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Section 1: What is Science?

History From the Beginning

Who May Participate in Science?

From the definition of science and the rules of the scientific method just enumerated it can be seen that anybody may properly participate in science who abides by the rules of the method. What he believes or does not believe is immaterial to whether or not he can be a good scientist, provided simply that he or she works according to the rules. The pioneer work in the science of genetics, as we saw earlier, was brilliantly conducted by a Roman Catholic priest, Gregor Mendel in Czechoslovakia. Also active in the nineteenth century, three of the greatest scientists in Great Britain were Bible believing Protestant Christians. Michael Faraday made many fundamental discoveries in electricity, magnetism and chemistry. He has been called the greatest experimentalist in the history of science. James Clerk Maxwell was a theoretical physicist. He devised the fundamental equations of electrical and magnetic fields, now called Maxwell's Equations. This discovery has been called the greatest single intellectual feat in the history of science. And William Thompson(Lord Kelvin) made important discoveries in many fields of physical science. These men did not believe in evolution, whereas Mendel did accept Darwin's theory of evolution. Yet the four men were all very good scientists.

In France Louis Pasteur, who laid the foundations of several fields of chemical and biological science, was a devout Roman Catholic believer, and a believer in the Bible. In 1860 Pasteur became involved in a famous public controversy with certain leading scientists who believed in the spontaneous generation of life. (Note: The word, "spontaneous," means without any outside plan, guidance or influence.) Spontaneous generation is the idea that living organisms such as bacteria can form spontaneously from non-living chemicals. In the course of this controversy with other scientists, Pasteur thought the matter through. As a part of his religious faith he believed in the Christian God of creation. He concluded, therefore, that life had to be created by God. Therefore, he conducted a famous series of experiments which proved that spontaneous generation does not occur, at least under the present conditions which prevail on the earth. The fact that Louis Pasteur was motivated and guided in these experiments by his religious faith did not make them poor science. This was because he carried them out in accord with the rules of the scientific method. Today, well over a century later, his results still stand.

There were in the same period of history also great scientists who were atheists or agnostics(not sure whether or not God exists). So we see that there have been wide differences between the beliefs of scientists. These scientists who have been mentioned--Catholic, Protestant, atheist or agnostic--were all productive scientists. This is because they agreed on the rules of the scientific method, even though they had very different philosophical and religious beliefs. Furthermore, some of them believed in evolution and others believed in creation. Thus the history of science demonstrates that nobody should be excluded from science or from any other scholarly pursuit because of what he or she believes or does not believe. It is important to remember, however, that in the five hundred years of the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries a majority of those people who founded the principal disciplines of modern science were Christians who believed in the Bible and in the God of creation.

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