The name game: scientific ideas named after creationists
Can creationists be real scientists? High priest of Darwinism Richard Dawkins doesn’t seem to think so:
“It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”1
And apparently we can trust Dawkins’ assessment, since recently a genus of fish has been named after him—Dawkinsia.2 In the words of lead researcher Rohan Pethiyagoda:
“Richard Dawkins has through his writings helped us understand that the universe is far more beautiful and awe-inspiring than any religion has imagined. We hope that Dawkinsia will serve as a reminder of the elegance and simplicity of evolution, the only rational explanation there is for the unimaginable diversity of life on Earth.”3
One evolutionist blogger commenting on this gleefully proclaimed: “Your move, Creationists.”4
We might call this the ‘name game challenge’. Things in science are named after people who have made significant contributions to science all the time. No doubt Pethiyagoda thought he was doing that in naming the new fish genus Dawkinsia. But do creationists have anything in science named after them?
Science and its laws
A good place to start is a commonly practised scientific method—often called the Baconian method. It was named after English scientist and philosopher Francis Bacon (1561–1626). He was the first to systematically explain how we do science. He believed in biblical creation, and was an English Protestant.5 He was even motivated by trying to regain the knowledge he believed that Adam had before the Fall.6
However, not only science itself, but many of its laws are named after Christians. For example, there are Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion, which describe the way planets move around the sun. They were named after devout Lutheran and biblical creationist Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) who discovered them. The German Kepler also gave us the famous phrase that science is “thinking God’s thoughts after him.”7
Englishman Isaac Newton (1642/3–1727) hardly needs introduction; he is generally regarded as the most influential scientist of all time. He explained the cause of Kepler’s laws in what are known as ‘Newton’s three laws of motion’ and his theory of universal gravitation—the law of gravity. In these he showed that the heavens obey the same laws of motion as the earth. Newton also has the fundamental unit of force named after him—the newton (N). And like Kepler, Newton was a biblical creationist, who wrote far more on the Bible and theology than he ever did on science.8
Robert Boyle (1627–1691) is known as the father of modern chemistry. In his famous book, The Skeptical Chymist, the Anglo-Irishman Boyle overturned the then popular notion that everything is made up of four elements: fire, water, earth, and air. He redefined the ‘element’ to give us our modern notion of an element—a substance that cannot be separated into simpler components by chemical methods. He is also known for Boyle’s Law, which states that a gas’s volume increases as its pressure decreases at a constant temperature. He was a generous patron of missionary work, and wrote a number of books defending the Christian faith. He too was a biblical creationist.9
Another famous law of chemistry is Dalton’s Law, which states that the total pressure exerted by the mixture of non-reactive gases is equal to the sum of the partial pressures of individual gases. It was named after John Dalton (1766–1844), a devout English Quaker who was well known for his simple and steadfast devotion to practical Christian piety.10
Perhaps the greatest achievement of 19th century physics was Maxwell’s equations, a set of four fundamental equations that light and all forms of electromagnetic radiation obey. They were named after the brilliant Scotsman who brought together various streams of thought in such an elegant way, James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879). Clerk Maxwell was also a devout evangelical and biblical creationist.11,12
Units of measurement
Another area of naming common in science, already introduced with Isaac Newton, is that of units of measurement. SI units are the internationally recognized standards of scientific measurement. Of this system, those known as SI base units, seven in all, are its fundamental units (see table 1). Of the seven, only two are named after people: the kelvin and the ampere. The kelvin is the SI base unit of temperature. It was named after the British Lord Kelvin (William Thomson, 1824–1907), one of the founders of the field of thermodynamics. He believed that the earth could have been up to 40 million years old based on his calculations, but he was a Christian and a creationist.13 The ampere is the SI base unit of electric current. It was named after André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836), a French mathematician and physicist and devout Catholic creationist.14
However, many other SI units, known as derived units, are also named after creationists. The newton (N) is the SI derived unit for force. The pascal (Pa) is the SI unit for pressure, and was named after French scientist and Christian Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), who is also known for Pascal’s wager and a number of classic theological and philosophical writings (such as Pensées).15 The joule (J) is the SI unit for energy, and was named after the Englishman James Joule (1818–1889). Joule often collaborated with Lord Kelvin, and was a firm believer in the Bible.16 The farad (F) is the SI unit for capacitance, which is named after Michael Faraday (1791–1867). Faraday is often recognized as the greatest experimentalist of all time, and though English, he was a member of a conservative offshoot of the Church of Scotland called the Sandemanians, very strict on standing on biblical authority.
Science: littered with the names of creationists
Here are some more beneficial ideas that have come about through scientific research by creationists:
- Pasteurization—the process where a food is heated to a given temperature for a set amount of time, and cooled very quickly, which kills off most pathogenic germs in food. It was named after its inventor, Roman Catholic creationist Louis Pasteur. Louis Pasteur (1822–1895) championed the French fight against Darwin’s ideas by showing that since life only comes from life, Darwin’s evolution could never get started.17
- The Mercator projection—a standard projection used in mapping which enables straight line drawings of voyages with a constant heading. It was developed by the Flemish Christian Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594).18
- The Faraday cage—an enclosure formed by any metal that conducts electricity which acts as a shield against electric currents and (to differing extents) electromagnetic radiation to anything inside. This was first discovered by the American Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), but first explained by Michael Faraday.19
More examples could be added. So what scientific ideas have we seen are named after creationists? The foundational laws of motion, chemistry, and electromagnetism. The only two SI base units named after people, and numerous SI derived units. A number of widely used processes and inventions. And perhaps most significantly—the commonly practised scientific method itself. Unlike Dawkinsia, these things were not named after these people for some nebulous achievement unrelated to the actual discovery—these people made these discoveries. And they were all trying to do just as Kepler did—thinking God’s thoughts after Him.
The history of science is one of the most compelling testimonies to the reality and practical power of the Bible. Not only can creationists be real scientists, real science only blossomed under creationist assumptions!20 Thinking God’s thoughts after Him is just one practical outworking of Genesis 1:27–28—we were created in God’s image to rule creation. To rule as God rules, we must understand. And to understand the creation and how it works, we must test it.
References and notes
- Cited in Dawkins, R., Ignorance is no crime, old.richarddawkins.net/articles/114, 15 May 2006. Return to text.
- Catchpoole, D., Fishy Dawkinsia tales, tragic Dawkinsian philosophy, creation.com/fishy-dawkinsia-tales, 28 August 2012. Return to text.
- Sri Lankans name new type of fish after Richard Dawkins, 16 July 2012, telegraph.co.uk, accessed 11 April 2013. Return to text.
- Mehta, H., New genus of South Asian fish named after Richard Dawkins, 16 July 2012, patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist, as at 12 April 2013. Return to text.
- Bacon’s impact was not entirely positive. While he believed in biblical creation, he also advocated a separation between the Bible and science. They were in his mind equally authoritative, but they spoke to different aspects of reality. This led to the subsuming of the Bible under science, and the ultimate rejection of the Bible in favour of science. Bacon, F., The Advancement of Learning, 1.6.16, 1605; gutenberg.org, acc. 9 April 2013. Return to text.
- Harrison, P., The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science, Cambridge University Press, 2007. See also a review of this book, Weinberger, L., The Fall and the inspiration for science, J. Creation 24(3):18–21, 2010; creation.com/fall-science. Return to text.
- Lamont, A., Johannes Kepler: Outstanding scientist and committed Christian, Creation 15(1):40–43, December 1992; creation.com/kepler. Return to text.
- Lamont, A., Sir Isaac Newton (1642/3–1727): a scientific genius, Creation 12(3):48–51, June 1990; creation.com/newton. Return to text.
- Doolan, R., The man who turned chemistry into a science: Robert Boyle (1627–1691), Creation 12(1):22–23, December 1989; creation.com/boyle. Return to text.
- Graves, D., Scientists of Faith, Kregel, Grand Rapids, MI, pp. 87–90, 1996. Return to text.
- Lamont, A., James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879), Creation 15(3):45–47, June 1993; creation.com/maxwell. Return to text.
- Doyle, S., Einstein’s heroes: biblical creationists, Creation 36(1):54–55, 2014. Return to text.
- Woodmorappe, J., Lord Kelvin revisited on the young age of the earth, Journal of Creation 13(1):14, April 1999; creation.com/kelvin. Return to text.
- Fox, W., André Marie Ampère; in: The Catholic Encyclopedia, Robert Appleton Company, New York, 1907; newadvent.org, acc. 4 December 2012. Return to text.
- Lamont, A., Great creation scientist: Blaise Pascal (1623–1662): Outstanding scientist and committed Christian, Creation 20(1):38–39, 1997; creation.com/pascal. Return to text.
- Lamont, A., James Joule: The great experimenter who was guided by God, Creation 15(2):47–50, 1993; creation.com/joule. Return to text.
- Lamont, A., Louis Pasteur (1822–1895): Outstanding scientist and opponent of evolution, Creation 14(1):16–19, 1991; creation.com/pasteur. Return to text.
- Grigg, R., Mercator’s projection, Creation 38(1):54–55, 2016. Return to text.
- Lamont, A., Michael Faraday—God’s power and electric power, Creation 12(4):22–24, 1990; creation.com/faraday. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., The biblical roots of modern science, Creation 32(4):32–36, 2010; creation.com/roots. Atheists doing science successfully today, whether or not making great discoveries, are doing so under what were originally biblical assumptions. Return to text.