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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

How Science Supports Theism

I have been convinced that God exists since 1993 when I first read Aristotle's First Cause argument, however I always find other people's reasons for faith to be interesting: Overlapping Territory: How Science Supports Theism. (Hat tip Gusoceros)

Allan Rex Sandage is considered the greatest observational cosmologist in the world. As former journalist Lee Strobel writes in his book The Case for a Creator, Sandage had “deciphered the secrets of the stars, plumbed the mysteries of quasars,” and quantified the expansion of the universe.

In 1985 Sandage took part in a conference about the origin of the universe. The panel was divided between scientists who believed in God and those who did not. Each side would vigorously defend its viewpoint.

Everybody knew which side Sandage would defend. Though ethnically Jewish, he was known to have been a virtual atheist since he was a child. But the audience was in for a shock. While discussing the Big Bang and its philosophical implications, Sandage announced that he had become a Christian—and that it was science that drove him to his beliefs.

The Big Bang, Sandage said, was a supernatural event that the realm of physics could not explain. The abrupt emergence of space, time, matter, and energy indicate the need for some sort of transcendent power.

“It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science,” Sandage said later. “It was only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”

This outlook was shocking because it flew in the face of centuries of secular teachings about religion and science. Why do so many scientists—and some theologians—claim that there is a war between science and religion, or that we have to seal off science and religion in completely different realms? One scientist who did this was the late Stephen Jay Gould [Yimach shmo]. He claimed that science and faith occupy different “magistera.” “The net of science covers the empirical universe,” Gould said, while “the net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value.” Gould called his theory NOMA, an acronym for “non-overlapping magisterial.”

Lee Strobel took this theory to geophysicist Stephen Meyer, who agreed that it was partially true. The problem with NOMA, he said, is that biblical religion makes very specific claims about historical events that Christians maintain happened in time and space. This means that Christianity “is going to intersect some of the factual claims of history and science. There’s either going to be conflict or agreement.” The only way you can make NOMA work, Meyer says, is to water down Christianity, which is what Gould did. For example, according to the Bible, Jesus appeared to His disciple Thomas and showed him physical evidence, the holes in His hands; Gould dismissed this as nothing more than a morality tale.

But as Meyers argues, there is no need to water down biblical teachings—because scientists in every field are uncovering evidence that points to the existence of an intelligent designer. To learn more about this evidence, read Lee Strobel’s great book The Case for a Creator.

Science and faith are not at war, as Allan Sandage discovered. Rather, as the Psalmist put it, “The heavens declare the glory of God”—and here on earth, more and more scientists are beginning to agree.

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