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The Faith of a Great Scientist: Robert Boyle’s Religious Life, Attitudes, and Vocation, Part 1

The Faith of a Great Scientist: Robert Boyle’s Religious Life, Attitudes, and Vocation

A deep love for scripture, coupled (ironically) with a lifelong struggle with religious doubt, led Robert Boyle to write several important books relating scientific and religious knowledge. We explore aspects of this fascinating interaction.

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The Faith of a Great Scientist: Robert Boyle’s Religious Life, Attitudes, and Vocation, Part 1

The Faith of a Great Scientist: Robert Boyle’s Religious Life, Attitudes, and Vocation, Part 1

Because of his many important contributions to science, Boyle is often described as “the father of chemistry and brother of the Earl of Cork,” to borrow an old witticism that is—quite wrongly—said to be the epitaph on his tombstone. What is absent from this popular image, however, is a deeper understanding of a deeply religious man who wrote as much about the nature of God as he did about the nature of air.
August 08, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Science as Christian Calling 
13
 
Faith and Doubt: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Faith and Doubt: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Boyle’s faith was indeed his own, a product of thoughtful reflection as well as religious experience. “I am not a Christian, because it is the Religion of my Countrey, and my Friends,” he confessed at one point. “I admit no mans Opinions in the whole lump, and have not scrupled, on occasion, to own dissents from the generality of learned men, whether Philosophers or Divines: And when I choose to travel in the beaten Road, ’tis not because I find ’tis the Road, but because I judge ’tis the Way”
August 22, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Science as Christian Calling 
6
 
The Heart of a Great Scientist

The Heart of a Great Scientist

Christian love is no less evident in Boyle’s attitude toward individual persons in ordinary discourse. As Burnet said, “When he differed from any, he expressed himself in so humble and so obliging a way, that he never treated Things or Persons with neglect, and I never heard that he offended any one Person in his whole Life by any part of his Deportment”
September 05, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Science as Christian Calling 
3
 
With Charity to All

With Charity to All

“…why a man should be hanged, because it has not yet pleased God to give him his spirit, I confess, I am yet to understand. Certainly to think by a halter to let new light into the understanding, or by the tortures of the body to heal the errors of the mind, seems to me like applying a plaister to the heel, to cure a wound in the head; which doth not work upon the seat of the disease…”
September 19, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Biblical Interpretation, Morality & Ethics 
1
 
A Celibate Life in a Libertine Age

A Celibate Life in a Libertine Age

…we must never venture to wander far from God, upon the Presumption that Death is far enough from us, but rather in the very height of our Jollities, we should endeavour to remember, that they who feast themselves to-day, may themselves prove Feasts for the Worms to-morrow…
September 26, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Lives of Faith, Morality & Ethics 
57
 
Science as Christian Vocation

Science as Christian Vocation

Clearly, Boyle found himself enraptured by his first experiences in the laboratory, and just as clearly he viewed his activities simultaneously in theological terms.
October 17, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Lives of Faith, Science as Christian Calling 
98
 
Nature Abhors a Vacuum—and Boyle Abhors “Nature”

Nature Abhors a Vacuum—and Boyle Abhors “Nature”

During the Scientific Revolution, no idea was more influential—or more important for the future of science—than the “mechanical philosophy.” Mechanical philosophers conceived of nature as a great machine, an intelligently constructed system of unintelligent matter in motion rather than a living organism with a “soul” or “intelligence” of its own. No one did more to advocate for the mechanical philosophy—and to explore its theological dimensions—than Robert Boyle.
October 31, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Earth, Universe & Time, Science as Christian Calling 
85
 
Robert Boyle’s Clockwork Universe

Robert Boyle’s Clockwork Universe

“What did he think of the Greek notion of nature? Simply put, Boyle believed it was inappropriate—both theologically and scientifically—to speak of “Nature” doing anything at all.”
December 05, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Christianity & Science - Then and Now, Science as Christian Calling 
16
 
The Miraculous Meniscus of Mercury

The Miraculous Meniscus of Mercury

“What Boyle was driving at is one of the most contentious ideas in the contemporary controversy over origins: methodological naturalism, the idea that scientific explanations ought to refer only to ‘natural’ causes, such as ‘natural’ laws, mechanisms, or forces.”
December 19, 2013 
Ted Davis 
Christianity & Science - Then and Now, Science as Christian Calling 
22
 
The Father of Intelligent Design

The Father of Intelligent Design

“There was no better way, in Boyle’s opinion, to ‘give us so great a Wonder and Veneration’ for God’s wisdom, than ‘by Knowing and Considering the Admirable Contrivance of the Particular Productions of that Immense Wisdom,’ by which he mainly meant the exquisitely fashioned parts of animals both great and small.”
January 09, 2014 
Ted Davis 
Christianity & Science - Then and Now, Image of God, Science as Christian Calling 
122
 
Did God Have Any Choice When He Made the World?

Did God Have Any Choice When He Made the World?

Theological ideas about divine freedom and human reason were important reasons for adopting an intellectually modest, empirical approach to nature during the Scientific Revolution. The common picture of ongoing, inevitable conflict between science and religion is not only false, but perverse, for it prevents us from seeing the kinds of deep connections [between the two].
January 30, 2014 
Ted Davis 
Christianity & Science - Then and Now, Divine Action & Purpose, Science as Christian Calling 
2
 
The Christian Virtuoso

The Christian Virtuoso

Boyle believed that the Christian virtuoso benefitted from the hard work of explicating natural phenomena, which “does insensibly work in him a great and ingenuous Modesty of Mind.” The cultivation of humility was vital, since “the higher degree of knowledge” that the scientist attains “seems more likely to puff him up, than to make him humble.”
February 20, 2014 
Ted Davis 
Science as Christian Calling 
9
 
Robert Boyle Speaks to Modern Christians

Robert Boyle Speaks to Modern Christians

What does it really tell us, to say that “nature abhors a vacuum” or that “nature does nothing in vain?” As long as men allow themselves so general and easy a way of rendering accounts of things that are difficult, as to attribute them to “nature,” shame will not reduce them to a more industrious scrutiny into the reasons of things and curiosity itself will not move them to it.
March 06, 2014 
Ted Davis 
Christianity & Science - Then and Now, Science as Christian Calling 
39