Christian thinkers have proposed a range of ideas about what science is, ranging from reading the book of God's works and "thinking God's thoughts after Him" to studying how the Universe runs itself if God doesn't intervene. Views like these were expressed by early modern scientists (Galileo, Bacon, Newton and others) who were Christians of one sort or another, but they needn't be the last word for a theistic perspective on science.
The recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is, of course, tragic. Many heroic doctors, nurses and medics are struggling to contain the virus but did you know that some hardened secularists would welcome this outbreak?
Consider the following story.
In the final year of his life, the atheist novelist Somerset Maugham (1874 – 1965) became terrified of dying and the possibility of judgment by a just and holy God loomed alarmingly. He had led a sordid, decadent and intensely selfish life and he craved secular comfort and consolation. In this state of fevered anguish he summoned the famous atheist philosopher Alfred Ayer to his deathbed in the south of France and pleaded: "Freddie I have led a debauched and depraved life.
In this post I’d like to reflect on a tension that I consider to be quite widespread within academia. ‘Critical thinking’ is often extolled as one of the core virtues necessary for the intellectual life: much university-level teaching is geared towards developing this skill, and it is viewed as foundational for effective research.
Is gentleness something academics should aspire to? If a colleague or a peer described you as gentle, would you be pleased, or a little worried?