Let’s talk about scientist Sir Isaac Newton. He was born in 1643, and he died in 1727. He was born into humble circumstances. His father died three months before he was born. In 1661, Newton went off to Cambridge. He had a grasp of Latin and a very curious mind. He would pass the time sketching clocks and windmills and other kinds of gadgets. Once he got to Cambridge, he studied astronomy. This was the era of Copernicus and Kepler, and of course he studied the classic philosophers Aristotle and Plato. He kept his notebooks, and in one of them he wrote, “Amicus Plato, amicus Aristoteles, magis amica veritas”—“Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, truth is my best friend.”
He also studied mathematics while at Cambridge. In fact, he would come to lead the way in this field. He is credited for inventing the study of calculus. He called it the calculus of infinitesimals. Also while at Cambridge he studied the motion of the moon and the planets, and he recognized a force that was acting on the planets in their orbit. He was discovering what would come to be called the law of gravity.
He would go on to publish his books, including his famous Optics in 1704, where he puts forth his theory of colors. A very interesting, young student in the American colonies at the College of Connecticut (we know it as Yale University), would get ahold of Isaac Newton’s Optics, and he devoured it. This was Jonathan Edwards, and he wrote his own little scientific paper he called “Of Light Rays.” This was all from reading Isaac Newton.
Edwards draws a corollary from being amazed at how the actual physical human eye processes light rays. This is what Edwards wrote:
Hence, the infinite art that was exercised in the formation of the eye that has given it such an exquisite sense that it should perceive the touch of those few rays of the least fixed stars which enter the eye, which all put together won’t amount to the million, million, million, million, millionth part of the least mote of such an exquisite sense that it should distinctly perceive an image upon the retina, that it is not above the 80 million millionth part of an inch wide that has so nicely polished the retina, that it should receive so small a picture upon it when the least protuberance or an evenness would utterly destroy and confound it.
Edwards was amazed at the human eye, but far more amazed at the God who created the human eye and the God who created the universe. It was Isaac Newton who unlocked this for Edwards, and it was Isaac Newton who unlocked this for so many other people. As poet Alexander Pope famously wrote, “Nature and nature’s laws lay hidden by night. God said, ‘Let Newton be,’ and then there was light.”
Newton, as the father of modern science, believed that in no way would science give us less room for God, or somehow make less space for God and understanding of him. In fact, it was the exact opposite for Newton. The more he studied God’s universe, the more he was led to acknowledge and worship God. Newton once said, “Gravity may very well explain the motion of the planets, but it can’t explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and God knows all that is or all that can be known.”