Thomas Aquinas and those who followed him before the Reformation located God in metaphysics as Creator and in physics as Creator. It was one meaningful whole. After the Reformation and with the rise of the Mechanical Philosophy investigation into the working of things changed the focus, but in fact, made the light of faith shine stronger as the intricacies of nature revealed the mind of God.
Evolution swept away meaning traditionally attributed by Theists to the world around them – nature ceased to be seen as the handiwork of God and became the realm of blind forces.
(NB Evolution is, in fact, various concepts – which I discuss elsewhere. There are both valid and invalid views of evolution).
Faith set the ball rolling that would give rise to modern science, but now modern science, set free from church, has set itself up to extinguish faith. It is now being positioned as the object of faith. Christians certainly have a future in science, but the path is not an easy one under the present secular conditions.
Breaking the link to God in the genesis of what exists, is to break free from logic itself. Science cut from the tethers of the Word now floats free on the sea of uncertainty, the indeterminate and ill-defined.
True science springs from faith and always has done. Today there is a large amount of error. However, it is my belief that despite everything and often outright opposition, all paths eventually return to God Creator of both the matter of the universe and the life within it.
Scientific theory does indeed often appear to spring from an internal dialogue of science with faith on the part of the thinker. I think my thesis that science is born of faith is upheld. Debate is also certainly necessary as the ‘sounding board’ to ideas.
It is also the case that people who once had a faith can turn against it and take up science instead of faith. Atheism needs Theism as the thing to fight against – kicking a void would not be a sane thing to do. Theism must be something, and not nothing if you can oppose it.
Many Christians work in science today. They have adopted Methodological Naturalism to get by. This means that all the methods used by science are purely material, but the personal meaning attributed to science as an activity is theistic – Christians in science often feel they have a God-given vocation.
There are no more prefaces to scientific books praising the wisdom of the Creator; science done to the glory of God in the past, is now done to the triumph of secularism.
Much of science today entails analysis of data to establish facts, but I do feel that Christians are being swept along with scientific theories which underneath have an Atheist agenda. This puts Christians in survival mode.
In the second half of the 19th century biology became increasingly dominated by the Philosophy of Naturalism promoted by X-Club members led by T. H. Huxley. Their project was successful in secularizing science.
In the 20th century the church in crisis took the line of compromise with secularism – liberal Anglicans took on evolution as a form of continuous creation such that evolution became God’s method of creation.
By the 1950s Marxist biologists brought the additional idea that natural selection could bring life from non-life. No known law of chemistry could explain this. At this point natural selection was no longer a mechanism for modifying existing life forms and producing new species, but a force bringing life itself into existence.
Many Catholic and Anglican Christians then went for the Cosmic Christ where the Christ is the god of the evolutionary force.
Evangelical Christians opposed the whole ‘science of evolution’ project in the 1960s onwards with Biblical Creationism based on a literal reading of Genesis. Some Creationists later became followers of Intelligent Design.
Meanwhile other Christians who were Theistic Evolutionists found acceptance in the secular scientific community. They made contributions to NeoDarwinism and the New Synthesis which is Darwinian natural selection combined with the science of genetics, and studies in population genetics.
Biblical Creationists became ‘fair game’ for any Atheists promoting themselves in science. Theistic Evolutionists then came under attack themselves from militant Atheists trying to prove the total irrelevance of God with the idea that science is the only source of truth.
The present day is probably seen in too much detail to be able to draw any real conclusions out of it. It’s quite hard to end a history in the present day – we only know what happened by what came next – but none of us know what is coming next. Thus, my history of science and faith is left hanging – suspended between heaven and hell, awaiting salvation of some sort.
From the mid-19th century the history of physics and astronomy takes one line, while the history of biology and earth sciences takes another line.
The Philosophy of Materialism and its universe of eternal matter was defeated first by the science of thermodynamics with its concept of entropy which shows that the universe had a beginning. Secondly, the Philosophy of Materialism was defeated in the 20th century with the Theory of General Relativity showing that the universe is expanding – which also shows that it had a beginning.
Materialism was banished from Western science, but upheld in Soviet Union science. Materialism then returned to physics under the guise of the Multiverse – an infinite series of universes popping up simultaneously or consecutively. This is pure philosophy, not evidence-based science. It’s sister philosophy is the Anthropic Principle that says we are here because we just happen to live in the universe that contains life – by definition – if we didn’t we wouldn’t be here discussing it.
The first scientists brought astronomy out of astrology in the 15th and 16th century; the Mechanical Philosophy became the corner-stone of science in the 17th century; and laws of nature became the language of scientific understanding in the 18th century.
The founding fathers of astronomy, physics and chemistry did science to glorify God the Creator. They were later called Deists as a derogatory term.
Life forms were classified in natural classifications showing the relationships between things, giving rise to the question: what were the units of creation, and to what degree can living things become changed through time? It was well-known that mankind could produce varieties of domestic animals and garden plants. Linnaeus identified orders of plants as the units of creation.
Earth sciences such as geology, palaeontology and biology started in the early 19th century as further ways to explore the wisdom of God. Creatures were seen as designed and purposefully fitted to their functions in nature. But the newly discovered dimension of deep time was now exercising the minds of thinkers.
Various types of Progressive Creationism were proposed to accompany Catastrophism in geology – which showed that various mass extinctions of life on earth had occurred. Other geologists proposed that rock strata accumulated very gradually over vast amounts of time.
Evolution was in the air when Darwin proposed that it occurred through natural selection in 1859.
The following posts summarize the article ‘Science Born of Faith: A History’ which can be found on the Theology page of this website.
the medieval period
The article starts with the founding of universities in the 12th century and the discussions between Orthodox Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Latin philosophers concerning the nature of reality. Learning was based on the rediscovery of Greek philosophy preserved by Byzantine Orthodox Christian scholars from where it passed to the Islamic world and then the Latin world of Catholic Christianity.
Historical movements led towards the Protestant Reformation and Catholic counter-reformation of the 16th century.
There had been proper attempts at scientific reflection and scientific observation during the medieval period of the 13th and 14th centuries, but these had not flourished within the world of medieval symbolism.
The well-known thesis that the Protestant Reformation was the precondition for the development of modern science is borne out. The new society provided an opening for new ideas. The Christian search for truth of devout Bible-reading Protestants led to the first expressions of modern science as a search for true knowledge of the created world.