Sunday, August 25, 2013

Johannes Kepler on God and Science

“The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”

—Johannes Kepler
De fundamentis Astrologiae Certioribus, Thesis XX

16 comments :

John Moore said...

Kepler suggests we need to take God as a given before we start investigating the external world. This could undermine the whole apologetics project. You don't want to assume what you're trying to prove, after all ...

Ex N1hilo said...

John,

I wasn't aware that God was part of the external world. And I doubt that there are many Christians who know that. Thanks for enlightening us all.

The Janitor said...

John Moore,

I don't think Kepler is talking about proving God's existence, so he's not assuming what he's trying to prove. Rather he's talking about doing science in light of what we know about God and his relation to the world.

John Moore said...

Do we know anything about God and his relation to the world? Maybe we're just assuming it.

Investigating the external world will surely lead you to God, right? That's a big part of apologetics. But if we assume God from the start, then there's no point to your investigation.

The Janitor said...

John Moore,

>>Do we know anything about God and his relation to the world? Maybe we're just assuming it.

It's not clear to me whether you're a Christian or not. Speaking as a Christian, we obviously know a lot about God and his relation to the world. Why should a Christian pretend that they don't know what they do know when they pick up science? Do you think, assuming you are a Christian, that we should pretend like we don't know anything about science when we read Scripture? If not, why do you have such an obvious double standard? Is that reflective of a naive elevation of "science" as a means of knowing above theology?

>>Investigating the external world will surely lead you to God, right?

If you want to play agnostic about whether we know anything about God and anything about his relation to the world, why are you suddenly so sure investigating the external world will lead you to God?

>>But if we assume God from the start, then there's no point to your investigation.

Again, Kepler isn't talking about doing apologetics.

The Janitor said...

Why is that virtually every time Apologetics315 posts a quote someone takes it as their mission to disprove it? It would be one thing if Apologetics315 was often posting controversial or ambiguous statements... But most of the time simply applying basic reading skills, common sense, or charity shows the issue is entirely in the mind of the reader.

Brian Auten said...

I couldn't have said it better, myself, Janitor.

What ever happened to the principle of charity?

John Moore said...

I wasn't trying to disprove Kepler's saying. I actually think it's a good saying.

Virtually every time Apologetics315 posts a quote, someone tries to start a discussion. Don't you guys want a discussion? I'm being sincere, so why do you respond with a sarcastic tone?

Maybe Kepler wasn't thinking about apologetics, but when you post his quote on an apologetics site, you are the ones making the connection.

Brian Auten said...

Thanks for the clarification, John.

The reason I think the quote is helpful is that, to me, it helps to dispel the myth that Christianity is a "science-stopper." In the case of Kepler, his Christian belief that God is the ultimate cause and Creator seemed to drive his pursuit of how things work.

The Janitor said...

John Moore,

>>I wasn't trying to disprove Kepler's saying. I actually think it's a good saying.

That seems like a really odd thing to say given your previous remarks about the quote. Your first remark said that Kepler's suggestion undermines apologetics. Why would you think that's a good thing (again, unless you're an unbeliever)? You seemed to think Kepler was assuming what he was trying to prove. Why would you think that's a good thing?

>>Virtually every time Apologetics315 posts a quote, someone tries to start a discussion. Don't you guys want a discussion?

That's a rhetorical move. "Discussion" and "conversation" are hooray terms in contemporary society. We have good feelings about the word "conversation" we have bad feelings about words like "argue" or "debate." But let's try to be more critically minded. Discussions can be good or bad. Conversations can be helpful or a waste of time.

If virtually every time Apologetics315 posted a quote someone started a discussion that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the direction and nature of the discussion. I was musing over the fact, as it seems to me, that often the "discussion" is simply someone trying to debunk the quote based off of a misunderstanding that could have easily been avoided.

>>I'm being sincere, so why do you respond with a sarcastic tone?

First, I wasn't being sarcastic in any of my remarks. I'm not sure which ones gave the impression of sarcasm, but that wasn't my intention.

Sincerity is another hooray term. I'm glad your sincere, but I wasn't ever really questioning your sincerity to begin with.

>>Maybe Kepler wasn't thinking about apologetics, but when you post his quote on an apologetics site, you are the ones making the connection.

The question of "how does Kepler's remark relate to apologetics?" is a good one. I would have had no objections had you begun with that question. I think you're also probably correct that a reader of this site would be warranted in thinking that the blog publisher thinks the quote has some apologetic significance. But I see no reason to think the nature of that connection is that Kepler is trying to prove God in the sense in which you construed it above. I don't think a reader is warranted in jumping to that connection in particular.

Smartyartblast said...

"The reason I think the quote is helpful is that, to me, it helps to dispel the myth that Christianity is a "science-stopper." In the case of Kepler, his Christian belief that God is the ultimate cause and Creator seemed to drive his pursuit of how things work."

Well, the other possibility of course is that Kepler produced useful scientific discoveries despite his religious beliefs. He didn't scientifically validate his Christian beliefs, after all.

I also wonder what a Christian would make of scientists who are devoted to different religions. Would they be as quick to ascribe credit to Lord Krishna or Buddha based on the scientific achievements of a devout Hindu or Buddhist scientist?

Brian Auten said...

Well, the other possibility of course is that Kepler produced useful scientific discoveries despite his religious beliefs

I don't think that's the case. His belief that the world is rationally ordered because of the creator's design seemed to be the very thing that would cause him to make useful scientific discoveries. Christianity, then, was not a science-stopper for him, because he admits it was his motivation.

I also wonder what a Christian would make of scientists who are devoted to different religions

I'd think that if the worldview gave them similar reasons to do science, then the conclusion would be that that particular religion is not a science-stopper. It would motivate scientific discovery. But, just like any other religion, it doesn't make it true.

However, if the religion or worldview describes the world as one of chaos, or that the world is an illusion, or that the end goal should be nirvana or something, then that worldview doesn't motivate much scientific discovery.

Ex N1hilo said...

Modern empirical Science came about as the project of creationist Christians who sought to "think God's thoughts after Him," for the benefit of mankind and the glory of God.

That Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus and others have joined in the scientific enterprise means they think and act as creationists in the lab and classroom, and step out of that role in other areas of their lives.

Smartyartblast said...

RE: Ex N1hilo, are you kidding? If so, I'm afraid you have it entirely backward. Modern empirical science came about via the scientific method, which in fact traces it's history back to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Babylonians, and certainly had nothing whatever to do with any creationist Christians.

It would be ironic, to say the least, for creationist Christians to be given credit for developing methods to investigate the empirical when in fact they haven't a shred of empirical evidence for their religious claims whatsoever.

Anonymous said...

Smartyartblast,

I'm eager to hear your empirical evidence supporting your claim that creationist Christians "haven't a shred of empirical evidence for their religious claims whatsoever." Or shall we take it on faith, ignoring the vast catalogue of information found in the vertical column to the left of this post which contradicts your claim?

By the way - good DISCUSSION everyone! :)

-with gentleness and reverence...

QPT said...

Google is celebrating Johannes Kepler's birthday with a special animated doodle.

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