Kepler’s laws posit uncanny relationships. For instance, Kepler’s third law states that the square of the time of a planet’s revolution is proportional to the cube of its mean distance from the sun. How could anyone have figured that out? Kepler did in large part because he was convinced that there had to be a beautiful mathematical relationship there hidden andwaiting for him. Part of his Christian vocation was to find it and promulgate it to the greater glory of God. Kepler’s success leads to the surprising recognition that religious motivation can sometimes result in breakthrough discoveries that change the course of scientific history.
This may seem like an outdated view today, but it is not. Scientists commonly search for new patterns and order in nature, and they use what may appear to be peculiar criteria to determine if they are on the right path. They often ask whether a relationship is “simple” or whether it is “beautiful.” Patterns ..that are overly cumbersome or “ugly” are often rejected on those grounds alone.
Why? Because even the most secular scientist presumes that nature embodies not only order but simplicity and beauty. This, I would argue, is the Christian residue of modern science. It is the little whisper, if we will hear it, that our science even today rests on religious foundations. Even secular scientists cannot get away from these Christian assumptions, and some of the most perceptive of them have recognized this. Einstein confessed that “in every true searcher of nature there is a kind of religious reverence.” Biologist Joshua Lederberg recently told Science magazine, “What is incontrovertible is that a religious impulse guides our motive in sustaining scientific inquiry.” That impulse came originally from Christianity.