Faith and Science

26 May

So I just absolutely love science. All kinds of science– astronomy, biology, chemistry, Earth and environmental science, etc. I find it all fascinating. I’ve discovered, though, that the main reason I love science so much is because I “see” God when I study science. “His fingerprints are everywhere,” so to speak.

I am very aware of the fact that the majority of people (especially scientists) believe that science and God/Christianity/the Bible conflict and contradict each other. I, of course, believe the complete opposite. I plan on majoring in biology when I transfer to a university next year, so I’m sure I will come in contact with my fair share of people who will perhaps think I’m crazy for being a Christian, since “science disproves God.”  Going to ICC, I have already encountered quite a bit of that from different science instructors.

Below is a question and answer interview done by Mark Moring, editor of Christianity Today International, with science writer Fred Heeren.  Heeren has spent the last seven years trying to get to the bottom of life’s big questions. He enjoys nothing more than talking to people—scientists and others—about how the latest evidence for intelligent design points to the God of the Bible.  There are one or two points that I don’t exactly agree with him on, but for the most part I think he is dead-on.

Can we really find God in science?

Science can’t “observe” God. But we can observe a universe that yields evidence of one of two things: It’s either God’s handiwork, or it got here by accident, without a creator. The evidence has to point one way or the other. And scientific discoveries of this century clearly show that our universe is no accident, that there is an intelligent designer behind it all. What many non-Christians believe today is based on 19th-century science, which said our universe is self-sustaining and eternal—implying that it was not created. But modern science tells us the opposite—that our universe cannot sustain itself, that it’s dependent on something outside of itself, and that our universe had a beginning, as the Bible says.

How else does science point to a creator?

Twentieth-century science has shown us that our universe and nature’s laws are very finely tuned, and if that tuning were “off” even a tiny bit, life as we know it would not exist. For example, if the gravitational constant throughout the universe was just tweaked to be slightly stronger or weaker, we’d have no stars, no water, no life.

Do most scientists believe the universe had a beginning?

At the beginning of the 20th century, the answer would have been no. But now, about 98 percent of them do. All of today’s evidence shows that the universe is constantly expanding. And if it’s expanding, it must have had a beginning. Even the rate of expansion points to God. The rate is so perfectly fine-tuned that if it was changed at the beginning by one part in 10 to the 60th power—that’s a one with 60 zeros after it—the universe would either be in chaos today or it wouldn’t exist. If it was expanding that tiny fraction faster, matter couldn’t hold together and we’d have no stars and galaxies. If it was expanding that tiny bit slower, it would have collapsed long ago.

Where does the Bible fit into this picture?

Christians believe truth is revealed through God’s Word and through his works (see Romans 1:20). In the physical world, God’s Word gives us part of the picture, and science gives us another part. For instance, the Bible says God created the heavens, but it doesn’t say specifically how galaxies were formed. But science does tell us something about galaxy formation, and we can—and should—learn from that. This is where we get into the difference between “proof” and “evidence.” Science alone can’t prove how galaxies form, because we weren’t there when it happened. But we’re gathering a lot of evidence by observing galaxies. When we look through a telescope at a distant galaxy, we’re actually looking back in time. Light travels about 186,000 miles per second. So, if something is 186,000 miles away, we’re seeing it as it appeared one second ago. We see the sun as it appeared eight minutes ago, the star Alpha Centauri as it appeared 4.3 years ago, and the Andromeda galaxy as it appeared 2.3 million years ago. And farther away than that, we can see galaxies in their “infant” stages — as they actually appeared millions or billions of years ago. But even though we can actually see galaxies forming, we still can’t say for sure how—or why—they formed. That’s why we go back to God’s Word, where we find out it’s all done in a way that’s very good for us—so there could be stars, there could be energy and there could be life. So, we often have the “why” questions answered in God’s Word, and the “how” questions answered in God’s works.

So, what’s all this mean for Christians?

I think it solidifies our faith. Science gives evidence for a creator, because the universe couldn’t have come from nowhere. And it gives evidence for a “grand designer” who cares about life—and therefore us—because the universe is so finely tuned, as I’ve already discussed. When I was younger, I thought there were contradictions between the Bible and science. But as I studied science, I realized we do have a creator who’s outside the universe. And that revelation led me to the Bible, which in turn led me to Jesus Christ.

You mentioned what you thought were contradictions between the Bible and science. Like what?

The Bible says God created us. But in high school, I was taught that we were the result of naturalistic evolution. That’s a contradiction, and I had to resolve it. There are two reasons why the theory of evolution is being questioned today. The first reason is the fossil record, and the second is the biological evidence. The fossil record points to some type of creation, not to this idea that we’ve evolved all the way from pond scum. The fossil record shows the sudden appearance of a type of life, followed by a long period of stasis (meaning a certain type of animal didn’t change into another type), and finally extinction. There are no “descendants” and no “ancestors.” Biological evidence also points to creation and intelligent design. I had been taught that species—including humans—evolved through mutation and natural selection (“survival of the fittest”). But biology doesn’t support that. Experiments prove there are limits to mutation, to how much any organism can change. For example, when fruit flies are exposed to radiation for thousands of generations, they get all kinds of genetic mutations—three and four pairs of wings, eyes in the wrong places, different sets of legs, all sorts of things. But they’re still fruit flies. So, the theory that we’ve evolved from something through a series of mutations just doesn’t work.

What do you mean by “intelligent design”?

When you see the fine-tuning I’ve talked about, whether in the laws of the universe or in biology, things that couldn’t have “just happened” by accident, you have to look for an explanation. And the only one that fits, from everything we’ve observed, is that there must be an intelligence behind it all. It all boils down to something called “specified complexity.” Yes, that’s a big term, but it’s important to understand. And once you understand it, it’s easier to “show” your friends (and maybe your science teacher!) that our universe indeed has a creator. Now, a definition of “specified complexity.” The word “specify” means to give clear directions. For instance, God didn’t just tell Noah to “build a big boat.” God “specified” exactly what kind of wood to use, how to treat that wood, how long to cut it, how many decks to build, and so on (Genesis 6:14-16). So, when something is “specified,” it’s been put together in a certain way, following the directions exactly. “Complexity” means that something is “complex”—the opposite of “simple.” Alone, a single log is “simple.” But if you take 10,000 logs and drop them from the sky into a giant pile, you’ve got complexity. The pile, however, is not “specified”—there’s just a big mess that fell together without following any directions or forming any kind of pattern. Now, take those same 10,000 logs and cut them up into different lengths and shapes, and then nail them all together in a certain way, following a set of detailed instructions. When you’re done, you’ll have a nice house. And not only that, but you’ll have “specified complexity”—something complex, but also something that followed “specific” directions. Here’s another way of looking at it: If I dropped a million Scrabble letters from the sky, they’d form a “complex” mess on the ground—a lot going on, but no meaning. But if I could somehow “specify” that all those letters fall so that they form not only words, but an entire novel, well, you’d have “specified complexity”—something that gives information and meaning.

OK, now that I understand “specified complexity,” what’s it all mean?

We find many cases of “specified complexity” throughout the universe—things that can’t be explained merely by the forces of nature. When something produces information or meaning—like the million Scrabble letters forming a novel—there must be an intelligence behind it. You know it couldn’t have just happened by accident. Our own human DNA is a great example of “specified complexity.” DNA includes codes that are so specified and complex, there’s no way they can be explained by just natural causes. The DNA codes act like human language. DNA has its own “alphabet” that it puts into words, sentences and punctuation, using its own grammatical rules. It actually has the ability to “communicate,” to “specify” information and meaning. Here’s another way of looking at it: DNA is the “blueprint” of life. It “tells” proteins exactly how to develop into biological systems—a hummingbird’s wing, a dinosaur’s eyes, a tree’s roots, a human brain, anything that’s organic. DNA’s code is really quite an amazing language. Now, if scientists received a message from outer space with that kind of specified, complex code, they wouldn’t hesitate to say that it came from an intelligent source. And not just any intelligence, but a super intelligence, because it’s specified things that scientists still don’t know how to do. Well, we haven’t received any messages like this from outer space. But we have received it from things like the DNA sequence. So now we can tell our friends that scientists have discovered evidence of an extraterrestrial super intelligence—but it happens to belong to our own caring Creator.

If scientists believe in “intelligent design,” where do they think this intelligence comes from?

Well, those scientists won’t say it comes from an intelligent source—although Einstein came very close. He recognized the evidence for an intelligence behind nature’s laws. He thought of it as being the universe itself, and yet there’s no such thing as an “impersonal intelligence.” That’s a contradiction in terms. So, Einstein went about as far as science can take you—believing in intelligent design. At that point, science can take you no further. To take that to a belief in God takes a leap of faith, but it’s not a blind leap. It’s a very reasonable leap.

Are there any respected scientists who believe in God?

Yes, many. For instance, Alan Sandage, one of today’s most famous astronomers, has a personal faith in Jesus Christ. He once told me, “We can’t understand the universe in any clear way without the supernatural.” For Sandage, the evidence of science led him inescapably to believe in a creator; that was as far as science would take him. But then he made the personal decision to trust Christ as his Savior, and this was a decision that involved his heart as well as his mind.

You certainly know a lot about science. How does that help you tell people about God?

Through my book and my magazine, Cosmic Pursuit, I want to reach people who are interested in the bigger questions behind science. I want to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ, and my strategy is to get into the places where unbelievers get their information—like secular bookstores. That should be a goal for all Christians—to get into the places where unbelievers get their information. I do TV and radio talk shows, as well as speeches on secular college campuses. Then there’s my magazine, books, video and a Web site. There are lots of ways to reach unbelievers. But few Christians take advantage of these opportunities. I encourage everyone who wants to spread God’s good news to go to the places where our unbelieving friends are, and to help them hear the gospel in a new light. We can use these scientific findings as a conversation starter, a jumping-off point to begin to raise the big questions that inevitably lead to our accountability before a perfect and caring Creator.

Any last thoughts?

Yes. The question we should be asking isn’t, “Where is God in science?” but, “Where isn’t God in science?” Where can you go to get away from him? How do you explain the way things are without God? His evidence is found everywhere we look

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