Rise of modern science founded on seeds of science as recorded in Holy Scripture
August 23, 2005
Editor’s note: This is the first of a four-part series of columns examining the Bible and the theory of evolution.
“Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.” – John 17:17
When a debate arises, such as evolution versus creation, pitting the claims of the Bible against the claims of science, inevitably the argument is put forward that the Bible is not a science textbook.
I agree. The Bible was not written as a science textbook. But, does this mean that the Bible is not scientific or pre-scientific or unscientific? Of course not! In fact, the Bible is a book of “seminal science,” that is, the Bible contains the “descriptive seeds of science” from which modern science grew.
The debate between evolutionists and creationists is now being waged in state legislatures and boards of education (for example, the Kansas State Board of Education) – a particularly significant development for orthodox Christians. My purpose for writing this series of articles is to build confidence among the average Christian that you do not have to be a trained scientist to know that evolution is a failed theory and that God’s “word is truth.” These articles will address the Bible as a book of seminal science, the limits and subjectivity of science, the evolution of evolution, and culture’s escape from reason.
First, let’s explore the fact that the Bible is a book of “seminal science.” For example, it seems much more than simply coincidental that the dawn of scientific and philosophical thinking (600 BC to 500 BC Thales, Greek culture; Buddha, Eastern culture) occurred just a few years after the first dispersion of the Jews (720 BC) and during the second dispersion in 587 BC. It cannot be proven, but I believe, like the early church father, Tertullian (AD 145-220), that these guys studied the writings of Moses.
Further, it is most interesting that science as a learned discipline or philosophy as we know it today arose only in the devoutly Christian culture of Western Europe. Not one of the earlier, great civilizations such as the Egyptian, Babylonian, Chinese, Indian, Greek, or Roman developed a comprehensive system of science anything like that developed in Europe during the Middle Ages and following. Of course these early civilizations developed and applied arithmetic and geometry to farming, construction, astronomy, etc., but their systems were simple and rudimentary as compared to the science standards and practices developed in Christianized Europe.
During the period known as the “rise of science,” the giants of science, such as Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Samuel Morse, Louis Pasteur, Lord Kelvin, and a host of others were Christian European scientists who relied heavily on principles – or seeds – of science stated in the Bible. Some biblical scientific seeds or principles that guided these men are: (1) the universe was created out of nothing by an intelligent, all knowing, all powerful and Holy God; (2) nature is a creature; (3) nature is real; (4) nature is good (valuable); (5) the universe is orderly; (6) the relative motion of the planets and stars are fixed; (7) the seasons follow a regular cycle; (8) living organisms reproduce after their own kind; and (9) man was commanded to subdue the earth and rule over it (in other words, God commanded man to do science!).
Thus, science as we know it today only developed in Europe and not elsewhere because the scientists who practiced there were immersed in a culture with this unique Christian worldview and because many were themselves devout Christians.
Many scientific facts known today have their “seeds” clearly planted in Scripture. For example, we know today that the earth is a sphere suspended in space; hanging from nothing by an “immaterial” force called gravity; with the north stretched out over empty space (that is, space is not composed of ether, as once believed, but is empty). These same facts were stated in Job 26:5-14 where it states in part, “He stretches out the north over empty space, And hangs the earth on nothing. . . . He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters, At the boundary of light and darkness.” Interestingly, the only vantage point from which one can see the circular curvature of the earth at the boundary of light and darkness is from space or from God’s view or perhaps an astronaut’s view. Job certainly was no astronaut; he was merely recording the words of God as the Spirit moved him.
The Bible declares that the world was created from nothing (or creation ex nihilo) – God spoke it into being. Correspondingly, the most widely accepted scientific theory of how the universe was formed, called the “Big Bang,” claims that the universe came into being from the sudden explosion of some highly concentrated form of energy. In other words, matter was suddenly formed from no material thing, that is, from nothing. Scientists are getting increasingly closer to the biblical truth.
I will give one last example, though there are many more. Psalms 139:13 declares, “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb.” Correspondingly, geneticists studying the process of meiosis – the biological process of human sex (germ) cell duplication and subsequent gamete formation (male sperm or female egg) – have discovered that during this process the DNA from the paired chromosomes (father/mother chromosome pairs) actually weave themselves together and exchange DNA material (called crossover) such that when conception takes place in the mother’s womb a unique individual is formed. This biblical passage describes perfectly the actual intricate biological process that occurs in human procreation.
For me, and I should think for all Christians who believe that the Bible is the Word of God written, the Bible is neither unscientific nor pre-scientific but is indeed a book of “seminal science.” As human knowledge increases, that knowledge consistently attests to the accuracy and truthfulness of Scripture whatever the subject. (Charles Warren, Ph.D., is vice president of institutional effectiveness and senior executive assistant to the president, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City.)