The Difference between Applied Science and Theoretical Sciences – A Spiritual Insight


The “applied science” is the application of the fundamentals: mathematics, chemistry, physics, the existing scientific knowledge to practical applications for the development of technology and inventions. The applied sciences is the use of scientific processes and knowledge as a means to achieve a particular practical or useful result. This has broad applications in fields such as engineering, medicine, approaches to mental health or to early childhood education, etc, the list could go on. Another area of science closely associated to the applied science is known as “basic science” or “pure science,” this is the theoretical science whose goal is to extend the limits of our understanding to predict or explain the phenomena we observe in the natural world. Another science that is closely associated to both theoretical and applied science is called “formal science,” which is a branch of science studying formal language disciplines concerning formal systems, such as logic, mathematics, statistics, theoretical computer science, artificial intelligence, information theory, game theory, systems theory, decision theory, and theoretical linguistics.

The branches of applied science that I am familiar with in the field of Engineering are as follows:

Engineering fields

  • Thermodynamics
  • Heat transfer
  • Fluid mechanics
  • Statics
  • Dynamics
  • Mechanics of materials
  • Kinematics
  • Electromagnetism
  • Materials science
  • Earth sciences
  • Engineering physics.

Medical sciences

  • Medical microbiology
  • Clinical virology
  • Biomedicine
  • Biomedical engineering.

Basic research on the other hand, advances our fundamental knowledge about the world. It focuses on creating and refuting or supporting theories that explain the observed phenomena. Theoretical research is the source of most new scientific ideas and ways of thinking about the world. It can be exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory. Basic research generates new ideas, principles, and theories, which may not be immediately utilized but nonetheless form the basis of progress and development in different fields. Today’s computers, for example, could not exist without research in pure mathematics conducted over a century ago, for which there was no known practical application at the time. Basic research does not always help researchers directly with their everyday concerns in applied science; nevertheless, it stimulates new ways of thinking that have the potential to revolutionize and dramatically improve how research is conducted and how to deal with a problem in the future.

Both the applied, basic, and formal sciences actually interface quite closely when one is conducting research and development. One example may be to develop a technology (metal oxide oxygen carrier) for the combustion of fuels (coal, methane, CO, H2) to generate heat and steam. In order to understand the reactivity at an atomic level, one may use density functional theory for an atomistic first principles approach (theoretical science) to simulate the reaction and obtain detailed atomic level explanation on how oxygen atoms are interacting with the fuel. In order to gain confidence in the experimental results one repeats a test to gain some statistical significance (formal science). Studying the concepts of innovation and invention, most of these are the result of the applied science and most innovation occurs in the private sector. In addition to this, basic research is a necessary precursor to almost all applied science and associated instances of innovation. Roughly 76% of basic research is conducted by universities. (Stephan, Paula 2012, “How Economics Shapes Science,” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-674-04971-0)

The Spiritual insights we receive from the areas of applied, theoretical, and formal sciences and their interconnectedness and relationship with one another, is related to the concepts of faith verses faithfulness in the life of a believer. Faith and Faithfulness are two concepts that are central to Hebraic thought. There is a correlation between faith and faithfulness. Faith is to have a belief and to be assured of what God’s word says and all that he has done. Faithfulness is to live our lives in accord with that truth. In other words, faith leads to faithfulness. In the Torah we read of God’s promise to be faithful to us, He says to Moshe according to Shemot / Exodus 34:10-14 the following, י וַיֹּאמֶר הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי כֹּרֵת בְּרִית נֶגֶד כָּל-עַמְּךָ אֶעֱשֶֹה נִפְלָאֹת אֲשֶׁר לֹא-נִבְרְאוּ בְכָל-הָאָרֶץ וּבְכָל-הַגּוֹיִם וְרָאָה כָל-הָעָם אֲשֶׁר-אַתָּה בְקִרְבּוֹ אֶת-מַעֲשֵֹה יְהוָֹה כִּי-נוֹרָא הוּא אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי עֹשֶֹה עִמָּךְ: יא שְׁמָר-לְךָ אֵת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם הִנְנִי גֹרֵשׁ מִפָּנֶיךָ אֶת-הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי וְהַחִתִּי וְהַפְּרִזִּי וְהַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי: יב הִשָּׁמֶר לְךָ פֶּן-תִּכְרֹת בְּרִית לְיוֹשֵׁב הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה בָּא עָלֶיהָ פֶּן-יִהְיֶה לְמוֹקֵשׁ בְּקִרְבֶּךָ: יג כִּי אֶת-מִזְבְּחֹתָם תִּתֹּצוּן וְאֶת-מַצֵּבֹתָם תְּשַׁבֵּרוּן וְאֶת-אֲשֵׁרָיו תִּכְרֹתוּן: יד כִּי לֹא תִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לְאֵל אַחֵר כִּי יְהוָֹה קַנָּא שְׁמוֹ אֵל קַנָּא הוּא: 34:10 Then God said, ‘Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the Lord, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you. 34:11 ‘Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. 34:12 ‘Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, or it will become a snare in your midst. 34:13 ‘But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim 34:14 for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (NASB) Notice how the Lord proclaims His faithfulness to us by His promise to perform mighty miracles in the midst of the people of God. He says He will go forth before His people and drive out the nations ahead of them. Note this message of the Lord going forth does not mean the people were to sit back and do nothing. The Lord God goes forth and prepares the way, he drives the wicked from their place. We are also to move in the power of God to do what is right, and strive for His righteousness, holiness, justice, and truth. The Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, demonstrates His faithfulness to us very objectively, through deed and word in order that He may be trusted. Notice this is how the theoretical and applied sciences work. The theories that are developed must explain the observed phenomena in this world. So too, the Lord God functions in our lives in word and deed such that we can trust Him. This is what is known as the divine initiative, the Lord God Almighty is willing to enter into a relationship with men showing us that He is worthy of our trust. This is illustrated in the promises of God, that He would personally go with His people and give His people His presence in their midst, something that is a fearful thing, one of which the nations will observe and be in wonder concerning the God who lives and works in the midst of His people. This promise of the presence of God is a powerful thing, and the rabbis describe this in the following way according to Sforno, “הנה אנכי כורת ברית, ‘I will make/cut a covenant,’ to be in your midst. Compare Megillah 29 when the Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia the presence of the Lord was ‘exiled’ together with them, i.e. accompanied them; when they were exiled to Eylam the same was true. Even when they were exiled to Edom (by the Romans) this remained true.” (Sforno on Shemot / Exodus 34:10 Part 1) The description that is given here is consistent with what we read at the end of the book of Jeremiah, when some of the people went to Egypt, Jeremiah followed and continued to call the people to repentance to turn from idolatry and false gods they had served in Israel. The reason the call to repentance continued was because God’s presence was with them even in the diaspora where committing such sinful acts would lead to their deaths. The Rabbinic interpretation is the presence of God never left the people, as he stated that He will never leave nor forsake us. (see Devarim / Deuteronomy 31:6) This promise included the Lord God Himself going with the people into exile, this interpretation agrees with God’s Words the Lord God Almighty will never leave nor forsakes us. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 31:6) This concept of God always being with His people, God’s faithfulness to His people is the distinctive characteristic of God that differentiates Him from the gods of the nations, and is what makes Him worthy of our trust and faith. The parallel in the sciences, a theory is trusted once it has been proven to successfully describe what is observed experimentally.

Faith (אמונה) means “firmness” and “stability” which brings with it the idea of “trust” and “constancy.” The word for Amen is derived from faith, which is used as an affirmation of what we believe! In the reflexive (niph’al) verbal form, faith may be used of God (Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:9 “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; NASB ט וְיָדַעְתָּ כִּי-יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים הָאֵל הַנֶּאֱמָן שֹׁמֵר הַבְּרִית וְהַחֶסֶד לְאֹהֲבָיו וּלְשֹׁמְרֵי מִצְוֹתָו [מִצְוֹתָיו] לְאֶלֶף דּוֹר:) or of His servants (Bamidbar / Numbers 12:7 Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; NASB ז לֹא-כֵן עַבְדִּי מֹשֶׁה בְּכָל-בֵּיתִי נֶאֱמָן הוּא:). It can be extended to witnesses (Isaiah 8:2 And I will take to Myself faithful witnesses for testimony, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. NASB ב וְאָעִידָה לִּי עֵדִים נֶאֱמָנִים אֵת אוּרִיָּה הַכֹּהֵן וְאֶת-זְכַרְיָהוּ בֶּן יְבֶרֶכְיָהוּ: Jeremiah 42:5 Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with the whole message with which the LORD your God will send you to us. NASB ה וְהֵמָּה אָמְרוּ אֶל-יִרְמְיָהוּ יְהִי יְהֹוָה בָּנוּ לְעֵד אֱמֶת וְנֶאֱמָן אִם-לֹא כְּכָל-הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁלָחֲךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֵלֵינוּ כֵּן נַעֲשֶֹה:). Faith may also be used to refer to a city (Isaiah 1:21 How the faithful city has become a harlot, She who was full of justice! Righteousness once lodged in her, But now murderers. כא אֵיכָה הָיְתָה לְזוֹנָה קִרְיָה נֶאֱמָנָה מְלֵאֲתִי מִשְׁפָּט צֶדֶק יָלִין בָּהּ וְעַתָּה מְרַצְּחִים:, 1:26 Then I will restore your judges as at the first, And your counselors as at the beginning; After that you will be called the city of righteousness, A faithful city. NASB כו וְאָשִׁיבָה שֹׁפְטַיִךְ כְּבָרִאשֹׁנָה וְיֹעֲצַיִךְ כְּבַתְּחִלָּה אַחֲרֵי-כֵן יִקָּרֵא לָךְ עִיר הַצֶּדֶק קִרְיָה נֶאֱמָנָה:). It can be used of testimony (Tehillim / Psalms 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. NASB ח תּוֹרַת יְהֹוָה תְּמִימָה מְשִׁיבַת נָפֶשׁ עֵדוּת יְהֹוָה נֶאֱמָנָה מַחְכִּימַת פֶּתִי:).Faith may also have no moral connotation, as when the word is used to refer to plagues (Devarim / Deuteronomy 28:59 then the LORD will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses. NASB נט וְהִפְלָא יְהוָֹה אֶת-מַכֹּתְךָ וְאֵת מַכּוֹת זַרְעֶךָ מַכּוֹת גְּדֹלֹת וְנֶאֱמָנוֹת וָחֳלָיִם רָעִים וְנֶאֱמָנִים:). Faith is used slightly more frequently in the hiph’il verbal pattern, where there is the active sense of believing or trusting. This may be in an absolute form, i.e. the subject-object relation (Tehillim / Psalms 116:10 I believed when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” NASB י הֶאֱמַנְתִּי כִּי אֲדַבֵּר אֲנִי עָנִיתִי מְאֹד:), but it is more usual for it to be followed by the word כִּי, “that,” and object clause (Shemot / Exodus 4:5 “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” NASB ה לְמַעַן יַאֲמִינוּ כִּי-נִרְאָה אֵלֶיךָ יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתָם אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק וֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב:) or by the prepositions בְּ, or לְ. The word for faith be applied to one who believes in God (Bereshit / Genesis 15:6 Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. ו וְהֶאֱמִן בַּיהוָֹה וַיַּחְשְׁבֶהָ לּוֹ צְדָקָה:, Isaiah 43:10 “You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. NASB י אַתֶּם עֵדַי נְאֻם-יְהֹוָה וְעַבְדִּי אֲשֶׁר בָּחָרְתִּי לְמַעַן תֵּדְעוּ וְתַאֲמִינוּ לִי וְתָבִינוּ כִּי-אֲנִי הוּא לְפָנַי לֹא-נוֹצַר אֵל וְאַחֲרַי לֹא יִהְיֶה:), or as being applied to men who do not believe (Shemot / Exodus 4:1 Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.'” NASB א וַיַּעַן מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר וְהֵן לֹא-יַאֲמִינוּ לִי וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּ בְּקֹלִי כִּי יֹאמְרוּ לֹא-נִרְאָה אֵלֶיךָ יְהוָֹה: 19:9 The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.” Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD. NASB ט וַיֹּאמֶר יְהֹוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי בָּא אֵלֶיךָ בְּעַב הֶעָנָן בַּעֲבוּר יִשְׁמַע הָעָם בְּדַבְּרִי עִמָּךְ וְגַם-בְּךָ יַאֲמִינוּ לְעוֹלָם וַיַּגֵּד מֹשֶׁה אֶת-דִּבְרֵי הָעָם אֶל-יְהוָֹה:) or with things, usually words or messages (1 Kings 10:7 Nevertheless I did not believe the reports, until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard. NASB ז וְלֹא-הֶאֱמַנְתִּי לַדְּבָרִים עַד אֲשֶׁר-בָּאתִי וַתִּרְאֶינָה עֵינַי וְהִנֵּה לֹא-הֻגַּד-לִי הַחֵצִי הוֹסַפְתָּ חָכְמָה וָטוֹב אֶל-הַשְּׁמוּעָה אֲשֶׁר שָׁמָעְתִּי: Tehillim / Psalms 106:12 Then they believed His words; They sang His praise. NASB יב וַיַּאֲמִינוּ בִדְבָרָיו יָשִׁירוּ תְּהִלָּתוֹ:). The idea of having faith is believing, this is what we are called to in the Messiah, which is a fundamental principle taught according to the Torah. The Faithfulness of God in His mercy, he created all that we know, and He sustains all, providing for his creatures abundantly, this demonstrates His having ultimate control, something that we can rely upon and trust in. This produces in us a response to His being faithful, His going with us, His remaining and being with us, in our midst, and in our hearts! This leads to faithfulness, the main thrust of what it means to have faith in the one true God and in His Messiah! Our faithfulness is not always perfect, we fail, which leads us to repentance, seeking the Lord, and His transformation within our hearts to become something more, something great, to have a personal faith in a loving God and applying that faith by walking in His ways and bearing His testimonies for His Glory!

We see faith and faithfulness tightly coupled in all of Scripture, both are intimately connected. Just as we see in the sciences (applied, basic, formal) multi-disciplinary drawing upon each other.  Faithfulness draws upon our faith, and faith is built up in our faithfulness. The God in heaven who promises us His presence, gives us signs, and miracles, and He enters into a relationship with His people. Man is dependent upon Him to be successful in loving and obeying His Word. (See Devarim / Deuteronomy 30:6 which explains these things are a work of God in our hearts!) God’s helping us is achieved by His presence in our lives, to cause us to obey His will. The covenant of God is undergirded with the righteousness of God for our own personal lives, as Habakkuk wrote “the righteous will live by his faith.” (2:4) Our confidence is in the Lord, not in our ability to be faithful, but what we are looking for in our lives is the Lord God Almighty moving us to love and to serve, to be faithful, and to be merciful and humble and to strive for these things each day. These are things we should be looking for in our lives! It is the promises of God’s Faithfulness that has sustained all of His people from since the beginning of time. Paul wrote in Galatians 5:22, the faithfulness of God is the foundation stone upon which our faithfulness is established. Just like in the theoretical and applied sciences, the applied sciences couldn’t exist without its theoretical background. This leads us to understand how our God is a faithful God and we are his children, therefore, we are expected to be faithful as well. This quality of faithfulness is literally the earmark of life for those who are the children of God. We see it mentioned as a characteristic of God’s people according to the Apostolic Writings, for instance, of Onesimus (Collosians 4:9), of Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17), and of Epaphras (Collosians 1:7).

King Solomon wrote, “Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?“ (Mishley / Proverbs 20:6). The Psalmist also said, “Help, LORD, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men” (Tehillim / Psalms 12:1). Regardless of those who are around us, we are called to be faithful to our God. Today, however, very little emphasis is placed on the importance of faithfulness. Most of us are quite familiar with faith, but many are not so familiar with the idea of faithfulness because less emphasis is being placed on this important act. Paul wrote that faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. The important point is, can faith work without being faithful? If we call ourselves spirit led, and yet see less and less evidence of faithfulness, what should we think or do? Should we not reexamine our lives, repent, and seek the Lord’s help to walk faithfully? The point we are being taught according to the Torah is that God is a God of faithfulness. He is absolutely reliable, steadfast in His live, loyal and true. He is a constant, He is stable, He is not blown around, He keeps His word forever (see Isaiah 40:8) and he does not change his mind (Bamidbar / Numbers 23:19). He always keeps His promises and His covenant with us. Tehillim / Psalms 31:32 states, 31:32 Love the LORD, all His saints. The LORD preserves the faithful, but fully repays the arrogant. (BSB) which tells us that God preserves the faithful man or woman. Tehillim / Psalms 101:6 also states, “My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me.” (NASB) These things teach us the importance of remaining faithful. And how both Faith and Faithfulness have a part in our salvation. This does not mean that we are always perfect able to keep all of God’s commands at any given moment. This means that we serve a merciful God, and we are called to repentance, daily! We learn through biblical history that the Lord God has never failed His people, and we know from our own History this is true too! The Lord commanded His people to “remember” (Devarim / Deuteronomy 8:2 and Isaiah 46:9). When the people remembered what the Lord had done, they were able to trust in Him for their future. Yeshua said “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27). We who belong to Yeshua need to cultivate the ability to hear Him and this happens when we walk and live our lives in faithfulness and remain faithful to Him through repentance. God’s Word speaks to us when we are practically applying God’s Word to our lives, this happens by the way that we see God working in and through our lives and through other people, the truth is confirmed by the Spirit within (see Romans 8:16). As we study God’s word, the Spirit of God that dwells within helps us to make the Scriptures a part of our lives, and to be able to apply God’s word to every situation. When we apply God’s Word to our lives, we build trust in His Word, and in His promises, and this is why it is important to remain faithful and trust in the One who is able to do all things!