Grand Canyon. Photographer: John Kees.
“John Polkinghorn (professor of quantum theory at Cambridge) under whom I had the privilege of taking a couple of courses. John Polkinghorne in one of his books makes this comment ‘if you examine the early relationship between expansion and contraction forces in the early picoseconds of the universe, you will see that the exactitude was so precise that the margin of error and the precision required would be like taking aim at a one square inch object twenty billion light-years away (on the other end of the universe) and hitting that bulls eye.’ Can you, do you know what a picosecond is? A picosecond is the time it takes something traveling at the speed of light to cross the distance of a hair’s breadth. We can’t even think of that, it’s just there in theory. But the specific complexity.” Ravi Zacharias
“The temptation to believe that the Universe is the product of some sort of design, a manifestation of subtle aesthetic and mathematical judgment, is overwhelming. The belief that there is ‘something behind it all’ is one that I personally share with, I suspect, a majority of physicists.” Dr. Paul Davies, Physicisist
“We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures.. .. If the Universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.” John O’Keefe (Former astronomer at NASA)
God is good because we can worship him with our minds. The psalmist in Chapter 19 says “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Paul writing to the Romans talks about unbelievers and says “for although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts we darkened.” Yet, here today we have people like Political commentator Bill Maher saying that that 93% of scientists don’t believe in God. Not only that we have what seems to be an increasing amount of books that are militant against the idea of faith. What is going on here? Is there really a battle of science and faith? Is it really a battle of dumb believers vs all of the scientists? Is faith akin to believing in a flying spaghetti monster in the modern age?
First off, I think it makes sense to provide some brief definitions of the terms we are looking at, even though they are probably obvious and well known. What is science? According to the dictionary science is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” What, then, is the definition of faith? Well, there are many, but I really like Thomas Graham’s definition, who was former Theological Dean of Oberlin college. He states it this way “Faith is reason gone courageous – not the opposite of reason, to be sure, but something more than reason and never satisfied by reason alone. A step always remains beyond the range of light.“ According to the book of Hebrews “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It is hard to be a thinking creature and have conviction in things not seen for no reasons at all.
So, then is there really a clash against faith and science? Well, obviously there have been clashes between religion and science in that past, we hear about the centuries old example of Galileo endlessly, but my question is do they fundamentally clash at the core? Does there need to be a real clash? I would give a resounding no answer to that question. The reality is whatever your belief is, the scientific method will remain the same. Any variation in that, isn’t a deviation between faith and science, it is a deviation between bad science and real science. Faith is what happens after good science has been done. Faith is what you put your beliefs in after all the evidence have been examined. The reality is faith is non-negotiable, everyone has faith in something. Regardless if you believe in a creator, or you believe against all odds everything came into being out of nothing. Alexis de Tocqueville writes it this way “there is no philosopher in the world so great but he believes a million things on the faith of other people and accepts a great many more truths than he demonstrates.”
So, then, how is there what seemingly appears to be a clash between the faith and science so often? Well, that is a complicated answer, and it varies. There are a few reasons for this. First off, there really is a clash of faith and evidence when it comes between old earth and new earth believers. There is no time to get into that here, it would simply take too long. Secondly, there are knowledge gaps in areas, and scientists and science writers take it upon themselves to speak on authority of those issues beyond the bounds of the actual data and evidence. Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of science that is all but settled, what I am talking about here are usually issues are usually relating to some of the bigger ideas. In reality for many Christian and atheist scientists there isn’t as much of a clash between the evidence as there is a clash between the interpretation of evidence. A Christian scientist will look at all of the evidence and say ‘wow, this is incredibly complex, I do not believe it is likely or possible a designer was not involved.” and the unbeliever will say we potentially live in a multiverse “I believe the conditions in which life formed was perhaps extremely lucky, but perhaps considering the amounts of planets, it is possible.’ Both are faith.
So, my next question is it true that as Bill Maher has said that 93% of all scientists don’t believe in God? No, the reality is he quoting a well circulated flawed study from 1998. The wording of the study was so bad, Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, said that that the survey was “not well designed for investigating the religious views of scientists (or anyone else).” The questions were flawed in that they were designed in such a way, that put down believers as only those who believed in a very personal God who answers prayer and communicates actively and effectively with people. This study showed only 7% believed in that God, 20% had doubts or were agnostic, and 72% did not believe in this type of God.
The reality is there have been better studies done. Elaine Ecklund, Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences at Rice University wrote a book based on her more detailed survey of over 1600 faculty members at Research universities and found different results. Her studies of scientists beliefs in general showed that 34% of scientists are atheists, 30% were agnostics, and the rest believed in varying degrees of God, and a higher power. In another study from 2009, the Pew Research Center asked scientists who were members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science what their beliefs were. What they found was 33% of scientists believe in God. 18% don’t believe in God, but in a universal spirit or higher power, 41% didn’t believe in either, and 7% didn’t answer or refused to answer.
While, it is true, more scientists disbelieve in God from the rest of the population in the U.S, the reality is people believe and disbelieve in God for all kinds of different reasons. Tim Keller in his book “The Reason for God” talks mentions Peter Berger, the late sociologist who showed that peer groups, and primary relationships shape our beliefs more than we like to admit. He also mentions how Oxford educated Dr. Alistir McGrath, who has received three doctorates, including one in molecular physics, has said most of his scientist friends believe and disbelieve for reasons other than science. There are a lot of factors to think about when thinking about these polls such as the disparity in gender, because we know women in general are more religious than men, yet are vastly underrepresented in the numbers. It may also prove helpful to know geography matters as well. One study showed that 39% of scientists in Hong Kong identify as religious compared with 20% of the general population, and 54% of scientists in Taiwan identify as religious compared with 44% of the general population.
We should also ask if science is really against religion, than why do so many scientists believe, and further more, why do so many of these win Nobel prizes for their work? “Statistical data on Nobel prize winners in science between 1901 and 2000 revealed that atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers have won 7.1% of the prizes in chemistry, 8.9% in medicine, and 4.7% in physics; while Christians have won a total of 72.5% of the prizes in chemistry, 65.3% in physics, 62% in medicine and Jews have won 17.3% of the prizes in chemistry, 26.2% in medicine, and 25.9% in physics.”
Lastly, I would like to examine the question, is it true, that we really do live in a finely tuned world? Science has come a long way in modern times. We no longer see heroin ads for our children coming from the German manufacturer Bayer. Vaccines have saved millions of lives. Thankfully we no longer bloodlet when someone is feeling under the weather. Science has made strong gains in many fields in the last 100 or so years and is always progressing. There is much to be learned in the future but we do thankfully understand many aspects of our world exponentially more than in the past. So, we must ask now with all that we know is God dead, as famous philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said? The answer is a resounding no.
In the next few paragraphs I hope to focus on a few key aspects of our world that will help you gain a perspective from some top level scientists who see God’s hand in the fine tuning of the world we live in. There obviously isn’t much time in a few paragraphs to make a case for intelligent design or the idea of a creator, nor would I be the proper voice to make this argument, so I hope to provide some better resources in the reference part of this book, and leave much of the arguments from the voices of the scientists themselves.
A few years ago, Eric Metaxas wrote an article in Wall street journal called “Science increasingly makes the case for God.“ The article was wildly popular, and arguably by number of times it was shared the most popular article that has ever been written in the Wall Street Journal. The article starts off by talking about how the search for extraterrestrial life was wildly anticipated in the 1960’s, even thought probable, but over time it was found out that the necessary parameters for life to exist increased and increased, having shown that even we as a planet shouldn’t be here by the odds.
The article states “Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp. Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row.”
Arno Penzias, co-discoverer of the cosmic microwave background radiation, and Nobel prize winner in physics said “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.” The late Nobel prize winner in physics, Charles Townes said “Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all. The sun couldn’t be there, the laws of gravity and nuclear laws and magnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and so on have to be just the way they are for us to be here.”
The next thing I would like to look at is our DNA. The reality is our DNA is incredible. If uncoiled, the DNA in all the cells in your body would stretch 10 billion miles, from earth to Pluto, and back. This sounds incredible, and research coming out of the ENCODE project, a follow up to the Human Genome project, show that it is no longer accurate to view most of this as junk DNA, but rather the opposite. The project came out with two phases of results. “In September 2012, the project released a much more extensive set of results, in 30 papers published simultaneously in several journals, including six in Nature, six in Genome Biology and a special issue with 18 publications of Genome Research.” Wikipedia “In the lead research paper, published in the journal Nature, the authors wrote, “These data enabled us to assign biochemical functions for 80% of the genome, in particular outside of the well-studied protein-coding regions.” “And what about the remaining 20 percent of the genome—is it functional too? According to Ewan Birney, ENCODE’s lead analysis coordinator, it is probably not meaningless junk either. Birney said, “It’s likely that 80 percent will go to 100 percent” and “we don’t really have any large chunks of redundant DNA. This metaphor of junk isn’t that useful.”
DNA research is doing incredible things. Scientists recently stored “70 billion copies of their genetics book—including page formatting instructions and images totaling 700 terabytes of data—into just one gram of DNA. ” DNA research is also showing a great complexity that was not known before. Dr. Jeffrey Tomkins, a geneticist with a Ph.D. from Clemson University, said “the language systems in the genome continue to reveal nothing but unimaginable complexity”—something he sees as a “complete contradiction to evolutionary predictions.” Antony Flew, a famous former atheist, who was a professor of philosophy said “It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.”
Our brains are incredibly complicated and speak of design. Michio Kaku one of the founders of string theory states “The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.” In a psychology today article it states “In 2009, the Brazilian scientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel performed a review of what we know about the physical structure of the brain. The adult human male brain has 86 billion neurons–more than any other primate. Each neuron has between 1,000 to 10,000 synapses that result in 125 trillion synapses in the cerebral cortex alone. That is at least 1,000 times the number of stars in our galaxy. Stephen Smith from Stanford University reported that one synapse might contain some 1,000 molecular-scale switches. That is over 125,000 trillion switches in a single human brain.” The article goes on to say that if every switch in every synaptic end at every neuron is identified by a second of time then it will take 4 billion years to complete.
The reality is we live in a incredible world. According to a Newsweek article in 2017, scientists from the CERN project, say our world shouldn’t even exist. “All of our observations find a complete symmetry between matter and antimatter, which is why the universe should not actually exist, first author Christian Smorra, from Japan’s RIKEN institute said.” There are so many incredible complex things that point us to a creator. Rainbow trout can find their way back to their hatching grounds hundreds of kilometers away, years later. They are more than likely guided because of magnetic cells in their body that guide them via earth’s magnetic fields. Crows have been known to pass on enemy intelligence with their offspring and with other crows. Even things like mold, which may not seem to possess any intelligence, have proven to create more efficient traffic systems than the engineers of the Tokyo subway system. We live in an incredible world, one by all accounts seems designed and created. If you haven’t considered the claims of Jesus in the past, I encourage to start your journey through the book of Luke.