Do atheists have a scientific basis for their non-belief?
I have been avoiding this subject because the technicalities go far beyond my understanding of science. However, what I know of science may be similar to what you know of science, so I am, hopefully, approaching the topic from our common ground. If you would like to dig deeper, you will find further discussion in the references.
The question of whether science supports the concept of God elicits much discussion and very few answers. Many scientists are backing the idea that there is a Force which created everything needed to produce life. In his book God: The Evidence: The Reconciliation of Faith and Reason in a Post Secular World, Patrick Glynn reveals how the branches of science support the existence of God.
Before 1973, the predominant view of modern philosophers and intellectuals was that human life had come about essentially by accident, the byproduct of brute, material forces randomly churning. over time.
However, in the fall of 1973, the world’s most eminent astronomers and physicists gathered in Poland to commemorate the 500th birthday of the father of modern astronomy, Nicholas Copernicus.
Of the dozens of scientific lectures presented during the festivities, only one would be remembered decades later, echoing far beyond the hall in Krakow where it was delivered, indeed far beyond the field of astronomy or even science itself.
It’s author, Brandon Carter, was a well-established astrophysicist and cosmologist from Cambridge University. His principal says that all the seemingly arbitrary and unrelated constraints in physics have one strange thing in common – they are precisely the values needed to have a universe capable of producing life. All the myriad laws of physics were fine-tuned from the very beginning of the universe for the creation of man. Carter’s principal offered a kind of explanation for one of the most basic mysteries of physics….the existence of an initial creating Force. And that the vast, 15 billion-year-evolution of the universe had apparently been directed towards one goal: the creation of human life.
Science is an amazing, wonderful undertaking: it teaches us about life, the world and the universe. As physicists investigate the most fundamental characteristics of nature, they’re tackling issues that have long been the province of philosophers and theologians. And biological evolution has not brought us the slightest understanding of how the first living organisms emerged from inanimate matter on this planet and how the advanced eukaryotic cells—the highly structured building blocks of advanced life forms—emerged from simpler organisms. Neither does it explain one of the greatest mysteries of science: how did consciousness arise in living things? Where do symbolic thinking and self-awareness come from? What is it that allows humans to understand the mysteries of biology, physics, mathematics, engineering and medicine? And what enables us to create great works of art, music, architecture and literature? Science is nowhere near to explaining these deep mysteries. But let’s get back to the controversy.
The First Cause Argument
Why is there something instead of nothing? Scientists don’t fully comprehend the quantum world yet, and their hypotheses about the first moments of creation aren’t much more than guesses at this point.
The primary argument that theists — those who believe in the existence of God — often first argue is that the simple fact that there is physical matter at all confirms the existence of God, because a tangible thing cannot come into being without it being created in the first place. (In religious-speak, this is the “first cause” argument: If one can explain everything back to the theoretical Big Bang, yet cannot explain what caused it, the universe is still unexplained.) In response, some atheists contend that matter has always existed and that theists cannot prove otherwise. As well, some non-believers argue that it is as equally valid to ask theists where God came from as it is to ask non-believers where matter came from.
Here, both sides present arguments based on phenomena that are scientifically inexplicable. Theists contend that there is a god that is outside space and time, while atheists assert that not only can a physical object exist without ever being created (without causation), it can exist forever. One seems as improbable as the other — and as likely as the other.
The Mathematical Argument
The second-most-used logical argument to prove the existence of God contends that an intelligence that created these perfect conditions for life in fact require far less faith than believing the creation of a life-sustaining Earth happened to beat the inconceivable odds of chance.
The Fine-Tuning Sub-Argument
The most persuasive mathematical argument used to prove there is a God is the “fine-tuning argument,” which essentially says that some variables in a universe’s parameters, if changed, could virtually extinguish the chance that life of any type would form anywhere. This basic claim finds very little controversy.
The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet, however, is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces — gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces — were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one of these four values ever so slightly and the universe as we know it could not exist.
But let’s go deeper and consider just the nuclear forces. To explain the quantum-mechanical behavior of even one tiny particle requires pages and pages of extremely advanced mathematics. It appears that there is a vast, hidden “wisdom,” or structure, or knotty blueprint for even the most simple-looking element of nature.
As if by magic, the “God particle”—that Higgs boson discovered inside CERN’s powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider—came into being and miraculously gave the universe its mass. Why did this happen? (I’m going to assume here that you are smarter than I am and will remember more than I do from science class.) The mass constituted elementary particles—the quarks and the electron—whose weights and electrical charges had to fall within immeasurably tight bounds for what would happen next. From within the primeval soup of elementary particles that constituted the young universe, again as if by a magic hand, all the quarks suddenly bunched in threes to form protons and neutrons, their electrical charges set precisely to the exact level needed to attract and capture the electrons, which then began to circle nuclei made of the protons and neutrons. All the masses, charges and forces of interaction in the universe had to be in just the precisely needed amounts so that early light atoms could form. Larger ones would then be cooked in nuclear fires inside stars, giving us carbon, iron, nitrogen, oxygen and all the other elements that are so essential for life to emerge. And eventually, the highly complicated double-helix molecule, the life-propagating DNA, would be formed. (Whew. It took billions of years, but life was created.)
Why did everything we need in order to exist come into being? How was all of this possible without some latent outside Power to orchestrate the precise dance of elementary particles required for the creation of all the essentials of life? The great British mathematician Roger Penrose has calculated—based on only one of the hundreds of parameters of the physical universe—that the probability of the emergence of a life-giving cosmos was 1 divided by 10, raised to the power 10, and again raised to the power of 123. This is a number as close to zero as anyone has ever imagined.
Is there a chance that the atheists are correct? Yes, but according to the mathematical calculations, it’s only a nano-fractional chance.
Or is it possible that the human race has a cosmic purpose after all? Did the universe blossom into an untold number of realities, each containing billions of galaxies and vast oceans of emptiness between them, just to produce a few scattered communities of observers? Is the ultimate goal of the universe to observe its own splendor?
The discussion is extensive, covering every branch of science and filling volumes to explain the scientific technicalities, but I’ve given you the major arguments. Now, the question to you becomes , “Do you believe in math, science, and logic enough to believe in God?”
A Few Quotes from Scientists
German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz described God as “a necessary being which has Its reason for existence in Itself.” It’s interesting to note that Leibniz was also a mathematician and physicist.
One of the world’s most renowned theoretical physicists, Paul Davies, has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming”.
Even the late Christopher Hitchens, one of atheism’s most aggressive proponents, conceded that “without question the fine-tuning argument was the most powerful argument of the other side.”
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” by the developments leading to the fine-tuning argument.
Oxford University professor of Mathematics Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”
Science and religion are two sides of the same deep human impulse to understand the world, to know our place in it, and to marvel at the wonder of life and the infinite cosmos we are surrounded by. Let’s respect both and not let one attempt to usurp the role of the other. No matter how close to absolute proof we get, there will always be room for faith.
Based on my experience, I know that the invisible God speaks to my soul and gives me His guidance through inner urgings and outer activities. I have recorded these events and those of other Christians in the ‘Spiritual Experiences’ category of this blog. Please contact me if you have some to contribute.
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