Science in Christian Perspective
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth."
These verses (Genesis 1 :27, 28) contain a threefold commandment: fill the earth with population; subdue the earth, that is, bring its materials and forces into the service -of mankind; and have dominion over its animal life. According to Gesesis the second part of the commandment signifies the subjugation of all animal life, which makes it identical with the third part. But the literal translation of the Hebrew expression reads, "subdue-ye-her," in reference to the earth. These three words, one in Hebrew, therefore constitute the divine charter of science.
With a present population of about three billion souls, the first part of the commandment is amply fulfilled. The third part needs no special comment, for dominion over animal life in the domestication of many animals for food, clothing, and service, and, alas! in the extinction of many species, is apparent to all.
"The heavens are the Lord's: but the earth bath he given to the children of men" (Psalm 115:16). Having entrusted the earth to man with his endowment of high intellectual powers, God has always respected His decision so that everything possible is done by man. Since in the moral and spiritual realms man could not redeem himself from sin, Jehovah became incarnate that He might accomplish that purpose for him. All the problems of nature were left for man to solve with no revealed solution except the brief sketch of creation in Genesis which, as it could not be investigated, was divinely disclosed.
If, as evolutionists assert, man has occupied this planet for a million years, during 994,000 -of them he accomplished nothing either in populating the earth or in cultivating science; whereas in the last 6,000 years he has increased the population to three billion; and the knowledge of science has enormously advanced even to the extent that, by the discovery of atomic energy, the whole population could be annihilated in a few hours!
The ancient Greek philosophers were the founders of science, except astronomy. Since experimentation was almost unknown, speculation was the method
adopted. The philosopher Thales of Miletus (640546 B.C.), "the first of the seven wise men of Greece," advanced the idea that the prime element was water from which everything else originated, since that material combined both "substance" and ,'motion." Later philosophers adopted the idea, but chose other substances until four were recognized: air, fire, water, and earth; which still later became represented by the properties, cold, heat, moist, and dry, respectively. To these Aristotle added a fifth element or essence, an ethereal "quinta essentia," or quintessence, of which the heavenly bodies were assumed to be composed instead of from gross terrestrial matter. The forces of "Love" and "Hate" were specified to account for the "attraction" -of some elements into compounds, and the "repulsion" of others which failed to combine.
Thales also recorded the experiment that amber (Greek-elektron) when rubbed with silk acquired the power of attracting light particles -of matter, and thus discovered electricity; and in Magnesia the "lodestone" was discovered which is a natural magnet. The continuity as contrasted with the discontinuity of matter was debated, and the latter, the atomic structure of matter, was finally preferred.
The early Greek philosophers wrote also on vision, light, color, and sound, but nothing of value came from their discussions. The properties of space began to be investigated, and gravitational force was a Subject of elementary speculation. The doctrine of energy was strangely unrecognized; though the word itself (Greek-energeia) was employed by Aristotle.
For thirteen centuries, while the ancient world was dissolving and recrystallizing into the modern nations, science remained stagnant. With the fall of Constantinople and the extinction of the last remnant of the Roman Empire in 1453, the Greek scholars fled to Italy and inaugurated the Renaissance, or Rebirth of Learning: which lasted through the Elizabethan Age to 1603, a period of about a century and a half, wherein the mind cast off its medieval lethargy. Following the Renaissance, or the freedom of the mind, came the Reformation under Luther, early in the sixteenth century, in which the spirit regained its freedom. Luther remarked that the knowledge of nature, which had been lost since the time of Adam, was at last being recovered.
Tn the Age of Giants, as it has been called, great men made a series of discoveries so remarkably ordered that the whole succession of events seems to have been intelligently directed. Bartholomew Diaz (1450-1.500; Portugal) placed Africa on the map by sailing around the Cape of Storms, later the Cape of Good Hope. Columbus (1492; Spain) and the Cabots (1451-1557; Venice-England) discovered America; Vasco da Gama (1469-1524; Portugal) pointed the way to India and circumnavigated the globe; Magellan (1480-1521; Portugal) rounded Cape Horn, the tip of South America; all within a period (1490-1520) of about thirty years. These geographical discoveries also proved the earth to be a sphere freely poised in space as the Egyptians and Chaldeans had believed; "hanging upon nothing," as job (26:7) expressed it.
In astronomy, Copernicus (Poland 1543) reestablished the original Pythagorean heliocentric theory of the solar system. Tycho Brahe (Denmark), the pretelescopic observer of the planets, who by his accurate determination of their positions enabled Kepler (Germany), the founder of mathematical astronomy, to establish his three celebrated laws. Galileo, "the restorer of reason in Italy," constructed the first telescope, founded experimental science, and laid down the principles governing uniform and accelerated motions. These great observers gathered the material by which Newton, the mastermind of humanity, was enabled by his discovery of the law of gravitation to establish the order of the solar system in all its elegance and perpetuity. "If I have seen farther than others," said Newton appreciatively, "it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants."
"The culmination of ages of investigation of the solar system," as the writer has elsewhere written, "is the discovery of gravity as the fundamental force of nature." Upon this great principle of attraction the unrivaled interest in physics and astronomy centers. This omnipresent force holds the earth together against the disruptive tendencies of its own rotation, keeps the seas and rivers in their basins, lifts the oceans into tides, and constitutes the driving force of the waves. It depresses the floors of the oceans, it elevates the continents, and preserves the whole in equilibrium. Gravity limits the height and density of the atmosphere and confers upon it the power of transmitting sound vibrations, thus giving mankind the means of intercourse by speech and the basis for the pleasurable art of music. Combined with heat, it establishes the winds and ocean currents. distributes water in the form of vapor over the land, draws the rain and snow to the earth, gives power to the waterfall. To the same force is due the stability of the car, the ship, the submarine, the airplane, thus rendering possible transportation by land and the navigation of the sea and the air. It gives structures firmness and strength, the foundations of the art of architecture. With gentle motion it draws a leaf softly to the ground; it shatters a city with earthquake violence into ruins. By gravity man preserves his upright posture, which gives dignity to his stature, colors his outlook upon :the world, determines the shape of his dwellings, the form of his tools, the manner of his occupations.Gravity molds the sun and planets into spheres; it gives permanence to their motions; it maintains unchangeable the length of the year; it establishes the orderly succession of eclipses. By this force atoms are united into worlds, planets into systems, stars into clusters, galaxies into a universe. It exercises its invisible sway within the narrow confines of the atom; its inescapable dominion includes the remotest stars; it stamps all nature with the insignia of unity. In the strong imagery of Job, it "binds the sweet influences of Pleiades," it confirms "the bands of Orion," it "brings forth the constellations in their season," it "guides Arcturus with his sons."
The exploration of the surface of the earth, so auspiciously begun in the sixteenth century, has now been completed in the twentieth. After several heroic but unsuccessful attempts had been made, the North and South poles have been reached by land and air, and, in the case of the North Pole, by water. Though ten expeditions to scale Mt. Everest in the Himalayas, the loftiest (29,002 feet) peak in the world, had failed, the eleventh, in 1953, brilliantly succeeded.
In the atmosphere, extending up to a possible height of 500 miles, planes have ascended about as far as the air can support them. Its complex zoned structure, for it is not merely a confused mixture of gases, has been ascertained.
The scantily known Antarctic region or continent has recently been quite well explored and studied by several expeditions during the international geophysical year (1958-59). One expedition in particular crossed the continent over the South Pole.
In a submarine-shaped float called the bathyscafe, descents have been made to depths of 10,335 (1953), 13, 287 (1954), and finally 37,800 (1960) feet, or 6.8 miles, the deepest part of the Pacific and of all oceans, known as the Marianas Trench. At the last depth the pressure was 8.5 tons per square inch. Hitherto unknown and strange-looking sea monsters were encountered at the second depth in the Atlantic off North Africa; and living creatures were still observed at the lowest depth, where complete darkness and tranquillity everlastingly prevail.
The last three impressive exploits, the successful ascent of Mt. Everest, the speedy international explorations of Antarctica, and the courageous descent to the ocean's lowest depth, all of which have occurred in seven years since 1953, seem in some mysterious way to have been urgently directed to complete the command to "subdue the earth" in this rapidly expiring Gentile Age.
These geographical achievements may be summarized: the continents have been delineated and all islands mapped. The surface of the earth has been explored in detail and all lands populated, except the extensive Antarctic region which, though not populated, has been given widespread investigation. The North and South poles have repeatedly been reached; the highest mountain has been scaled; the lowest ocean depth successfully attained; and the atmosphere investigated by balloon, airplane, missile, and radio waves.
In the realm of the infinitesimal, the complex intra-atomic structure and properties have been elucidated; and, at the opposite extreme, artificial satellites have been projected to the moon and beyond: a missile has reached its surface, its unobservable hemisphere has been photographed, and visions of interplanetary travel have been entertained. The moon (240,000 miles distant), the planet Venus (24,000,000 miles), and possibly the sun, have been struck by radar waves from the earth and the reflected waves identified.
Due to the transparency of the atmosphere, astronomers have been able to determine the place of the earth in the solar system, its stability derived from its rotation, the position -of the solar system in the "milky-way" galaxy, and the relation of the galaxy to the billion other galaxies scattered at appalling distances which constitute the material universe.
Two other important laws of the attraction and repulsion of electric and magnetic forces have been discovered which follow the same law of nature as gravity, that is, they diminish in strength as the square of the distance of action increases. In addition, the discovery of the electric current and of electromagnetic induction has given humanity the telegraph and telephone, and all the multitudinous domestic and industrial uses of electricity. The further discovery of electric waves and electrons has, by radio broadcasting, extended communication in a limitless degree. Receptive devices are now available so that one person speaking can be heard by every human being. Television, by making use of the persistence of vision in the eye, as well as of electric waves, is making such remarkable advances that multitudes of people everywhere can now see the animal life, scenery, and people of countries otherwise inaccessible. By combining recording and photography with electric wave radiation, people generally can now see and hear such notable occasions as the opening of parliaments and congresses, and other outstanding events of national importance, which otherwise would be confined to those participating in them.
In the realm of transportation progress has been equally great. For several thousand years travel was largely on foot, precariously beset with danger by robbers. Many instances of this type of travel are related in both the Old and New Testaments. Our I-ord Himself suffered weariness from this elenientary way of transportation. Gradually improvements were made by using animals, chiefly camels and horses. As paths and trails were developed into roads, chariots and "wagons" (Genesis 45) were devised for travel by land; while small vessels propelled by oars, and by fixed sails were used by sea under favorable weather conditions. Acts 20; 21 ; 27. Usually the vessels were kept in safe harbors for winter as described in the disastrous voyage of Paul to Rome. Acts 27:12, 13. As the centuries passed, the art of navigation greatly developed, especially when the magnetic compass was imported into Europe from China, thus delivering mariners from the hazardous necessity -of guidance by observing the stars at night. Enormous improvement was effected when the sextant and chronometer were invented which enabled positions at sea to be accurately determined. In the nineteenth century steam engines were invented which rendered travel by land comfortable and rapid, and ocean navigation independent of seasons and weather conditions, with reduction of time to days instead of weeks and months. At last, with the application of electric power, the internal combustion (gasoline) engine, and finally atomic energy, submarines, airplanes, and automobiles have been rapidly developed, so that transportation under the sea, over the land, and through the air has all been achieved. By jet propulsion airplanes now travel at speeds as high as three times the velocity of sound, over 2,000 miles per hour; and by rocket propulsion the era of space exploration has begun; both of them in accordance with Newton's Third Law of Motion, that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Thus the prophecy of Daniel (12:4) has been fulfilled: "many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." For in the last few centuries since the Renaissance, knowledge, especially in all branches of science, has remarkably advanced. The first part of the prophecy, "many shall run to and fro," is amply fulfilled by the flood of travel, especially in the western world, by local automobile traffic, and by tourist travel to many countries, and in winter to favorable climates.
But in reference to this part of the prophecy, "many shall run to and fro," Gesenius, in his Hebrew Lexicon, remarks that the verb really means "metaphorically to run through or over a book, that is, to examine it thoroughly." This translation, therefore, may be interpreted to signify that general education will become widespread, which, in fact, has never in the history of the world been so extensive and advanced as it is today. Whichever interpretation of the prophecy is adopted, therefore, its fulfillment is remarkably verified.
No ancient or medieval science of chemistry was possible as long as the elements were held to be earth, air, fire, and water. In the Middle Ages there flourished the alchemists, an Arabic word like the branch of mathematics called Algebra, whose efforts were directed to transmute the base metals like lead into gold, and to discover the "elixir of life," by which life would he indefinitely prolonged.
The science of chemistry began with the discovery and isolation of the natural elements of matter which now number ninety-two, and their relation to one another as shown by the Periodic Law. In addition to the standard elements there are over 1200 varieties or isotopes of slightly different weights. One isotope of the heaviest natural element, uranium (238) called '(uranium 235," constituted the atomic bomb which, in the Second World War, destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima by its colossal power developed by fission of its atoms.
Chemical investigation has led to the production of vast numbers of compounds, and, in the case of metals, alloys. Great industries have been developed to obtain a wide variety of chemical substances for utilization in many spheres of application.
In the fields of organic chemistry and biochemistry, analogous results have been obtained. The human body as a chemical "factory" has been minutely studied, and many of the processes by which it maintains itself as a living organism elucidated. By synthetic chemistry numerous substances of industrial importance, hitherto produced only by nature, have been developed. Indigo, perhaps the earliest dye to be synthetically made, has been followed by the huge aniline dye industry of Germany. Many other substances, notably rubber, have also been synthetically manufactured.
But synthetic chemistry has an economic dark side. The discovery of synthetic indigo ruined the cultivation in India of -the plant from which it was originally obtained; and synthetic rubber, if it equals the natural substance in quality, may eventually destroy the great natural rubber industry in Malaya. The ruin of a natural industry may impoverish a multitude of people! In numberless ways chemical science has shown its mastery over the elements of matter, just as physical science has brought under human control the different types of energy.
In the microscopic study of plant life by botanists, and of the minute and gross anatomy of animal life by zoologists, and of the human body by anatomists and physiologists, the structures of living forms have been infinitesimally examined and their functions ascertained. As one result, new and improved varieties of both plant and animal life have been developed from recessive qualities in the primitive structures, which, under human guidance, have become dominant. But despite the theory of evolution, no new species have ever been developed.
The most remarkable piece of living matter is the brain, a vast "unraveled complex" as it has been termed. The brain of an ant has been described as the most remarkable bit of matter to be found. For in that tiny assemblage of cells reside all the instincts that govern the communal life of its possessor.
But the human brain is unquestionably the crowning material organism of the Creator. To this billion-celled structure are carried most of the nervous impulses initiated by stimulation of the neural receptors for light, sound, touch, pressure, heat, cold, tastes, odors, pain, hunger, thirst, and many others, which, though alike as impulses, yet in the various centers of the brain mysteriously excite an amazing variety of sensations. How a sensation is excited and what cerebral structural differences there are to vary the sensations are entirely unknown.
The brain is the seat of consciousness. In it are also centers for speech and memory, and for the intellect, emotions, and will, the elements of all social and intellectual life. There are centers which originate and control the motions of the body. We know not how the neural processes operate by which we raise a finger or a foot. The great Newton, someonehas said, could elucidate the -order of the solar system, but he could not explain how he raised his arm!
Psychology (Greek-psuche, soul) is concerned with the feelings, traits, actions, sensations, and attributes, collectively, of the mind. The mind fundamentally is concerned with the study of itself 1 But psychology is not empowered to study the -spiritual (Greek-pneuma, spirit) attributes of our nature. These are in a different and higher realm, into which psychology cannot enter.
Many distinguished investigators in all branches of science have been atheists or, to use Huxley's term, agnostics, and they have contributed much to the advancement of knowledge. Such an admission, however, does nothing to justify atheism.
In Genesis (Chapter 4:22) it is stated that a son of Lamech, a descendant of Cain, named Tubalcain, was "an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron." Evidently this inventive skill in the working of metals contributed greatly to the building of the ark by Noah to escape the Flood, in which all the descendants of Cain perished. So unbelievers, who may have contributed much to knowledge, will fail to share in its future glory by their repudiation of eternal life in the only way, through belief in Christ, in which it can be obtained.
How far toward a complete knowledge of the material universe scientific research has gone is unknown. Doubtless much still remains to be discovered. The ultimate explanation of phenomena seems impossible to obtain: the best that science at present can do is to describe -them. The laws of nature are but descriptions of observed uniformities. Possibly the command "to subdue :the earth" implies that ultimate explanations of all the fundamental processes of nature will be forthcoming.
Though attempts have been made to do so, it is impossible to define "life," the greatest mystery of all, for a definition must be made in terms simpler and more fundamental than the one to be -defined. But "life" itself is fundamental, and therefore cannot be described in simpler terms.
It has often been remarked that in the nineteenth century, and more especially in the twentieth, scientific knowledge has increased at an ever enlarging rate. This enormous expansion has been attributed to the remarkable activity and deepening insight of investigators. This is indeed true. But probably it should rather be regarded, as before remarked, as the urgently needed acceleration of investigation to accomplish the "subjugation of the earth" before this rapidly closing Gentile Age is completed.
Coincidental with exploratory and scientific urgency has been the rise and spread of missionary activity, together with increasing world evangelism, during the last century and a half, coupled with the translation of the Bible, in whole or in part, into over 1100 languages, reaching 95) per cent of the population of the world.
Urgency on the world scale is the watchword of the age!