Isaac Newton , 1642-1727 England , pioneer of science and faith

Hey Max

Here is the main man, Isaac Newton. I can’t find anything about him sitting under and apple tree but he is a giant of faith and science. IT is good to read him down the list of these pioneers of science because he himself said: ‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Cheers

Isaac Newton 1642-1727 England

was an English physicist and mathematician who is widely regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica ("Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy"), first published in 1687, laid the foundations for most of classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics and shares credit with Gottfried Leibniz for the invention of the infinitesimal calculus.

Newton’s Principia formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation that dominated scientists’ view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. It also demonstrated that the motion of objects on the Earth and that of celestial bodies could be described by the same principles. By deriving Kepler’s laws of planetary motion from his mathematical description of gravity, Newton removed the last doubts about the validity of the heliocentric model of the cosmos.

Newton built the first practical reflecting telescope and developed a theory of colour based on the observation that a prism decomposes white light into the many colours of the visible spectrum. He also formulated an empirical law of cooling and studied the speed of sound. In addition to his work on the calculus, as a mathematician Newton contributed to the study of power series, generalised the binomial theorem to non-integer exponents, and developed Newton’s method for approximating the roots of a function.

Newton was a fellow of Trinity College and the second Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He was a devout but unorthodox Christian and, unusually for a member of the Cambridge faculty, he refused to take holy orders in the Church of England, perhaps because he privately rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. In addition to his work on the mathematical sciences, Newton also dedicated much of his time to the study of alchemy and biblical chronology, but most of his work in those areas remained unpublished until long after his death. In his later life, Newton became president of the Royal Society. He also served the British government as Warden and Master of the Royal Mint.

Although born into an Anglican family, by his thirties Newton held a Christian faith that, had it been made public, would not have been considered orthodox by mainstream Christianity.[93]

In Newton’s eyes, worshipping Christ as God was idolatry, to him the fundamental sin.[94] Historian Stephen D. Snobelen says of Newton, " He hid his faith so well that scholars are still unravelling his personal beliefs."[6] Most scholars identify Newton as an Antitrinitarian monotheist.[6][97]

Although the laws of motion and universal gravitation became Newton’s best-known discoveries, he warned against using them to view the Universe as a mere machine, as if akin to a great clock. He said, "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done."[98]

Along with his scientific fame, Newton’s studies of the Bible and of the early Church Fathers were also noteworthy. Newton wrote works on textual criticism, most notably An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture. He placed the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at 3 April, AD 33, which agrees with one traditionally accepted date.[99] He also tried unsuccessfully to find hidden messages within the Bible.

He believed in a rationally immanent world, but he rejected the hylozoism implicit in Leibniz and Baruch Spinoza. The ordered and dynamically informed Universe could be understood, and must be understood, by an active reason. In his correspondence, Newton claimed that in writing the Principia "I had an eye upon such Principles as might work with considering men for the belief of a Deity".[100] He saw evidence of design in the system of the world: "Such a wonderful uniformity in the planetary system must be allowed the effect of choice". But Newton insisted that divine intervention would eventually be required to reform the system, due to the slow growth of instabilities.[101] For this, Leibniz lampooned him: "God Almighty wants to wind up his watch from time to time: otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion."[102] Newton’s position was vigorously defended by his follower Samuel Clarke in a famous correspondence. A century later, Pierre-Simon Laplace‘s work "Celestial Mechanics" had a natural explanation for why the planet orbits don’t require periodic divine intervention.[103]

Newton and Robert Boyle‘s approach to the mechanical philosophy was promoted by rationalist pamphleteers as a viable alternative to the pantheists and enthusiasts, and was accepted hesitantly by orthodox preachers as well as dissident preachers like the latitudinarians.[104] The clarity and simplicity of science was seen as a way to combat the emotional and metaphysical superlatives of both superstitious enthusiasm and the threat of atheism,[105] and at the same time, the second wave of English deists used Newton’s discoveries to demonstrate the possibility of a "Natural Religion".

The attacks made against pre-Enlightenment "magical thinking", and the mystical elements of Christianity, were given their foundation with Boyle’s mechanical conception of the Universe. Newton gave Boyle’s ideas their completion through mathematical proofs and, perhaps more importantly, was very successful in popularising them.[107] Newton refashioned the world governed by an interventionist God into a world crafted by a God that designs along rational and universal principles.[108] These principles were available for all people to discover, allowed people to pursue their own aims fruitfully in this life, not the next, and to perfect themselves with their own rational powers.[109]

Newton saw God as the master creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation.[110][111][112] His spokesman, Clarke, rejected Leibniz’ theodicy which cleared God from the responsibility for l’origine du mal by making God removed from participation in his creation, since as Clarke pointed out, such a deity would be a king in name only, and but one step away from atheism.[113] But the unforeseen theological consequence of the success of Newton’s system over the next century was to reinforce the deist position advocated by Leibniz.[114] The understanding of the world was now brought down to the level of simple human reason, and humans, as Odo Marquard argued, became responsible for the correction and elimination of evil.[115]

I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Yet one thing secures us what ever betide,
The scriptures assures us the Lord will provide."

This most beautiful system [The Universe] could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. This Being governs all things not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called ‘Lord God’.. or ‘Universal Ruler’… And from his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent and powerful Being… he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done…Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and everywhere, could produce no variety of things.

All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the idea and will of a Being necessarily existing.

One thought on “Isaac Newton , 1642-1727 England , pioneer of science and faith

  1. ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ – was this not a quotation, perhaps of Bernard of Chartres, perhaps a commonplace phrase? Newton used it well, but he borrowed from a giant!

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