Rev. VanBaren is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Loveland, Colorado.
“Science Finds God” (cf. Romans 1:19-21)
One’s attention is immediately caught by the cover of one of the national news magazines, Newsweek. The cover story, July 20, 1998, is titled, “Science Finds God.” One is amazed by the statement!! Science now has come to the conclusion that there is truly God?? We are living in an age in which, so it seemed, the majority of scientists simply deny the existence of God—or else are admitted agnostics. But now, it appears, many scientists have come to the conclusion that God must exist. They can find no alternatives to this conclusion. The Newsweek article contains many reasons which lead some scientists to conclude that there must be God. The article is introduced by a paragraph which presents the conclusions of one astronomer:
The more deeply scientists see into the secrets of the universe, you’d expect, the more God would fade away from their hearts and minds. But that’s not how it went for Allan Sandage. Now slightly stooped and white-haired at 72, Sandage has spent a professional lifetime coaxing secrets out of the stars, peering through telescopes from Chile to California in the hope of spying nothing less than the origins and destiny of the universe. As much as any other 20th-century astronomer, Sandage actually figured it out: his observations of distant stars showed how fast the universe is expanding and how old it is (15 billion years or so). But through it all Sandage, who says he was “almost a practicing atheist as a boy,” was nagged by mysteries whose answers were not to be found in the glittering panoply of supernovas. Among them: why is there something rather than nothing? Sandage began to despair of answering such questions through reason alone, and so, at 50, he willed himself to accept God. “It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science,” he says. “It is only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”
Some of the reasons that certain scientists have concluded that there is “God” and that He has created all things are interesting as well. Certain things have been mentioned often in the past—which appeared to prove God’s existence. But to affirm these in a national news magazine is particularly striking.
Physicists have stumbled on signs that the cosmos is custom-made for life and consciousness. It turns out that if the constants of nature—unchanging numbers like the strength of gravity, the charge of an electron and the mass of a proton—were the tiniest bit different, then atoms would not hold together, stars would not burn and life would never have made its appearance. “When you realize that the laws of nature must be incredibly finely tuned to produce the universe we see,” says John Polkinghorne, who had a distinguished career as a physicist at Cambridge University before becoming an Anglican priest in 1982, “that conspires to plant the idea that the universe did not just happen, but that there must be a purpose behind it.” Charles Townes, who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the principles of the laser, goes further: “Many have a feeling that somehow intelligence must have been involved in the laws of the universe.”
Mathematics, in the minds of many scientists, further proves the existence of some divine being:
Ever since Isaac Newton, science has blared a clear message: the world follows rules, rules that are fundamentally mathematical, rules that humans can figure out. Humans invent abstract mathematics, basically making it up out of their imaginations, yet math magically turns out to describe the world. Greek mathematicians divided the circumference of a circle by its diameter, for example, and got the number pi, 3.14159 … . Pi turns up in equations that describe sub-atomic particles, light and other quantities that have no obvious connections to circles. This points, says Polkinghorne, “to a very deep fact about the nature of the universe,” namely, that our minds, which invent mathematics, conform to the reality of the cosmos. We are somehow tuned in to its truths. Since pure thought can penetrate the universe’s mysteries, “this seems to be telling us that something about human consciousness is harmonious with the mind of God,” says Carl Feit, a cancer biologist at Yeshiva University in New York and Talmudic scholar.
Another scholar points to a related mathematical formula as proof for God’s existence:
To Joel Primack, an astro-physicist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, “practicing science [even] has a spiritual goal” —namely, providing inspiration. It turns out, explains Primack, that the largest size imaginable, the entire universe, is 10 with 29 zeros after it (in centimeters). The smallest size describes the subatomic world, and is 10 with 24 zeros (and a decimal) in front of it. Humans are right in the middle. Does this return us to a privileged place? Primack does not know, but he describes this as a “soul-satisfying cosmology.”
Some have even discovered a kind of “providence” of God in creation!
To some worshipers, a sense of the divine as an unseen presence behind the visible world is all well and good, but what they really yearn for is a God who acts in the world. Some scientists see an opening for this sort of God at the level of quantum or subatomic events. In this spooky realm, the behavior of particles is unpredictable. In perhaps the most famous example, a radioactive element might have a half-life of, say, one hour. It has a 50-50 chance of decaying. And what if the experiment is arranged so that if the atom does decay, it releases poison gas? If you have a cat in the lab, will the cat be alive or dead after the hour is up? Physicists have discovered that there is no way to determine, even in principle, what the atom would do. Some theologian-scientists see that decision point—will the atom decay or not? Will the cat live or die? —as one where God can act. “Quantum mechanics allows us to think of special divine action,” says Russell. Even better, since few scientists abide miracles, God can act without violating the laws of physics.
An even newer science, chaos theory, describes phenomena like the weather and some chemical reactions whose exact outcomes cannot be predicted. It could be, says Polkinghorne, that God selects which possibility becomes reality. This divine action would not violate physical laws either.
One is possibly surprised that science has now “found God.” Striking that this is so today after several generations of scientists have simply ruled out the existence of God out-of-hand. Yet, is not this exactly that of which Paul speaks in Romans 1:20, “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.” The Newsweek article clearly confirms this.
What one must notice in an article such as that in Newsweek is that the theory of evolution is maintained. Even the “theologians” who are also scientists refuse to deny that. In fact, some even claim that evolution shows somewhat the very nature of God!
These scientists who have “found God,” nevertheless refuse to believe the infallible and inspired testimony of Holy Scripture. The creation account, for instance, is simply a myth to these scientists.
Thirdly, these scientists who maintain the existence of God, are of all religions: Jewish, Christian, or Muslim—or of no religious faith. There is really no room in their discoveries for the wonder of salvation and the heart of the gospel: Christ and Him crucified.
There is also, however, a reminder of the fulfillment of Revelation 13—the rise of the two beasts. We have presented the probability of the joining of religion and science. This is not on the basis of the infallible Word of God, but rather on the conclusions of scientists who have “discovered” God in their scientific studies.
For other believers, an appreciation of science deepens faith. “Science produces in me a tremendous awe,” says Sister Mary White of the Benedictine Meditation Center in St. Paul, Minn. “Science and spirituality have a common quest, which is a quest for truth.” And if science has not yet influenced religious thought and practice at the grass-roots level very much, just wait, says Ted Peters of CTNS. Much as feminism sneaked up on churches and is now shaping the liturgy, he predicts, “in 10 years science will be a major factor in how many ordinary religious people think.”
Not only is this forecast likely true, but already it is evident in churches of every sort—including many Reformed churches.
There was, I thought, one other extremely interesting comment in the article. This dealt with the reality of the two natures of our Lord Jesus Christ. The observation of “nature” in which the individual saw something of the wonder of Christ’s two natures could only be seen through the “spectacles” of Scripture. We believe and confess that Christ is fully divine and completely human. It is indeed a difficult concept for the human mind to grasp. Yet it is essential if there is to be salvation from sin and deliverance from the sentence of death. Scripture further declares not only that “God is light,” but also that Christ is the Light of the world. In connection with all of that, I found extremely interesting one thought expressed in the article:
Take the difficult Christian concept of Jesus as both fully divine and fully human. It turns out that this duality has a parallel in quantum physics. In the early years of this century, physicists discovered that entities thought of as particles, like electrons, can also act as waves. And light, considered a wave, can in some experiments act like a barrage of particles. The orthodox interpretation of this strange situation is that light is, simultaneously, wave and particle. Electrons are, simultaneously, waves and particles. Which aspect of light one sees, which face an electron turns to a human observer, varies with the circumstances. So, too, with Jesus, suggests physicist F. Russell Stannard of England’s Open University. Jesus is not to be seen as really God in human guise, or as really human but acting divine, says Stannard: “He was fully both.” Finding these parallels may make some people feel, says Polkinghorne, “that this is not just some deeply weird Christian idea.”
Obviously, those of other religions would not concede this relationship. Nevertheless, it is impressive: Jesus is the Light of the world. Light itself is created to reflect the truth that God is Light and Christ is the Light of the world.