Hows, Whys, Wherefores, and Miserable Refuges
[See Part I for introduction]
Adelard of Bath (or Athelhard, AD 1080-1160) is sometimes known as the first English scientist. In his classic work Natural Questions he states:
I will detract nothing from God; for whatever is, is from him and by him; yet not even this is said vaguely and without due care, as we must listen to the very limits of human knowledge: only where this utterly breaks down, should we refer things to God.
In common with Christians down through the ages, Adelard sought natural answers to natural questions as far as such studies could be taken. Natural Questions is a dialogue between Adelard and his nephew in which he asks, ‘Why is there a rainbow in the heavens?’ His nephew replies that it is a sign of God’s promise not to flood the entire earth again. Adelard says
Of course that’s what God said and of course God put the rainbow there, but that doesn’t explain the rainbow. That is an example of a miserable refuge from a real philosophic explanation…I know God did it! But that’s not natural philosophy [i.e. science], that’s theology.