Charles Babbage: The Christian Mathematician
- Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Editor's note: This is part II of a two- part series on Charles Babbage, the "Father of Computing." Read Part I, "Profiles in Christianity & Science: Charles Babbage" for a more detailed history of Charles Babbage's childhood and career as a scientist.
Babbage: The Christian
Although Charles Babbage had many eccentric behaviors, he was a Christian and authored the Ninth Bridgewater Treatise entitled "A Fragment. By Charles Babbage, Esq." The purpose of this essay was to demonstrate that science and the Bible were compatible.
"We take the highest and best of human faculties, and, exalting them in our imagination to an unlimited extent, endeavour to attain an imperfect conception of that Infinite Power which created every thing around us."
Babbage understood that God's power is infinite and that even through man's best efforts, we will never fully comprehend God's perfection.
In his Treatise Babbage discusses the authenticity and validity of the Scriptures in detail. He also used statistical references to support the miracles recorded in the Bible. To Babbage, a miracle is something that has an extremely small chance of occurring; something very rare indeed. The Bible documents many such miracles. Babbage used the age of the Earth (6,000 years), the average number of years between generations (30) and estimated population figures to calculate how many people had lived through time. Over all this time only 1 person (Jesus) was crucified, died, buried and rose from the dead. Statistically Babbage showed that the odds of this happening would be about 1 in 100,000,000,000. Using this estimate and the documented, written Word, Babbage told non-believing scientists that they would have to be able to formally document a larger probability that Christ's resurrection did not happen. Scientists have been unable to do so. Although non-believing scientists can simply choose not to accept the Bible, they are unable to produce any evidence that Christ's crucifixion and resurrection did not occur, leaving them without a basis to scientifically deny that it happened. Babbage stated, "miracles are not the breach of established laws (meaning man-made laws) but indicate the existence of far higher laws (meaning God's laws)."
Some Charles Babbage Trivia:
Charles Babbage had an intense interest in mathematics and statistics, so much so that he applied numerical methods to many things. Some applications were useful; some were not. These included statistics for:
• Mathematically handicapping horse races (failed)
• Measuring animal heartbeats ("Table of Constants of the Class Mammalia"),
• Daily food consumption statistics of zoo animals
• Calibration of how much elm or oak a man could saw in 8 hours
• How much an ox could plow in a day
• Frequency of plate glass windows broken by drunken men, women or boys.
Babbage believed that all facts, no matter how trivial, should be preserved because "the preservation of any fact might ultimately be useful."
Computers are used in many different occupations today. As an engineer, Ray uses computers daily to do 3-D modeling and technical calculations. As mom and home-school teacher, Gale uses computers to create schedules, lesson plans and materials. The Lawson children use computers now and then to assist with their studies, especially in mathematics and science. The more you learn about computers the easier you will be able to utilize them.
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