Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Scientific Self-confidence

Some people think naturalism has scientific implications only. In future posts we will examine its broad impact on our entire culture. But for now, let's look back a few hundred years.

Seventeenth century fathers of scientific method -- Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, Newton, Pascal, and Boyle to name a few -- were generally uninhibited in expressing the reality of the Creator of matter, energy, time, and space. They recognized God as the author of laws which mediated the behavior of all things in the cosmos. Their early study, description, and application of these laws set the world on a path toward what became known as the Scientific Revolution. Early fathers of the revolution would be astonished had they been able to visualize outcomes in the 19th, 20th, and now the 21st century.

In the 19th century scientists built on the foundations of the early fathers of scientific method. The momentum of scientific progress increased with the volume and pace of discovery. But there was a tragic downside. Many scientists began to place more and more faith in their own ability to discover and apply scientific laws, and less and less faith in the God who authored them.

Early scientists, therefore, began to revel in their newfound autonomy and self-reliance, just as a young child learning to walk excitedly strolls off only to encounter dangers he could not visualize. Should his parents prevent him from exploring, discovering, and learning to walk? No. We would no more wish to prevent our children from learning to walk than we would wish to change the history of the development of scientific inquiry and discovery.