Saturday, July 09, 2011

Scientists of Faith

Roger Bacon (c. 1214-94)
Roger Bacon was a Franciscan monk who was important right at the beginning of the development of modern science. He believed it was very important to have an empirical (observed or based on experiment) basis for beliefs about the natural world. He contributed to the idea of 'laws of nature'. He studied mathematics, optics, the making of gunpowder, astronomy, and the anatomy of the eye and brain.

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Johannes Kepler was an astronomer who formulated the laws of planetary motion that were based on the observations of Tycho Brahe. These are still used to calculate the approximate position of artificial satellites, the outer planets and smaller asteroids. He also did a lot of work in the field of optics and invented a new type of telescope which was used to confirm the discoveries of Galileo.

Galileo Galilee (1564-1642)
Galileo Galilee was one of the early supporters of a sun-centred (heliocentric) view of the solar system. He was censured and imprisoned by the church, but this was mostly because of the way he spoke to people in power. His imprisonment was house arrest, and he was never tortured (as Huxley would have had us believe). He never abandoned his faith and contributed to many areas of science including our understanding of the physics of motion and sound.

Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
Michael Faraday was a chemist and physicist and also an elder in his church. He established the basis for the electromagnetic field concept, electromagnetic induction, and established that electromagnetism could affect rays of light. He discovered benzene and invented the first working electric motors. Some people think he was the greatest experimenter in the history of science.

James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79)
James Clerk Maxwell was a physicist who formulated classical electromagnetic theory in ‘Maxwell’s equations’, which synthesized all of the previously unrelated work regarding electricity, magnetism and light into one coherent theory. He demonstrated that electricity and magnetism travel in waves at the speed of light. He also created a statistical way to understand the kinetic motion of gases and laid the foundation for special relativity. Many scientists think that he was as important as Einstein and Newton.

Gregor Mendel (1822-84)
Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian priest and is known as the ‘Father of Genetics’. He studied inherited traits in pea plants and discovered that inheritance follows certain laws. His work went largely unappreciated until the turn of the twentieth century.*

Are science and faith opposed to one another? Apparently not for these scientists.
[*Excerpt from Test of Faith: Science and Christianity Unpacked study guide, p.79]
Review of materials forthcoming.


MaryLou said...

The scientific revolution could not have taken place if not for Christians. They approached science believing that the world was created by a rational, orderly God and that, if they applied the reason that he had given them, they would be able to figure things out about his creation. Such was the epistemological base for science for centuries.

ckingston said...

Exactly! Here is a short clip by Satyan Devadoss discussing the relationship between physics and belief in God.

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