In light of the rise of aggressive atheism in the 1980s from the likes of Richard Dawkins, Meyer decided to study the works of the early scientists for himself.
Why the rise of systematic study of science in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries? It required a certain form of thinking. The idea of creation provided the necessary break from Greek thinking: Greek assumptions about nature impeded systematic thought-assumptions based on rational thought rather than actual study. Meyer uses father of modern chemistry Robert Boyle as a prime example of the Christian thinkers who believed that a mind had ordered nature, and that it was necessary to use a mind to objectively observe what God had already done, rather than to decide what must be the case without checking, as was the Greek process. An intelligence had created, and it was necessary to use intelligence to discover. Order is the product of rational deliberation and choice. Additionally, God had made the cosmos intelligible, enabling us to understand it. Galileo, Newton, Keppler and Copernicus all believed that an intelligent God had created nature.
Reformation thinkers also saw the fallibility of man, which required the need to “interrogate nature” to get to its truths.
Early natural philosophers commonly used three metaphors to describe what they saw as order in nature. The first had been used since the early Church Fathers: the book of nature. This was used in conjunction with the book of Scripture, which has such relevant passages as Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God”. Founders of modern science, including Boyle and biologist John Ray were inspired by this view of nature, and commonly wrote about it: the book of nature reflected God’s creative power, they said.
The second metaphor was a clock. Natural philosophers saw the regularity of nature as a consequence of God’s mechanistic design. Nature works like an ordered, precise clock which has been lovingly designed and fashioned.
The third metaphor was a law-governed realm. This gave rise to the idea of the laws of nature. Newton, Boyle and Descartes were among those who saw that God had established laws, and maintains them. The ancient Hebrews declared that One God had made the world, and the natural philosophers-early scientists-recognized that this principle complemented the order and unity of the universe. Philosophers had noted various scripture references stating that God had issued “decrees” to put nature under laws of action.
Meyer outlines the importance of design arguments. Early founders of modern science not only believed that nature was designed but also that this design was evidenced by studies in their own fields. For example, Johannes Keppler perceived intelligent design in the mathematical precision of planetary motion, and expressed that in his three laws of motion. Robert Boyle was convinced that the regularity of physical laws and chemical mechanisms, as well as the anatomical structures in living organisms, showed the work of “a most intelligent and designing agent”. Carl Linnaeus saw design within his study of groups of animals and classification. Other scientists made similar observations from their own studies.
Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity helped put men on the moon. He knew that the moon drives ocean tides, and he said that all material objects exert a force on all others, without any physical interaction between them. He and others said that gravity wouldn’t act at a distance without the establishing power and constant attendance of God’s Spirit. The laws of nature are real, but perpetuated by God. Keppler and others had similar views. An intelligent, powerful being was at work, in biology as well as in the natural laws. Design was apparent in nature.
THE RISE OF SCIENTIFIC MATERIALISM
The “new atheists” of today are attempting to deny that men like Newton really saw the universe this way. Meyer gets more specific with this info but here’s a quote I personally and easily found about Biologist John Ray-online-by an alleged science expert:
Even though John Ray was a staunch believer in the hand of God in the changing of a species, his great contributions to the field of Biology were very influential in Charles Darwin’s initial Theory of Evolution through Natural Selection. (Thoughtco.com)
I would also question that John Ray believed in the changing of species.
So how did we get from the faith and convictions of these giants of science, to the materialism of today? How did we get from Newton to Dawkins and his “God Delusion”? How were Newton, Keppler and Boyle overturned?
Meyer goes on to discuss the rise of scientific materialism, and the fact that after the eighteenth century the idea arose that science and faith were at war. Men like Newton were profoundly theistic in their thinking, but by the late nineteenth century biologists and others had an entirely different philosophy.
During the eighteenth century the Enlightenment was producing three central ideas. 1/Human thought could function without the need for God. 2/Atheism. 3/The conviction that matter exists, but an immaterial God does not.
Man could reason without theism. Organized religion had caused endless conflict. Philosopher David Hume argued that order precludes the existence of God, and Voltaire and Kant helped promote a worldview that excluded God.
Hume argued that the existence of the laws of nature show there’s no need for God. Miracles, he said, are impossible because the laws of nature are unbreakable.
Here I must add my own opinion that Hume’s view is small, constricted thinking, since it seems obvious to me that One who could create natual laws would also be able to break or negate them at will.
Hume gave birth to the idea of “radical empiricism”: the insistence that we have five natural senses only, and we should only use those. French philosopher Auguste Comte in the 1840s formulated the doctrine of positivism-requiring the intentional ignoring of God to find scientific and logical truth.
In this environment knowledge became secularized.
A persuasive argument for the existence of God, the “Kalam” cosmological argument, stated that the universe must have had a beginning, and therefore there must have been a Cause. Kant reasoned against the Kalam argument, and Newton’s own thinking seemed to back up Kant in this regard. Newton, though “profoundly theistic” had said the universe must be infinite in order to uphold the constants of gravity. Later physicists agreed with this view. They reasoned that since the universe was spacially infinite, as Newton had argued, it must also be infinite in time, and never had a beginning. This conviction seemed to dispose (conveniently) of the Kalam argument and others like it.
Well into the nineteenth century many scientists and philosophers still held to design arguments. However, when Darwin came along he said that the appearance of design is an illusion only, and proposed natural selection as a system to produce complex organisms. French philosopher Pierre-Simon Laplace argued effectively for a natural formation of the universe, and Charles Lyell for the natural formation of geological forms. Disagreements among theists about how God acts contributed to the movement towards strict materialism.
Philosophers now insisted that matter and energy had existed eternally and so didn’t need a creator. Any argument which included God was increasingly excluded as “unscientific”. In the late nineteenth century Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud contributed enormously to materialism and the exclusion of God. Both taught that God was an invention to facilitate the domination of others.