on this topic.
(Re the image above see: https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/wavering-at-the-intersection-of-science-and-faith)
Accordingly it may be helpful to cite some pointers to significant figures in this domain:
Historic examples would include:
the Revd. Dr John Venn (of the diagrams)
and Bishop Butler
While in more recent times, there have been (to name but three among many)
The Revd. Dr John Polkinghorne
The Revd. Dr Alister McGrath
The Revd Dr. Arthur Peacocke
Francis Collins is the former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, and later director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He wrote a book on The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. The book proposed the term “BioLogos” as a new one for theistic evolution. “BioLogos” is also the name of the science-and-faith organization he founded in November 2007: see: https://biologos.org/about-us/
Looking at Christians more widely one might consider:
“There are problems to whose solution I would attach an infinitely greater importance than to those of mathematics, for example touching ethics, or our relation to God, or concerning our destiny and our future; but their solution lies wholly beyond us and completely outside the province of science.”
See: J. R. Newman (ed.), The World of Mathematics,
Simon and Schuster, New York 1956, p. 314
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) on science and faith
“The actual infinite arises in three contexts: first when it is realized in the most complete form, in a fully independent otherworldly being, in Deo, where I call it the Absolute Infinite or simply Absolute; second when it occurs in the contingent, created world; third when the mind grasps it in abstracto as a mathematical magnitude, number or order type.” (Georg Cantor, founder of modern set theory)
List of Christian Nobel laureates (from Wikipedia)
List of Christian thinkers in science (from Wikipedia)
50 Nobel laureates and other great scientists who believe in God
(free HTML and pdf book with 146 pages)
Scientists of faith (with quotations from their work)
Christianity Aiding the Development of Science
surveying among others the way some of the most influential scientists of the past regarded the relation between science and Christianity:
Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Nicolas Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Francis Bacon, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), James Clerk Maxwell, Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur, Benjamin Franklin, Marconi, Thomas Edison, Wernher von Braun, and some others.
Charles Townes, Nobel laurate (Physics 1964)
For some relevant articles:
“The important point here is that science and faith can thus provide us with different, yet ultimately complementary, maps of human identity”. The text of Professor Alister McGrath’s Inaugural Lecture as Andreas Idreos Professorship of Science and Religion.
I cannot write an impartial review of this book. Its author, Tom McLeish, was my PhD supervisor and continues to be a friend, mentor, collaborator, colleague; someone who has encouraged me throughout my career and (let’s be honest) promoted my work better than I can. I am somewhat biased. Also, as both a Scientist and […]
by Guest Author on April 16, 2010 in
The New Atheists did not manage to dent the growth of religion across the world. Instead, they only fed our interest in it. by Madeleine Bunting first published on Guardian, Comment is Free Belief, 4 April 2010, re-published with permission One shelf of my bookcase is now groaning under the weight of its contents. It’s the […]
A list of Scientists who were Christians:
by Rosalind W. Picard, Sc.D., FIEEE
Director of Affective Computing Research, MIT
Sir Frances Bacon, Robert Boyle, George Washington Carver, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Nicolaus Copernicus, Leonhard Euler, Michael Faraday, Johannes Kepler, Father Georges-Henri LeMaitre, Carolus Linnaeus, Matthew Fontaine Maury, James Clerk Maxwell, Gregor Mendel, Samuel F. D. Morse, Sir Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, Louis Pasteur, Sir James Young Simpson (Founder of gynecology and modern anesthesiology), Nicolaus Steno, father of Stratigraphy and many more … See:
*The Big Bang and God by Henry Schaefer, (a quantum chemist)
The essay quotes a number of famous scientists. For example,
“Toward the end of Schrodinger’s career he made this statement, “I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives us a lot of factual information, puts all of our experience in a magnificently consistent order but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us.” Schrodinger believed that science has limits; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity.”
Some of Einstein’s Writings on Science and Religion:“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”
Einstein and God (by Thomas Torrance)
Many of the major fields of science were actually founded by Christians.
- Johann Kepler (1571-1630) was the founder of physical astronomy. Kepler wrote “Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it befits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.
- Robert Boyle (1627-1691) is credited with being the father of modern chemistry. He also was active in financially supporting the spread of Christianity through missions and Bible translations.
- Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was one of the greatest early mathematicians, laid the foundations for hydrostatics, hydrodynamics, differential calculus, and the theory of probability. To him is attributed the famous Wager of Pascal, paraphrased as follows: “How can anyone lose who chooses to be a Christian? If, when he dies, there turns out to be no God and his faith was in vain, he has lost nothing–in fact, has been happier in life than his nonbelieving friends. If, however, there is a God and a heaven and hell, then he has gained heaven and his skeptical friends will have lost everything in hell!”
- John Ray (1627-1705) was the father of English natural history, considered the greatest zoologist and botanist of his day. He also wrote a book, “The wisdom of God Manifested In The Works of Creation.”
- Nicolaus Steno (1631-1686) was the father of Stratigraphy. He believed that fossils were laid down in the strata as a result of the flood of Noah. He also wrote many theological works and late in his life took up religious orders.
- William Petty (1623-1687) helped found the science of statistics and the modern study of economics. He was an active defender of the Christian faith and wrote many papers sharing evidence of God’s design in nature.
- Isaac Newton (1642-1727) invented calculus, discovered the law of gravity and the three laws of motion, anticipated the law of energy conservation, developed the particle theory of light propagation, and invented the reflecting telescope. He firmly believed in Jesus Christ as his Savior and the Bible as God’s word, and wrote many books on these topics.
- Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) was the father of biological taxonomy. His system of classification is still in use today. One of his main goals in systematizing the varieties of living creatures was an attempt to delineate the original Genesis “kinds.” He firmly believed in the Genesis account as literal history.
- Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was one of the greatest physicists of all time, developed foundational concepts in electricity and magnetism, invented the electrical generator, and made many contributions to the field of chemistry. He was active in the various ministries of his church, both private and public, and had an abiding faith in the Bible and in prayer.
- Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) was the founder of the science of comparative anatomy and one of the chief architects of paleontology as a separate scientific discipline. He was a firm creationist, participating in some of the important creation/evolution debates of his time.
- Charles Babbage (1792-1871) was the founder of computer science. He developed information storage and retrieval systems, and used punched cards for instruction sets and data sets in automated industrial controls. He was also a Christian with strong convictions and wrote an important book defending the Bible and miracles.
- John Dalton (1766-1844) was the father of atomic theory, which revolutionized chemistry. He was an orthodox, Bible-believing Christian.
- Matthew Maury (1806-1873) was the founder of oceanography. He believed that when Psalm 8:8 in the Bible talked about “paths in the seas,” that there must therefore be paths in the seas. He dedicated his life to charting the winds and currents of the Atlantic and was able to confirm that the sea did indeed have paths, just as spoken of in the Bible.
- James Simpson (1811-1879) discovered chloroform and laid the foundation for anesthesiology. He said his motivation to perform the research leading to this discovery was a fascination in the book of Genesis with Adam’s deep sleep during the time in which Eve was fashioned from his side. He said his biggest discovery was finding Jesus Christ as Savior.
- James Joule (1818-1889) discovered the mechanical equivalent of heat, laying the foundation for the field of thermodynamics. Joule also had a strong Christian faith.
- Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) was the father of glacial geology and a great paleontologist. He believed in God and in His special creation of every kind of organism. When Darwin’s Origin began to gain favor, Agassiz spoke out strongly against it.
- Gregory Mendel (1822-1884) was the father of genetics. He had strong religious convictions and chose the life of a monk. He was a creationist and rejected Darwins’s ideas, even though he was familiar with them.
- Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was the father of bacteriology. He established the germ theory of disease. His persistent objections to the theory of spontaneous generation and to Darwinism made him unpopular with the scientific establishment of his day. He was a Christian with extremely strong religious convictions.
- William Thompson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907) is considered one of the all-time great physicists. He established thermodynamics on a formal scientific basis, providing a precise statement of the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Lord Kelvin was a strong Christian, opposing both Lyellian uniformitarianism and Darwinian evolution. In 1903, shortly before his death, he made the unequivocal statement that, “With regard to the origin of life, science…positively affirms creative power.”
- Joseph Lister (1827-1912) founded antiseptic surgical methods. Lister’s contributions have probably led to more lives being saved through modern medicine than the contributions of any one else except Pasteur. Like Pasteur, Lister was also a Christian and wrote, “I am a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.”
- Joseph Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) developed a comprehensive theoretical and mathematical framework for electromagnetic field theory. Einstein called Maxwell’s contributions “the most profound and most fruitful that physics has experienced since the time of Newton.” Maxwell rejected the theory of evolution and wrote that God’s command to man to subdue the earth, found in the first chapter of the book of Genesis in the Bible, provided the personal motivation to him for pursuing his scientific work. He acknowledged a personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
- Bernhard Riemann (1826-1866) developed the concept of non-Euclidian geometry, which was used by Einstein in his development of the theory of relativity. Riemann was also a Christian and had hoped to go into the ministry until he got sidetracked by his interest in mathematics. He apparently made several efforts to prove the validity of the book of Genesis using mathematical principles.
- Joseph Henry Gilbert (1817-1901) was a chemist who developed the use of nitrogen and superphosphate fertilizers for farm crops and co-developed the world’s first agricultural experimental station. He thus laid the foundations for the advances in agricultural science which have provided the means for farmers to feed the large populations in the world today. Gilbert is yet another scientist with a strong faith and demonstrated this by signing the Scientist’s Declaration, in which he affirmed his faith in the Bible as the Word of God and expressed his disbelief in and opposition to Darwin’s theories.
- Thomas Anderson (1819-1874) was one of the initial workers in the field of organic chemistry, discovering pyridine and other organic bases. Like Gilbert, he also signed the Scientist’s Declaration, in which he affirmed his faith in the scientific accuracy of the Bible and the validity of the Christian faith.
- William Mitchell Ramsay (1851-1939) was among the greatest of all archeologists. He acquired “liberal” theological beliefs during his days as a university student. However, as he began to make various archaeological discoveries in Asia Minor, he began to see that archaeology confirmed the accuracy of the Bible and as a result he became converted to Christianity.
- John Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945) was the inventor of the Fleming valve which provided the foundation for subsequent advances in electronics. He studied under Maxwell, was a consultant to Thomas Edison, and also for Marconi. He also had very strong Christian beliefs and acted on those beliefs by helping found an organization called the “Evolution Protest Movement.” He wrote a major book against the theory of evolution.
- Werner Von Braun (1912-1977) was the father of space science. He wrote, .”..the vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.”
- Albert Einstein (1879-1955), formulator of the theory of relativity, which is one of the single greatest intellectual accomplishments in the history of man. Einstein was Jewish and thus did not follow in the Christian tradition of Newton or Faraday. He did not believe in a personal God, such as is revealed even in the Jewish Bible. Yet, he was overwhelmed by the order and organization of the universe and believed this demonstrated that there was a Creator
(For this information see: Men of Science, Men of God by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.)