Whenever a creation scientist makes an incredulous discovery, opposition often follows. It is no secret that Louis Pasteur disregarded the possibility of spontaneous generation because there has never been any credible observable evidence for it either in his time or ours. In fact, he disproved the whole idea with his experiments in germ theory. Pasteur’s uncompromising faith embodied how he approached his life and scientific career. As a result, we can see God’s handiwork in his life as we celebrate his 200th birthday today.
Pasteur did not have an easy life. Disease ravaged his family, and keeping others from having to experience the same may have been a motivation for his work. Childhood disease mentally handicapped his sister and caused the death of three of his children. His own health impeded his work later in life, but even amongst hardship, he did not give up on helping others and believing in his Creator.
Because of Pasteur’s accomplishments, one would think he would have been considered a genius during his schoolboy days. However, his grades did not mark him as such, and his only talents seemed to be in art. His parents’ hope was for Pasteur to become a teacher at a lycée or a top-notch secondary school.1 Yet God orchestrated for one of Pasteur’s teachers to recognize the boy’s diligence and work ethic and to encourage him to further his education. Would one expect this student who demonstrated only skills in art to become one of the most well-known scientists in history? Probably not.
Pasteur lived out the biblical principle of the ant in Proverbs 6:6–8. Some would consider him slow and cautious toward his studies,2 but these traits are actually what propelled his scientific career. For example, his diligence caused him to notice that tartrate and paratartrate crystals had everything in common but their structure was mirrored. This mystery had plagued scientists before him. God used Pasteur’s supposed weaknesses and turned them into strengths for the calling he had placed on his life.
It was his belief in the Creator’s account in Scripture, rather than Darwinism, that gave Pasteur the correct worldview to carry out his lifesaving experiments.
Because of his success in proving that microbes do not just appear out of nowhere (spontaneous generation) but generate from existing microbes (biogenesis), we now have antiseptic procedures in our hospitals. Louis Pasteur accepted this as fact because he read in Genesis 1:24 that every animal brings forth offspring of the same kind. Dr. Joseph Baron Lister applied the outcome of these experiments to his own medical practice by spraying carbolic acid in the operating room and washing his hands before surgery. Biologists like Thomas Huxley accepted that these new procedures sometimes worked, but they still held on to the possibility of microbes emerging within the wound itself or evolving in the air.3
Both Pasteur and Lister shared the same faith in God and rejected Darwin’s ideas, which must ultimately involve abiogenesis, and they received criticism because of it. Lister dealt with discrimination during a medical school exam, and Pasteur debated with Félix-Archimède Pouchet on the subject. Pasteur’s colleagues advised him to quit these debates—while agreeing with his view—by calling them a waste of time.4 This did not stop Pasteur from standing firm on his religious convictions and battling the falsehood of spontaneous generation. And even today, the work of these two men saves thousands of lives. For them, nature gave clear evidence of the Creator they knew from Scripture (Romans 1:20) and motivated them to study and learn more about their Father in heaven. Pasteur said, “The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.”5 As a byproduct of their faith, Pasteur and Lister each possessed a servant’s heart and used their God-given talents to help others.
One example of Pasteur’s servitude was his work in vaccines. During his time, rabies would have been a guaranteed death. This did not deter him from what seemed an impossible task, and he persisted in this work until he found success.6 Patience was key in these experiments, considering the lag between the bite and the microbes reaching the brain.7 Most vaccines work if given before someone gets infected with a virus, but due to the slow movement of the rabies virus to the brain, only those bitten require this vaccine.8 Pasteur gave the first vaccine to a boy who was brought from the brink of death.
Pasteur continued his scientific output by improving different industries. Not only did he research fermentation to help a local beetroot alcohol factory diagnose the reason for the product’s degrading quality and remedy it,9 but he also stopped wine and milk from spoiling by heating them up. Pasteur also worked in the silk industry, where he discovered hereditary disease plagued some of the silkworms.10 During his work with silkworms (1865-1870),11 he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage or stroke, paralyzing the left side of his body. While he did regain most of his strength, his health slowly worsened as he experienced a second stroke in 1887 and a possible third in 1894. Nevertheless, Pasteur was faithful to the work God called him to.
Though he received much notoriety during his time that continues today, he lived a very modest life. Most of the money he received went back into research or to the French state.12 His primary concerns were for “his love of science, country, and humanity.”13 Pasteur’s legacy lives on with the Institute of Pasteur that trains future generations of scientists and conducts biomedical research to help humanity.
Louis Pasteur truly demonstrated how following his faith and trusting the Scriptures in doing science allowed him to make discoveries that would be impossible or impeded by secular ideas such as spontaneous evolution. And science would not be possible without God designing the universe to be orderly, which allows for consistent, scientific laws. May we apply Pasteur’s example to our own lives by challenging what the world claims as truth and trusting the Bible from the very first verse.