Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD (Isaiah 1:18).
Science cannot prove there is a God, but neither can it establish the atheist’s opposite contention. Conversely religion cannot dismiss the findings of scientific inquiry without incurring ridicule. We have maintained throughout these essays that the pursuit of both scientific and Biblical wisdom is a valid path to travel if we seek to understand the nature of the universe and our place in it. It isn’t an either/or proposition as far as I am concerned. One shouldn’t be forced to choose one road or the other, which unfortunately are the alternatives often presented, especially to young people.
Scientists differ in their views
Some would picture science as providing a completely rational and deterministic worldview in which all things are capable of being understood. The theories of science are presumed to always be verifiable by experimentation with no need to invoke faith or a higher power to explain our existence. Religious men and women on the other hand are often inclined to dismiss science as a tool of godless men intent on defaming the word of God. Indeed the statements of some scientists could lead religious-minded people to despair and sorrow. One well-known Nobel laureate, Professor Steven Weinberg1 has written: The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.2 In a later work by the same author he is even more persistent in his attack on any attempt to reconcile God and science.3 As far as I know, from reading his works, Dr. Weinberg appears to be an honorable and sincere person who is certainly entitled to his opinions. Though statements like this get a lot of publicity, such conclusions should not be construed to be the definitive collective view of all scientists.
Another Nobel laureate, Professor Charles Townes, takes quite the opposite point of view on the relationship between religion and science.4 Townes has written: Many people don’t realize that science basically involves assumptions and faith. But nothing is absolutely proved. He has also written: Wonderful things in both science and religion come from our efforts based on observations, thoughtful assumptions, faith and logic. He [Townes] said that, with the findings of modern physics, it seems extremely unlikely that the existence of life is ‘just accidental.’5
Scientific theories constantly challenged
I cite these diametrically contrary views from two very distinguished Nobel laureates to illustrate it is simply not true that scientists have a uniform outlook on the relationship between science and religion.
What causes this dichotomy? The simple answer is that when insufficient data is available it is nearly impossible to achieve a definitive model that nearly all scientists will accept. This is to be expected; it is inherent in the scientific method that ongoing inquiries will continue, new ideas will be tested and methods for checking them devised. In the end, scientists are no better or worse than any other profession, but there is one facet of the scientific process that is unique; the openness that continually subjects ideas to peer scrutiny. If a scientific model is flawed or limited in its scope, sooner or later it will be exposed.
Newton challenged by Einstein
At one time physicists believed that the universe was infinite in scale because it was known via Newton’s laws that a finite universe was unstable and would eventually collapse due to mutual gravitational attraction. Only an infinite universe was thought capable of avoiding this so-called “big crunch.” The principle that matter could neither be created nor destroyed in an experiment, a concept that came out of 19th century chemistry laboratories, argued for an eternal universe, i.e. one that had always existed.
Theoretical and experimental discoveries by Einstein and many others in the 20th century showed that matter could indeed be created and destroyed with powerful consequences, eventually leading to the atomic and hydrogen bombs. Observations on the motions of galaxies by Hubble, and the startling discovery by Penzias and Wilson of the universal background radiation that is the afterglow of the “big bang” initiating event that created our universe, killed once and for all the idea that the cosmos had always existed.
Remarkably, these modern scientific findings were perfectly in accord with the utterances of the Holy Bible, which clearly states that the universe had a beginning (Gen. 1:1) and implies that the matter in the universe came from nothing physically tangible, other than the power (energy?) supplied by the Lord God (Gen. 1:3 and Heb. 11:3).
Biblical account should be accepted
Given this concord between some of the most important scientific findings of the 20th century and the scriptures, one can only wonder why more researchers don’t acknowledge that there is something very special in the word of God as revealed in the Bible.
What is the reason for this genuine lack of universal acceptance of the Biblical story of creation? A possible answer is that it takes more evidence to convince some people than others, which is why on a jury panel it is often difficult to get all 12 people to vote the same way even though all have been exposed to the same facts. That is why there are so many different Christian sects in the world.
The Bible believer is at least in a somewhat more unified position than the skeptical scientist. I have to believe that at the very least, all who profess themselves to be practicing Christians, Jews or Moslems, no matter what else their differences might be, all accept the Genesis creation story as being true. Hopefully, indeed prayerfully, it is my desire that further scientific studies will remove any ambiguities from the minds of those not willing to accept the Biblical account at face value.
The god of chance
What is the alternative model that is postulated by scientists who reject the idea of a God of creation to explain the universe and of man’s place in it? The only possible response is the god of chance! The basic premise is that given a long enough time period anything that could happen, will happen.
Gamow6 produced the simile of a bevy of monkeys pounding randomly on typewriters and presumed that eventually, given eons of time, the results of their actions could explain how order could come out of chaos. Naturally, most of what they would produce on the pages in their typewriters would be gibberish (I guess today we would need to update this to word processing on their computers!), but buried in the nonsense would be all the sonnets and plays of Shakespeare as well as all the other works of literature ever written. By analogy we were led to believe that the same random chance interactions of matter and energy could account for the universe.
Similar thinking was applied to the creation of life via the chance collisions of chemicals in a primordial stew energized by lighting. We were not supposed to need a specific creator and any hint of “intelligent design” in the universe was unnecessary. The flaw in the argument is obvious – who was responsible for designing and building the typewriters (or computers) and who created the monkeys in the first place?
I am of course being facetious, but in the end the idea of randomness and pure chance as the operating mechanisms that explain the creation of the universe and of life on this planet cannot be proved and rests entirely on faith.
Physical scientists see need of God
In the physical sciences the extreme orderliness and precision of the laws of universe have led many researchers to accept the possible existence of a higher power. The physicist Paul Davies has written, Nevertheless, though science may explain the world, we still have to explain science. The laws which enable the universe to come into being spontaneously seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design. If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose, and the evidence of modern physics suggests strongly to me that the purpose includes us.7
Many other analogous examples could be cited from the writings of physical scientists. On the other hand I have had great difficulty finding anything comparable from the evolutionary biology community. Their basic premise seems to be that the great god “chance” has produced everything in spite of the fact that many long standing, nagging, unexplained questions remain which could easily be reconciled by at least the smallest nod to the mechanism of “intelligent design.”
Folly of rejecting a creator
The dilemma of the biological sciences is that removing Darwin’s two basic premises of gradual evolutionary change and natural selection leaves one without any other alternative except invoking a higher power. When this is pointed out, the person is immediately dubbed a “scientific heretic” because invoking “intelligent design” is considered beyond the pale of experimental verification. However, so is invoking the god of chance or accident.
The idea that the origin of life on this planet and its subsequent development came about by a series of pure accidents is touted with a straight face by evolutionists in spite of a plethora of contrary evidence. From the very beginningDarwinnoted that explaining an organ of great complexity, such as the eye, was a major difficulty in his model. The fact that some creatures function with less than fully developed eyes is not a proof that evolution produced the complex vision mechanisms found in almost all living beings. The chain of evidence simply doesn’t exist.
Other difficulties cited earlier in these essays are equally compelling in raising strong doubts about the validity of evolutionary arguments. For example, it would be helpful if evolutionists explained why the origin of DNA and subsequent living cells came about in apparent violation of the second law of thermodynamics. As far as I know this has never been explained and if there are any laws in physics that we can absolutely trust it is those articulated in the precepts of thermodynamics. I could also mention the difficulties in explaining speciation and sexual differentiation, which are stilled styled as “mysteries” in evolutionary literature. In fact, it is ironic that often I find evolutionists using terminology in their writings usually associated with “mystery” religious cults.
Sad consequence of rejecting the Creator
Where does all this lead us? The scriptures tell us: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom.1:20). The Lord of the universe expects us to acknowledge Him by the evidence plainly visible in His creation.
The sad consequence of ignoring this connection and attributing the natural world instead to the god of chance is that it removes any personal responsibility for men and women to search for truth in the things of the spirit. As the Apostle Paul said almost 2,000 years ago to the people of Athens on Mars Hill, That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us (Acts 17:27).
It has also undermined the linkage between morality and faith. While some high-minded individuals can certainly be atheists and at the same time moral people, the fact remains it is far more common that accepting the god of chance and dismissing the creator leads to an attitude of mind that concludes if there is no future hope, then What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die (I Cor.15:32). Thus, dismissing the creator leads to the inevitable outcome that many think the wisest course of action is to get all you can now no matter how you have to obtain it. The moral consequences are painfully evident in the scandals of the corporate world, the breakdown of family life and the general malaise in people’s lives because of the lack of hope in the future.
The Bible says, Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). The author of Hebrews goes on to tell us, And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Heb. 11:6 NIV). This connection between faith in the creator and the hope of a future reward is critical; destroy the former and the latter vanishes.
What will it be then? The God of Creation as revealed in the Holy Bible, or the god of chance proposed by the wisdom of men to explain the seemingly unexplainable? The scriptures offer us a better way for we are told, But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory [over death] through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (I Cor.15:57NIV).
John C. Bilello, Ann Arbor, Michigan
[This concludes the Bible and Science Series]
1 Steven Weinberg shared the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his work in high-energy physics.
2 Steven Weinberg, in The First Three Minutes: A Modern View of the Origin of the Universe, 2nd Paperback edition, Pub. by BasicBooks, New York, (1993). Originally published in 1977.
3 “The more we refine our understanding of God to make the concept plausible, the more it seems pointless.” Quoted from Steven Weinberg, in Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist’s Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature, Pub. Pantheon Books, New York, (1992).
4 Charles Townes, co-inventer of the laser, shared the Nobel prize in 1964.
5 As reported in the Toronto Star, March 10, 2005, in an article reporting on Dr. Townes receiving the Templeton Prize, which is awarded annually for progress or research in spiritual matters.
6 George Gamow, One, Two, Three…Infinity: Facts and Speculations of Science, Dover Publications, Mineola, NY, (1988). [This is a republication of the (1961) Viking edition].
7 Paul Davies, Superforce, Simon andSchuster,New York, (1984), pg. 273. (These are in fact the concluding words of his book).