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God & Galileo. Are Science and Faith Compatible?. VERiTAS December 8, 2003 Sean Bird. Science vs. Religion. Is science diametrically opposed to faith? Are the underpinnings of science essentially at odds with faith?

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God & Galileo

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god galileo

God & Galileo

Are Science and Faith Compatible?


December 8, 2003

Sean Bird

science vs religion
Science vs. Religion

Is science diametrically opposed to faith?

Are the underpinnings of science essentially at odds with faith?

Can one believe God created the universe, and not be considered an anti-science ignoramus?



faith defined
Faith Defined
  • Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.
  • Butdoesn’t science only deal with things that we can see?
      • Are the philosophical underpinnings of science diametrically opposed to faith? On the contrary …


science depends on
Science depends on
  • Law of Causality
  • Values

– Trustworthy reporting of data

– Honest analysis

  • Logic & Reason
  • Attainability of Truth

Are any of these empirically observable?

historic presuppositions of science
Historic Presuppositions of Science
  • It was not an issue of religion vs. scientific evidence.

1564 – 1642 AD

2. Galileo was not joining Copernicus in dethroning man from his central place in the universe.

These views are held by those who have not availed themselves to the available research.


It “swept man out of his proud position as the central figure and end of the universe, and made him a tiny speck on a third-rate planet revolving about a tenth-rate sun drifting in an endless cosmic ocean.”



According to the cosmology of the Middle Ages the center of the universe was actually the center of evil. They placed hell at the true center as in 13C. Dante’s Inferno.





384 – 322 BC


1564 – 1642 AD

1564 – 1642 AD

384 – 322 BC

384 – 322 BC

Martin Luther (1483-1546)


Protestant Reformation

Council of Trent (1545-1563)

Copernicus Galileo Newton (1473-1543) (1564-1642) (1642-1727)

Kepler – Germany (1571-1630)


Common-sense objections to heliocentric system in Galileo’s day

1. Throw object straight up and it would have to land in a different spot – i.e. Coriolis effect demonstrated by Foucault pendulum 1851.

2. Tycho Brahe argued that a cannonball fired on direction ought to travel further than one shot the other way.

1564 – 1642 AD

384 – 322 BC

  • This was answered by Galileo’s development of an early form of relativity theory.
  • A slight change in position of fixed stars should be seen when we are on opposite sides of the orbit around the sun. – observed in 1838.
  • Also the positive evidence heliocentrism was nil. Until Galileo’s observations and Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion either system was simply dogmatically asserted.

In fact Copernicus’ system wasn’t even all that mathematically simpler. It only reduced the number of epicycles needed to explain planetary orbits from more than eighty to thirty-four. Whatsmore, until Kepler, the heliocentric model didn’t even predict observed phenomena as well as the geocentric model.



historic presuppositions of science1
Historic Presuppositions of Science

Three main assumptions that had to be in place for science to develop

  • The world is real
  • God is reasonable
  • The universe is ordered

Francis Schaeffer noted, “Christianity believes that God has created an external world that is really there; and because He is a reasonable God, one can expect to be able to find the order of the universe by reason”

historic presuppositions of science2
Historic Presuppositions of Science

Francis Schaeffer writes about Alfred Whitehead (widely respected mathematician & philosopher) and the scientist Robert Oppenheimer, “As far as I know, neither of these two men were Christians or claimed to be Christians; yet both were straightforward in acknowledging that modern science was born out of the Christian world-view. Whitehead was absolutely right about this. He was not a Christian, but he understood that there would have never been modern science without the biblical view of Christianity.”

historic presuppositions of science3
Historic Presuppositions of Science

The universe is ordered

As I try to discern the origin of that conviction, I seem to find it in a basic notion discovered 2000 or 3000 years ago, and enunciated first in the Western world by the ancient Hebrews: namely that the universe is governed by a single God, and is not the product of the whims of many gods, each governing his own province according to his own laws. This monotheistic view seem to be the historical foundation for modern science.

Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Melvin Calvin

“The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”

- Kepler (1571-1630)

In an essay published initially in 1925 Alfred North Whitehead, an English mathematician, made the following remarks on the origins of science.

"I do not think, however, that I have even yet brought out the greatest contribution of medievalism to the formation of the scientific movement. I mean the inexpugnable belief that every detailed occurrence can be correlated with its antecedents in a perfectly definite manner, exemplifying general principles. Without this belief the incredible labours of scientists would be without hope. It is this instinctive conviction, vividly poised before the imagination, which is the motive power of research: that there is a secret which can be unveiled. How has this conviction been so vividly implanted on the European mind? When we compare this tone of thought in Europe with the attitude of other civilizations when left to themselves, there seems but one source for its origin. It must have come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and the rationality of a Greek philosopher. Every detail was supervised and ordered: thesearch into nature could only result in the vindication of the faith in rationality. Remember that I am not talking about the explicit beliefs of a few individuals. What I mean is the impress made on the European mind arising from the unquestioned faith of centuries. By this I mean the instinctive tone of thought and not mere creed of words. In Asia, the conceptions of God were of a being who was either too arbitrary or too impersonal for such ideas to have much effect on the instinctive habits of mind. Any definite occurrence might be due to the fiat of an irrational despot, or might issue from some impersonal inscrutable origin of things. There was not the same confidence as in the intelligible rationality of a personal being."

Science and the Modern World. Free Press New York 1967 pp.12-13


historic presuppositions of science4
Historic Presuppositions of Science
  • The world is real –If one believes the world is not really there, then there is not an incentive to investigate it. But the Christian doctrine of a real creation provides an incentive (Gen 1:1; Neh 9:6; Rev 4:11).
  • The universe is good –Even with the Fall, this goodness is not eradicated. This higher view of nature led to the Christian belief that the material world is worthy of investigation (Gen 1:31; Ps 111:2,3; 1Tim 4:4).
  • Creator/Creature relationship –God is transcendent, He is not created. He is over nature, not the same as it. This doctrine enabled scientific studies to begin. The monotheism of the Bible exorcised the gods of nature, freeing humanity to enjoy and investigate without fear. When the world is no longer an object of worship, then—and only then—could it become an object of study (Ps 102:25-27; Acts 14:14; Hab 2:19-20)

“There is need of art and more exacting toil in order to investigate the motion of the stars, to determine their assigned stations, to measure their intervals, to note their properties.”

The early chemist Jean-Baptiste van Helmont insisted that the pursuit of science is “a good gift,” given by God.


historic presuppositions of science5
Historic Presuppositions of Science

4.Rational Universe – So the Christian doctrine of a rational God provides the basis for belief in a rational universe (Gen 8:22; Ps 104:3-33; 148:6; Job 28:26,27; Jer 5:24; 31:35; 33:20; James 1:17)

  • In the Image of God –Christianity teaches Imago Dei humans are created in the image of God. And since God is a rational Being, we are also rational beings. Even with the Fall, the Imago Dei was not eradicated. So the Christian teaching of the Imago Dei provides a basis to believe we can understand the universe (Gen 1:26,27; 9:6; James 3:9).
  • Creation ex nihilo –This phrase means God created without the use of pre-existing materials. So God would not be limited by any “inherent nature” in pre-existing substances in His creating. He could create as He willed… Thus the application of geometry and mathematics to the analysis of physical motion rests on the Christian doctrine of creation ex nihilo" (Ps 33:6; John 1:3; Col 1:16; Heb 11:3)
historic presuppositions of science6
Historic Presuppositions of Science
  • Motives for science –The Christian faith provided motives to pursue scientific research.

i) The early scientists believed investigating God’s creation was a way of glorifying and serving Him.

For instance, In one of his notebooks, Kepler broke spontaneously into prayer:

‘I give you thanks, Creator and God, that you have given me this joy in thy creation, and I rejoice in the works of your hands. See I have now completed the work to which I was called. In it I have used all the talents you have lent to my spirit.’


“It is especially in sciences … that we see the wonders of God, his power, wisdom and goodness; … that is why, since my youth, I have given myself to the sciences that I loved.”

- Leibniz


“The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel 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; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God, or Universal Ruler…The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect; but a being, however perfect, without dominion, cannot be said to be Lord God; for we say, my God, your God, the God of Israel, the God of Gods, and Lord of Lords…”

-Newton (1643-1727) Principia

Newton explains God as being personal and sustaining all things by his powerful word for the purpose of His own glory. His dominion is evident in creation.

And to see this was Newton’s purpose

for the work that he did.

historic presuppositions of science7
Historic Presuppositions of Science
  • Motives for science –ii) "Christians found Biblical justification for an active use of nature in the creation account (Genesis 1:28), where God gives human beings ‘dominion’ over the earth. Dominion was understood not as license to exploit nature ruthlessly but as a responsibility to cultivate it, care for it, and harness its forces for human benefit."

“Almighty God, who hast created man in Thine own image, and made him a living soul that he might seek after Thee and have dominion over Thy creatures, teach us to study the works of Thy hands that we may subdue the earth to our use, and strengthen our reason for They service; and so to receive They blessed Word, that we may believe on Him whom Thou has sent to give us the

Maxwell 1831-1879

knowledge of salvation and the remission of our sins. All which we ask in the name of the same Jesus Christ our Lord”

historic presuppositions of science8
Historic Presuppositions of Science
  • Motives for science –The Christian faith provided motives to pursue scientific research.

iii) Christians found significance in Adam’s naming of the animals. In Hebrew, to name something is to assert mastery over it. Also, a name expresses the essential nature of a thing. So Adam had to carefully analyze the animals to give them appropriate names. Thus Genesis gave divine justification to the study and analysis of the natural world.

iv) Science was viewed as one way of alleviating the effects of the Fall (Genesis 3). Thus science was permeated with religious concern for the poor and the sick, with humanitarian effort to alleviate toil and tedium.

This last point was particularly revolutionary. The idea of improving one’s life cannot occur to people trapped in a cyclic, fatalistic, or deterministic view of history. (Ps 19:1-6; 115:16; Ezek 34:4-Matt 25:32-45; Acts 20:35; 1John 3:17,18).

unreasonable faith of some modern scientists
Unreasonable Faith of Some Modern Scientists
  • “The universe was created by chance”

So is chance a scientific law?

Chance is not a thing. It has no being so it has no power.


  • “In this day and age we no longer believe in spontaneous generation.

We now believe in gradual spontaneous generation.”

“One has only to wait. Time itself performs the miracle. The impossible becomes possible; the possible, probable; and the probable, certain. What begins as an impossibility becomes certain through miracle. And the miracle is performed by the causal agent time.”

unreasonable faith of some modern scientists1
Unreasonable Faith of Some Modern Scientists

Great Question






Personal Impersonal

Which is fundamental?






foundation of science
Foundation of science
  • Law of Causality
  • Values

– Trustworthy reporting of data

– Honest analysis

  • Logic & Reason
  • Attainability of Truth

Obligations and loyalties arise in the context of interpersonal relationships. Morality is covenantal in nature.

  • Therefore the ultimate authority is an “absolute personality”
  • Accept the God of the Bible or deny objective morality, objective truth, the rationality of man, and the rational knowability of the universe.
  • Jesus demands all, not some of our loyalty (Dt 6:4ff; Lk 9:23-26). That includes loving him with the mind – which may well entail holding some unpopular views on scholarly matters (1 Tim 6:20)
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!-- assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus”

Eph 4:17-21 (ESV)

what we gather
What We Gather
  • It is quite obvious that the concept and understanding of God presented scientists from the time of the Protestant Reformation on with an unsurpassed motivation to mathematically model the world around them.
  • The idea of God as the Law-Giver helped give weight to the theory that nature was created with a set of its own laws. Job 38:32-33Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons or lead out the Bear with its cubs? Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God's dominion over the earth?
  • The Reformation restored the Biblical perspective and thereby stimulated an interest in God’s handiwork.

Atheistic scientists today are operating on borrowed capital.