God revealed in creation: the myth of conflict; what scientists say; what Christians say; what the Bible says.
Does Science have all the answers to questions of life, the universe, and everything? — If so, is the Bible irrelevant? Do we think that Science is wrong when it contradicts what the Bible says? Is there common ground between Science and Faith or are they always in conflict? John Weaver will try to make sense of this ongoing debate.
Growing up with science – my story.
My father taught Biology and at an early age he introduced me to many exciting aspects of the biological sciences. He named the plants and animals that I encountered in the garden or in the countryside, and I learned their correct Latin names, species and genera, and something of the classification of the plant and animal kingdoms. In our pond we had frogs and I enjoyed the spring time when we watched frogspawn develop through the various stages of tadpole to adult frog. I learned about caterpillars becoming chrysalids and then moths or butterflies. My father had a microscope at home and he showed me that the hairs on my head had a particular structure and that tap water was teeming with microscopic life – which, I can assure you, did not encourage me to drink it! – in fact I made a conscious decision to stick to ‘pop’. Unconsciously, the scientist in me was being shaped through observation, questions, and provisional conclusions.
Scientific questioning continued with chemical experiments in my junior years: growing copper sulphate crystals and halite crystals. But all this experimentation was brought to an abrupt end with experiments with rocket fuel when I was about 12 years of age – the powerful explosion followed by the shattering of glass and wood as our neighbour’s window was wrecked by my rocket. My father confiscated the chemicals, but at least my mother forgave me. I learned a great deal about unqualified love and forgiveness at my mother’s knee.
In 1961 two revolutions took place in my thinking and questioning. In the Spring of 1961 the School Scientific Society presented a Geology lecture: rocks, minerals and fossils, and the speaker ended his talk by showing us ‘potato stones’ from the Triassic rocks of Penarth, on the coast near Cardiff. These were concretions, about the size of a large potato, which were filled with crystals. He offered to break one open and invited someone to come and see. I volunteered; as he broke it open he said, ‘You are the first person to see inside this nodule, since the moment it was formed, in fact, ever!’ From that moment I was hooked; Geology was to dominate my interest through school, university, and my first employment as a lecturer in Geology.
In the Autumn of 1961 a second revolution took place in my life, when I made a personal profession of faith in Christ. The warm loving faith of Christian parents, especially the witness to God’s grace that I daily saw in my mother, was something that then became my own personal experience. Looking back, I recognise that this was so much down to the grace of God and little to do with my own depth of understanding or commitment. It would be another ten years before I opened up the whole of my life to Jesus as both Saviour and Lord.
For 17 years these two strands of my life, Geology and Christian faith, would run in parallel, only occasionally intersecting. Throughout this period of my life, like a number of early scientists, I lived with ‘the book of God in one hand and the book of Nature in the other.’ As with Geology, so too for theology we are limited by space and time. There are no certain proofs of doctrinal statements made by the church, the transcendent God is beyond the universe of our experience, and the Christian faith is anchored in events some 2000 years ago. We rely on our faith and our personal experience of God with us day by day.
Does Science have all the answers to questions of life, the universe, and everything? And, if so, is the Bible irrelevant?
Do we think that Science is wrong when it suggests things that contradict what the Bible says, for example, when geologists suggest that the Earth is 4.66 billion years old, and cosmologists suggest that the universe is 13-15 billion years old?
Some Christians seem to fear a conversation with scientists and some non-Christians, when asked about God retreat behind phrases like: ‘I believe in Science?’ ‘Science has done away with the need of religion.’
There are two relatively safe positions that people take: on the one hand a literal interpretation of the Bible, on the other a total rejection of all that the Bible says – believe what you like.
Scientists, for some Christians, are seen as deceivers who want to promote false ideas for their own benefit. But the one thing that both Science and Christianity have in common is a search for truth.
When I was a leader at Spring Harvest, for four years I ran a discussion group timed at the same time as the Big Top morning and evening sessions. It was called ‘Agnostics Anonymous’ – lions who felt thrown to the Christians. There were two questions that summed up all objections to Christianity – suffering and science. I don’t believe in a god who allows such suffering; I believe that Science has done away with the need for superstition.
Does Science have all the answers? – not to the key questions of Where am I? Who am I? and Is there a God?
Richard Dawkins and a number of others form a group that we may describe as the ‘New Atheists’. There have always been people who do not believe in any god, but these men are passionate and evangelical (for they believe it is indeed good news) in their disbelief in God. For them, people who believe in God are deluded and dangerous, even the cause of all wars in the world.
But as the Guardian newspaper described Richard Dawkins – ‘former biologist, now anti-God person’ – his views are not widely held even by his fellow scientists.
In his book The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy the late Douglas Adams describes a scene where two programmers on a distant planet switch on the greatest galactic computer ever built and ascribe its first task:
‘O Deep Thought Computer,’ said Fook, ‘the task we have designed you to perform is this. We want you to tell us …’ he paused, ‘… the Answer!’
‘The Answer?’ said Deep Thought. ‘The Answer to what?’
‘Life!’ urged Fook.
‘The Universe!’ said Lunkwill.
‘Everything!’ they said in chorus.
Deep Thought paused for a moment’s reflection.
‘Tricky,’ he said finally.
Seventy-five thousand generations later, two more programmers stand in front of the computer, expectant to hear the Answer to the great question of life.
‘Good morning,’ said Deep thought at last.
‘Er … good morning, O Deep Thought,’ said Loonquawl nervously, ‘do you have … er, that is …’
‘An answer for you?’ interrupted Deep Thought majestically. ‘Yes, I have.’
‘To Everything? To the great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything?’
‘Yes … though I don’t think,’ added Deep Thought, ‘that you’re going to like it.’
‘All right,’ said Deep Thought. ‘The Answer to the Great Question … Of Life, the Universe and Everything’ …
‘Forty-two’, said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.
‘Forty-two!’ yelled Loonquawl. ‘Is that all you’ve got to show for sven and half million years work?’
‘I checked it very thoroughly,’ said the computer, ‘and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question is’ …
‘Look, all right, all right,’ said Loonquawl, ‘can you just please tell us the question?’
‘The Ultimate Question?’
Deep Thought pondered for a moment.
‘Tricky,’ he said.
But Deep Thought goes on to predict:
‘But I’ll tell you who can …’
‘I speak of none other but the computer that is to come after me,’ intoned Deep Thought, his voice regaining its accustomed declamatory tone.
‘A computer whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to calculate – and yet I will design it for you. A computer which can calculate the Question to the Ultimate Answer, a computer of such infinite and subtle complexity that organic life itself shall form part of its operational matrix.
And you yourselves shall take on new forms and go down into the computer to navigate its ten-million-year programme!
Yes! I shall design this computer for you. And I shall name it also unto you. And it shall be called … The Earth.’
So, for this science-fiction writer of philosophy the answer is not to be found in science alone, but in life on planet Earth, with all our relationships with each other, with creation, and with God, who is the Ultimate answer to our ultimate questions.
The Myth of Conflict:
Popular thought would say that in the medieval period, before the Enlightenment, that the world was governed by superstition, largely promoted by the Church, but is this true? Did the people before Columbus think that the earth was flat and that Columbus would fall off the edge if he sailed too far west? Nobody had thought this for nearly two-thousand years before Columbus set sail. Columbus was sailing west to reach India by a surer route than travelling across Asia, and he discovered America by accident!
Copernicus and Galileo said nothing new when they described the Earth orbiting the Sun, a heliocentric solar system had been outlined in the 5th century BC.
For medieval Christian theologians you learned about God from what you observed in nature – nature did not contradict their views of God, it revealed and broadened their understanding.
But surely Darwin and evolution of animal and plant life came into conflict with the Church. Well, not exactly. Darwin’s theory of evolution put God back into the world as an active participant, rather than the machine minder of Sir Isaac Newton, who was outside of his creation.
It was therefore no surprise that Christian scholars Charles Kingsley, Frederick Temple, Aubrey Moore and John Henry Newman in the UK, and Benjamin Warfield, James Orr and Asa Gray in USA welcomed Darwin’s ideas. In fact Darwin himself and also his keenest advocate, Thomas Henry Huxley, both left room for God in their assessment of the origin of the world.
These scientists, almost all of whom were committed Christians would speak about living with the Book of God’s Word in one hand, and the Book of God’s Works in the other.
Finding truth revealed in both the Bible and in world, which they observed and experienced.
What non-believing scientists say today:
Let me introduce you to some non-Christian scientists who are open to the possibilities of something beyond their science.
The late Stephen Jay Gould suggests that science and religion have their own areas of professional expertise – science in the rational observation and experiment of the universe, and religion in the search for proper ethical values and the spiritual meaning of our lives. To understand the meaning of this world and our lives requires extensive attention to both – and then he writes: ‘for a great book tells us that truth can make us free and that we will live in optimal harmony with our fellows when we learn to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.’
How do we react when an atheist correctly quotes scripture at us?
Gould states that no conflict should exist because each subject has a legitimate area of expertise and of teaching authority, which do not overlap. Quoting Galileo he says that through science we study how the heavens go and through theology we determine how to go to heaven. Many of our deepest questions call upon aspects of both for different parts of a full answer.
Paul Davies in his book The Mind of God written in 1992 believes that while science usually leads in the direction of reliable knowledge, the breathtaking answers of science still leave the question ‘Why?’ The universe may well show astonishing ingenuity in its construction, and human beings certainly appear to be part of the scheme of things, but we are left with the question of whether the chain of explanation ends with God or some superlaw. He wonders if we are truly meant to be here and muses:
What is man that we might be party to such a privilege? I cannot believe that our existence in this universe is a mere quirk of fate, an accident of history, an incidental blip in the great cosmic drama. Our involvement is too intimate … We are truly meant to be here.
In his later book The Goldilocks Enigma written in 2006 Davies says that he is convinced that human understanding of nature through science, rational reasoning and mathematics points to a much deeper connection between life, mind and cosmos than emerges from the crude lottery of multiverse cosmology combined with the weak anthropic principle … Somehow, the universe has engineered its own self-awareness. He expresses his belief that life and mind are etched deeply into the fabric of the cosmos, perhaps through a shadowy, half-glimpsed life principle, and states: ‘if I am honest I have to concede that this starting point is something I feel more in my heart than in my head. So maybe that is a religious conviction of sorts.’
Roger Penrose, who discovered black holes, and who with Stephen Hawking in 1970 postulated the big bang explosive beginning of the universe, speaking about the development of human life and in particular the brain does not believe that true intelligence could actually be present unless accompanied by consciousness. He maintains that intelligence cannot be properly simulated by algorithmic means, i.e. by a computer, in the sense that we use that term today.’ He believes that there is a non-algorithmic aspect to consciousness as seen in the human characteristics of aesthetic appreciation, wonder, together with many distinctly human emotions.
Jerry Coyne writing a few years ago in his book Evolution is True, notes that evolution is ‘a mechanism of staggering simplicity and beauty.’ But, he observes that ‘there is no reason … to see ourselves as marionettes dancing on the strings of evolution.’ He concludes his exploration of evolutionary theory with these words: ‘Although evolution (apparently) operates in a purposeless, materialistic way, that doesn’t mean that our lives have no purpose. Whether through religious or secular thought, we make our own purposes, meaning and morality.
Deriving your spirituality from science also means accepting an attendant sense of humility before the universe and the likelihood that we’ll never have all the answers. He thinks that it unrealistic to expect the Origin of Species to completely supplant the Bible in our search for the meaning of life.
What Christians who are scientists say:
Francis Collins was head of the Human Genome Project, one of the world’s leading scientists, working at the cutting edge of the study of DNA, the code of life. He begins his book, The Language of God, written in 2007 with an account of the announcement of the completion of the hereditary code of life on 26 June 2000. At the celebratory event US President Bill Clinton said, ‘Today we are learning the language in which God created life. We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, and the wonder of God’s most divine and sacred gift.’
Francis Collins comments:
Was I, a rigorously trained scientist, taken aback at such a blatantly religious reference by the leader of the free world at a moment such as this? Was I tempted to scowl or look at the floor in embarrassment? No, not at all. In fact I had worked closely with the President’s speechwriter in the frantic days just prior to this announcement, and had strongly endorsed the inclusion of this paragraph. When it came time for me to add a few words of my own, I echoed this sentiment: ‘It’s a happy day for the world. It is humbling for me, and awe-inspiring, to realize that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.’
Collins gives his view that the components of living things turn out to be marvellous, intricate and aesthetically pleasing ‘… from the ribosome that translates RNA into protein, to the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into the butterfly … Evolution, as a mechanism, can be and must be true. But that says nothing about the nature of its author.
Collins maintains that we need a harmony between science and faith. In the study of the human genome he found elegant evidence of the relatedness of all living things which was an occasion of awe, and he came to see this as the master plan of the same Almighty who caused the universe to come into being and set its physical parameters just precisely right to allow the creation of stars, planets, heavy elements, and life itself.
For Collins the God of the Bible is the God of the genome.
Denis Alexander, a geneticist, and the Emeritus Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, in his book Creation or Evolution: do we have to choose? written in 2008 states that unlike the fossil record, there are no gaps in the genetic record. He does not mean that we have a complete record of all the genome sequences of every species that ever lived – because 99% of them are no longer around to get DNA samples. Nevertheless, in the 1% that remains we have a DNA record, including disused genetic fossils that take us back to the dawn of life.
I agree with Alexander that evolution is a process within the universe’s history. This history is not a chance process but is constrained by the physical (God-given) parameters of the universe’s beginnings and by its (God-given) laws. I believe that we should recognize that this is the way in which God has brought the universe and life of planet earth into being, and through this recognition praise God for his faithfulness, his creativity, and every aspect of his grace that we find for our lives in this world.
What does the Bible say:
A great deal!
Billions of galaxies with billions of stars, yet in Isaiah we read that every one is known to God by name and that God calls them into existence.
Million upon million of species of animals, yet, as Jesus said, not a single sparrow falls to the ground without God’s knowledge and care.
Plants in almost infinite variety, and, as Jesus said, not even Solomon’s royal robes were a match for the wild flowers of the hedgerow.
Billions of human beings in every corner of this earth, yet again as Jesus said, God knows the number of hairs on each of our heads.
We can thank God for all that the Bible reveals to us about God our creator.
However, by now, you will have realised that there are some serious questions to be raised about how should we understand the Bible and especially Genesis 1-11?
Is it to be taken literally? Are there other ways of interpreting these descriptions of creation and the early history of the world?
Why do we suggest that Genesis 1-11 is theology?
It is a problem when words are hi-jacked – I am a ‘creationist’ in as much as I believe that God is the creator of all that exists or has been or will be in this universe. I find it sad that the modern Creation Science Movement cuts itself off from the revelation of God in scientific research, and fails to find the depth of God’s revelation in scripture by treating Genesis 1 as if it were a divinely dictated text. It is not history nor is it science, it is the theological understanding of God and creation.
As John Polkinghorne, theologian and former professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge, observed:
Mistaking poetry for prose can lead to false conclusions. When Robert Burns tells us his love ‘is like a red, red rose’, we know that we are not meant to think that his girlfriend has green leaves and prickles.
The theological view of the world in Genesis 1-11 is a complete reflection that brings together those issues that affect both science and itself.
For Jewish scholars and the early Christian leaders of the Church, when the literal sense of a biblical passage runs into problems or stumbling blocks, it was for them a signal of a spiritual meaning to be discovered.
The early chapters of Genesis combine the observations of the writer together with insights from God through his Holy Spirit.
Genesis 1 tells us about the creator: God’s creative genius and power, about God’s purpose and design, and about God’s love for us and for the world God has made.
Genesis 2 is all about the relationships God intends for us: our relationship with God, our relationships with each other, and our relationship with creation – to care for God’s world.
Genesis 3 shows us the tragedy of self-seeking power and control. The loving relationships that God has desired require us to have free-will, but sadly we have used our free-will to desire power and control and to play God. As a result our relationship with God is broken (we don’t listen to God), our relationship with each other is broken by envy, pride, selfishness and violence, and our relationship with creation seen in pollution and climate change.
When the church celebrated Epiphany, there is a declaration of God’s son revealed to the world. Matthew, in his account of the gospel records that it was Gentile astronomers who discovered the birth of Jesus through their study of the stars (2:1-2). And it is modern cosmologists such as Stephen Hawking who are now posing questions of a theological nature concerning the origin of the universe.
Jesus’ parables demonstrate a keen observation of the natural world in which he ministered: seeds and growth and harvest; birds of the air and flowers of the field – all in the loving purposes of God the creator.
God revealed in science:
When I was a lecturer in Geology, the wife of one of my colleagues gave birth to their first child. In the joy and wonder of becoming a father and of being present at the birth, he told me, with scientific enthusiasm, about a newspaper article, which stated that if the plans for a human baby were drawn out by an engineering draftsman, the resulting blue print would fill all the rooms of an average house from floor to ceiling. Then, with excitement, he said that such a blue print was carried within a single male sperm. He concluded: “I could almost believe in God.”
But he didn’t.
The writer of the eighth Psalm was also filled with wonder as he reflected on the marvel of creation. But he came to a different conclusion.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
We can all remember experiences that have amazed us: the birth of a child, a spectacular sunrise or sunset, our first view of some other part of this complex and beautiful creation.
I will never forget standing on a wooden platform at the heart of the Iguacu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina – one of the largest waterfalls in the world, some five kilometres across. The noise from the roar of the waters was deafening, and there was a permanent rainbow over the falls – it was absolutely magnificent, but merely another natural phenomenon of our world. You could explain its presence as the result of rock formations and the history of the river system of the region.
Surely we can account for everything in our world through our scientific knowledge – whether it is babies or the whole universe.
But the words of the Psalm raise a nagging question:
When I consider your heavens the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what are mere mortals that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
Science is certainly helping us to understand, and indeed, control more and more of the world in which we live, but there is far more to the universe than its immense size, age and complexity. We are discovering a universe that is 10-15 billion years old and of immense size. It would take 15-20 thousand million years, travelling at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, to cross it. This universe is composed of billions of galaxies like our own Milky Way, each with billions of stars, like our own Sun. Yet some scientists are suggesting that the universe has to be as big as it is and as old as it is for human beings to have developed here.
George Smoot, a NASA space scientist and the director of the Cosmic Background Explorer Project in the 1990s, that sent a space probe to examine the outer limits of the universe, ends his account of the search for the origin of the universe with these words:
The religious concept of creation flows from a sense of wonder at the existence of the universe and our place in it. The scientific concept of creation encompasses no less a sense of wonder: We are awed by the ultimate simplicity and power of the creativity of physical nature – and by its beauty on all scales.
Then he says that “the more we learn, the more we see how it all fits together – how there is an underlying unity to the sea of matter and stars and galaxies that surround us.”
From the viewpoint of an earth scientist, the sequence of events in the path of evolution, which led the presence of human beings has the air of miracle about it. To take one example, the unpredictable and random impact of a large asteroid some 65 million years ago was probably crucial in clearing the scene of the dinosaurs so that the mammals, including us, could develop and live without fear of being eaten!
The universe has such an intricate and careful design and such a complex history that it suggests a purpose in our existence. In fact, despite the assertions of Richard Dawkins and some of his scientific colleagues, I believe it has become increasingly difficult to believe that it has all been brought about by mere chance.
Yes, we will always have to acknowledge the presence of evil and suffering in creation, but Christians believe that the purpose recognised by cosmologists, and an understanding of the presence of suffering, is to be found in Jesus Christ. The Christian Gospel speaks of God’s love for us and God’s involvement in the world, including the suffering that we see and experience. John writes at the beginning of his gospel:
Through Christ all things were made;
Without him nothing was made that has been made.
In him was life, and that life was the light for all people.
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
And Jesus said: I have come to bring life, life in all its fullness.
God is not the distant powerful designer of the universe, standing on the outside, but is personally involved with this world, shaping its development. In Jesus he has shared our life, our frustrations and our suffering, and Christians find him a friend and a guide.
When I was eight years old in Junior School, we were asked to write out our address, as part of an English lesson. Ever wanting to be a challenge to my teachers, I decided I would be clever and make my answer as complete as possible, and so I wrote:
John David Weaver
58 Park Avenue
The Solar System,
The Milky Way,
followed by a series of question marks ????????????
But where is the universe? Those question marks bothered me. Where was the universe? Was it something in God’s back garden, like the goldfish pond behind our house, that I could lean over and watch?
And with all our cosmological knowledge that same question can send cold shivers up and down our spines. Where is the universe, where do we exist? And why do we exist? With global problems of violence, injustice and division, and our own personal fears and needs, we could be excused for asking whether there can be any meaning or purpose to human life.
Trying to make sense of it all:
An explanation of the universe is something that makes it more probable that the universe should be as it is. Ideally, the final explanation would make the universe virtually certain. But a truly final explanation would have to explain why the explanation itself is the way it is. It would have to be self explanatory.
The universe needs explaining because it is contingent. If the universe had to be the way it is, necessary, then that would be the explanation, but we can think of many alternative possibilities. It is contingent. So if it has a final explanation, that must lie outside the universe, in some being that is necessary, to which there are no alternatives.
Some cosmologists see multiverse – multiple universes as an alternative hypothesis to God. There are a number of different views of multiverse: 1) quantum flucuations; 2) cycles of big bangs and big crunches; 3) new baby universes born through black holes; and 4) inflationary hypothesis where the universe is like a bubble.
We can observe that the laws of our universe are contingent, while the laws of the multiverse are necessary.
One solution is that quantum laws and the quantum fluctuations are necessary to produce multiple universes and give the final explanation for the universe. But to believe this as a theory of everything is as much a step of faith as to posit God.
Once we have introduced God, we have moved outside the realm of science. The mind of God may explain why this universe exists. But we have no public access to the mind of God, the hypothesis is not conclusively testable, and it gives rise to no specific predictions.
God is not part of the scientific explanation. …. God is part of a personal explanation, which is not reducible to scientific explanation, and has a different function. Personal explanations do explain why things happen as they do – broadly, because they help us to make sense of the world.
We are suggesting that a personal explanation includes purpose, which leads us to think of a mind behind the universe. The idea of God is not part of any scientific theory, and it does not block any sort of scientific search for understanding. It proposes to add a new dimension, the personal dimension, to understanding the universe. It is therefore of great importance to take seriously, if we are not to fall into the delusion that the personal dimension simply does not exist.
For a Christian, the exhaustive set of mathematical possibilities describing every possible universe and state of affairs does exist. It exists in the mind of God.
One advantage of existence in the mind of God is that the mind of God is an eternal and necessary actual being. A second advantage of existence in the mind of God is that God, being necessarily actual, and thus having the power of existence in the divine being, will be able to make possibilities actual.
Science sees the universe as one interconnected set of phenomena, bound together by mathematically intelligible laws. There is a unity about it that does not suggest a plurality of spiritual powers. If there is a Spiritual Reality, it will be a mathematically inclined, unitary intelligence – we might say, metaphorically, a God of wisdom.
Paul Davies bases his book The Goldilocks Enigma on the question raised by Brandon Carter: ‘Suppose the laws had been a bit different from what they actually are, in this or that respect – what would the consequences be?’ The focus of this question was the origin of life.
Specifically Carter’s calculations suggested that if the laws had differed only slightly from what we find them to be, then life would not have been possible and the universe would have gone unobserved. In effect, said Carter, our existence hinges on a certain amount of delicate ‘fine-tuning’ of the laws. Like Goldilocks’ porridge, the laws of physics seemed to Carter to be ‘just right’ for life. It looked like a fix – a big fix. Somewhat unwisely, he named this fine tuning ‘the anthropic principle’, giving the false impression that it concerned humankind specifically (which was never his intention).
We observe that given that carbon-based intelligent life exists in this universe, the fundamental physical and cosmological quantities of the universe must be compatible with this fact.
There are a very large set of quantities need to be exactly what they are to produce intelligent life. These include the gravitational constant; the cosmological constant; the strong force that binds neurons and protons together in the nucleus of the atom; an abundance of carbon and oxygen, which requires a precise adjustment of the strong nuclear force; the mass of protons and neutrons; and the value of the weak nuclear force.
In addition Stephen Hawking points out that the existence of life is dependent on the rate at which the universe is expanding.
What fine-tuning arguments show is that states of great value have resulted from, and could only have resulted from, a set of laws that are precisely adjusted in a large number of unexpected and exceedingly improbable ways.
Davies proposes two solutions to the origin of the universe:
1) the life principle – the universe emerges from an overarching principle that constrains toward life and mind. This builds purpose into the workings of the universe. The problem is how such a principle built into the physical laws that explain how everything comes about. It also fails to explain why life and mind are singled out as the goal of cosmic evolution. Where does the life principle come from?
While Davies denies being religious, he does believe that life and mind are etched deeply into the fabric of the cosmos, perhaps through a shadowy, half-glimpsed life principle, and if I am honest I have to concede that this starting point is something I feel more in my heart than in my head. So maybe that is a religious conviction of sorts.
2) the self-explaining universe – a closed explanatory causal loop, where the universe explains/creates itself. But we are still left to ask why? He suggests that
… perhaps existence isn’t something that gets bestowed from outside, by having ‘fire breathed’ into a potentiality by some unexplained fire-breathing agency (i.e. a transcendent existence generator), but is also something self-activating. I have suggested that only self- consistent loops capable of understanding themselves can create themselves, so that only universes with (at least the potential for) life and mind really exist.
He concludes that
I do take life, mind and purpose seriously, and I concede that the universe at least appears to be designed with a high level of ingenuity – although he refuses to settle for a ‘god’ or for a ‘mystery’.
The religious believer can say that we know consciousness exists and that agents know, envisage, choose, enjoy, and have ideals, values, and purposes. Any adequate account of reality must include those as primary and irreducible facts. So, Ultimate Reality cannot be simply unconscious and indifferent. Somehow the factors of consciousness and value must be included in any account of Ultimate Reality. And this coheres well with the most basic religious belief that consciousness and value are at the heart of reality.
The scientific discoveries of design and purpose in the universe may offer valuable clues, but as one cosmologist says, belief in a designer is a matter of personal taste.
The promise of the Christian faith, declared and demonstrated in Jesus Christ, is that the creator of the universe values each one of us, shares our joys and heartaches, our successes and pain, and wants each of us to know God in an intimate relationship of love. This is what the Bible shows us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s son. However, to discover the truth of this promise for ourselves requires a step of faith, trusting the creator of the universe with our lives.
Richard Dawkins exploited the more extreme views surrounding evolution in his 2008 television series, which explored the life and work of his hero, Charles Darwin. But for many who hold that evolution is the way in which God created life, Charles Kingsley’s reaction to the Origin of Species is a helpful. Kingsley said that no doubt God could have created a ready-made world, but it had turned out the Creator had done something cleverer and more valuable than that, in creating a world so endowed with potentiality that creatures ‘could make themselves’ through the shuffling explorations of natural selection. The God who is the Creator of nature can as properly be seen to be at work through natural processes as in any other way.
Former molecular biophysicist and now Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford, Alister McGrath, quotes the late Stephen Jay Gould, an atheist, who stated that ‘either half my colleagues are enormously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs – and equally compatible with atheism.’
If God is the creator of the whole universe then we may expect God to be revealed in both scientific exploration and within the experience and deliberations of followers of the Christian faith.
The major barrier is that while science is falsifiable – can be proved or demonstrated to be right or wrong – theology is non-falsifiable – we cannot prove or disprove the existence of God.
This is a step of faith.
My belief is that Christianity and science are both sincerely seeking truth about the universe and life; both are trying to make sense of the world in which you and I live. Science in the western world developed within an understanding of an ordered world created by God, and this order was fundamental to all scientific investigation.
It is therefore of no surprise that a universe created by God would provide pointers to the creator through the discoveries of modern science.
I believe in God who is creative, powerful, and inventive –good words to start with, but who is also generous, courageous, liberating, risk-taking, visionary, loving, relationship-making and relationship-desiring.
I believe that Jesus Christ is the agent of creation, he is the revelation of God’s glory, he is the perfect revelation – he is truly God and truly human. This God knows me in the humanity of Christ – he knows my life and understands what it means to be me. This is Good News for all of us. The creator of the universe is not some distant uninterested power, but in Jesus understands what makes me tick, what makes me laugh, what makes me cry, and accepts me for who I am.
I believe in God, the Holy Spirit, who equips us to live the Jesus life, and through whom we receive gifts for his ministry and mission in and for the world.
And God is revealed in the world around us and we gain more appreciation and knowledge of God through the researches of science.
Our hope is in God and is eternal, while human hope is temporal and uncertain. Christians are called to a hopeful discipleship in the light of our ultimate hope in God’s promises and purposes. This is hope beyond chaos and catastrophe. It is a hope that includes accountability and judgement. This is hope in God, who is creator and redeemer, and who will ultimately make all things new.
This hope is a fact of the future.
I believe that the results of both the physical and biological sciences are providing evidence and questions about the origin of the universe and of life to which one answer might reasonably be God.
This is a step of faith.
The only support that I might give to taking this step is that approximately one third of those people living in this world have taken that step and found the truth of God who not only created this world and us, but God who desires the best for our lives and helps us to make sense of our experiences in this world.
But this is a step of faith, which each of us has to make.