Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Has science buried God?

Some ideas become so imbedded in the sub-conscious of a culture that they are assumed without challenge. One of those notions is that science has buried God.

But is it true? Has science really got rid of God? Is that even possible? Science is the study of the physical universe, so it can’t tell you, and never will be able to tell you, that a spiritual being does not exist.
“All right,” says someone, “but science has certainly got rid of the need for God. We now understand the universe so well that we no longer need to appeal to the activity of a deity.” This is also mistaken. Understanding how something works doesn’t get rid of the need for a creator or designer. In fact, it increases it. When you understand how a kettle, a car, or a radio works, you don’t say, “I understand it, so no one made it.” On the contrary, you admire all the more the skill of the maker, and consider foolish any notion that such things came about without intelligent input. So it is with the universe – the more it is understood, the more the power and wisdom of the creator become obvious. John Lennox makes the point this way:
Take a Ford motor car. It is conceivable that someone from a remote part of the world, who was seeing one for the first time and who knew nothing about modern engineering, might imagine that there is a god (Mr Ford) inside the engine, making it go. He might further imagine that when the engine ran sweetly it was because Mr Ford inside the engine liked him, and when it refused to go it was because Mr Ford did not like him. Of course, if he were subsequently to study engineering and take the engine to pieces, he would discover that there is no Mr Ford inside it. Neither would it take much intelligence for him to see that he did not need to introduce Mr Ford as an explanation for its working. His grasp of the impersonal principles of internal combustion would be altogether enough to explain how the engine works. So far, so good. But if he then decided that his understanding of the principles of how the engine works made it impossible to believe in the existence of Mr Ford who designed the engine in the first place, this would be patently false – in philosophical terminology he would be committing a category mistake. Had there never been a Mr Ford to design the mechanisms, none would exist for him to understand.
It is likewise a category mistake to suppose that our understanding of the impersonal principles according to which the universe works makes it either unnecessary or impossible to believe in the existence of a personal creator who designed, made, and upholds the universe. In other words, we should not confuse the mechanisms by which the universe works either with its cause or its upholder.[1]
Let’s look at three scientific facts which I hope will show that science points towards, not away from, God.
We live in a fathomable universe
What kind of universe makes science possible? We need:
i.              A rational creation
ii.             Rational creatures
i.    A rational creation
If the universe tumbled into existence without a creator/designer, why would anyone suppose it to operate according to discoverable and consistent laws? Does not the existence of natural law naturally point to a lawgiver? To quote again from Lennox:
One person who drew attention to this circumstance ... was the eminent historian of science and mathematician Sir Alfred North Whitehead. Observing that medieval Europe in 1500 knew less than Archimedes in the third century BC and yet by 1700 Newton had written his masterpiece, Principia Mathematica, Whitehead asked the obvious question: How could such an explosion of knowledge have happened in such a relatively short time? His answer: “modern science must come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God ... My explanation is that the faith in the possibility of science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology”. C. S. Lewis’ succinct formulation of Whitehead’s view is worth recording: “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver”[2]
ii.   Rational creatures
For science to be possible there needs to be a creature capable of rational thought. If atheism were true, everything in the universe is purely physical, reacting according to physical law, which would mean that there is no such thing as rationality. Every thought of the mind would be only the by-product of chemical processes over which we have no control. As the Christian apologist, Frank Turek, says, it’s not merely “that science supports theism but theism supports science. In other words, theism makes doing science possible. We wouldn’t be able to do science reliably if atheism were true.”[3]
We live in a finite universe
Up until the previous century, atheists believed that the universe existed eternally. That view was wrenched from their grasp by a number of independent scientific discoveries proving that the universe had a beginning a finite time ago.
Science is the search for causes to explain effects. What could be the cause of the universe? People will often reply, “The Big Bang.” But that isn’t an explanation – it’s the thing that needs to be explained. “The Big Bang” is just a name for the event of the universe coming into existence – it’s not the cause itself; it’s simply the effect.
So the question remains, what adequate cause could bring the universe into existence? The cause must possess the following features:
The cause can’t be physical, because matter is not eternal.
It must be unimaginably powerful to produce a universe from nothing.
It must be timeless (i.e. eternal), because it brought time into existence.
Impersonal things don’t have the capacity to choose. If the cause of the universe was impersonal and had eternally existed then the universe would have existed eternally as well. The only way you can have the universe come into existence from an eternal cause is if the cause chose to act.
So the cause is a personal, powerful being, unconfined by time or space. In a word, that cause is God – the omnipotent, eternal, personal God revealed in the Bible.
I remember hearing a presentation by an atheist who was asked what it would take for him to believe in God. He replied by saying that, were something at that moment to appear out of nothing in front of him, he would believe in God. The odd thing is that this atheist had just been speaking about a universe that came into existence out of nothing. The question is, why would something coming into existence out of nothing in the present prove God, whereas everything coming into existence out of nothing in the past didn’t?
We live in a fine-tuned universe
A finite universe points to a powerful creator, but a fine-tuned universe points to an intelligent designer. This can be seen in physics and biology.
Physicists have found that the existence of the universe is balanced on a very thin tightrope. There are dozens of physical constants and quantities which, had they been the slightest bit different, would have ruled out stars, planets and chemistry.[4]
It’s like a machine with a control panel. The panel has dozens of dials, each with trillions of possible settings. For the machinery to work each dial has to be set to the right value. If one of the dials is the slightest bit off then the machine can’t work. If you arrived at the factory and found the machine working, would you conclude that someone had come in and randomly spun all the dials? Of course not. But this is what atheists are forced to conclude about the universe – by sheer fluke it came into existence (without a cause) with the settings exactly right. To give you an idea of how finely tuned the universe is, consider that the dial on our factory machine for the cosmological constant has 1010(120) settings – that’s a 1 with a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion zeros after it![5] (The number of subatomic particles in the entire known universe is only 1 with eighty zeros after it!)
Or consider the force of gravity. Imagine a ruler stretched across the observable universe – a ruler 14 billion light years long and divided into inch-long segments. If the force of gravity was moved one inch along that ruler the universe wouldn’t exist.[6]
These are just two of the dials that have to be set just right. There are loads of others.
Random chance is never going to spin those dials to get the correct values. You need an intelligent designer.
Back in Darwin’s day it was supposed that a single cell was a simple thing, but research has revealed its complexity. The cell is like a motor car factory with loads of mini assembly lines and all the different parts performing different functions in a very busy but highly efficient way. A typical cell contains billions of units of DNA comprising the chromosomes that make the machines that cause the cell to work. DNA can only be described in terms of language or code, and has been likened to a computer program; indeed, Bill Gates said DNA is far, far more advanced than any software Microsoft had created.[7] Every single one of the trillions of cells in the human body contains a database larger than the Encyclopaedia Britannica. But where does this information come from? Who is the programmer? Who wrote the language and devised the code? Information can only come from intelligence. Thus, biology, as well as physics, points to an intelligent designer.
3,000 years ago King David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1). 2,000 years ago Paul wrote that the existence and power of God are “clearly seen...by the things that are made” (Rom 1:20). This has only become more obvious as science has advanced and knowledge increased. As the agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow said:
For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.[8]
The more we investigate the universe, the more we see the fingerprints of God. Science has not buried God; it has buried atheism. You can reject the existence of a creator if you want, but in light of a fathomable, finite, fine-tuned universe, you can’t claim that science is on your side.

[1] John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, Lion, 2007, p. 44.
[2] Lennox, God’s Undertaker, p. 20.
[3] Frank Turek, Stealing from God, Why atheists need God to make their case, NavPress, 2014, p. 145.
[4] The fine-tuned constants include the force of gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. The fine-tuned quantities include the entropy level of the universe and the ratio of protons to electrons.
[6] Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, Zondervan, 2004, p. 138.
[7] Bill Gates, The Road Ahead, cited in Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points toward God, Zondervan, 2004, p. 238.
[8] Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, cited in Geisler & Turek in I don’t have enough Faith to be an Atheist, p. 94.