MORE THAN BLIND FAITH:
“HASN’T SCIENCE RULED OUT GOD?”
Science has transformed our lives: bringing us electricity, medicine, computers, mathematics, our mobile phones, and so much more. Just think about how much science and technology you have used since you woke up this morning?
In a society like ours, belief in God can be seen as a primitive, pre-scientific way of understanding the world. Like Santa and the Tooth Fairy, you just stop believing in the fantasy of God as you mature and grow up. But the question is: do we really need to rule out belief in God as we grow more scientifically sophisticated?
Certainly, that’s not what many of our great scientists have thought. In the past Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, Pascal, Faraday, Newton, Kelvin – all believed in a God, and their faith was strengthened by their discoveries in the natural world. Today many follow in their footsteps
However, other contemporary scientists are outspoken in their rejection of God. Prof Richard Dawkins says: “God’s existence, or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe”. However, contrary to Dawkins, God and science need not be enemies. Prof Peter Higgs and Dr Brian Cox are not religious men, but they acknowledge that many of their colleagues are. Higgs writes in the Guardian: “The growth of our understanding of the world through science weakens some of the motivation which makes people believers. But that's not the same thing as saying they're incompatible".
Now you may be thinking: science may not be incompatible with the idea of God… but it certainly hasn’t proved that God is a fact. Well you’re right: the scientific method cannot invent an experiment to conclusively prove or disprove the existence of God. Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould: “science simply cannot (by its legitimate methods) adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can’t comment on it as scientists”. The tools of science cannot help because “We don’t find God within creation…”– just as you don’t expect to find Steve Jobs, the inventor of the IPhone, hiding inside the one in your pocket! “… but all of it points towards him!” (Michael Ots)
Let me suggest that God and physical causes are not irreconcilable enemies – rather one follows the other. As artists reveal themselves in painting, so God has revealed His power, creativity and intelligence in the natural world. That’s why Professor John Lennox writes: “God is not an alternative to science as an explanation… he is the ground of explanation… God explains why science explains”. It’s no coincidence the first scientists were theists. Their scientific method was driven by these convictions: that we can trust our senses and reason to lead us to truth; that the equations of mathematics can accurately describe the world; that we can examine the universe to discover its order and laws, because it is not random— a rational mind stands behind it, who scripted its laws and breathed life into the equations.
Alternatively, you have to face the possibility that if the human mind is simply the byproduct of blind physical forces and unguided natural selection, then it opens up the question whether our minds can be trusted – what if they are geared more to survival than truth. That’s why Charles Darwin once confessed: “the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy”. But for the Theist, science and reason are wonderful gifts for discovering more about the world and potentials placed within it by God.
Therefore, God and Science are compatible. The real conflict is between two duelling sets of non-scientific, philosophical beliefs. Atheistic-Science (everything came from nothing for no ultimate purpose) and Theistic-Science (everything came from nothing because of someone with an ultimate purpose for you and me). The question is which of these worldviews consistently better accounts for the data?
Let me briefly suggest three lines of scientific evidence that make best sense in a Theistic worldview:
(1) EVIDENCE FROM COSMOLOGY:
Cosmology is interested in questions about the origin and formation of the universe – like: Why does anything exist rather than nothing?
Stephen Hawking recounts in his bestseller “A Brief History of Time” that until the 19th century people believed the universe was eternal. However discoveries like the First Law of Thermodynamics suggested that the universe could not have spontaneously created itself; and the Second Law suggested that it could not have always been there, because it would have already run out of energy available for work. Astronomical observations by Hubble discovered evidence of expansion as stars/galaxies moved away from us. Later the detection of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation suggested that in the past the universe was smaller and hotter. Extrapolating from these observations, many cosmologists believe the universe space-matter-energy-time universe must have had a beginning.
But then, we must consider: Why did that happen? As a rule of logic “Anything that begins to exist requires an explanation” (William Lane-Craig) –the universe needs a first cause! Therefore, the God Hypothesis is a perfectly rational explanation for the observations of cosmology. The universe exists because it has a Creator: God!
(2) EVIDENCE FROM PHYSICS:
The universe we observe is not random, but configured by natural laws and finely-tuned fundamental constants. For example: if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5%, hydrogen would not form, meaning both life and chemistry would be impossible.
Astrophysicist Dr Hugh Ross explains how unlikely this fine-tuning is due to chance: “Cover America with coins in a column reaching to the moon, then do the same for a billion other continents of the same size. Paint one coin red and put it somewhere in one of the billion piles. Blindfold a friend and ask her to pick it out. The odds are about 1 in 10^40 that she will”. Those are unbelievable odds against it being chance. Indeed, the mathematician and atheist Sir Fred Hoyle said of these things: “it is almost as if a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics as well as with the chemistry and biology – there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature”.
To get away from these divine implications, theoretical physicists like Stephen Hawking have postulated that we are just one of an infinite number of parallel universes in a multi-verse. Hawking’s PHD partner, Roger Penrose has criticised this theory for lacking any “observational support whatever”. Nevertheless, Hawking says we shouldn’t be surprised that our universe appears designed for us, because we live in one of the few habitable ones and otherwise wouldn’t be alive to notice it. However, philosopher William Lane-Craig tells this story to expose its inadequacies: “If you were dragged before a trained firing squad, and they fired and missed: it is true that you should not be surprised to observe that you are not dead, but it is equally true that you should be surprised to observe that you are alive. If you were asked, ‘How did you survive?’ it would be inadequate to say, ‘If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here to answer you.’
Philosopher Richard Swinburne points out it is a potential violation of Occam’s Razor to posit an infinite number of complex universes to try to avoid a single complex First Cause. You see, even if the Multiverse was proven true; it cannot escape the question of First Cause or Complex Design by Multiverse – just postpone it – because you still need a complex Multi-verse Generator!
Instead natural laws and fine tuning make most sense if there is a law-giver and designer: God.
(3) EVIDENCE FROM BIOCHEMISTRY:
DNA carries our genetic code, with the instructions for making all the proteins needed to grow and maintain your body. If you could extract and line up all the DNA in your body it would stretch to the moon and back. So where did all that complex information come from? Professor John Lennox says: “A building does not emerge from the bricks nor the writing from the paper and ink without the injection of both energy and intelligent activity” – likewise nor does the life-giving information in our DNA just arise out of amino-acids by chance over time! Instead, our DNA is shouting out that an intelligence is responsible for life: God.
These 3 lines of scientific evidence made a big impact on the prominent sceptic Anthony Flew. 10 years ago he wrote: “There is a God: how the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind”. He concluded after years of arguing against it, that the God Hypothesis makes best sense of the world – although he never made a commitment beyond believing in an abstract, nameless, faceless, unknowable deity. But we can do better than that! Ultimately the Christian faith is not based on deductions from science, but is rooted in events of history.
When the first Russian cosmonaut returned to earth, he told an interviewer that his atheism was confirmed: He had not found God in space. But the Christian intellectual C.S. Lewis responded to this saying this was a category error – the universe isn’t like a house with God living in the attic. Instead, the universe is like a play – and its characters can only know about details about the playwright to the extent he writes them into the play itself. Well the good news is we can know God exists because God has written himself into the story of human history.
John’s gospel is an eyewitness account of those events. He writes: “In the beginning was the Logos [to the Greek: the divine logic and order of the cosmos – which makes reason and science possible]; and the Logos was with was and the Logos was God… the Logos became flesh and lived among us”. God our Creator has made Himself known in the person of Jesus Christ.
The historical accounts record Jesus possessed the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and perform natural-law defying miracles. These things demonstrated that nature still recognised the voice of its Creator. They also revealed that Jesus has the power to make this broken world and our broken lives into a new creation. John recorded these things down so Christianity could be SOMETHING MORE THAN BLIND FAITH: “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:30).
That’s what’s at stake and on offer in Jesus Christ is life – life as it was intended to be - life to the full – life with the one who made and loves us. We’d love to encourage you to find out more about Jesus - the God who has not been ruled out by science – but whose finger prints are all over it!
Q&A ANTICIPATE EVOLUTION QUESTION
The Evolution hypothesis and God hypothesis are not necessarily mutually exclusive – because mechanisms require agency – and self-winding mechanisms even greater intelligent agency!
Nevertheless, there are ever more problems with the evolutionary synthesis. Ongoing research is raising reasonable doubts about “the creative power of the mechanism of unguided natural selection and random mutation” – to account for the first living cell, genetic information, new biological forms, and the narrow limits of change that random processes can achieve.
Underlying this problem is the “institutional prohibition on considering Intelligent Design as a possible explanation”. Listen to Richard Lewontin:“ we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door”. Perhaps an atheistic-science worldview is not the best fit for the data we are uncovering about human origins.