God in Newton's universe
Source document: Religio. 2003, vol. 11, iss. 2, pp. -204
ISSN1210-3640 (print)2336-4475 (online)
License: Not specified license
This paper examines the theological background of Newton's scientific research. The article begins with the brief survey of the mechanical philosophy of the 17th century: This type of philosophing is often viewed as a deism but the survey of the works of the mechanical philosophers shows that they maintain quite different position. Mechanicists think that the world needs for its next duration the continual influence of the conserving God's power. Newton picks up the threads of the mechanicism and thinks as well that the world is always dependent on the conserving power of God. Newton is convinced that the image of the world as a great machine going on without the assistance of a "clockmaker" exludes providence and God's government out of the world and therefore leads to materialism and atheism. At the same time Newton is worried about the possibility of the materialistic, atheistic or deistic interpretations of his scientific theories (e.g. the conception of absolute space, theory of the gravity) and so he adds to his scientific works some passages in which he strongly stresses God's omnipresence and the continual maintenance of the world by the power of God. Originally strictly mathematical theories are in this way connected with theology, e.g. the gravity Newton regards as a continual miracle. The tradition of the Enlightenment considers Newton to be a purely scientific mind deprived of religious prejucides. Such an opinion is obviously mistaken – religion and theology play an important part not only in Newton's private life but also in his scientific works. This fact shows that history of the European science and philosophy is not sufficiently simple for making onesided judgments.