Mind Your Math

Physicist Paul Davies is the author of a book titled The Mind of God, yet Davies doesn't even believe in God. So why would he choose that title? The point of the book is that modern science started out with the belief that it was uncovering the very thoughts of God. Many of us grew up with the conception that science and Christianity are bitter enemies. But that's actually a misconception. Davies is dead right when he says science started with the conviction that by studying the mathematical structure of creation, scientists catch a glimpse of the Creator's mind. In fact, the very idea that creation has a mathematical structure emerged from Christianity. The ancient Greeks, who founded Western philosophy, relegated mathematics to a realm of abstract ideals. They thought the material world was too formless, too unpredictable to be described mathematically. But Christianity teaches that the material world is God's handiwork--therefore it is not formless; it is exactly what God wants it to be. The early scientists expected to find precise order in the dust and dirt of the physical world itself. Take Copernicus. When he proposed that the planets go around the sun instead of the earth, he had no empirical evidence. Without telescopes, observations of the planets fit equally well with an earth- centered system. The sole factor favoring a sun-centered system was that it was simpler mathematically. And since Copernicus was convinced that God had made the world mathematically, that was good enough for him. Later, of course, he was proved right. Then there was Kepler, famous for discovering that the orbits of the planets are not circles, as people thought at the time, but ellipses. It started when Kepler noticed a slight mismatch between mathematical calculations of Mars's orbit and actual observations. The difference was so tiny that other scientists had shrugged it off. But Kepler was convinced that everything in creation is precisely what God wants it to be. If He wanted the orbits to be circular, they would be exactly circular. And if they were not exactly circular, they must be exactly something else. Inspired by his Christian faith, Kepler struggled for years to reconcile the slight mismatch in Mars's orbit-finally hitting upon the discovery that the orbits are actually ellipses. The same conviction inspired Galileo. The book of nature, Galileo said, is "written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics." The same conviction also inspired Isaac Newton, who put classical physics on a mathematical basis. Anyone who studies the history of science is forced to acknowledge that, from the beginning, science and Christianity have been allies, not enemies. Science was founded on the assumption that God created the world with a mathematical structure and that human beings can discover that structure. Get the true historical picture from a book called The Soul of Science, by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton. The early scientists were not hostile to religion. On the contrary, they firmly believed they were discovering, as Paul Davies puts it, the Mind of God.


Chuck Colson



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