Science Series: Was Belief in God a Science-Stopper? Not for Newton

This is an article by my good friend Allen Hainline.  He is a summa cum laude graduate in physics from the University of Texas at Austin and has a Masters degree in Systems and Software Engineering from the University of Texas Continuing Engineering Studies and also later taught in the program for several years.  Over at (the apologetics site of Frank Turek) Allen has Cross Examined - Christian Apologetic Ministry | Frank Turek | Christian Apologetics | Christian Apologetics Speakersdone a series of posts related to science and fine-tuning for life.  They are definitely worth the read.  His latest is on the false notion that belief in God is a science stopper.  Here is a quick taste:

I’d like to call attention to a couple of excellent blogs by Luke Barnes correcting some historical blunders that Neil deGrasse Tyson made. Tyson argued that Newton failed to discover the stability of the solar system due to blinders that resulted from his belief in God. Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2 of the blogs by Barnes, a cosmologist from Australia.

I had recognized historical misrepresentations by Tyson in the Cosmos series such as that Giordano Bruno was a martyr for science and that Galileo went to jail for his scientific beliefs[1] but I wasn’t aware of the broader story behind this famous interaction between Laplace and Napole0n. You really need to read Barnes’s blogs for the details but in a nutshell the story is that Napolean upon reading physicist Pierre-Simon Laplace’s writings about the physics of the solar system asked why they never mentioned a Creator. Laplace replied that “Sir, I had no need of that hypothesis.” Also, as Barnes summarizes: “Tyson claims that Newton (1642-1727) should have discovered what Laplace (1749-1827) did – that the combined pull of the planets on each other do not destabilise their orbits – but was hamstrung by his theism.” Tyson wonders why Newton didn’t discover the stability of the solar system but inserted God as a means of intervening to keep things stable:

What concerns me is, even if you’re as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God, and then your discovery stops. It just stops. You’re no good any more for advancing that frontier. You’re waiting for someone to come behind you who doesn’t have God on the brain and who says “that’s a really cool problem, I want to solve it.” And they come in and solve it.”

Barnes points out several problems with Tyson’s claims:

  • This story may have never actually happened – the case for its historicity is somewhat weak as Laplace himself denied it and the earliest reports about the meeting are relatively late.

The other problems with Tyson’s claims can be found by linking over to the post.  Allen Hainline runs a college ministry at the University of Texas at Dallas that I am privileged to speak at ever so often.  It is part of the Reasonable Faith chapters of William Lane Craig’s ministry.  Information can be found at Reasonable Faith University of Texas at Dallas (RF UTD) which usually meets every Thursday night at 7 PM in the campus library.  Just this year they have had J. Warner Wallace  (former cold-case detective), Dr. Frank Turek,(apologist at, Dr. Ray Bohlin (a molecular and cell biologist), and Dr. Michael Strauss.  (professor of physics at University of Oklahoma).

This video is a debate Allen Hainline had with Lydia Allen at the BBC: