Islam, Christianity, Atheism, and the Origin of Science

If we are to believe evolutionists like Richard Dawkins, religion is the enemy of science. He’s not the first atheist to make this claim. But when Dawkins speaks these days, people listen and react. For example, this tweet about Islam and science got a stern response:

“[A]ll the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”

This is a factual statement. According to Mark Steyn, “Trinity graduates have amassed 32 Nobel prizes, the entire Muslim world a mere 10. If you remove Yasser Arafat, Mohamed ElBaradei, and the other winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, Islam can claim just four laureates against Trinity’s 31 (the college’s only peace-prize recipient was Austen Chamberlain, brother of Neville).”

Surprisingly, a number of people attacked Dawkins for sharing the facts, or maybe not so surprisingly since it’s only open season on Christians these days, figuratively and literally. Here’s one example from a self-avowed “fourth generation socialist” and homosexual Owen Jones of The Independent newspaper: “How dare you [Dawkins] dress your bigotry up as atheism. You are now beyond an embarrassment.”

How is stating the facts bigotry? I’ll let the atheists battle among themselves over the facts when it comes to modern-day accomplishments in science.

I wonder what Dawkins would say about the Christian origins of science generally and specifically at Cambridge and Oxford?

The facts are, as Loren Eisely points out, the Christian worldview “which finally gave birth in a clear, articulate fashion to the experimental method of science itself.”1

The late atheist author Isaac Asimov was honest enough to acknowledge that early scientists were Christians. For example, he mentions John Ray who developed an early classification system for animals. “He declared fossils were the petrified remains of extinct creatures. This was not accepted by biologists generally until a century later.”2

Ray did not see that there was a conflict between his Christian beliefs and his scientific work. “In fact, he believed that scientific investigation ‘was a proper exercise of man’s faculties and a legitimate field of Christian inquiry.’” (McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Biography (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973), 9:118. Quoted in Ann Lamont, “John Ray—founder of biology and devout Christian,” Creation Ministries International.))

Ray wrote in his book The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation:John Ray_Wisdom of God manifested_cropped

“A wonder then it must needs be, that there should be any Man found so stupid and forsaken of Reason as to persuade himself, that this most beautiful and adorned World, was, or could, be produced by the fortuitous Concourse of Atoms.”3

Natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor Robert Boyle (1627–1691), who was born in the same year as Ray, spent a portion of his fortune “to have the Bible translated into various languages.”

In his will and testament, Boyle “addressed his fellow members of the Royal Society of London, wishing them all success in ‘their laudable attempts, to discover the true Nature of the Works of God’ and ‘praying that they and all other Searchers into Physical Truths’ may thereby add ‘to the glory of the Great Author of Nature, and to the Comforter of mankind.’”4

The title of one of Boyle’s many books was The Christian Virtuoso, that is, “The Christian Scientist.” Boyle was not a lone Christian voice crying in the wilderness of secular science. The membership of the Royal Society was made up of many Christians who shared Boyle’s view that “the world was God’s handiwork” and “it was their duty to study and understand this handiwork as a means of glorifying God.”5

Let’s get back to Cambridge and the religious roots of the educational institution, in particular the Cavendish Laboratory where Francis Crick and James Watson developed their model of DNA.

On the archway above the wooden door of the Cavendish Laboratory there is a Latin inscription that reads, Magna opera Domini. Exquista in omnes voluntates ejus.magna_opera_domini

“The inscription had been placed there at the insistence of the physicist James Clark Maxwell, the first Cavendish professor in 1871. The inscription quotes a Psalm that reads, ‘Great are the words of the Lord, sought out by all who take pleasure therein.’ The inscription summarized Maxwell’s inspiration for scientific study: the thought that works of nature reflect the work of a designing mind. In this belief he had been joined by many of the leading scientists of Western civilization for over four hundred years — Copernicus, Kepler, Ray, Linnaeus, Curvier, Aggassiz, Boyle, Newton, Kelvin, Farady, Rutherford — on and on the list could go.”6

Here’s the key to all of this, the key that Dawkins will not — cannot — argue against: “[M]any of these scientists did not just assume or assert by faith that the universe had been designed; they argued for the hypothesis based on discoveries in their disciplines.”7

Modern-day science is built on the shoulders of Christian scientists who believed in the regularity and predictability of the created order because there was a Creator behind it all.

  1. Loren Eisely, Darwin’s Century (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1958), 62. []
  2. Isaac Asimov, Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology: The Lives and Achievements of More Than 1000 Great Scientists from Ancient Greece to the Space Age, 3rd ed. (Garden City, NY: 1982), 137. []
  3. John Ray, The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation: Heavenly Bodies, Elements, Meteors, Fossils, Vegetables, Animals (1691), 36. []
  4. Rodney Stark, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the end of Slavery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003), 158. []
  5. Stark, For the Glory of God, 158. []
  6. Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (New York Harper/Collins, 2009), 145. []
  7. Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 145. []