Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton and the Biblical Roots of Modern Science

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Article #335

by Bill Nugent

 

The fundamental breakthroughs in chemistry and physics occurred in the seventeenth century (1600s) at the hands of Christian men in western Europe. These breakthroughs gave us the modern world of motorcars, jet planes, computers and smartphones. Francis Bacon (1561-1626), a Bible believing Christian, formulated the scientific method which is fundamental to modern science. The scientific method is ultimately derived from the Bible.

 

So fundamental was Bacon’s breakthrough, that in the early days, modern science was often called “Baconian Science.” The scientific method is based on the inductive principle (also called the regularity principle) and it is derived from Christian biblical teaching.

 

To induce means to add. Inductive science, also called modern science or experimental science, uses the scientific method to conduct research. The scientific method involves working scientific experiments and adding together the results of the experiments to develop a hypothesis that explains nature and provides solutions to problems.

 

In the centuries before Bacon, deductive science ruled the day. To deduct means to subtract. In deductive science you start with a general principle or hypothesis, usually from Aristotle or Plato, and you deduce or subtract an insight or sub-principle from that general principle to enhance your understanding of nature. In medieval times science was called “natural philosophy” and it was heavily dependent on Plato and Aristotle, especially Aristotle.

 

Aristotle was the authority figure in science before the Protestant Reformation. Aristotle was so highly esteemed that Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) simply referred to Aristotle as “the philosopher” as he built upon Aristotle’s logic in his many writings. In medieval times, roughly from 400 AD to 1500 AD we have what is known as the Christian Neo-Classical synthesis in which the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle were merged with biblical thought. Aristotle’s writings, including his “Physics,” provided the general principles or hypotheses that guided scientific enquiry.

 

Aristotle’s religion was Olympianism which had a low view of nature and regarded the natural world as chaotic. The pagan science of the classical philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, was deductive and people did little real experimentation on nature because it was assumed that nature was random and disorderly and unpredictable. For instance, why do experiments to measure the freezing and boiling temperature of water if those levels could change with each passing day?

 

Medieval China had brilliant inventions and huge construction projects but no experimental science. Their Buddhist worldview would not support inductive science. The Shintoist philosophers of Japan didn’t make scientific breakthroughs. Modern science arose in the west, not because of racial superiority as some fascists and Nazis would later argue, but rather because the west had the Bible.

 

I remember a college professor in a science class, in the secular university where I studied, quote Genesis 1:28 and say that this Bible verse explained why science arose in western (i.e. Christian) civilization. Genesis 1:28 reads as follows: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” Christians are commanded to subdue nature and that includes studying nature to learn how to subdue it. I don’t know if that professor was a Christian but he sure gave one small snippet of the biblical basis for inductive science.

 

Pagans did not subdue the earth they way Christians do. Pagans were afraid of offending the gods. In some pagan sects, if they built a dam on a stream, they offered sacrifices to appease the gods. The Hindus in India regard the earth as an illusion, called “maya.” Why would anyone want to do experiments on an illusion? The Hindu worldview did not provide the rationale for experimentation. There are many fine scientists in India today but the fundamental breakthroughs in science didn’t occur in India.

 

The Bible, in Psalm 19:1-3, reveals that nature tells us about the glory of God and it is “declaring the work of His hands” (Ps 19:1 NASB). Nature reveals things about God. Nature has been called God’s second book. The Bible is God’s first book. Christians in the late medieval period, by the early 1500s, about the time of the Protestant Reformation, began to question Aristotle and focus on the Bible for principles of science. This is also when the Bible was first available to millions of people all across Europe because of the Protestant Reformation and the invention of the printing press.

 

There was great resistance to inductive science in the European universities. The universities had a rigid establishment that highly favored Aristotelian logic and deductionism. They had little patience for inductive science which they probably regarded as pseudoscience. The early modern scientists had to form their own organization called The Royal Society (founded 1660) which was, in essence, the first think tank. It’s interesting that many, if not most, of the early members of the Royal Society were Puritans, a staunchly Bible-believing Christian sect.

 

To understand how scientists got the inductive principle from the Bible we start with the premise that the Bible teaches that God is orderly, rational and consistent in His dealings with humanity. Natural philosophers (early scientists) then began to realize that since God gives moral laws to bring order in the moral realm, God must also govern nature with consistent physical laws. They logically concluded that God created an orderly and consistent universe based on laws. In an orderly universe you can do experiments on one test tube of water and assume that the results of your experiment will apply to all water throughout all the universe. Hence, the inductive principle is derived from the Bible’s teachings on the consistent and orderly works of God.

 

Men of science at that time claimed that they were “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” They began to do experiments on nature to gather data to discover the laws of chemistry and physics.

 

Robert Boyle (1627-1691), a devout Christian, is credited with being the founder of modern chemistry and doing away with medieval alchemy. Boyle also made contributions to the science of physics and he formulated Boyle’s Law. Boyle’s book “The Sceptical Chymist” (1661) is considered to be a turning point in chemistry because it refutes alchemy. Boyle made a bequest so that after his death a lecture series would be funded. The Boyle Lectures  were intended to defend the Christian faith. So much for the claim that science is secular and separated from faith!

 

The Frenchman, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), a Catholic Augustinian Jansenist, made important contributions to mathematics and physics. Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) is a towering figure in the development of modern experimental science, especially physics. Yet it should be noted that Newton was very devout and he wrote more on theology than he did on science. I recommend the book: Men of Science, Men of God by Henry M. Morris which discusses these and other Christians who made the fundamental breakthroughs that gave us modern science.

 

Secular atheists and agnostics pride themselves in their sophisticated knowledge of science but atheists had nothing to do with the seventeenth century breakthroughs that founded the major branches of science. Secular Humanism, as a faith, would not even start to take hold until two hundred years later, in the nineteenth century. That’s when Charles Darwin developed atheistic evolution as an origins myth to give a flimsy rational basis for atheists to deny God as Creator.

 

Speaking of Darwin, we have, it seems, a new authoritarian deductionism in science. In biology, evolution is considered by many college professors to be sacred and unquestioned. In many establishment circles, all scientific papers must discuss their findings only under the lens of evolution as an authoritarian principle. This sounds a bit like medieval times when people looked to the writings of Aristotle as the final word on nature.

 

In deductive science, people start with a hypothesis and then try to discover premises that support the hypothesis. Evolution is a hypothesis. It’s often called the “theory” of evolution but it’s not really a theory. A theory must be falsifiable. Evolution, since it deals with events alleged to have occurred in the distant past cannot be formally falsified. Hence, evolution is merely a hypothesis. Evolution is not biology. Evolution is a hypothesis that attempts to explain the history of biology. I maintain that the evolution hypothesis is untenable because, among other reasons, genetic mutations don’t add the millions of base pairs to DNA that would be needed to add new features to animals to cause uphill evolutionary change. Genetic mutations are destructive errors that merely shuffle or scramble pre-existing base pairs in DNA. Even mutations that cause genetic duplication don’t add new base pairs but simply duplicate pre-existing base pairs in DNA.

 

Evolution is certainly not a fact. We’ve seen that evolution is technically not a theory. Evolution is not even a plausible hypothesis given recent findings in microbiology and genetics. The lack of transitional forms in the fossil record is also a problem for evolution. Evolution is merely the origins myth of the religion of secular humanism.

 

Thousands of scientists have recently defected from Darwinian evolution. Some have gone so far as to sign a public document of dissent posted on the internet at www.dissentfromdarwin.org. A whole movement of dissenting scientists is now organized in the Intelligent Design Movement. A think tank of scientists who reject evolution is called The Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute, based in Seattle Washington. The little guerrilla band of creationists now has a regular army of Ph. D. scientists who muster the scientific evidence that refutes the evolution hypothesis.

 

Evolution is the only explanation atheists have to account for the origin of life apart from God. If evolution is refuted, atheists have no where else to turn except to God. There is no other secular origins myth ready to take the place of evolution once it dies – and evolution is dying. Many atheists and agnostics, including the atheist scholar, Anthony Flew, have come around to admit that there must be a creator God.

 

Many former evolutionists are taking a fresh look at Christianity. They see that Jesus of Nazareth came in fulfillment of hundreds of Old Testament Bible prophecies. No other figure in all of world history fulfills the Bible’s messianic prophecies. Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah of Israel. The prophets foretold that Christ would suffer and die for the sins of the people. “The LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). God sent Christ to die for our sins. God has great love for all humanity. The prophets also foretold that Christ would rise from the dead to offer forgiveness of sins to all who turn to Him in repentance. I invite you to turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins.

Steps to salvation:

Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

  • 1) Believe that God created you and loves you and sent the Messiah (Messiah is Hebrew for Christ) to redeem you.
  • 2) Believe that Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 Bible prophecies to die for you, to take upon Himself the penalty of your sins (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 6:29, Romans 4:5, First Peter 3:18).
  • 3) Turn from sin and call on the name of Jesus to receive forgiveness of sins (Romans 10:13).
  • 4) Receive Jesus as Savior and experience the new birth (John 1:12, Acts 2:38).
  • 5) Follow Jesus Christ as Lord (John 14:21).

Prayer to receive salvation:

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:

“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!



(C) 2016 William P. Nugent, permission granted to email or republish for Christian outreach.

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