by Kate Patrick, Rhetoric School Math/Science
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard…
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
Psalm 19: 1-3, 7-8
Take a few moments and transport your mind back to the Renaissance. You’re Tycho Brahe, spending your nights gazing at the stars from the attic of your home, taking notes and doing math, charting the regularity of God’s creation. During the day, you join your family and your community at mass, hearing, in Latin, the words of the 19th psalm. King David, speaking to you from across the centuries, communicating the rhythmic regularity and beauty of the created world. You think, “How did David know? Had he charted the course of the stars? How could he have this depth of knowledge of God’s perfection without the physical evidence I am faced with night after night?”
Tycho Brahe, believing wholeheartedly in the perfection of God’s created order, correctly predicted several major astronomical events in his lifetime. He then passed down his charts and computations to Johannes Kepler, who would in turn, gave them structure and codified them in to scientific law. These men, scientists to their core, physicists before the science had unified in to one field, relied on the Word of God’s promise of perfection to explore His Created world. One could argue that this was the reality of scientific exploration through the majority of its history – men (and later women) of faith, seeking to define what God had already perfectly balanced and enumerated.
When Sir Isaac Newton published his magnum opus, 1687’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematice, he used the work of Brahe and Kepler to expand the natural laws that God had set forth to include the concept of gravity and suddenly, our solar system came into view. Our Heavens sung the song of perfect creation and we could describe natural phenomena, wondrous creation that had captured the imagination of generations. Science’s faith in God’s perfection in creation even lead to a 200 year-long chase to capture the “missing” 43 arc-seconds per century in the perihelion of Mercury. Many scientists tried and failed to find the cause of the shift in Mercury’s orbit, something that would cause the planet to seem to defy the order of the Laws of Creation. Finally resolved by Einstein in his description of relativity, the chase was over, and the perfection of God’s creation left scientists in awe once again. Einstein himself said, “There is no logical way to the discovery of elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition, which is helped by a feeling for the order lying behind the appearance.”
This brings our trek through the history of science and scientific thought to today. No longer taught to seek out God’s perfection seeing everywhere the “order lying behind the appearance”, scientists are currently being educated in the art of the fudge-factor. If chaos births chaos and created order is not to be expected from our world, then there is no reason to pursue an answer to a question. Science is compromised in the substitution of interpretation for facts, in perspective for the truth. If there is no Creator and no created order, then there is no reason to believe that perfection can be found, so the pursuit is dropped wholesale. As Believers, we know that this is not true, that we can see the Hand of God working in our natural world and that His creation is ours to discover.
As we steward the next generation of scientists, let’s remind them (and ourselves) not just of the beauty of the world around us, but of the order and the regularity of God’s design. Who knows what wonders can be unlocked if our science begins, once again, to acknowledge that we are not describing a chaotic system of uncontrolled chain reactions beginning with a butterfly flapping its wings in Africa, but that we are observing and defining an intricately designed machine that was built specifically with us in mind and in heart?