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Famous Scientists Who Believed in God

Belief in God

Is belief in the
existence of God irrational? These days, many famous scientists are
also strong proponents of atheism. However, in the past, and even
today, many scientists believe that God exists and is responsible
for what we see in nature. This is a small sampling of scientists
who contributed to the development of modern science while believing
in God. Although many people believe in a “God
of the gaps
“, these scientists, and still others alive today, believe
because of the evidence.

Rich Deem

  1. Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)
    Copernicus was the Polish astronomer who put forward the first
    mathematically based system of planets going around the sun. He attended
    various European universities, and became a Canon in the Catholic church in
    1497. His new system was actually first presented in the Vatican gardens in
    1533 before Pope Clement VII who approved, and urged Copernicus to
    publish it around this time. Copernicus was never under any threat of religious
    persecution – and was urged to publish both by Catholic Bishop Guise,
    Cardinal Schonberg, and the Protestant Professor George Rheticus. Copernicus
    referred sometimes to God in his works, and did not see his system as in
    conflict with the Bible.
  2. Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1627)
    Bacon was a philosopher who is known for establishing the scientific method
    of inquiry based on experimentation and inductive reasoning. In De
    Interpretatione Naturae Prooemium
    , Bacon established his goals as being
    the discovery of truth, service to his country, and service to the church.
    Although his work was based upon experimentation and reasoning, he rejected
    atheism as being the result of insufficient depth of philosophy, stating,
    “It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but
    depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion; for while the
    mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in
    them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them
    confederate, and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and
    Deity.” (Of
    Atheism
    )
  3. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
    Kepler was a brilliant mathematician and astronomer. He did early
    work on light, and established the laws of planetary motion about the sun.
    He also came close to reaching the Newtonian concept of universal gravity –
    well before Newton was born! His introduction of the idea of force in
    astronomy changed it radically in a modern direction. Kepler was an
    extremely sincere and pious Lutheran, whose works on astronomy contain
    writings about how space and the heavenly bodies represent the Trinity.
    Kepler suffered no persecution for his open avowal of the sun-centered
    system, and, indeed, was allowed as a Protestant to stay in Catholic Graz as
    a Professor (1595-1600) when other Protestants had been expelled!
  4. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
    Galileo is often remembered for his conflict with the Roman
    Catholic Church. His controversial work on the solar system was published in
    1633. It had no proofs of a sun-centered system (Galileo’s telescope
    discoveries did not indicate a moving earth) and his one “proof”
    based upon the tides was invalid. It ignored the correct elliptical orbits
    of planets published twenty five years earlier by Kepler. Since his work
    finished by putting the Pope’s favorite argument in the mouth of the
    simpleton in the dialogue, the Pope (an old friend of Galileo’s) was very
    offended. After the “trial” and being forbidden to teach the
    sun-centered system, Galileo did his most useful theoretical work, which was
    on dynamics. Galileo expressly said that the Bible cannot err, and saw his
    system as an alternate interpretation of the biblical texts.
  5. Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
    Descartes was a French mathematician, scientist and philosopher who
    has been called the father of modern philosophy. His school studies made him
    dissatisfied with previous philosophy: He had a deep religious faith as a
    Roman Catholic, which he retained to his dying day, along with a resolute,
    passionate desire to discover the truth. At the age of 24 he had a dream,
    and felt the vocational call to seek to bring knowledge together in one
    system of thought. His system began by asking what could be known if all
    else were doubted – suggesting the famous “I think therefore I
    am”. Actually, it is often forgotten that the next step for Descartes
    was to establish the near certainty of the existence of God – for only if
    God both exists and would not want us to be deceived by our experiences – can
    we trust our senses and logical thought processes. God is, therefore,
    central to his whole philosophy. What he really wanted to see was that his
    philosophy be adopted as standard Roman Catholic teaching. Rene Descartes and Francis
    Bacon (1561-1626) are generally regarded as the key figures in the
    development of scientific methodology. Both had systems in which God was
    important, and both seem more devout than the average for their era.
  6. Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
    In optics, mechanics, and mathematics, Newton was a figure of
    undisputed genius and innovation. In all his science (including chemistry)
    he saw mathematics and numbers as central. What is less well known is that
    he was devoutly religious and saw numbers as involved in understanding God’s plan for history
    from the Bible. He did a considerable work on biblical
    numerology, and, though aspects of his beliefs were not orthodox, he thought
    theology was very important. In his system of physics, God is essential to the
    nature and absoluteness of space. In Principia he stated, “The
    most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed
    from the counsel and dominion on an intelligent and powerful Being.”
  7. Robert Boyle (1791-1867)
    One of the founders and key early members of the Royal Society,
    Boyle gave his name to “Boyle’s Law” for gases, and also wrote an
    important work on chemistry. Encyclopedia Britannica says of him:
    “By his will he endowed a series of Boyle lectures, or sermons, which
    still continue, ‘for proving the Christian religion against notorious
    infidels…’ As a devout Protestant, Boyle took a special interest in
    promoting the Christian religion abroad, giving money to translate and
    publish the New Testament into Irish and Turkish. In 1690 he developed his
    theological views in The Christian Virtuoso, which he wrote to show that the
    study of nature was a central religious duty.” Boyle wrote against
    atheists in his day (the notion that atheism is a modern invention is a
    myth), and was clearly much more devoutly Christian than the average in his
    era.
  8. Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
    Michael Faraday was the son of a blacksmith who became one of the
    greatest scientists of the 19th century. His work on electricity and
    magnetism not only revolutionized physics, but led to much of our
    lifestyles today, which depends on them (including computers and
    telephone lines and, so, web sites). Faraday was a devoutly Christian
    member of the Sandemanians, which significantly influenced him and
    strongly affected the way in which he approached and interpreted
    nature. Originating from Presbyterians, the Sandemanians rejected the
    idea of state churches, and tried to go back to a New Testament type of
    Christianity.
  9. Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)
    Mendel was the first to lay the mathematical foundations of
    genetics, in what came to be called “Mendelianism”. He began his
    research in 1856 (three years before Darwin published his Origin of Species)
    in the garden of the Monastery in which he was a monk. Mendel was elected
    Abbot of his Monastery in 1868. His work remained comparatively unknown
    until the turn of the century, when a new generation of botanists began
    finding similar results and “rediscovered” him (though their ideas
    were not identical to his). An interesting point is that the 1860’s was
    notable for
    formation of the X-Club, which was dedicated to lessening religious influences and
    propagating an image of “conflict” between science and religion.
    One sympathizer was Darwin’s cousin Francis
    Galton
    , whose scientific interest was in genetics (a proponent of
    eugenics – selective breeding among humans to “improve” the
    stock). He was writing how the “priestly mind” was not conducive
    to science while, at around the same time, an Austrian monk was making the
    breakthrough in genetics. The rediscovery of the work of Mendel came too
    late to affect Galton’s contribution.
  10. William Thomson Kelvin (1824-1907)
    Kelvin was foremost among the small group of British scientists who
    helped to lay the foundations of modern physics. His work covered many areas
    of physics, and he was said to have more letters after his name than anyone
    else in the Commonwealth, since he received numerous honorary degrees from
    European Universities, which recognized the value of his work. He was a very
    committed Christian, who was certainly more religious than the average for his era.
    Interestingly, his fellow physicists George Gabriel Stokes (1819-1903) and
    James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) were also men of deep Christian commitment,
    in an era when many were nominal, apathetic, or anti-Christian. The
    Encyclopedia Britannica says “Maxwell is regarded by most modern
    physicists as the scientist of the 19th century who had the greatest
    influence on 20th century physics; he is ranked with Sir Isaac Newton and
    Albert Einstein for the fundamental nature of his contributions.” Lord
    Kelvin was an Old Earth creationist, who estimated the Earth’s age to be
    somewhere between 20 million and 100 million years, with an upper limit at
    500 million years based on cooling rates (a low estimate due to his lack of
    knowledge about radiogenic heating).
  11. Max Planck (1858-1947)
    Planck made many contributions to physics, but is best known for
    quantum theory, which revolutionized our understanding of the atomic and
    sub-atomic worlds. In his 1937 lecture “Religion and Naturwissenschaft,”
    Planck expressed the view that God is everywhere present, and held that
    “the holiness of the unintelligible Godhead is conveyed by the holiness
    of symbols.” Atheists, he thought, attach too much importance to what
    are merely symbols. Planck was a churchwarden from 1920 until his death, and
    believed in an almighty, all-knowing, beneficent God (though not necessarily
    a personal one). Both science and religion wage a “tireless battle
    against skepticism and dogmatism, against unbelief and superstition”
    with the goal “toward God!”
  12. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
    Einstein is probably the best known and most highly revered
    scientist of the twentieth century, and is associated with major revolutions
    in our thinking about time, gravity, and the conversion of matter to energy
    (E=mc2). Although never coming to belief in a personal God, he
    recognized the impossibility of a non-created universe. The Encyclopedia
    Britannica
    says of him: “Firmly denying atheism, Einstein expressed a
    belief in “Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the harmony of what
    exists.” This actually motivated his interest in science, as he once
    remarked to a young physicist: “I want to know how God created this
    world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of
    this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are
    details.” Einstein’s famous epithet on the “uncertainty
    principle” was “God does not play dice” – and to him this was
    a real statement about a God in whom he believed. A famous saying of his was
    “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is
    blind.”

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