Science Discussed Pt. 2

“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~

Nicholaus Copernicus had a worldview. Influenced by Greek Pythagoreanism, Copernicus stood against the popular idea of a geocentric universe. Making a number of adjustments to the model to support the theory, Copernicus created a steady-motion model where planetary bodies orbit at similar speeds in a circular pattern.

Copernicus believed that the heavens were perfect and reflected the unencumbered shape of the circle. However, when tested, Copernicus' theory was left wanting. Adapting his theory to fit older models of planetary movement, Copernicus used epicycles and double epicycles which are basically circles within circles.

Johannes Kepler also had a worldview. Raised by a healer/herbalist mother and mercenary father, Kepler was a sickly child with poor eyesight and crippled hands likely contracted from a bout with smallpox. Kepler developed a passion for the Lutheran church throughout his maturing and sought to enter the pastorate. 

Finding success in mathematics, Kepler entered the university and studied Ptolemaic and Copernican astronomy. Graduating in 1594 Kepler received a mathematics teaching position in Austria where he began to develop a theory of the amount of planets and the relative size of their orbits.

Kepler began sharing his ideas with Tycho Brahe, the 16th century observational astronomer. Arguably the leading astronomer of that time, Brahe invited Kepler to join his research team. Unexpectedly dying in 1601, Brahe's position as the imperial mathematician to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II was passed to Kepler, granting him protection against religious pressures that may influence research.

Brahe is known as the one of the best observational astronomers in history. Brahe's discipling led Kepler to extensive study in planetary motion. As Kepler sifted through the data from the best naked-eye observations of the day he could not find a mathematic formula, whether geocentric or heliocentric, that would coincide with the observational data.

Kepler's best explanation involved a heliocentric model, but using circular orbits did not fit the observational data. Kepler proposed elliptical orbits to explain the observational data, noting that the planets likely orbited at different speeds from eachother. Through his study Kepler developed three laws of planetary motion.

Glenn Sunshine from the Colson Center for Christian Worldview notes:

Kepler’s work was motivated by a complex set of ideas. First and foremost, he was a Christian natural philosopher: he believed that a rational God created a rational universe, and we as beings made in God’s image are also rational and can therefore work out the laws governing the universe. In many ways, this was the governing principle behind all of his work.

Kepler was also the last great Pythagorean. He believed that God was a geometer, and geometry held the key to understanding the universe. And of course, he was a committed Copernican. These motivations, along with Kepler’s mathematical genius, all interlocked to lead Kepler to discover the laws of planetary motion...His faith in the intelligibility of the universe governed by divine reason, the Logos, led him to examine the world systematically, not take short cuts, and to use everything God gave him to the full.

Kepler's commitment to his faith as he studied science guided exploration to intelligibly explain the universe. His bravery and God-ordained protection from popular science and religious pressure allowed Kepler to innovate and explore God's world, drawing Kepler to greater reliance and dependance on God; a deeper faith.

Kepler lived a life of significance, founded on God's word studying God's world. His story is fuel for many instructors who are preparing students to enter a hostile environment that does not welcome the marriage of faith and science. This is one of the many reasons why a Hillcrest experience is so much more than a diploma.

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