Sir William Thomson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)

This great scientist was born in Belfast of Scottish parents and was a professor at Glasgow University for fifty-four years. He was also the president of the Royal Society in Edinburgh. His contribution to science included developing the Kelvin temperature scale that measures temperatures down to absolute zero, formulating the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, inventing a reliable ship’s compass and leading the team that designed and laid the first transatlantic telegraph cable.

Lord Kelvin was an elder in the Church of Scotland and the Chairman of the Christian Evidence Society, in London. On May 23rd, 1889, he addressed the audience in his role as chairman with the following:

My primary reason for accepting the invitation to preside was that I wished to show sympathy with this great Society which has been established for the purpose of defending Christianity as a Divine Revelation.

I also thought something was due from Science. I have long felt that there was a general impression in the non-scientific world [that] believes Science has discovered ways of explaining all the facts of nature without adopting any definite belief in a Creator.  I have never doubted that impression was utterly groundless.

It seems to me that when a scientific man says – as it has been said from time to time – that there is no God, he does not express his own ideas clearly.  He is, perhaps, struggling with difficulties; but when he says that he does not believe in a creative power I am convinced he does not faithfully express what is in his mind.  He is out of this depth…

I may refer to that old but never uninteresting subject of the miracles of geology.  Physical Science does something for us here.  Peter speaks of scoffers who said that ‘all things continue as they were from the beginning,’ but the Apostle affirms himself that ‘all these things shall be dissolved.’

It seems to me that even physical science absolutely demonstrates the scientific truth of these words.  We feel that there is no possibility of things going on forever as they have done for the last six thousand years.  In science, as in morals and politics, there is absolutely no periodicity.’

Lord Kelvin’s address as the Chairman of the Christian Evidence Society, in London, at its nineteenth anniversary, May 23, 1889 Stephen Abbott Northrop, D.D., A Cloud of Witnesses (Portland, Oregon: American Heritage Ministries, 1987), pp. 460-461

At the end of his presidential address for the British Association for Science in 1871 he stated:

‘Overpoweringly strong proofs of intelligent and benevolent design lie all around us and if ever perplexities, whether metaphysical or scientific, turn us away from them for a time, they come back upon us with irresistible force, showing to us our nature, the influence of free will, and teaching us that all living beings depend on one ever-acting Creator and Ruler.

At University College in London, he stated:

Do not be afraid of being free thinkers. If you think strongly enough you will be forced by science to the belief in God, which is the foundation of all Religion. You will find science not antagonistic, but helpful to Religion.

(The Times, May 2, 1903, Lord Kelvin on Religion and Science, corrected by Lord Kelvin himself in The Life of William Thompson, Baron Kelvin of Largs, by S.P. Thompson)