modern science have a blind spot toward
the most preeminent scientist of all time?
IS NO ORDINARY PLACE. This is Westminster Abbey, England's most famous
church. Here England's kings and queens and other notables have found
their final resting places. Here is Charles Darwin's grave. His
evolutionary ideas have severely challenged many a person's belief in God.
Paradoxically, just a few feet away lies Sir Isaac Newton, considered by
many to be the greatest scientist of all time - and also a man with a
profound reverence for God. I mused about the disparity between the lives
of these two world-renowned scientists, their relationship to God, and
their contrasting legacies. Newton reflects a prowess that exemplifies how
science and religion can work together; he was passionately dedicated to
both God and good science.
was born in England on Christmas Day in 1642. His father's death three
months earlier was one of several events that created a difficult
childhood. Because of circumstances associated with his mother's second
marriage, Newton was reared mainly by relatives and friends. He loved
books and showed an insatiable desire to improve all kinds of mechanical
devices, such as kites and sundials. Newton had few friends and was not
always well understood or appreciated. Described as being "never at rest,"
he tended to work very intensely on his various projects, sometimes
forgetting to eat or sleep.
the premier scientist
Cambridge, Newton immediately distinguished himself and soon became a
renowned faculty member. The novel kind of telescope he invented was
received with great enthusiasm by scientists at the Royal Society of
London. He sent the Royal Society thoroughly prepared documents about the
properties of light and color that were likewise much appreciated. Being
reticent to present his new ideas, he often waited years before releasing
them. He published only a little of his work, but each was an imperishable
monument to his genius.
is probably inevitable that the arrival of a young, inexperienced but
brilliant scientist should quickly draw criticism from the old guard.
Several feuds continued for years, reaching international proportions.
While Newton tended to avoid confrontation, he could be a formidable foe
with those who felt free to evaluate his ideas but did not understand
Newton was also kind and showed great concern for others. When his mother
became seriously ill, he left Cambridge to take personal charge of her
care, sometimes staying up entire nights giving treatments to lessen her
pain. After her death, he saw to it that she was buried next to his own
father, whom he had never seen.
Newton eventually published the results of some of his most important
findings in the three-volume Principia. This work has been hailed as
"perhaps the greatest event in the history of science - certainly the
greatest till recent years." Furthermore, "no living person could
challenge its originality or power. Newton had become the admitted
dictator of scientific thought, and there was no one able to cross swords
Principia is full of
mathematical deductions about gravity, celestial mechanics, comets, the
moon, tides, and associated laws. Its most significant contribution is the
introduction of an unprecedented and high level of observational and
mathematical rigor, dramatically improving respect for science. Principia
also reveals some of his religious fervor as he concludes that "this most
beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from
the council and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. This Being
governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all."
honors were bestowed on Newton. At Cambridge, his mathematical prowess won
him the title of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, an honor now held by
famed cosmologist Stephen Hawking. During the last 24 years of his life,
he was president of the Royal Society. The Academie des Sciences in France
elected him as a Foreign Associate, and Queen Ann knighted him. There is
little doubt that Newton possessed one of the greatest minds of all time.
the servant of God
Especially remarkable is that this premier scientist also
had a profound devotion to God and a deep interest in religious matters.
He helped distribute Bibles to the poor and was a member of a commission
to build 50 new churches around London. At least a third of his voluminous
writings deals with religious topics. Newton was especially interested in
biblical prophecies, and he studied all available materials, whether
written in Greek, Aramaic, Latin, or Hebrew. The relation of prophecies to
history prompted him to prepare a manuscript that was published shortly
after his death under the title
Chronologies of Ancient Kingdoms Amended.
Newton's analytical approach is revealed in his series of
15 "Rules for interpreting the words and language in Scripture." A
favorite topic was the two prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation. A few
years after his death, these writings were published as the book
Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John.
To Newton, the study of God's nature and His Bible were all part of
his overwhelming desire to know God.
Newton's religious fervor brought him many admirers. A renowned Frenchman
tried to establish a Religion of Newton church, and another Frenchman
severely criticized England for not giving due respect to Newton's
divinity. In his view, the calendar should be changed to start with
Newton's birthday, and a church should be built at Newton's birthplace.
This was about the world's leading scientist!
Newton had a deep reverence for God, commenting that "the supreme God is a
Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect." To him God was a very
personal Being who loves us and whom we should love and respect. There is
a ring of simple sincerity as Newton urges that "we must believe that
there is one God or supreme Monarch that we may fear and obey him and keep
his laws and give him honour and glory. We must believe that he is the
father of whom are all things, and that he loves his people as his
children that they may mutually love him and obey him as their father."
implications for modern science
scientific community has not followed Newton's example in combining faith
and science; instead it has followed Darwin. In Newton's time, God was an
integral part of science. Now many scientists still believe in God but
exclude Him from scientific explanations. Today's science is a secular
worldview that tries to explain most of reality within a limited
materialistic (mechanistic, naturalistic) outlook. In rejecting God,
science has become a closed system, unwilling to find truth wherever
scientific investigation may lead. Science cannot find God as long as it
excludes Him! At present, science has replaced God as the creator with
evolution, but scientists are finding serious flaws with the theory.
Science indulges in all kinds of speculative ideas and does not seem to
have a sound basis for excluding God because a lot of scientific data
points to God. As was the case for Newton, science can be a study of the
nature and the laws that God has created. Newton clearly demonstrated that
one can be a preeminent scientist and also include God in one's
conclusions. Sir Isaac Newton had it right!
by permission of the author. Ariel A. Roth, Ph.D. writes from Loma Linda,
California. He is a scientist and a former director of the Geoscience
Research Institute in Loma Linda that conducts scientific investigations
from the perspective of a creationist worldview.