Nothing Happens by Chance. Everything Happens on Purpose.
It would be a great mistake to think that one could use scientific means to prove God to anyone who disbelieves in Him. On the contrary, science is often cited as evidence against God. But that is changing. Increasingly, the evidence is mounting in favor of the assertion that reality is not an accident, but rather, that it is the intentional creation of a living God, a loving God, who remains deeply involved in our lives.
Indeed, one could go so far as to say that, while one cannot use nature to prove God, one must use God to prove nature.
This book is not intended to persuade the atheist. It cannot do that. But it can take away the scientific basis of atheistic arguments, arguments which often cast doubt in the minds of people who do believe in God. The reader will find that a belief in God, far from being contrary to science and reason, is far more in accord with sound thinking, than is the falsehood of atheism.
How can that argument be made?
Since this is not an attempt to prove God, but rather, to prove the reasonableness of belief, as compared to disbelief, then the case must be organized somewhat in the way one pieces together a jigsaw puzzle. The book, then, is organized into three parts. First, we shall identify the pieces of the puzzle, examining each one separately. Second, we shall then show how the pieces fit together into a coherent whole. Third and finally, we shall make conclusions based on the picture that is portrayed by the finished puzzle.
The pieces of the puzzle include a brief history of science, so that we can understand how science began from a theistic (not an atheistic) perspective. Yes, science actually was rooted in religious foundations. But then it made a wrong turn. We shall examine why.
Other pieces concern some of the most recent and amazing discoveries in science, along with some basic and unanswered questions, with which science is only beginning to grapple. These questions concern some exotic topics such as dark matter and dark energy. But they also include the familiar topics of life, consciousness, and free will. Once these individual pieces have been surveyed, then it will be possible to fit them together to see the bigger picture.
The committed atheist will not be persuaded, but neither will his arguments have the power of persuasion they once had.
Asking the right questions
It becomes quickly clear to any serious observer that reality is organized. Smaller things (such as for example atoms) join together to form larger things (such as molecules) and these in turn form even larger things, up to and including planets, stars, galaxies and the universe as a whole. But upon what basis is nature organized?
In order to get the right answer, it is of course important to ask the right question, and to ask it in the right way. Failure to do that can lead to fruitless journeys through dead end alleys.
The question that is often asked, when discussing science and God, is, “Is there a God?” Or, “Does God exist?”
But this question can be asked in a more productive way. A more pointed way of phrasing it is to ask, “What is the organizing principle of nature?” This phrasing of the question makes no assumptions about God that the atheist will reflexively reject. It makes only two assumptions: that reality is organized, and that it is organized around some central core principle. And while some people will reject even those two assumptions, any further discussion is futile when we assume that physical reality has no organizing principle.
It may surprise some people to learn that science is based upon some unprovable assumptions. But it is. In order for science and reason to function effectively, certain assumptions must be made. This kind of necessary assumption is called an axiom. The axioms upon which science relies include these:
Observed reality obeys natural laws. These natural laws apply everywhere and at all times. Natural laws are consistent with each other, with no contradictions between them. And these natural laws can be learned and understood by the human mind.
Those are profound assumptions. They characterize reality as making sense. And they strongly infer that all of reality is founded upon some core, central principle.
Asking the right way
Suppose one were studying the game of baseball (or cricket). There would be many different ways of making this study. But some of them would be more useful than others. One study might focus on the tiny details of the game, such as the stitching on the ball. But could such a study give us a fundamental understanding of the game? It would make much more sense to begin by knowing the rules of the game.
How much sense would it make to study the rules of baseball without assuming that somebody wrote the rules? And if one did not assume that, but focused rather on the stitching, then of what use would that study be?
Understanding nature must of necessity depend on an inquiry into the rules, that is, natural law. But studying natural law logically requires that those laws arise from some source, a source that is able to create them, and to make sense.
The atheist might argue that natural laws might spontaneously arise from nothing, or at least, that natural laws might simply exist with no prior cause, no plan, no purpose. But are those assumptions more reasonable than to suppose instead, that the existence of organization is itself a strong indicator of an organizing principle?
So it is not enough to ask, what is the organizing principle? We must also ask, from what source does this principle arise?
Absolutes, ultimates and turtles
A long time ago, many people thought that the world is flat, like a table top. The question was then asked, what holds up the earth? An answer was proposed, that the earth is held up by a giant turtle. But then, what holds up the turtle? Oh, another turtle. And what holds up that one? Very well, then, it’s turtles all the way down.
According to that world view, there is no final answer, no ultimate, absolute basis of reality. There is only an endless series of questions.
But as it turns out, the world is not flat like a table top, but round like a ball. Suddenly, the question of what holds up the earth makes a lot more sense. The surface of the earth rests upon an inner core. And that inner core has an absolute center.
Moreover, it makes no sense to ask, upon what does the absolute center rest? For unlike the outer surface of the earth, the absolute central core is the finality. It is the resting place itself, and it needs no further resting place. It is in a class by itself, not comparable to the outer layers which rest upon it.
If we were to try to think about God, we would first have to think about an ultimate, absolute core center of all reality. God is incomparable to anything we can imagine.
Science Was Once Religious
There is a story told about Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727), who is undoubtedly among the most influential scientists of all time. According to the story,Newtonbuilt a table-size model of the sun and the planets. An atheist visitor admired the model, and askedNewton, who had built it. Newtonreplied that no one had built it. It simply came into being by itself. The visitor scoffed, why do you say such a preposterous thing? WhereuponNewtonreplied, why is it preposterous for me to say that the model came into being by itself, but not preposterous when you claim that the real thing did?
InNewton’s time, science had already begun in earnest to break free from the shackles of the religious institutions that had ruledEuropefor centuries. In medieval times, the so-called Dark Ages, society was dominated by these institutions. They had the power of life and death over ordinary people.
Science, during these times, was looked upon as a quest to learn about God’s creation.
But by the timeNewtonwas born, science was turning away from belief in God. The Dark Ages were over, and an era called The Enlightenment was occurring. It was during these times that scientists began openly defying church authority, and were challenging certain church teachings. Some had already been burned at the stake for doing so.
This schism between science and religion was not abrupt. It was a slow, gradual process. Isaac Newton was not an atheist, and probably most scientists believed that God created the world exactly as described in the words of the Bible, in the Book of Genesis. But however gradual the schism, it grew, and it continued to grow even more, over a long period of time.
Perhaps the iconic event that represents the final break between church and science was the publication (in 1859) by Charles Darwin of his book, On the Origin of Species. This is the book that introduced the Theory of Evolution to society. It struck like a dagger at the very heart of Biblical teaching. Origin of Species, perhaps more than anything that preceded it, was a direct contradiction of church teachings regarding Creation. It would lead eventually to a series of ever greater departures from religious teaching, culminating in the scientific assertion that human beings evolved from more basic life forms. This assertion defies the creation story in Genesis, and was therefore heretical in the view of the church.
In 1925, another iconic event occurred, that represents the victory of Evolution Theory over Genesis. This was the Scopes Trial, after which, the final vestige of church authority over science would disappear, and in the public mind, scientific teachings would trump religious teachings.
Of course the story is much more complicated than all that. But the summary of this long process of history is that modern science, during its formative years, came into conflict with established religious institutions. That conflict, including as it did the persecution of scientists, engendered a hostility that persists to this day. And given that science has transformed society from the misery of Dark Ages life into the prosperity of modern technology, religion has become almost thoroughly discredited when it comes to matters of science.
Today, it is not uncommon to hear (or read) scientists who in one way or another reveal a sneering contempt for such things as Creation Science, Intelligent Design Hypothesis, and even a basic belief in God. People who propose these ideas are looked upon as ignorant, whether innocently misguided or even sinister. Believers in God are ridiculed and scorned, and therefore may find it difficult to be accepted into scientific programs or publications. While theologians are not being burned at the stake, the tables seem otherwise to have been turned.
Has Science Supplanted Faith?
It is often said, and widely believed, that science has shown that the Bible is wrong, or at the very least, that Biblical teachings on science are only myths, not physical facts. A familiar example is that the church proclaimed that the sun revolves around the earth. That is clearly wrong. The earth revolves around the sun. So science is right, the Bible is wrong.
But wait. Were the churches’ teachings in accord with the Bible?
Any student of the medieval era recognizes that the churches inEuropehad become powerful political institutions. The people in these institutions were as shrewd and as astute in wielding their power as any pagan or secular tyrant ever had been.
The trappings of power included money, military and science. The churches kept a tight grip on education, and therefore, on how people were allowed to think. So long as the people believed that the church was the instrument of God, few would dare to undermine its power. And those who did defy the church, were punished by horrific torments unless they quickly bowed down and submitted.
It was in this context that science and the church ran afoul of each other. The conflict was not one between faith and reason, but rather, between the established powers that ruled the day, and those who sought truth.
The reason it is important to understand this, is that in modern times, science and political power are once again coming into conflict with each other. If science loses this battle, it will once again become subservient to those who seek not truth, but power.
Later on, we shall take a fresh look at what the Bible actually does say about natural law. We shall find that faith is not the enemy of science, but its ally.
For quite a long time now, the trend in science has been to assert that physical reality can be adequately explained without resort to God. But that is changing. Let us examine why.