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Christianity and the History of Science (Infographic)

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August 6, 2012 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: The BioLogos Forum is pleased to present this infographic about the relationship of Christianity with science throughout history. It debunks the myth that they have always been in conflict, and it reveals numerous examples of Christians playing a leading role in the development of natural science. The graphic, titled “Christianity and History of Science” draws upon scholarly sources complied by Dr. Ted Davis, Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College, as summarized by BioLogos Associate Editor Thomas Burnett. For details on the source material go here. We encourage you to share the graphic with anyone and everyone, but please be sure to link back to this post as its source!

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George Bernard Murphy - #71725

August 6th 2012

Why do you consistently fail to credit Father Geroge Lemaitre for his tremendous contribution?

 Is it an anti-Catholic bias?

Mark Sprinkle - #71726

August 6th 2012

Dear George-  There are many, many, many Christians (in the West, most of them prior to the 16th century Catholic, by the way) throughout the history of science that made significant contributions but were nevertheless not mentioned on this infographic.  You may have noticed that the infographic format is, by its very nature, incedibly brief, cursory and even superficial—designed for an age of soundbites to invite readers (or viewers) into a more substantive conversation. Leaving Lemaitre off the list has nothing whatsoever to do with bias of any sort, and suggestions to the contrary are not only unfounded, but do nothing to advance the conversation.  Perhaps instead of attributing neafarious motives to us for what we haven’t done, a more productive tack would be for you, yourself, to provide a careful description of how Lemaitre exemplified the compatibiity of Christian faith and a scientific understanding of the world.  People who make casual and inflammatory accusations via the web are, alas, all too common, and we need more who are willing to take the time and effort to produce new resources, and who are committed to what we so often call “gracious dialogue.”



Mark Sprinkle

George Bernard Murphy - #71732

August 6th 2012

Well Mark your point is well taken.

To me Lemaitre was the greatest man of faith in the history of the world.

When you open your Bible the first words you read are:

“1:1 In the beginning1 God2 created3 the heavens and the earth.4” 

Faith either conquers or fails with that sentence.

If you can believe that, [that there was absolutely nothing and God suddenly CREATED EVERYTHING…. FROM NOTHING],.. you should have no trouble believing anything else tht follows.

The resurrection, the virgin birth, the second coming,... it is all down hill from that first mountain that Faith encounters  AND MUST CLIMB,... in accepting God’s word.

 Father Geroge Lemaitre DID THAT!

 The story of salvation is GOOD NEWS! It is not difficult to acept good news.

But believing that something comes from nothing  seems impossible.

 The people who were arrayed against Lemaitre were  a Who’s Who of science,.... Einstein, Newton and virtually everyone else.

Lemaitre was the first to propose creation from nothing which is now called the Big Bang.

He proposed Hubbles law and derived it’s value.

[Now I’ll bet you thought Hubble did those things didn’t you,.. Not so!]

BTW he did not call this creation The Big Bang. IT WASN’T A BANG!

That pejorative term was given by Fred Hoyle, an atheist at that time.

After Hoyle studied further he converted from atheism in a very inspirational and public way.

AND LEMAITRE DID ALL THIS AROUND 1925-29 AT A TIME WHEN FAITH WAS AT IT’S LOWEST EBB. The scopes trial had just concluded with one of the great heros of our faith, Wm. Jennings Bryan suffering ridicule as he gave his last breath to defend the bible.

WE were in bad shape when Lemaitre came along

 He backed down Einstein [who actually wanted to believe] and made SCIENCE THE DEFENDER OF FAITH,.... NOT THE DESTROYER OF FAITH.

Many Christians were great scientists but few have matched the  achievements of FATHER GEORGE LEMAITRE.

[And as an afterthought after you have given the good father his due honor you might want to say a kind word about Henrietta Swan Leavitt,... another forgotten saint of science.]

George Bernard Murphy - #71738

August 6th 2012

WEll I shall tell you some of the little bit I know about Leavitt.

She was deaf. She was a spinster lady. She was a genius!

 Her appearance was plain.

 She was a minister’s daughter! She was a graduat of Radcliffe  but she became deaf during college and went to work at the Harvard Observatory as a “computer”, [she looked at the data and the photographs.]

 Women were not allowed to look through the telescope at that time. Only men could be “astronomers”.

None-the less she discovered cephieds,... the measuring stick for cosmic distances and key to Hubble’s work.

 It should be noted that another deaf girl from the same epidmic of scarlet fever also sought refuge in the Harard observatory at that time.

 She was Annie Jump Cannon who lived to a ripe old age and eventually was head of the Harvard Observatory AND THE DEAN OF SPECTROSCOPY.

Unfortunately Henrietta had a familial form of breat cancer and died young.

“The accomplishments of Edwin Hubble, the American astronomer, were made possible by Leavitt’s groundbreaking research and Leavitt’s Law. “If Henrietta Leavitt had provided the key to determine the size of the cosmos, then it was Edwin Powell Hubble who inserted it in the lock and provided the observations 


GJDS - #71739

August 6th 2012

It is good to be reminded that perhaps of greater significance was the progress from alchemistry to chemistry - this has had a greater practical impact on humanity than any advances in astronomy or other branches of science. A useful summary (Wikipedia) exemplifying this is:

During the 17th century, practical alchemy started to evolve into modern chemistry, as it was renamed by Robert Boyle, the “father of modern chemistry”. In his book, The Skeptical Chymist, Boyle attacked Paracelsus and the natural philosophy of Aristotle, which was taught at universities. However, Boyle’s biographers, in their emphasis that he laid the foundations of modern chemistry, neglect how steadily he clung to the scholastic sciences and to alchemy, in theory, practice and doctrine.

What is useful for the current discussion is the absence of any conflict between The Faith and Chemistry as it was envisaged during this period, and indeed to this day. The basis for all molecular based sciences, and also material sciences and technologies, is chemistry. This is a huge part of science and technology, yet we do not see any evidence of conflict nor of rival belief systems. It is with this in mind, that I remind interested parties, that ALL of these activities do not use, nor need, the theories and/or hypothesis provided by Darwin’s point of view.

I would also remind Dr Davis and Mr Burnett that perhaps an event that is central to the work of molecular bioligists and related areas has been utilisation a technique developed for analyical and organic chemistry, electrophoresis (and subsequent instrumentation and computer resources such as molecular modelling). This should be noted in these general presentations to show how the area of molecular biology and related is becoming more of a science than it was in previous times.

darwin.dissenters - #71767

August 7th 2012

Science began with the Greeks ? Perhaps, if you get your science from Sheldon of the Big Bang Theory (when trying to teach Penny physics) - and what did they give us? - geocentricism and spontaneous generation.

But seriously, what was Solomon doing spending his life studying nature, observing everything that was done under the Sun?

And despite their work why did science not take off in Greece? One reason is that the Greeks tended to focus upon the spiritual above the material, thus leading towards Gnosticism. Also the class based system in Greece, where city states were ruled by the elite priestly ‘philosophers kings’, did not lend itself to the dissemination of knowledge. By all accounts Plato had to pay a huge sum for the works of Pythagorus.

Judeo-Christianity though should seek to hold together the material and spiritual, and also encourages education for all.

Jon Garvey - #71778

August 8th 2012


“What was Solomon doing…?”

Possibly not natural science, but if the proverbs we have and Ecclesiastes are the guide, theology and philosophy. The reason I pick up on this is not to be contentious, but simply because it’s another small example of how easy it is in our age to squeeze everything through the sieve of scientific materialism (see Ted Davis’ thread on “The Framework hypothesis”), even if we’re dissenting from it (hope I don’t read too much into your screen name!).

Both creationists and TEs read Genesis and assume it’s a scientific account of material creation, the science being either “correct” or “outdated”. But they weren’t that bothered about material origins when Genesis was written, but about functional origins: how the world got to be ordered and useful, not how it was manufactured from parts.

We see that Solomon made proverbs on animals and assume he did zoology. But in mediaeval times they’d have assumed he wrote a bestiary, which was a book about all the animals showing what lessons could be drawn from them about living - that’s what God gave us the wild animals for. Now those two “hypotheses” are testable: we can find all the references to animals in the Book of Proverbs, and ask (a) how much zoology do they teach or (b) how much about the way to live do they teach?

Example: “Go to the ant thou sluggard. Diligent study will show it is divided into head, thorax and abdomen, that there are 3 pairs of legs and that it secvretes formic acid when annoyed…” See what I mean?

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