“The book of nature that we must read is written with the fingers of God.”

(Michael Faraday)

You cannot find, perhaps in the entire history of science, a case more inviting to contemplation than “Michael Faraday”, who grew up as a child in a poor family in one of the neighborhoods of London, who was slow in his learning and did not complete his studies because he was not able to pronounce some letters easily, and even when he found His quest for sodium and potassium was the famous chemist at the time, Humphry Davy, and signs of his genius appeared. He used to travel with him as a servant, and Mr. Davy's wife worked to remind him of the depravity of that job as possible (1).

Without experience in physics or mathematics, and without wealth or a job in the field of scientific research, you would expect that no matter how talented Faraday was he would inevitably stop at the limits of the hobby, but he did not.

We are talking here about one of the greatest scientists of the nineteenth century, the father of electromagnetism. No student in the various stages of education can but pass the name of this man who was combined with various laws, quantities, and innovations that made what we know about physics, and by extension the entire universe, what it is today.

It is enough for you to know that without this man's accomplishments, you would not be able to read these words now.

For this reason, Faraday's life has attracted the attention of so many writers, so that you will find his story in almost every physics book presented to the public, but the most interesting in all of this man's life was - no doubt - seven years, between the ages of thirteen and twenty, he spent in a bookbinding workshop After he left school, he usually had no one to talk about, there Faraday learned by himself.

Michael Faraday

This type of learning is distinct from the curricular system in that it allows your passion to drive you, you don't need to keep learning things you don't like just because they are in the curriculum, take language classes, for example, or literature or geography For a high school student who loves physics, Faraday was free of All that and he set out to read only what he liked to those who wrote in this workshop, but that is only half of the story.

During his work in the workshop, the most influential book on Faraday was “Improving the Mind” (2) by the author, theologian, poet, empirical philosopher and hymn writer famous in Christian circles “Isaac Watts”. In this book Watts provides very important advice to the mechanism of learning and shows the best ways to benefit From lectures, reading, conversations and how to take notes, Watts's advice was actually the reason Faraday transitioned from bookbinding to working with Humphry Davy.

The book "Improving the Mind" by Isaac Watts

Watts advised his readers to keep a journal for journaling, and also noted the importance of attending lectures and exchanging messages with people of common interests, which was why Faraday, a young man in his early twenties, accepted an invitation to Humphrey Davy's lectures, during which he organized everything the man had to say. He was envied, and when he wanted to work for the man, he sent him those wonderful posts as a gift, and as soon as Davy saw them, he asked him to work as an assistant, and from here began Faraday's path towards scientific creativity.

But Faraday did not find this book in the binding workshop, it was his book.

Faraday was a devout Christian, but he followed a sect called "The Galicians" (3), which was founded around 1730 by a Christian priest named "John Glass", who built his ideas on the basis that the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, and therefore the Christian church cannot be built or Support it with political weapons or movements on any basis other than the word and spirit of Christ.

From here, Glass was interested in the committed and dedicated literal application of the words of the Bible, and when he was deposed because of his beliefs from the Church of Scotland, he established his own church and his ideas spread after that throughout Europe, in Britain published by "Robert Sandman" and the movement's followers were called "Sandmanites", including the Faraday family. , who was brought up on those teachings.

Robert Sandman

But the followers of this church were relatively few, and they were viewed with a degree of contempt among Christians, perhaps for this reason they did not care much about the issue of preaching their ideas, a point that greatly affected the young Faraday by dependence, as he was not keen on controversy to prove the correctness of his religious approach, and therefore He would not use knowledge to confirm the correctness of his way to God, which emptied him into something else more important to him, which is to use God to assure him the correctness of his path in knowledge!

To understand the depth of that idea and its impact on Faraday, let us consider a famous quote in which Faraday says: “The book of nature we must read is written with the fingers of God.” Faraday here uses the metaphor of the two books (4), which says that God revealed himself through the “book of nature.” With its organizing laws, and the “Bible” in its historical account and its consideration of miracles.

But the metaphor of the two books is usually used to denote the existence of God, while Faraday used it to search for facts between mountains of opinions, intuitions and common sense. He imagined that scientific facts are the words of God in the book of nature, so that he once said that “the facts never fail us, and their evidence is true.” Always", and his job was to use experimentation to arrive at those facts, and experimentation in Faraday's school is the most important thing in science, and he was concerned with theoretical production but he always distinguished accurately and clearly between empirical facts and theoretical explanations.

In the same footsteps, Faraday set out for the laws of nature. As long as facts are the language of nature, the laws of nature were the immutable grammatical rules of this language, linking words together in useful sentences, and Faraday once wrote: “God deals in his material creation with his laws.” Faraday believed that God’s creation of the universe included the creation of laws that They work together in harmony to maintain the balance of its components, and therefore they are constant laws that do not change.

In his book "Michael Faraday.. The Sandman and the World," George Kantor*, professor of the history of science at the University of Leeds in Britain, says that principles such as "the harmony of nature", "simplicity in its apparent complexity" and "the unity of nature" were not the end points in Faraday's path, That is, he did not reach it through his work in the field of scientific research. On the contrary, the points from which he started in the direction of scientific research, and therefore Faraday's efforts to unify electricity, magnetism and light were consistent with his metaphysical convictions.

Michael Faraday, The Sandman and the World, by George Cantor

And the matter goes even deeper than that, as Faraday had developed (5) a model based on what is somewhat similar to the first law of thermodynamics, "the law of conservation of energy", which says that energy is neither destroyed nor created from nothing, but it can Convert it from one image to another. And in a group of lectures he gave in 1846, he explicitly said that God had put a specific amount of force in the creation of the universe, so it cannot decrease or increase the universe, because humans are unable to control God’s creation, whether that force or the laws that He created to govern it.

Faraday's being, then, is a precise system designed according to a divine plan that used laws to organize it, those original laws are still in force until now, because of the perfection of God's plan, and they are also simple laws on the complexity of nature, and consistent with each other because they serve one goal, and are suitable for every time and place because they Cosmic in nature, and scientists can observe nature and collect facts wisely by understanding the few laws that govern cosmic phenomena, this is the universe that Faraday entered into the realm of science and not what he came out with.

Some may see a contradiction in these ideas with the scientific methodology, which may require a complete absence of previous ideas before entering the area of ​​​​searching for facts, but this is unrealistic, we are usually loaded with previous assumptions, whatever their source, and these ideas may confirm our scientific results or may contradict them And as Karl Popper (6), the most famous philosopher of science, explains, the objectivity and rationality of scientific progress is not due to personal objectivity and the rationality of the scientist himself. Rather, mathematical proof or scientific theories may be discovered by unconscious attempts, guided by inspiration of an aesthetic nature (or religious for example). Instead of rational thinking, Popper - like Faraday and if they differ radically in their philosophy of science - agreed that this discovery should be subject to the microscope of rational scrutiny.

Karl Popper

In any case, Faraday's case opens the door to the contemplation of one of the most famous models that explain the possible relationship between religion and science, the "dialogue model" (7) which supposes a common ground between the two domains in their previous assumptions, methods and concepts. For example, religious faith may have encouraged science, assuming that creation, being a designed product, is orderly and rationally manipulated, so one might expect laws to be discovered from this idea, which is probably what happened in Faraday's case.

Ian Barbour (8), an American physicist and specialist in the field of the relationship between science and religion, believes that religion can push it deeper than that, given that God’s creation is by nature limited in power compared to God’s total capabilities, the laws of nature cannot be reached automatically. Rather, some effort must be made in explaining it, which may prompt the necessity of conducting an empirical investigation or working on building theories, especially since obtaining religious knowledge itself may require some logic or the creation of intellectual models or metaphors, etc.

Although this model finds support for the existence of some kind of dialogue or complementarity between science and religion, especially from the clergy, it is not the most common in the field of philosophy that studies science and religion (as philosophers tend more to the hypothesis of "non-interference"), and that For two main reasons, the first is that at some point this dialogue will cause a critical contradiction between science and religion, which in turn will lead to the second reason, which is that science will turn into an arena trying to prove or deny the existence of God.

In the case of Faraday, his previous ideas derived from his doctrine led - besides the useful results - to great scientific problems (9) in his thought, for example, he had opposed the atomic school based on the same ideas, as well as he had reservations about the definition and limitation of "energy" , which prevented his progress in understanding it, the source of these reservations has to do with the fact that he believed in a "universe full of energy", and that only God knows what it is, Faraday set out from that point to reject mechanical philosophy from the ground up. On the other hand, you will not find many comments by Faraday on the issue of the creation of the universe, and his religiosity literally does not explain the number of days of creation of the universe in an interpretive way.

But the most inviting to contemplate in this context was that the scholars who decided to fight the two worlds together, the world of religion and the world of science, and accomplished both of them, were very careful to separate the two domains, and did not slip into the focus of engaging religion in scientific conflicts, or involving science in religious conflicts. , Perhaps for the simple reason that they know that if religious convictions lead to scientific ideas, they do not do so literally, that is, they lie in the background of the scientist as a guiding model, not scientific facts recorded in his holy book, whatever it is.

Faraday was one of these, as well as Georges Lemaitre, the Belgian astronomer and Catholic priest, who concluded that the universe is expanding and led him to the Big Bang model, but you may not know that the Hubble constant is now known as the “Hubble Lumiere Constant” modified by the astronomers of the Astronomical Union The International Conference in 2018, to fulfill the man's right to this most famous constant in cosmology.

Lemaître - although the work of a cleric - was probably more careful than Faraday himself on that point (10) concerning the separation between science and religion, often remarking that "the Bible is not a book of science, as long as you realize that, you will get rid of the idea of ​​contradiction between science and religion.” He referred to this harmony between his work in science and religion at one time, saying: “I was just as interested in reaching the truth from the point of view of religious salvation as I was interested in reaching it from the point of view of scientific certainty. It seemed to me that there were two paths to the truth, and I decided to follow both of them. ".



* Mainly, the writer in this report relied on the book "Michael Faraday.. The Sandman and the World", written by George Kantor, Professor of History of Science at the University of Leeds.


  • "Electric Boy" - the tenth episode of the documentary Cosmos, presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and recommended by the writer if you want to learn about Faraday's life in an interesting way

  • Michael Faraday: Scientist and Nonconformist

  • Sandmanian

  • The Book of Nature, the Book of Scripture

  • Geoffrey Cantor, Michael Faraday: Sandemanian and Scientist

  • The Myth of the Frame, In Defense of Science and Rationality - Karl Popper

  • Religion and Science - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy / Translator: Shadi Abdel Hafez

  • previous source

  • Geoffrey Cantor, Michael Faraday: Sandemanian and Scientist

  • Georges Lemaître, the Scientist and Priest who "Could Conceive the Beginning of the Universe"

  • Keywords: