SCIENCE AND RELIGION
Evaluating the perceived conflict between religious and scientific theory,
together with a presentation on the surprising nature of
reality as indicated by current knowledge.
good proportion of society considers that science
conflict with each other. Let me say
firstly that there
is no reason why the two even need be compared. I am definitely not the
person to reach this conclusion! Science attempts
to explain how
things are; how things work. Religion, on the
other hand, has the brief to answer the big questions beginning with why?
Atheists and agnostics struggle with this perceived conflict largely because of the views of Christian fundamentalists. In essence this comes from their
literal translation of the first Book of the Old Testament of
the Bible, “Genesis”. With
such an outlook, any scientific theory that challenges their views is
a threat to their very faith. It was the case when Copernicus theorised
the 1500s that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Darwin’s theory
creates the same zealous response today!
I absolutely accept that fundamentalists have a right to their views.
And I have the odd dear friend who is actually a fundamentalist. I have worshiped with fundamentalists too. I admire their zeal and
taking part in their church services. None-the-less
it seems so
simple to me! ‘Faith’
stands on its own. Scientific evidence or theory should never
affect the basis of our faith. As far as I am concerned, the
existence of God can
be proven, beyond reasonable doubt,
by any person who is willing to truly evaluate the possibility –
by putting faith to the test. I am sure
that the presence of God, within his Church and our individual lives,
can be recognised by anybody if they know how and where to look. A complete
section of this
“Believing in God” is devoted to guiding
of course when we have proven to ourselves that faith has a
sound basis, then we
will inevitably progress to believing that God has
to be the
creator. With this outlook, scientific theory then is, as Isaac Newton
believed, just the mechanism for explaining how
You may be surprised that
survey results published in the “Nature” periodical back in 1997
at that time that 40% of
responding scientists in the USA
believed in God. A further 15% were open on the issue, i.e. they were
rather than atheists. I am confident that a good many other professions
have far less general acceptance of God’s existence.
Essentially then, science should never stand in
way of a quest for personal faith. On the other hand, neither should
religious views impact the development of scientific theory. Science
religion should have their own discrete paths.
That all aside, the real conflict
expected by so many people just is not
there! It might have been true in the case of pre-twentieth century
physics. Despite his best intentions, Newton,
more than any other person, is responsible for the outlook that is
held by a large proportion of Western atheists. The Newtonian idea of a
machine-like reality raises the question, “Why do we need a
Creator (God) at
all?” That is, if the universe has seemingly been cranking on and
why do we need to hypothesise about a God?
But! But! Within current scientific theory however,
the universe is actually known to be anything but machine-like! It is
very unlikely that it has been in existence forever. These issues are
discussed more fully later in this article.
THE MYSTERY OF MATTER
The science of the twentieth century
– including the theories of relativity and, more importantly,
quantum physics –
still raises more questions on the basis of reality than it answers. By
1920s physicists had reached the understanding that sub atomic
no longer be explained in a common sense manner. For example, the laws
and effect, which do apply to the macroscopic (visible to the naked
do not fully apply to the microscopic world of sub atomic particles
One of the oddest scientific theories
is that of “non local effects”. As an example analogy, a
billiard ball will
react when it is struck by another billiard ball. Once the two balls
separated and lost speed, neither ball can affect the other, unless
physically brought into contact again that is. But within quantum
sub atomic particles that have interrelated locally (say within an
continue to influence each other through ‘non local’
effects after separation. Measurements taken of
one of these particles will be partially affected by the state of the
particle, even if it is on the other side
of the universe. And
the effect will be
Even Einstein struggled with that one at the time, but experimentation in the 1980s conclusively proved that
effects are real at a sub atomic level. Yes,
there is a lot more mystery in
matter than initially imagined by most of us. Please note that I
am merely trying here to set the stage for what follows in this
3. PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSIS OF "LIFE, THE UNIVERSE AND EVERYTHING"
having stated that the
paths of science and religion should not dissect, I am of the opinion
is still right and proper to philosophise about the basis of ‘all
that is’. I
wish to make it clear that I am not in any way offering my own
theory. And bear in mind if my interpretations of scientific theory, or
philosophy based on them, are proven wrong in due course by empirical
evidence that may subsequently come to light, then it should
either my, or your, faith. As I have indicated already, faith stands on
the basis of our experiences; the gathering and evaluation of our own evidence of
presence within both the Church and
There are three essential points
running through the balance of this article. Firstly, why
the universe exist
(i.e. what put it here)? Secondly, there are extreme
things being ‘just as they are’. Thirdly, there is much
there are significant interdependencies apparent throughout the
sciences. The second and
impact each other to present a complexity
that is extremely hard to explain
3.1 Where did it
all come from?
This is potentially the biggest
question! Why is there anything, rather than nothing at all?
There is no problem with asking
ourselves how ever did the universe firstly come to exist. And then
how did it come
the perfect environment that it is – one that could support
conscious life, that eventually came to ponder the
raises a point
that I attempt to address later.) These are not small questions at all!
Just dwell on the first one for a while. Absolutely nothing at
all physically existed
before the start of time itself. Then out of that total
nothingness that preceded time, the total mass/energy that now
exists in our universe JUST arrived.
Science cannot yet explain why
Bang” occurred, or what existed before it –
only assuming it to be nothingness itself. Where did it all come from?
Under Newtonian Physics this was not an issue for
contemplation by scientists
– the universe had been supposedly cranking on forever. Atheists
felt very smug about that. They proclaimed that if the universe had no
beginning, then we had no need of a theoretical God at all ... we did not
require a divine Creator. But
that ‘ace’ was gradually destroyed as the theory
of the Big Bang firmed up through the 20th Century!
its prime mover? Other ‘believers’, like me, who have proven beyond reasonable
doubt to themselves that God does exist, can only deduce that
God must be it.
Now if we believers suggest God was the ‘Creator’ of all that is, you may well challenge,
“Who then created
the Creator?” With respect, this question does not take into
account the fact
that the universe, as huge as it is, has a surrounding boundary.
‘space-time continuum’ sits within that boundary.
Logically, a theorised
creator of that
would have an existence separate from it, where time itself, and
beginnings and endings, have
no value what-so-ever. (The
word “existence” when applied to God is DEFINITELY inappropriate here
too, but it
is the only one that we
have to use.) To my mind, using this reasoning, it is easier to
conceive of that extreme source of ‘consciousness’
known as God –
to whom notions of time and space do not apply – as the ground, or ‘instigator’,
the mass/energy that did come into existence at the Big Bang; that
went on to form the universe as we now know it.
our advanced thinking (as primates go) we cannot arrogantly
the existence of an incomprehensible intelligence (God) outside the
confines of our time and space is impossible,
because we do not have scientific concepts available to even hypothesise about it. As
a humorous anecdote, I was teasing my nephew,
then three years old. He
got most indignant and for my punishment he sent me to the ‘thinking
(a punishment that he himself was accustomed to). I asked how long did
I need stay in the thinking spot and he answered, with a note of
genuine seriousness, “Forever!” Doubting his knowledge of the concept I asked
him just how long was “forever”. Still with a stern look on his face he
answered, “Until bed time.”
I would suggest that our adult grasp of time concepts, beyond
boundaries of our universe, is just as na´ve as my young nephew’s
grasp of time was within it. We cannot know about such
things until we have experienced them for ourselves,
least received some evidence of their existence!
great Christian theologian and philosopher, St Augustine wrote around
400 AD that God
is not bound by time. As an example he stated that for God, nothing is
future or past. Essentially, he wrote that God’s
being is eternal and beyond temporal constraints. I certainly could not
have said it as well.
3.2 Our lucky
Whilst Charles Darwin may have
offered us broad theories as to how complex forms of life, like human
came to evolve, no scientist has explained exactly how the universe evolved
into its present complex state. (And
yes, the word “evolved” may be used in this instance.)
Now I accept that computer modelling during 2013/2014 demonstrated how in all probability it basically shaped up –
matter, anti matter, black holes etc and how they interacted in the
universe's formation. But the fine details, e.g. the incredible timing
of it all, not the least being the perfect little tweak that seemed
necessary in the opening nano seconds of the Big Bang itself, are far
from understood. Yes, there is a lot still unknown about our universe!
Without a doubt, any miniscule
variance to the sub atomic interactive forces that we currently have in
universe would have prevented it from forming into anything vaguely
one we have. The known forces and constants that hold it all together
balanced. There are truly innumerable alternatives for the
composition, any of which would have resulted in a totally chaotic
It is also incredible how perfect
conditions evident within say nuclear physics (the ultra tiny) act to
a perfect astrophysical state (the ultra large). And from the actions
ultra large (e.g. exploding stars) come substances such as carbon upon
life on earth is dependent. And the story goes on … and
on … and on. The
interconnectedness of conditions through all the sciences is truly very
better defined, it is amazing! Clearly to us ‘believers’, our universe
was designed to establish life itself.
3.3 Our lucky
Both the “Copernican Principle”, and
“Principle of Mediocrity” were framed during the 20th
Edwin Hubble had established some understanding of the absolute
magnitude of the universe.
principles are based on the premise that planet “Earth” is
in no way privileged
in its ability to support complex life forms such as ourselves.
The notion maintains that because there are so many galaxies
solar systems out there, it is very likely that other Earth-like
However, analysis this century has
found that the factors required of a planet to facilitate the
maintenance of complex life forms (that obviously do exist here on
Earth) are extremely
uncommon. These factors
include: ideal placement within a galaxy; an ideal sun to orbit around; near circular orbit around its sun; an ideal rate of planetary rotation;
by an ideal sized moon;
terrestrial planet of ideal mass; liquid
water on some of its surface, but not on all of it; an
an ideal magnetic
surface consisting of moving sections (plate tectonics).
Through the use of very conservative
calculations, the odds of finding a planet such as ours are reportedly
than one in
a trillion. The odds of complex life forms existing on other planets
the universe’s galaxies are therefore nowhere near as high as
we study this planet of ours,
further questions arise. For example, how does the oxygen level in
atmosphere, required to sustain life, remain precisely perfect?
does the level of salinity in the sea remain constant to support sea
Again, there are many, many of these types of questions. Although now
just gaining acceptance, there is one scientific theory as to how
environmental state occurs. Note that the theory has existed for
has not enjoyed the full acceptance that it seems to deserve. More on
that under the next sub heading.
It is fair to say that our planet is
extremely ‘lucky’ to be so ideal.
Another supposed stroke of luck,
that should not be overlooked, has also placed our planet in the
position for astrophysical observation – to gaze outwards beyond
atmosphere. This relates to our ability to study our own solar system,
galaxy (the Milky Way) and the incredibly vast universe. There are at
dozen factors related to our celestial position – again, huge
odds exist. As a
mere starting point we have an exact sized and placed moon (400 times
than the sun, with the sun 400 times further away from Earth) that
with perfect eclipses of the Sun. This has enabled us to analyse the
in turn allows us to understand far more of the universe than could
possible without eclipses.
If you wish to study more about our apparent ‘luck’ please read the book, “The Privileged Planet” by
Guillermo Gonzalez and
Jay W Richards.
in life’s evolution on Earth
my mind, the result of life’s
evolution on Earth demonstrates incredible complexity, diversity
and great odds against its incredible success. This applies
equally from the simplest to the most advanced creatures. For
example, let us
look at complex bee or ant life forms with their super
social interdependencies – small in the ‘brains
department’, but HUGE in their
cooperative and coordinated social functioning? There are a couple of
theories on how they may have evolved, but the complexity of their
social functions and methods of breeding (sometimes without
fertilisation), really challenges our finding proof of their
evolutionary trail. What
a complex and wonderous thing is evolution!
And ponder the incredible diversity between and
even within species evident on our planet? The
dramatic leap in the evolution of brains in primates, with highly
functioning human grey
its end result, is a pretty important example.
There are other unanswered
questions relating to the ‘evolved’ basic human brain. Why was there ever a
its functionality to evolve through ‘natural selection’ to
a level where we
have the capacity to understand so much of the basis of the universe and even wonder why it
exists at all. Indeed,
why have we evolved to be so inquisitive? Some of the first sentences
childhood are difficult questions asked of puzzled parents!
discussing evolved brain functions, let’s
consider “speech”. How
did the odd group of anthropoids (humankind) develop the ability to
with very complex utterances? Just because we can
speak, simply leads us
to overlook the ‘sheer magic’ of speech itself!
It is clearly apparent
in human brain functioning are way past the expected requirements of
for our own
species. Let’s not forget the odd human traits of humour, artistic ability and recognition of natural beauty!!!
I mean, what do such genetic characteristics offer our chances of
survival as a species? Even atheists can have their lives greatly
enriched by these human attributes. This time I refer to them as "subtle magic". Did they just occur through chance mutation? Mmmmm ... I personally have great doubts!
Remember that I am not arguing
that ‘evolution’, as a theory, has no foundation. Evidence
of complete and
major blind allies in evolutionary development offers very good
it has a sound basis. The
similarities in DNA found through individual
species, primates as an important example, is
further evidence that evolution is a sound theory.
Darwin has to be congratulated for presenting the
sense that God planned that life itself would have the ability to
adapt to its changing environment. The situation for me
there is just so
much to marvel at, even when only looking surface deep.
However, when we do look deeper into life here on Earth there seems to
larger questions to be answered. One such major issue relates
back to one of the loose ends under the last sub heading
– how do the
required to sustain life on Earth continue unabated? How have
and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and salinity levels in the
sea (amongst many
maintained? Biologists had their theory. Geochemists had another.
the two extreme views, some joined forces to form the conglomerate
“biogeochemistry”. Even this new field of science has
failed so far to produce models
that can ‘map’ to the real world’s environmental
conditions (no matter how
powerful the computers utilised were, or how intricate their models
The only all-encompassing theory
available is Dr James Lovelock’s “Gaia”. In this, the Earth’s life forms,
together with their environment, self regulate conditions towards a
is habitable for all the organisms involved. Lovelock theorises that
world is a self regulating super-organism. He doesn’t enter into
a notion of ‘world
consciousness’ or a ‘world
soul’ as in pantheist
just means that living species (flora and fauna) have evolved to
world’s climate and other environmental conditions along with
substances (rock etc).
It is theorised that diverse plant
life forms, together with micro organisms, both on land and in the sea,
major role in this controlling process. The required interdependencies
the living species indicated in his work point to an underlying ability
‘evolution’ to organise
inhabitants in such a way as to ensure that life itself on Earth continues.
Now it is a ‘buzz’ in itself, that
living species can continue to adjust to their changing conditions
natural selection as Darwin theorised. We also have the extreme
already discussed – complex humans and on the other hand the
species (e.g. ants and bees). On top of that, an overarching ability of
evolution appears to ensure the continuation of life itself on
this precious planet of ours! There are no hints available at present
as to how
‘nature’ actually manages to coordinate the complex
integrated development of species involved in the process.
Again, my own mind boggles at the marvel of
Not surprisingly, Christian fundamentalists
the theory of evolution! They
went so far as to establish
Creation Theory in the latter quarter of the twentieth century, based
perceptions of scientific evidence, to compete with
the theory of Evolution. They
their evidence demonstrated that the Earth and all creatures that ever
existed (including those now extinct) came into being at exactly
the same time, some 6,000 years ago. With all due respect, they did not
convince many people outside of their own church congregations!
Many modern day Christian fundamentalists
still accept that
God literally created everything in just six days, and rested on the
(just as the Biblical Book of Genesis states). A
lot of that type of
comes down to how we like to ‘take’ the Bible. What would a
for the creator of the universe –
a creator who has his basis outside the boundaries of time
and space as we know it?
To me, and
many other moderate
‘thinkers’, the Christian Old Testament (the pre-Jesus bits of the Bible) contains enough deliberate
imagery in its contents to indicate that it
be treated in the way that the fundamentalists do. The great Jewish
Theologion and Philosopher, Maimonides (1135 - 1204) argued that
interpreting everything of God’s Word literally could lead to idolatry. This
in fact can occur by obsessively elevating interest in Biblical
contents to a
greater height than God himself. Mind you, even when viewed as imagery, moderate Christians consider that Genesis
still offers profound messages on creation, human nature and our relationship to God, when
more recent times,
Christian fundamentalists have shifted their
support to the “Intelligent
Design Theory”. Within
Intelligent Design (ID), it is postulated that the cellular world of
simplest organisms, such as microbes, is so complex that it could only
come into being through the ‘intervention’
of an intelligent designer
(God) rather than an outcome of evolution. The
DNA strands of a microbe are indeed very, very, very complex. ID
thereby maintains that evolution is
not a sound theory because even
microbes (the simplest life forms) can have components that are
complex’. That is, they
theoretically have useful parts that could not have come into being
through Darwin’s principle
of “natural section”. They could not have evolved through
steps of small
improvements because those bits are so complex that they either have
there’ or ‘not be there’ (i.e. there can be no middle
ground with natural
selection processes, because to be there ‘slightly’ would
provide absolutely no
advantage to the life-form).
is sense behind their reasoning of course, but unfortunately, the
developers of ID do not
away the positive indicators for evolution, such as the previously
alleys’ and DNA similarities within species (e.g. human beings
and chimpanzees), that are evident. The concept of Intelligent Design
presented at least is therefore, in my view, certainly not the whole
answer. It simply is not a complete theory!
However, I am definitely not
saying that our universe wasn’t
designed by a Creator. I mentioned some of my beliefs in the introduction of this article. My full
understanding on the issue at hand unfolds like this. Firstly, I believe in God; I
have faith; I recognise his presence in my life etc. Secondly, my research indicates to me that Darwin’s
theory of evolution has a sound basis. And the mind boggling complexities that still
challenge the complete development of evolutionary theory, to this day,
its profoundity. Therefore,
finally on that basis, I accept
that the process of evolution MUST have been designed into the universe’s
grand plan by God prior to its creation. It is as simple as that!
As I have
maintained all along, those who do believe in God
that he created, and indeed still sustains, the universe.
3.6 How else can
we explain this inherent complexity?
Because of increasing specialisation
in the sciences, individual scientists did not easily recognise just
ultra-complex the big picture of our universe was becoming. It has
evident to all in recent times (over the past thirty years or
To my knowledge there are only two
available options to deal with these issues – the ‘scientific’
Worlds (or Multiverse) Theory and
the religious belief of an intelligent creative force (God). The
existence of the Many Worlds Theory demonstrates
the issues of huge odds and extreme complexity that I have raised.
Within the Many Worlds Theory,
countless numbers of universes concurrently co-exist alongside of each
The universes with weaker sub atomic forces exist beside universes with
stronger sub atomic forces etc, etc, etc. Universes with every
variance in components simultaneously exist within the theory. We just
to be in that ‘one in a zillion’ universe where it is
possible for us to do so!
I continue to research the theory, and
can recognise that it is developing in its own complexity as time
still no evidence as yet to support it. Importantly, no proof exists to
demonstrate that more than one universe exists, i.e. the one in which
WHAT IS THE ANSWER THEN?
Overall, our universe is recognised
as having a perfect balance of order where
it is required
and chaos where that
is required. It is also now clear that the universe we have,
complex open and indeterministic system (suffering from unpredictable
random events), had perfect organising principles engineered into it, indeed within its first nano seconds of creation.
similar underlying organising principle,
as already explained, also underlies the evolution of the
inhabitants of this
planet of ours, even to the extent of ensuring the continuation of life itself. Extreme
complexity abounds throughout all the sciences. To all appearances, we simply are ever
so lucky to actually be here, and be just as we are!
The ‘bottom line’ is that it is very
easy, as a believer in God’s existence, to accept that he has a direct bearing on the causation
of the universe, especially in light of the perfection that is evident. To
everything essential to us being here has seemingly fallen together so
perfectly ... too wonderfully well … to
be anything other than a
gift for us! The great Muslim philosopher, Averroes came to the same conclusion during his lifetime (1126 – 1198). It is far more obvious now.
Is that same “fuzzy unexplainable
special-ness”, that I intuited during my mystical
experiences decades ago, the
root cause of
our universe and on this planet of ours? My choice is to believe so!
Those experiences of mine are described in the article, “So, what is God?”
atheist, I could only see
reality as an expression of the laws of “cause and effect”.
And the fact is
that our grasp on reality must
based on its observed behaviour, i.e. the ‘hard and fast’
laws of Newtonian
physics. (Nature must also be seen as running
its own course – please
see the article, “Suffering and evil”
for an explanation). However, I now
know that I was fooled by my own
prejudices, preventing me from looking deeper. In my arrogance, at that
could not even envisage that beneath reality’s observed surface
unfathomable and mysterious – on which the continued existence of every
particle depends – could be present!
WHERE TO NEXT?
Inevitably, confidence in God – as
the creator and sustainer of ‘all that is’ – comes
from recognising God’s presence in the church and our individual
We simply engage with him; open ourselves to him as the Bible explains.
And when we do find him there, we then know what caused, and sustains,
all that is.
If you need guidance on how to begin
gathering evidence of God’s existence, that you can evaluate
for yourself, please access
the section of this website titled, “Believing in God”.
if you require a better
understanding of God’s nature to assist you with this article, or
to build a composite understanding of both science and religion, then
the article, “So, what is God?”.
I am a Christian writer, and I maintain that Christianity 'sits well'
with all that is written in this particular article. It tries to explain the
ultimate ‘why's’ of creation. The article "Christianity explained", also available on this website, tries to provide the logic and beauty behind the religion itself.