Science and the Existence of God

Pentecost 11
August 5, 2018

Last Sunday I told you about an 11-year-old boy who recently graduated from college in Florida. When asked what his goal in life was, he said that he wanted to become an astrophysicist and use science to prove the existence of God. That sounds like a formidable task, but it’s easier to do than you’d think because modern science, despite all you may have heard to the contrary, supports our faith in God, the Creator. Nevertheless, this boy has an uphill task and he’ll need courage because American academe into which he is headed is dominated by agnostics and atheists, many of whom use science to convince our children (to whom we entrust their education) that the belief in the Christian and Jewish religions, which hold that God created the universe out of nothing to be a home for human beings with whom God has a special relationship having endowed each one of us with an immortal soul, is a fantastic myth. They claim it is no more based in objective reality than are the stories of the ancient Greek gods on Mount Olympus. Many point to the stunning success of modern science in the fields of technology and medicine as evidence that human reason and intellect are the keys to our survival and that God’s grace is irrelevant. Our great technological achievements and first-world prosperity give some the impression that even if God exists, we don’t need him. And because so many prominent, popular scientists—Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking for example—following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, have professed themselves to be agnostics and atheists, millions of people have followed them. It’s easy to see why. After all, if the smartest people in the world don’t believe in God, that ought to tell us something, right?

       Well, not so fast. Just because a person knows a lot about physics, astronomy, math, or biology doesn’t mean that he knows anything about relationships, love, justice, truth, or theology. There is more than one kind of knowledge in this world. It is one thing to know how a diamond is made; it’s another thing to know what it’s good for. If you take your girlfriend out to dinner and explain to her the molecular structure of a diamond you will bore her to tears and put her to sleep. But if you set that diamond in a platinum ring and put it on her finger, then you’re really going places. See what I mean? Just because someone is a “genius,” doesn’t mean that person really knows anything about life. If you can tell me how to calculate the speed of light, you’re giving me useful information. If you can tell me what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the light of the world," you’re giving me priceless wisdom. The first kind of knowledge may help me get a job with NASA and launch a rocket. The other kind may help me enter heaven’s gate. My point is that knowledge gained through scientific study is important, but wisdom gained through the study of ethics, philosophy, and theology is also important. For a full understanding of life we need it all. The problem with the modern age is that it has turned science into scientism, an ideological belief that all other forms of knowledge are inferior for not being objectively based. This is nonsense, but it has become a ubiquitous prejudice of secular society that is leaving us confused about the eternal truths that give meaning to our existence. In other words, modern science has done a lot to improve our quality of life, but in diminishing the importance of faith and of the revelation of God in Christ that inspires it, it’s leaving us bereft of wisdom and uncertain as to what we’re living for.

        The good news is that the advocates of atheism who push the narrative that modern science has utterly discredited the Gospel and proven God to be a superstition are sinking in quicksand. They get away with it because they have had hegemony over our universities now for decades and therefore their political influence throughout the society is formidable. They will remain the established power for the foreseeable future but eventually the truth will win out. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free," Jesus said. God can be denied but God cannot be defeated.

        How can science help prove the existence of God? Well, let me emphasize first that we already know for certain from revelation and reason that the universe exists because of God and could not exist without God.  We know from divine revelation recorded in the Old Testament and affirmed by Christ in the new that God created the universe for human beings. We need nothing more than that for faith. But we also have a variety of proofs for God’s existence through philosophical argument and logic. Aristotle was not a Jew or a Christian but he was a brilliant thinker who used logical argument to prove that the universe could not exist without outside help. What we call God he called the “Unmoved Mover,” but his logic is as clear today as it was 2,500 years ago. Other great minds, including Saint Thomas Aquinas, further developed the arguments that Aristotle began, leaving no doubt in any sane person’s mind as to the dependence of this universe on its creator. We know by revelation and reason that we live in God’s universe. Science cannot disprove the existence of God. But modern science does offer some evidence that denies the atheists claim that the universe and the human beings in it came into being without God.

       Ask the question: did God create humankind or did the human mind create God? And I think most people today would either say, “I don’t know” or would come down on the side of believing that man created God. One of the reasons that people would answer this way is because Darwin’s theory of evolution is, though theory, taught in our schools as fact. Going back to the Scopes trial about a century ago, the special creation of human beings formed in God’s image is no longer taught in the schools; we’re all descended from apes don’t you know? And “creationists,” as we are now called, who resist the new atheist revolution are viewed as backward anti-intellectuals living in the fundamentalist dark ages. But is Darwin’s theory settled scientific fact? No, it’s not. Darwin said that the fossil record would support his thesis. But here we are over 150 years later and there is no evidence in the fossil record to support his theory. The biggest discovery in this field of paleontology is known as the “Cambrian explosion." This refers to the discovery that in the Cambrian era life forms emerged whole, with no gradual evolution to form them in all the different phyla. In other words the fossil record undermines Darwin’s theory. Furthermore, Darwin’s theory offers no clue as to the actual origin of life. How did conscious life emerge out of unconscious non-life? Darwin surmised that lightning struck a warm little pond and caused life to begin. No divine Creator was necessary either to begin life or to form a human being from an amoeba. It all just happened by chance, randomly over many millions of years by a magical process of natural selection that oh, by the way, no one has ever observed. According to Darwin’s theory, life is just a freak accident of nature. There’s nothing really special about human beings.

       The problem with that argument is DNA. It turns out that Darwin’s warm little pond theory doesn’t hold water because we have learned that DNA, the basic building block of life, is so complex that it would take longer than the planet earth has been in existence to make by random chance even one strand if it. What does DNA do? Well, think of the human cell as a city and the DNA is like a computer that runs all the traffic lights and so keeps the traffic flowing. Modern microscopes have let us see into the human cell, and what we see going on there has been compared to Times Square at rush hour, a fury of activity all being organized perfectly by DNA. That is why DNA has been compared to a super computer. But no computer can program itself. Information is put into a computer by a programmer on the outside. Francis Collins, the head of the human genome project during the Clinton administration, called DNA “the language of God.” He wrote a book about it with that title and told the story of how he came to believe in God through his study of DNA. He’s not alone. Many others have said the same thing: that evolution cannot explain the existence of DNA. The theory of evolution which purports to prove that human life emerged from the earth by purely natural processes without the help of an intelligent Creator is undermined and discredited by the discovery of DNA.

       Another dramatic discovery of modern science in support of the Creator is called the “Big Bang." The Big Bang is the name given to the discovery, gained from information gathered through the Hubble telescope, that the universe has not always existed. The universe began to exist about 13 billion years ago. Once there was nothing then suddenly out of nowhere there appeared what is called a singularity, something slightly smaller than the head of a pin and then “bang!”, it exploded. Suddenly there was light and all the stuff from which the planets and suns were made burst forth as from a fountain. There was nothing and then suddenly there was something; a universe appeared out of nowhere. And when we say there was nothing, we mean nothing—no time, no space, no matter. What caused the universe to come into being? Nothing comes from nothing. Did nothing create a universe out of nothing? Or did God, a supernatural intelligence bring nature into being by an act of divine will? The answer is as obvious as the sunrise: The Big Bang is scientific evidence supporting the account of the origin of the universe given in Genesis 1.

       A fourth discovery of modern science supporting the Creator is something that cosmologists, those who study the origin of the universe, call the “anthropic principle." Cosmologists have learned that the chances of all the events happening that had to happen for carbon-based life to form on this planet are so remote that it’s inconceivable that human life could have happened by chance. We’re talking odds of trillions and trillions to one that carbon-based life, equipped with DNA and a rational soul happened by chance. As Sir Fred Hoyle, a prominent British physicist put it: the odds that human life emerged by sheer chance are equal to the odds that a wind could blow thru a junkyard and out comes a fully functioning 747 jet. What are the chances of that? The anthropic principle proves that the chances that life formed on this planet by sheer luck with no help from an intelligent creator on the outside are trillions and trillions to one.

       I’m not going into any of this further today. My point is simply to give you confidence that science has not made the case for atheism, but that modern science has produced discoveries that strongly support the gospel. There are more holes in Darwin’s’ theory than in a piece of Swiss cheese. The discovery of DNA makes it all but impossible to believe that human life happened by chance. The Big Bang supports the account of creation given in Genesis 1. And the anthropic principle further shows how utterly remote the odds are that human life came into existence on this planet by chance.

     So with all of this scientific evidence on their side, how is that Christians who believe in God the Creator of heaven and earth find themselves on the defensive, being called “creationists” and mocked for their faith in the Creator? The answer to that question is obvious. Atheists have succeeded in establishing themselves in the institutions that govern our intellectual life and they aren’t going to let go willingly without a struggle. We are fighting a cultural struggle of epic proportions. And we are right in the middle of it. People who are rebelling against God won’t admit they're wrong because their careers are at stake and they don’t want the humiliating responsibility of going to church on Sundays and kneeling before God. Nor do they want to conform their lives to the moral order by which God has structured the universe. In a secular society you don’t have to. There are no social or political consequences to being faithless in modern America. The secular society sets us free not to believe in God and many today won’t give up that freedom as false as it is. They run our schools and they want to keep it that way. Consequently they don’t teach Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas in the classroom. My guess is that most college graduates haven’t even heard of the things I talked about in this sermon today. But many Christians haven’t heard these things either because scientism and atheism have found their way into our seminaries as well, so that many modern liberal clergy are part of the problem. You can’t teach what you don’t know. So have confidence. God exists. Revelation, philosophy, and modern science all point to God, the Creator.

      If and when you wonder whether God exists or not, ask this question. Do you really think that the universe appeared out of nowhere by chance for no reason? I once had a young woman explain to me that she was an atheist because “everything is random," she said. But we couldn’t get further into the conversation because she was on a tight schedule and was in a hurry to get to the airport to catch a plane. But I felt like saying, “If everything is random, what’s the hurry to catch a plane? It probably won’t be there.” If everything is random, why does everyone here today have plans for this afternoon? And plans for the week to come? How is it that we live in such a highly organized world? Human beings are builders and planners and organizers. If everything is random, how did we get that ability and felt need to put everything in order? We got it from the Creator who created this perfectly balanced world for us, in whose image we are made. Don’t let the secular society psyche you out. There is every good reason to believe in God and no good reason not to. Modern science supports that view. As Saint Paul said in this letter to the Romans, open your eyes and look at the world around you. Life is not absurd, and this planet is no accident. Those who don’t believe in God have no excuse (Romans 1.20).