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Has Science Made God Irrelevant?

May 14, 2019

CHRISTINA NERCESSIAN presents compelling scientific and philosophical arguments to show that we need not choose between God and science.

"One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary"

These words by Stephen Hawking, who was one of the leading faces of modern physics, perfectly sum up the perception that many scientists hold on the issue of the relationship between God and science. In fact, that perception is so common among scientists and academics that sometime during my university years, the doubts crept into my head and made me wonder whether all my years of relationship with God and all the experiences I had had with him had been my imagination. Thankfully that period did not last long, but thanks to the questions I asked and the answers I received during that time, my faith in God became all the stronger.

I remember asking him one day to show me through science that he was real (and probably forgot about that prayer the next day). Coincidentally or not, I ended up taking an ‘Introduction to Relativity’ course as an elective (even though I am an English major and, sadly, have nothing to do with physics) and spent the whole semester trying to wrap my head around the most basic concepts of Einstein’s theory. I’m not sure how much of it I was actually able to grasp, but it turned out that it was enough for me to understand a random YouTube video I ended up watching, which explained what the nature of a being outside of the three-dimensional world would be like, which sounded so much like God! If I hadn’t taken that course, I would not have understood — and maybe not even watched — that video. Somehow, at the time, that video was the sign I needed from God because it showed that science could at least be open to the possibility of the existence and relevance of a god. It seems silly to me now that I could ever doubt those things, but at that point, I was only at the beginning of the long and exciting journey of reading, asking questions, and being fascinated by the answers I found, and I just want to share some of my discoveries with you in hopes that they will somehow contribute to your quest of finding the truth.

I found that one of the main reasons for the belief that science has made God irrelevant is a wrong comprehension of God. When the people of less developed eras could not explain a certain occurrence in nature, they attributed it to God, because their limited understanding of nature did not leave room for a better explanation. For instance, if they saw lightning, they would explain it by saying that God was angry. They used the concept of God to fill the holes in their knowledge and explain what they could not understand. This perception of God is known as ‘God of the holes’. Quite naturally, many scientists argue that since science can now explain why lightning happens, we no longer need any ‘magical being’ to explain it. From this perspective, it is understandable why scientists might reject God.

However, Christianity suggests that God is not a God of the ‘holes’ but of the ‘whole’; he does not fill gaps, but has created the whole universe in the first place. As an illustration of this point, imagine a man who sees a light bulb for the first time in his life. He does not know how it works, but is awestruck every time the bulb emits light. But because he cannot provide a scientific explanation for that process, he concludes to himself that there must be a small magical creature inside of it that emits the light. However, as his knowledge of electricity expands, he gradually begins to understand and explain the scientific process behind the emitted light. He then looks back at his previous assumption of the small magical creature and laughs at how ridiculous it was. If we give God the role of the little magical creature to explain the universe, it would be rational to dismiss him once the mysteries of the universe are solved. But if we see God’s relation to the universe as Thomas Edison’s relation was to the light bulb, then the argument changes. Understanding how the universe works does not exclude the need for it to have been created. Even if it were possible for science and technology to develop to the point of understanding the whole universe and how it works, it would not yet mean that God was no longer needed.

According to John Lennox, an Oxford professor of mathematics, it is not science that makes God irrelevant, but rather, it is atheism that makes science irrelevant. He explains that according to the theory of evolution, our minds are an end-product of a ‘mindless unguided process’, and asks whether any arguments made by such minds can be trusted. The minds of scientists are no exception to this. Therefore, a question arises about the credibility of such minds when they make observations, arguments and discoveries, and come up with theories. Scientists assume that the universe is rationally intelligible; otherwise, they would not dedicate so much time to observing and trying to explain it. The very fact that atheist scientists make arguments against the existence and relevance of God shows that they are intelligent and rational beings. But where did that intelligence come from? Just as it is unlikely for a whole universe to have emerged from nothing, it is not reasonable to assume that intelligence and rational minds could emerge from a mindless matter.

There have also been many attempts to refute the existence of a creator and diminish God’s relevance to the birth of the universe. In his famous book The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking writes, ‘Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing...it is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going’. However, in a response article, Lennox points out that laws do not have a creative nature but merely a descriptive one. The universe could not have been created by the law of gravity, because laws simply describe what already exists. From that perspective, if gravity did already exist, then there must have been someone who created it.

If can be inferred from these points that it is not science that is against God, but some scientists and the claims of scientists about science aren’t always necessarily true. However, history also shows that there have been many scientists that saw no conflict between faith and science; in fact, their belief in God made their scientific discoveries all the more meaningful. What better example of this than the fact that carved on the wooden door of the Cavendish Laboratory, the place where DNA was first discovered, is the Bible verse, ‘The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein’. When Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravity, he did not say, ‘Great, now that we can explain gravity, we no longer need God.’ He marvelled at how amazing God was to have created it! What these and many more examples show is that belief in God did not hinder these intellectual people from pursuing answers about our universe by merely stating that ‘God did it’, but it actually made it more exciting for
them to explore and discover the amazing works of God’s hands. C.S. Lewis, a Christian apologist who was once an atheist himself, put it perfectly when he said, ‘Men became scientific because they expected law in nature
and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver’.

This lawgiver is not a distant or indifferent God, but one that has revealed himself and continues to do so time and time again to his beloved creation. There are so many mysteries and amazing things in the universe that he is
excited to reveal to his people to amaze them, but when scientists shut him out and try to make those discoveries on their own, they are actually doing a disfavour to themselves. They are refusing the help and guidance of the one who made the universe and knows it's every secret and, therefore, they are limiting themselves. But when people are open to hearing God speak to them, they can make discoveries that even they did not expect. The documentary film The Star of Bethlehem, produced by Frederic Larson and Stephen McEveety, is a wonderful example of that. The documentary describes the story of how Dr Larson, a lawyer with no particular connection to science, got interested in the mystery of the biblical star
and slowly unravelled its mystery. He discovered the scientific evidence that both explains and proves that unusual occurrence of the star that marked the birth of Christ. He wasn’t even a scientist, but merely because
he was open to cooperating with God, instead of trying to figure things out on his own, through him, God revealed one of the greatest mysteries of the Bible and of all human history.

But why is any of this relevant? Why is it relevant whether God is relevant or not? Can’t we just be content with not knowing? C.S. Lewis once said, ‘Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important’ 08. If God is real, then everything he says about our identity, origin, and purpose of creation applies to everyone. On the other hand, if it is not true, then it applies to no one. He cannot be partially true or true only for those who choose to believe him. If he is real, then he is real despite people’s choices to believe or disbelieve in him or to render him relevant or irrelevant.

Our ideas about our identity and the value and purpose of our life change drastically based on the stance we take on this issue. That is why I believe that this question is central to everyone’s life and it is important for you to
know what you believe. The wonderful thing about the God of Christianity is that he wants to be known and to reveal himself; therefore, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to know for sure whether or not there is a God
and it is possible to get to know this God, learn about his character, hear his voice, and even have a relationship with him. It’s normal to have doubts and questions and it is also okay to ask God those questions and ask him to show you — through science, if necessary — that he exists. He is not afraid of questions; in fact, he loves them, because they create the possibility of dialogue, friendship, and revelation. He has promised that those who seek him will find him and, from my experience, I can testify that he never breaks his promises.

 

Christina Nercessian is a student and writer from Armenia.

[This article was first published in the January 2018 edition of The Record]