Were any of the great scientists/inventors also religious?

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by Rearden Metal, Oct 18, 2003.

  1. The discussion on Albert Einstein's agnosticism/atheism got me thinking: Can anyone name a single great scientist of any time period who also enthusiastically practiced religion?

    I'm referring to people of the caliber of Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Galileo, Copernicus, Pythagoras, Newton, Jonas Salk, Elijah McCoy, Grahm Bell, Archimedes, Euclid, Watt, Da Vinci, Pasteur, Marie Curie and Stephan Hawking.

    Merely saying one believes in God, or attending religious services out of social coercion doesn't count here. I'd like like to know if a single one of these great minds (or some other brilliant scientist /inventor in their league) found a reason to enthusiastically practice religious rituals regularly.

    Thank you.
  2. If you really wanted to know you would have looked it up yourself and posted your results. Obviously you're trying to make a point, or are lazy.
  3. Nothing attracts hostility quite like iconoclastic remarks, and I expected as much. I did 'look it up', and have not found any documentation of enthusiastic practice of mystic ritual by any of the above names.

    I don't have a point to make....yet. Just a hypothesis, which is:

    Irrational devotion to mysticism & pioneering scientific genius cannot coexist in the same mind.
  4. Re: Einstein - he rejected the anthropomorhpic, personal God and the human contrived dogma of the various religions that have evolved over the years to further their own mundane and often political and financial agenda. The view, held by many, and probably the result of the limitations of the human mind - is "Man Creates God in His Own Image".

    This should NOT however be construed as atheism or an absolute disbelief or rejection of the concept of a higher creative force - only as a disbelief that that force involves itself in the day to day activities of individuals on the cosmic dust speck we call Earth.

    Clearly, a rational study of religious texts and the history of their selective editing, assembly, and contrivance of self-serving dogma finds many contradictions, adaptations of even older stories/text, text written purely for the convenience or furtherance of a specific agenda, and obvious allegory. So it's inappropriate to assume every word should be taken as literal fact - and indeed, most biblical scholars do not presume to do so.

    The subject is further confused by whacked out contrivances like "Creation Science" and other inane zealotry.

    Einstein, like many scientists, while rejecting the concept of a "personal God" and institutionalized religion, did have a general belief in a fundamental creative force from which the universe came exist - believing that it was unlikely to have simply sprang spontaneously out of nothing - as in the following:

    But, on the other hand, every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe - a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.


    The scientist's religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.

    As to other scientists - you superimpose your own personal beliefs (or non-beliefs as the case may be) by making the erroneous presumption that a scientist who regularly attended religious services must have been doing so out of "social coercion" or that a belief in God (but not necessarily a belief in an institutionalized religion's agenda or the concept of a "personal God" that's involves itself in everyone's day to day affairs) somehow "doesn't count".

    A frustration with, or rejection of, the historical hypocracy, self-promotion, and politicalization of institutionalized religion does not make one an antheist. Nor does a belief in a complex, non-anthropomorphic, universal intelligence/force "not count" as religious belief.

    To assume that human minds are capable of understanding or adequately describing the immense complexity of the multiverse or the intelligence(s) that may have been involved is the ultimate conceit. Hell, they're still stuck on quantum mechanics and string theory and absurd rationalizations like dimensions "rolled up too small to see".

    Anyway, here are a few for you:

    Descartes - All our ideas or notions contain in them some truth; for otherwise it could not be that God, who is wholly perfect and veracious, should have placed them in us.

    Newton (Isaac, not Wayne) - was known to be highly religious, Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done. I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.

    Votaire - All nature cries aloud that He does exist: that there is a supreme intelligence, an immense power, an admirable order, and everything teaches us our dependence on it.

    Da Vinci - On April 23, 1519, Leonardo made his last will. He commended his soul to God and left all his scientific and artistic works to his pupil, Francesco Melzi.

    Samuel Morse - All his life Samuel Morse believed that God had created the forces of nature for the benefit of man -- if man could only discover how to use them. Now he believed that his idea for instant communication was the right use of electricity and that God had sent the inspiration to him.

    Some more recent scientists:

    Arthur Schawlow (US Medal of Science and Nobel Prize, Physics - for laser spectroscopy) - We are fortunate to have the Bible and especially the New Testament which tells us so much about God in widely accessible human terms.

    John Polkinghorn (former chair theoretical physics @ Cambridge, then President of Queen's College @ Cambridge - a mentor of Hawking) - I take God very seriously indeed. I am a Christian believer and I believe that God exists and has made Himself known in human terms in Jesus Christ.

    Allan Sandage (Crafoord Prize in Cosmology from the Swedish Academy of Sciences, Royal Astronomical Society gold medal, etc.) - The nature of God is not to be found within any part of the findings of science. For that, one must turn to the Scriptures. The world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance alone. I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is simply too well put together.

    Donald Page (Cambridge scientist who worked with Hawking on quantum theory, cosmology, and gravitational physics) - I am a conservative Christian in the sense of pretty much taking the Bible seriously for what it says. Of course I know that certain parts are not intended to be read literally, so I am not precisely a literalist but I try to believe in the meaning, I think, it is intended to have.

    And here's an interesting snipet - Sigma Xi, the scientific honorary society, ran a large poll a few years ago which showed that, on any given Sunday, around 46 percent of all Ph.D. scientists are in church; for the general population the figure is 47 percent. So, whatever influences people in their beliefs about God, it doesn't appear to have much to do with having a Ph.D. in science.
  5. is that enough for you, rearden ??


  6. Galileo said that God's book of nature was "written in the language of mathematics." Copernicus, who become the symbol of the Darwinian Centennial, was a pre-Renaissance Catholic mystic and alchemist and he wrote that the Sun was "enthroned" in its divine glory even as he shattered the old earth-centric models of the universe.
  7. ...was a monk.

  8. surf, man is not a reasonable animal merely capable of it. these men may be scientists even great ones but that doesn't mean they're right or rational every conscious moment. the beliefs we hold are for many reasons not just the rational. they may be blinded by their emotions to reasonable truth here. :)
  9. Oppenheimer said:

    "We cannot make much progress without a faith that in the bewildering field of human experience there is a unique and necessary order."

    Whitehead said:

    "The belief in a personal Creator is implanted in the European mind -- the inexpungeable belief that every detailed occurrence can be correlated with its antecedents in a perfectly definable 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, a secret which can be unveiled. This faith in the possibility of science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology."

    Einstein said:

    "Belief in an external world, independent of the perceiving subject, is the basis of all natural science. Without the belief that it is possible to grasp reality without theoretical constructions, without the belief in the inner harmony of our world, there could be no science. This belief is and always will remain the fundamental motive for all scientific creation."

    and the list goes on ....

    1. Johann Kepler (1571-1630) was the founder of physical astronomy. Kepler wrote "Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it befits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather, above all else, of the glory of God.

    2. Robert Boyle (1627-1691) is credited with being the father of modern chemistry. He also was active in financially supporting the spread of Christianity through missions and Bible translations.

    3. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) was one of the greatest early mathematicians, laid the foundations for hydrostatics, hydrodynamics, differential calculus, and the theory of probability. To him is attributed the famous Wager of Pascal, paraphrased as follows: "How can anyone lose who chooses to be a Christian? If, when he dies, there turns out to be no God and his faith was in vain, he has lost nothing--in fact, has been happier in life than his nonbelieving friends. If, however, there is a God and a heaven and hell, then he has gained heaven and his skeptical friends will have lost everything in hell!"

    4. John Ray (1627-1705) was the father of English natural history, considered the greatest zoologist and botanist of his day. He also wrote a book, "The wisdom of God Manifested In The Works of Creation."

    5. Nicolaus Steno (1631-1686) was the father of Stratigraphy. He believed that fossils were laid down in the strata as a result of the flood of Noah. He also wrote many theological works and late in his life took up religious orders.

    6. William Petty (1623-1687) helped found the science of statistics and the modern study of economics. He was an active defender of the Christian faith and wrote many papers sharing evidence of God's design in nature.

    7. Isaac Newton (1642-1727) invented calculus, discovered the law of gravity and the three laws of motion, anticipated the law of energy conservation, developed the particle theory of light propagation, and invented the reflecting telescope. He firmly believed in Jesus Christ as his Savior and the Bible as God's word, and wrote many books on these topics.

    8. Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) was the father of biological taxonomy. His system of classification is still in use today. One of his main goals in systematizing the varieties of living creatures was an attempt to delineate the original Genesis "kinds." He firmly believed in the Genesis account as literal history.

    9. Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was one of the greatest physicists of all time, developed foundational concepts in electricity and magnetism, invented the electrical generator, and made many contributions to the field of chemistry. He was active in the various ministries of his church, both private and public, and had an abiding faith in the Bible and in prayer.

    10. Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) was the founder of the science of comparative anatomy and one of the chief architects of paleontology as a separate scientific discipline. He was a firm creationist, participating in some of the important creation/evolution debates of his time.

    11. Charles Babbage (1792-1871) was the founder of computer science. He developed information storage and retrieval systems, and used punched cards for instruction sets and data sets in automated industrial controls. He was also a Christian with strong convictions and wrote an important book defending the Bible and miracles.

    12. John Dalton (1766-1844) was the father of atomic theory, which revolutionized chemistry. He was an orthodox, Bible-believing Christian.

    13. Matthew Maury (1806-1873) was the founder of oceanography. He believed that when Psalm 8:8 in the Bible talked about "paths in the seas," that there must therefore be paths in the seas. He dedicated his life to charting the winds and currents of the Atlantic and was able to confirm that the sea did indeed have paths, just as spoken of in the Bible.

    14. James Simpson (1811-1879) discovered chloroform and laid the foundation for anesthesiology. He said his motivation to perform the research leading to this discovery was a fascination in the book of Genesis with Adam's deep sleep during the time in which Eve was fashioned from his side. He said his biggest discovery was finding Jesus Christ as Savior.

    15. James Joule (1818-1889) discovered the mechanical equivalent of heat, laying the foundation for the field of thermodynamics. Joule also had a strong Christian faith.

    16. Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) was the father of glacial geology and a great paleontologist. He believed in God and in His special creation of every kind of organism. When Darwin's Origin began to gain favor, Agassiz spoke out strongly against it.

    17. Gregory Mendel (1822-1884) was the father of genetics. He had strong religious convictions and chose the life of a monk. He was a creationist and rejected Darwins's ideas, even though he was familiar with them.

    18. Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was the father of bacteriology. He established the germ theory of disease. His persistent objections to the theory of spontaneous generation and to Darwinism made him unpopular with the scientific establishment of his day. He was a Christian with extremely strong religious convictions.

    19. William Thompson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907) is considered one of the all-time great physicists. He established thermodynamics on a formal scientific basis, providing a precise statement of the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Lord Kelvin was a strong Christian, opposing both Lyellian uniformitarianism and Darwinian evolution. In 1903, shortly before his death, he made the unequivocal statement that, "With regard to the origin of life, science...positively affirms creative power."

    20. Joseph Lister (1827-1912) founded antiseptic surgical methods. Lister's contributions have probably led to more lives being saved through modern medicine than the contributions of any one else except Pasteur. Like Pasteur, Lister was also a Christian and wrote, "I am a believer in the fundamental doctrines of Christianity."
  10. Keep in mind that just because a genius believes in something, that it doesn't make it true -- especially in matters relating to religion.

    The best thing you can do for yourself is find a personal relationship with god in your heart based on your personal life experiences and evolve that relationship with him throughout your life. You don't need a priest, bishop or rabbi to find god.

    There is a force in this universe that makes things happen.
    #10     Oct 18, 2003