Charles Babbage: The Christian Mathematician
- 2005 25 May
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.
Most people studying computer science or computer engineering get a strong background in mathematics as well as specific computer programming courses. If you want to pursue computer engineering and technology it would be good to learn a couple of computer programming languages such as Visual Basic and Visual C++. Other good courses to take include office applications such as word processors, spreadsheets, databases and presentation and graphics packages.
Don't let computers scare you. They are dumb machines. If people don't program them correctly they won't be able to use them as the tools they are intended to be.
This is a clever little mathematical trick. The bigger question is "Why does it work?" After trying it out, see if you can figure out how and why it works.
• Pick any three digits from the digits 0 through 9.
• Add 4 to your first choice and multiply it by 10.
• Add your second choice to this product, and multiply this by 10.
• To this product add your third choice.
• Subtract 400.
• Your final answer should have the three digits you picked in the same exact order, for example, I picked 6, 2 and 1:
• 6, 2, 1
• 6 + 4 = 10, 10 x 10 = 100 (6 was my first number)
• 2 + 100 = 102, 102 x 10 = 1020 (2 was my second number)
• 1020 + 1 = 1021 (1 was my third number)
• 1021 - 400 = 621 (621 is the same order as my picks of 6, 2, and 1)
Why? Try your own three digits and see what happens!
Ray & Gale Lawson have been homeschooling their 3 children since 1995. Ray holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Virginia Military Institute and works for Washington Group International in Aiken, SC. Gale holds a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Carolina and has been "full time mom and teacher" since the birth of their first child. They are members of Breezy Hill Baptist Church in Graniteville, SC and are active in Breezy Hill's homeschool ministry. Questions, comments and suggestions can be mailed to Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org or Gale at email@example.com.
This article was originally published in the Mar/Apr '05 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine as part of an ongoing series on Profiles in Christianity & Science. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.