Science in Christian Perspective
THE SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION OF THE SIXTEENTH AND SEVENTEENTH CENTURIES: Implications for the Modern Technological Crisis
CHARLES E. HUMMEL*
President, Barrington College
From: JASA 20 (December 1968): 98-104.
The twentieth century has witnessed unprecedented prosperity for much of the western world. The magnificent achievements of the natural sciences have released us from the ravages of many diseases and much drudgery in our daily work. They promise indefinite progress in unlocking nature's secrets, from sub-atomic entities to the vast reaches of interstellar space. Yet these very achievements have brought us to a technological crisis of terrifying proportions which threatens mankind's very existence.
Never before has our capacity for destruction been so great. The same genius which produces a delicate Surveyor spacecraft to land on the moon and radio back pictures of its surface also deploys a thousand nuclear missiles poised to obliterate a hundred million people in one strike. Our vast industrial machine works its destructive effects, although more gradually, on our environment through increasing air and water pollution. Even more subtle and dangerous in the long run is the technological environment we are producing to subordinate human values to efficiency, to make man the servant of his machines, even in our educational institutions.
We boast of our scientific progress, yet for most people life today appears more perplexing and beset with problems than ever before. Modern literature and art forms reflect this sense of frustration-and our poets and novelists are always the most perceptive observers of the human situation. Ironically, affluence is matched by anxiety as our technological skills have. reached peak efficiency in a climate of apparent meaninglessness, moral irresponsibility, and impersonal manipulation.
Protest against this plight has become commonplace, but where do we turn for a sense of direction and the moral dynamic to pursue the right path? How can we enjoy the achievements of science and technology without their destroying our natural environment and ourselves through depersonalization even if we escape nuclear annihilation? Surely the first step is to assess the nature of the scientific enterprise to understand its objectives, limitations, and means of control. In order to do this we shall survey its historical development, particularly the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Professor George Santayana of Harvard once asserted that he who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat its errors. So we shall briefly review the beginnings of science in early Creek thought, note its marriage with theology in the thirteenth century, and then trace the development of the modern scientific method as a discipline distinct from philosophy and theology.
In doing so we shall see that far from being the enemy of science, Christianity provided the home in which it matured. It was not until the nineteenth century that Western culture discarded traditional Christian morality as a base and turned to science for its guidance. Herein lies the dilemma of our own century. Having freed itself from philosophy and religion, science was then made to cope with the problems of meaning, value, and purpose-questions alien to its nature. This misuse of science by our culture has contributed to the technological crisis which Wilbur Ferry describes so perceptively.1 "Here is where all the trouble begins-in the American confidence that technology is ultimately the medicine for all ills . Technology is the American theology, promising salvation by material works."
The following historical sketch will provide the background for this problem. As we understand the nature and purpose of the modern scientific approach to nature, we shall appreciate both its value and its inherent limitations. Then we shall see clearly the role of science in contemporary society and the need for another base for the moral guidelines it requires to be a helpful servant rather than an overbearing master.
Early Greek Science
From the dawn of civilization men have tried to understand the natural world of their physical and biological environment. The Egyptians formulated mathematical rules for land measurements while the Babylonians developed an interest in observing the movements of the heavenly bodies. But the Greeks hold undisputed title as the original thinkers and scientists of Europe. From the outset Greek philosophy was bound up with mathematics and pursued knowledge for its own sake in the spirit of free inquiry. The earliest Ionian philosopher, Thales of Miletus (640-550 B.G.), was a mixture of practical scientist and philosopher.2 The Milesian School of philosophy was the first to assume that the whole universe is natural and can potentially be explained by ordinary knowledge and rational thought. This assumption also undergirds the modern scientific enterprise.
The following two centuries produced a score of able philosophers who
the problems of knowledge, substance, being, and change in a variety of ways.
The most important for the history of science was Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), the
greatest collector and organizer of knowledge in the ancient world.3
an encyclopedia of information within a system of thought that
captured the mind
of the western world for almost 2000 years.
Aristotle endeavored to complete the unity of Being by weaving all the separate things and qualities of the world into one unified fabric of thought. He arranged them in an ascending hierarchy of values from formless matter (earth) at the bottom to matterless pure form at the top. He enumerated ten categories of the universal properties of things, for example, what (substance), how large (quantity), where (place), when (time), etc. In addition, he advocated the idea of purpose in nature according to which it is gradually progressing toward the unity of all things. Aristotle also distinguished four kinds of causes: (1) material: matter-materials for building; (2) formal: idea-blueprint for the building; (3) efficient: man-the builder; (4) final: purpose-a dwelling.
What then is the task of the scientist according to Aristotle? It is mainly to range over the physical world and put things into their proper place in this comprehensive system according to their value and purpose. Since quantity is only one of the ten categories, Aristotelian science is more a project of classification than measurement. Scientific description identified an object's universal properties and causes in order to assign its value and place in the regularly ascending order of nature. And since through action and reaction the world is becoming a unity governed by a regular process toward an end, the scientist is concerned not only with the efficient cause of phenomena (the interest of modern science), but also with the final cause or goal. It is evident from the foregoing that Greek science included what we call philosophy, since it dealt with natural phenomena in terms of ultimate questions of value and purpose. Hence the term "natural philosophy" employed to describe this discipline.
Aristotle's system of thought stimulated scientific investigation during the following centuries. Eventually the intellectual center of the western world shifted from Athens to Alexandria, where Euclid, Hipparchus, Archimedes, and Ptolemy did their research while the Greek Empire disintegrated. Hipparchus and Ptolemy developed their astronomy within Aristotle's framework which placed the earth as the center of the universe around which the sun, moon, and planets revolve.
The Romans seemed to have valued science mainly to accomplish practical results in architecture, engineering, agriculture, and medicine. Since the Romans utilized the stream of knowledge without replenishing its source, in a few generations it ran dry. Nevertheless, Greek natural philosophy stayed alive in the synthesis of Jewish, Greek and Christian thought of the early Church Fathers. During the next five hundred years in the political, economic and social collapse of the Dark Ages, the light of secular learning flickered near extinction. But it glimmered in the treatises of Boethius, a Roman noble and Christian martyr, which served as school books of the period. Through them the light of Aristotle illuminated the medieval mind of Western Europe.
Science and Theology
Between 1200 and 1225 A.D. the complete works of Aristotle were recovered and translated into Latin. They opened up a new world to the medieval mind. During this century Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD.) synthesized Aristotelian natural philosophy with Christian theology.4 In his great works, Summa Philosophica contra Gentiles and Summa Theologica, Aquinas shows that philosophy and theology, human reason and divine revelation, must be compatible. While he thought the existence of God could be demonstrated by reason, the doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation, for example, are received by faith. Aquinas developed his system within Aristotle's philosophical framework in which logic professes to give rigorous proof from accepted premises. This method supported the idea of knowledge derived by reason from intuitive axioms and ecclesiastical authority. Such a method is hardly conducive to the free investigation of nature!5
Scholastic philosophy reached its greatest strength under Aquinas; its hold was bath intense and prolonged. Now that science, philosophy and theology were welded into one system, any questioning of Aristotle could be construed as an attack upon the Church. This marriage of Aristotelian natural philosophy and Christian theology, harmonious as it was at the start, set the stage for the domestic quarrels of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and produced many problem children who reacted strongly against their home environment. It also demonstrated that a theology which marries the philosophy of one generation is likely to become a widow in the next.
By the end of the thirteenth century attacks against scholasticism gained momentum. William of Occam (d. 1347) advocated the divorce of theology from natural philosophy, leaving the latter to roam freely in search of nature's secrets. Yet while the scholastics resisted original experimentation, they kept alive the Greek attitude of logical analysis and intellectual curiosity. Between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries the foundations of Aristotelian philosophy developed cracks which began to widen. At first the investigators, working within the accepted framework, intended simply to patch these fissures. But their experiments and thinking led to the eventual disintegration of the Aristotelian edifice. The new scientists used the mental tools of Aristotle to undermine his system; once freed from his authority, however, they were able to follow his magnificent example in breaking new intellectual ground.
The Middle Ages, having provided the seed-bed for the growth of modern thought, gave way to the Renaissance and Reformation. When Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, many competent teachers fled and brought their manuscripts with them. Humanism, the study of these "humane letters," spread throughout Europe. Portuguese explorers reached India around the Cape of Good Hope and Columbus discovered the New World in the 1490's. New information came back as exploration and trade increased. Like the golden age of Creek thought 1700 years earlier, it was a period of geographic and economic expansion. The sixteenth century was also a time of political and religious revolution. The Reformation started in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg and soon spread through northern Europe. Old centers of authority were breaking up as a new world was opening. In this context of the Renaissance and the disruption of Western Christianity, the scientific revolution took place.
The Scientific Revolution
Every revolution has both an extended period of unrest before the opening shots are fired and subsequent skirmishes alter the decisive battle has been fought. We have seen that two centuries of Renaissance and Reformation prepared the climate for the scientific revolution which began with Copernicus and ended with Newton. Throughout this 150-year period the controversy concerned the central problem of motion which had baffled many of the finest minds for two millenia.6 According to Aristotle, all bodies tend naturally to travel toward the center of the universe, which he understood to be the earth. Other motion, considered "unnatural," is caused hy a continuing force necessary to sustain it; hence the idea of an original Prime Mover. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, scientific research radically altered this concept of motion and the nature of scientific explanation. While many men of genius contributed to this great complex movement, Copernicus, Kepler, Calileo, and Newton made crucial discoveries which revolutionized man's understanding of his universe and laid the foundations of modern science. Our brief examination of their work will provide an historical basis for understanding the critical issues confronting science, theology and philosophy today.
Nicolaus Kopperoigk7 (1473-1543) was born of a Polish father and German mother who Latinized his name as Copernicus. In 1496 he went to Italy as a student of mathematics and astronomy. At that time the accepted Ptolemaic theory considered the sun and planets to revolve around the earth. This system required 80 wheels (cycles and epicycles) to describe the planetary motions since their orbits were assumed to be circular.8 As a keen mathematician, Copernicus had difficulty accepting such a complicated arrangement.9 Using Ptolemy's own principle of the simplest geometrical scheme, he tried to simplify the diagram. By placing the sun in the center, with the planets including the earth revolving around it, Copernicus reduced the number of wheels to 34. When Pope Clement VII heard about this work, he requested the astronomer, a canon of the Catholic Church, to publish it in full. In 1543 Copernicus finally completed his book Concerning the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres which he dedicated to Pope Paul III.
This new theory, going against 2000 years of astronomical tradition, made a major break with the entire system of Aristotle for whom the earth was the center of the scientific, philosophical and religious universe. Copernicus was not a great observer of nature nor did be work with data unknown to his predecessors, His great achievement was to arrange the pieces of the puzzle already' at hand into a different picture, one with greater mathematical economy and symmetry.10 As a geometer, he was convinced that the key to the universe is numerical so that what is mathematically true is really true in astronomy. He held to his theory even though he could not adequately answer the objections it raised; significantly almost all the scholars who supported it during the rest of the sixteenth century were mathematicians. Copernicus both closes an old epoch and opens a new one. The importance of his influence lies not so much in the actual system he produced as the stimulus he gave to other men. Furthermore, his interpretation of the data marked a significant step away from a common sense understanding of nature toward the abstract description of reality so characteristic of modern science. Thus while our eyes tell us that the sun moves, mathematics assures us that it is really the earth which moves around the son.
Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) formed a link between the old and new eras. A Protestant, he studied at Turbingen where he became convinced that the Copernican hypothesis was correct. His contribution to mathematics, which prepared the way for the calculus of Newton and Leibnitz, alone would have insured his fame. In 1600 Kepler became the assistant to Tycho Brahe of Copenhagen, the greatest observational astronomer since Hipparchus. A year later Brahe's sudden death left his "chaos of data" to which Kepler added mathematical genius. Convinced that Cod had created the world in accordance with the principle of perfect numbers, he passionately sought to discover the mathematical harmonies of nature. Kepler combined this approach with the insistence that every hypothesis he exactly verified through observation.
Kepler approached the immense collection of observations with the Aristotelian conviction which had gripped the astronomical mind for almost 2000 years: planets must move in perfect circles. But this theory would not fit the data. After laboriously trying other hypotheses, Kepler finally demonstrated Mars' orbit to he an ellipse.11 This discovery led to the first of his three planetary laws which summarized a vast amount of data and to this day remain an elegant statement of mathematical truth, it also made another radical break in Aristotle's system of natural philosophy. Kepler interpreted causality in terms of mathematical simplicity and harmony. This harmony, discoverable from the observed facts, is sufficient scientific explanation; the idea of a final cause involving the purpose of the phenomenon is superfluous. Kepler characterized his research as "thinking God's thoughts after Him" as a mystical urge impelled this great scientist to reduce the universe to mechanical law in order to show God's consistency.
Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), born at Pisa, entered the university and became professor of mathematics at the age of twenty-five. While his astronomical observation with the newly invented telescope confirmed the Copernican hypothesis, Galileo turned his attention to the motions of smaller bodies in daily experience. His mathematical genius gave birth to the new science of terrestrial dynamics.
Galileo set out to solve the problem of acceleration by exact mathematical description. Abandoning the idea of final causality, the ultimate why, he concentrated on the immediate how as the principle of scientific explanation. Galileo had no confidence in observation he could not explain theoretically; the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. After thirty-four years of experimentation with bodies rolling down an inclined plane, Galileo finally reversed Aristotle's teaching that heavier objects fall faster and formulated his law that the distance any body falls increases as the square of the time. He also overturned Aristotle by discovering that not motion itself, but a change in motion requires a force.
For a while Galileo had the support of high church leaders in Rome. But eventually the implications of his research ran completely counter to his scientific Aristotelian colleagues at the University of Padua who had a vested interest in the status quo. Galileo published his ideas in the Italian vernacular in The Two Principal World Systems, writing remarkable for its polemical scorn and literary skill. These controversial dialogues were used by his scientific opponents to bring Galileo before the Inquisition which condemned him to prisms, although Pope Urban remitted the sentence. Galileo is often considered the father of modem scientific method because of his combined use of mathematical analysis and experimental data.
Galileo's clash with the Church still ranks for many as the epitome of science's fight for freedom from the toils of religion. He is pictured as a brave martyr suffering the persecution of religious dogmatism. But this version, which enjoys widespread popularity, is actually a rationalist myth which grew sip in the last century. Historical research has shown that Galileo's conflict was not with the Biblical revelation but with Aristotelian natural philosophy defended by scholasticism. Both he and his adversaries were in the Roman Catholic Church which had experienced much greater controversy in the Reformation. Further, Galileo and his opponents were scientists in the universities of their day, and every generation has witnessed conflict among scientists tinged with elements of pride, ambition and prejudice common to man. Far from being a simple struggle of science against Christianity, it was a revolt of the new scientists against the old Aristotelian system synthesized with scholastic theology. Proponents of the latter used the authority of the Church in an attempt to maintain the status quo and their own positions of power. While the inquisition's action was deplorable, Whitehead reminds us, "In a generation which saw the Thirty Years' War and remembered Alva in the Netherlands, the worst that happened to men of science was that Galileo suffered an honourable detention and a mild reproof before dying peacefully in his bed."12 We should also note that Galileo's conflict with religious authority was not typical of Europe. In England, for example, there was no such struggle. Francis Bacon was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal to Queen Elizabeth when he published his Nocnm Organnrn in 1620, while at the end of the century Queen Anne knighted Isaac Newton and appointed him Master of the Mint.
Following Galileo other important discoveries prepared the way for the final solution of the problem of motion. By the 1660's the harvest was ripe, but it required an outstanding genius to reap it. Isaac Newton (16424727) proved to be that genius. He studied at Cambridge University where he became a Fellow in 1665. A superb mathematician, Newton assigned mathematics the central place in natural science but with a deep appreciation of the empirical and experimental. In 1665-66 he began to think about the earth's gravity extending as far as the moon and providing the force necessary to keep the moon from moving away in a straight line. He discovered that the planets observe Kepler's three laws if they are drawn toward the sun by a force inversely proportional to the square of their distance from the sun. Comparing a stone whirling in a sling and the moon revolving around the earth, Newton found the two motions explainable by the same formula. His law of gravitation which reduced the major phenomena of the universe to a single mathematical statement ranks as one of the greatest achievements of the human mind. The whole intricate motion of the solar system could now be worked out from the one assumption that the attraction between any two bodies is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Dissatisfied with certain points, Newton put away his work for two decades. In 1687 he published refined calculations in his epochal Principia Mathematia which presented in his three laws of motion the solution to a problem that had challenged the best minds for 2000 years.
Newton never considered his scientific research and discoveries to be at odds with the Biblical revelation and his Christian faith, He wrote almost as many theological treatises as scientific classics, never doubting God's existence and control over nature. Although the scientific and religious are fundamentally different intepretations of the universe, Newton held that in the last analysis the scientist and his work are dependent upon God.
Newton's research culminated the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries which provided the alternative scientific system to Aristotle and laid the foundation for modern science. From it emerged the concept of scientific explanation of natural phenomena free from philosophical and religious considerations. While the struggle often pitted new ideas against philosophical and religious dogmatism, it was not the simple battle between Christianity and science so often pictured. Rather it was the new men of science revolting against the authority of Aristotelian natural philosophy welded to scholastic theology. While medieval thought obstructed the new science, it also provided the context which made modern science possible. Professor A. N. Whitehead observes that there can he no living science as we know it without a widespread conviction in the existence of an Order of Nature which must permeate the general educated public. While he pays tribute to Greek philosophy and Roman law, he concludes that this "inexpugnable belief that every detailed occurrence can be correlated with its antecedents in a perfectly definite manner, exemplifying general principles" came from "the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher."13
It is a fact of history that the modern scientific movement developed in a civilization stamped by the Biblical revelation of a God who is personal, rational and unchanging. Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton worked within the thought structure of an orderly world produced by this God. Only later, under the influence of rationalistic and materialistic philosophy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was modern science largely cut off from its Christian heritage and made to appear in conflict with Christianity.
The nineteenth century witnessed the development of geology and biology which opened new vistas of the earth's age and development. It also produced the great conflict over the evolutionary theory proposed by Charles Darwin, a significant episode in the relationship between science and Christianity of current interest but beyond the scope of the present paper The twentieth century has witnessed its own scientific revolution in which the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics have overturned Newtonian mechanics as a comprehensive system for interpreting all natural phenomena, particularly at the sub-atomic level. But these more recent developments have extended rather than altered the basic approach to nature which we call the modern scientific method.
Modern Scientific Method
This brief study of the work of these four great thinkers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has identified the essential characteristics of the method utilized by the natural sciences. Based on conceptual logic and the fit between theory and data, this method employs mathematics as its prime tool. Today's scientist measures and quantifies in search of a mathematical explanation of phenomena which correlates them and makes prediction possible. Copernicus used the principle of economy to produce a simpler explanation of the celestial data. In doing so, he moved from the realm of common sense observation (I see the sun setting) to abstract explanation (the earth rotates so that the sun only appears to set). Kepler insisted that a scientific theory be tested by the data. He interpreted causality in terms of mathematical harmony, discoverable from the observed facts and sufficient as scientific explanation. Galileo also abandoned the idea of a final cause, the ultimate why of the phenomena, and concentrated on the immediate how as the principle of scientific explanation. As a corollary to Kepler, he had no confidence in observed data he could not explain theoretically. Newton also assigned mathematics the central place in natural science but with a corresponding deep appreciation of experimental data and the empirical approach to phenomena. Combining methods of mathematical analysis and experiment, the scientific method as developed by Galileo isolates the phenomena to be studied, produces a mathematical analysis or demonstration, and verifies it by experiments. Newton followed essentially the same procedure, beginning and ending with experimentation. His scientific method oscillates between mathematical theory and empirical data.
How are scientific principles discovered? While this question is complex, we may say that it is neither by pure induction, which shows that something actually is, nor by deduction, which proves that something must be. Rather it is by retroduction which suggests that something may be .14 In his interaction with the data, the scientist gains an insight; he grasps a pattern which may give the data structure and intelligibility. He tests it, modifies it, and finally shows that it explains the data. He now has a theory or hypothesis.
We thus see three major characteristics of the modern scientific approach to nature. First, its main tool is mathematics which produces an abstract explanation of reality often at odds with a common sense view. Second, it has divorced itself from philosophy and theology as disciplines. Third, as a consequence, it represents only a partial view of reality, however effective this view has proved for its own purposes. Let us examine each of these facets briefly.
First, while the scientific method endeavors to explain the experience of our senses in the world, it does so in abstract terms which move away from common sense explanation. We saw this in the Copernican hypothesis that the earth (which appears stationary) moves around the sun (which we see moving). While the nineteenth century gloried in mechanical models to depict natural forces, modern scientific theory discourages visualization of phenomena such as electrons. Seeing is no longer believing. Viewing a blazing sunset, we see a red ball slowly disappearing below the horizon. But oil three counts modern science tells us we are wrong. Not the sun but the earth is moving; the sun's light is not really red but white; furthermore, the sun is not actually at the horizon but it is already below it since the light we see left the sun about eight minutes ago. And we are quite happy to believe this explanation which contradicts our senses!
Second, we must recognize that science, where it is true to its historical genius, no longer concerns itself directly with questions of philosophy and theology. Not for a moment, however, does this mean that science has no philosophical or religious presuppositions. Like all disciplines, it must start with assumptions. Several basic presuppositions are the reality of the natural world, its rationality or consistency, and its understandability-at least in part. The validity of sense perception (in reading a gauge, for example) and the basic rules of logic are also assumed. Furthermore, one ethical or moral presupposition is also held to be essential: honesty in reporting the experimental data. Nevertheless, the scientific method doesn't deal with or produce answers to questions of purpose, value and meaning. To illustrate this point Margenau observes: "Science will tell us what things are real but will refuse to say what is reality . . . . One can practice science without ever using the world reel; indeed, as a rule, the less said about reality, the better the quality of the science."15 Margenau affirms the presence of metaphysical elements and assumptions in any science; yet competent physicists can hold widely differing philosophical and religious positions.
Third, as a consequence, the scientific approach to nature provides only a partial view of reality, contrary to the popular idea propounded by many scientists that it is the best or only valid explanation of the natural world. Science looks at nature's forces and phenomena through a mathematical lens and so sees them in terms of formulas. But we have other equally valid perspectives on reality. Let us consider four men standing on a hilltop surveying the countryside bathed in late afternoon sunlight. All are looking at the same scene, but each sees something different and describes it in his own medium. Physicist Einstein describes the relative motion of sun and earth scientifically in mathematical formulas. Bethnven, the musician, writes his Pastoral Symphony. Artist Gauguin paints the glories of the sunset in richly varied hues, while the Psalmist writes, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shnweth his handiwork." Here we see four ways of describing the same scene, each magnificent and meaningful in its own terms from its peculiar perspective, all enriching our understanding of the natural world. While Einstein's formulas are required to land a man on the moon, would we not prefer a Gauguin over the mantle-piece in our living room?
Our brief historical survey has shown the interrelationships of science, philosophy' and theology in crucial periods of western civilization. During the scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, science freed itself from the philosophy with which it had been wedded since Aristotle and from the more recent alliance forged by Aquinas. Nevertheless, its pioneers such as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton worked within the structure of a Christian world-and-life view. But the very success of modern science in explaining natural phenomena led to its deification in the nineteenth century. Scientism has become a modern religion whose devotees claim the potential to solve all human problems, given enough time. Yet insofar as science attempts to answer ultimate questions of meaning, value and purpose (the domain of theology and philosophy), it proves untrue to its genius and heritage.
As we face the pressing problems of our age, let us fully value the scientific method for what it can produce. But we must recognize that as a partial view of reality science by its very nature cannot solve our deepest human problem. Its results must be guided by an ethic and morality whose source is elsewhere. Since the popular mind is slow to relinquish myths, we must constantly reaffirm that science can never be the guide to the use of science and technology.
The scientific method through measurement and mathematical analysis attempts to explain the forces of our natural world. Science develops theories or laws which represent our best understanding at present and are always subject to revision. Far from being comprehensive and absolute, these theories are both partial and temporary. They serve as effective tools, always in need of sharpening, which may be used for good or evil. The glory of science lies in its constant pilgrimage, traveling but never arriving. Karl Popper writes, "Science never pursues the illusory aim of making its answers final, or even probable. Its advance is, rather, towards the infinite yet attainable aim of ever discovering new, deeper, and more general problems, and of subjecting its ever tentative answers to ever renewed and ever more rigorous tests."16
Science gives us atomic power; do we use it to generate electricity or annihilate our fellow men? Modern technology can land a man on the moon; but should these billions of dollars be spent instead to relieve human misery in our great cities or designing a fumefree car? The automobiles we produce by the million pollute our air while industrial plants pollute both air and water. We can produce the SST but is the noise cost to millions of people worth the price?
Clearly science and technology must be guided and controlled by human values. Thus Ferry argues:
"There is a growing list of things we can do that we must not do. My view is that toxic and tonic potentialities are mingled in technology and that our must challenging task is to sort them out .... What is needed is a firm grasp on the technology itself, and an equally clear conviction of the primacy of men, women and
children in all our calculations."17
Thus man must look beyond modern scientific method for his ethical and moral guidelines, for answers to his basic questions regarding values and purpose in life. Chemistry depicts man as a complex of compounds and biology describes him as an animal organism. But the Bible represents man uniquely created in the image of God, that image defaced through sin but restorable in Jesus Christ. The Christian experiences this reality and from it gains the perspective to use the results of science for the glory of Cod and the good of his fellow men. Christian men of science and technology thus have the insight and moral responsibility, both professionally and as citizens, to work for the primacy of human values so that science can indeed be a good servant rather than the power that will eventually destroy us.
1. Wilbur H. Ferry, "Must We Rewrite the Constitution," Saturday Review, March 2, 1968, p. 50. Ferry's analysis is perceptive and his title dramatizes the magnitude of the crisis, although his solution might well create more problems than it solves.
2William C. Dampicr, A History of Science, (Cambridge: The University Press; Fourth Edition, 1961), p. 14, ff. This excellent volume relates the history of science to philosophy and religion. It describes the work of the scientists dealt with later in this paper.
3 Frederick Copleston, S. J., A History of Philosophy, Volume 1, 1961, (London: Burns and Oates; Seven Volumes), p. 266,ff. This comprehensive survey is both lucid and thorough.
4. Copleston, op. cit., Volume II, 1964, p. 302,ff. See also Dampier, op. cit., p. 85,ff.
5. Alan Richardson, The Bible in the Age of Science, (London: SCM Press, 1961), p. 11,ff. This first chapter presents a brief and readable account of the scientific revolution.
6. H. Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science, 1300-1800, (London: C. Bell and Suns, 1962), Chapter One describes the problem of motion at the outset of the scientific revolution and its place in this great period of discovery.
7. Dampier, op. cit., p. 109, ff,
8. While the planetary orbits are ellipses, they can be represented as circular by this much more complicated arrangement.
9. Butterfield, op. cit., Chapter Two. Here is a fascinating account of the way in which Copernicus came to see the same data in a radically new pattern or model.
10. Edwin A. Burt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1932), p. 35. Chapter II: Copernicus and Kepler demonstrates the role of mathematics and the emergence of the new metaphysics and scientific method.
11H. Norwood R. Hanson, Patterns of Discovery, (Cambridge: The University Press, 1961), p. 72,ff. This detailed description of Kepler's calculations demonstrates scientific discovery by "retroduction" rather than by simple deduction or induction.
12Alfred N. Whitehead, Science and the Modern World, (New York: The New American Library, 1925), p. 2.
13. Ibid., p. 5.
14. Hanson op. cit., p. 85. Hanson traces this concept of "abduction" or "retroduction" to Aristotle and quotes Pierce: "Deduction proves that something must be; Induction shows that something actually is operative; Abduction merely suggests that something may be." See also p. 216,ff.
15. Henry Marganau, The Nature of Physical Reality, (New York: McGraw Hill, 1950), p. 12.
16. Karl R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, (New York: Science Editions, 1961), p. 281.
17. Ferry, op. cit., pp. 50,52.