How Did the Universe and Life Originate?
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”—Albert Einstein.
OURS are times of astonishment on a scale previously unknown. New discoveries from space are forcing astronomers to revise their views of the origin of our universe. Many people are fascinated with the cosmos and are asking the ancient questions that are raised by our existence in it: How did the universe and life come about and why?
Even if we look in the other direction—within ourselves—the recent mapping of the human genetic code raises the questions: How were the multitudes of life-forms created? And who, if anyone, created them? The sheer complexity of our genetic blueprint moved a U.S. president to say that “we are learning the language in which God created life.” One of the chief scientists involved in the genetic decoding humbly remarked: “We have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.” But the questions persist—how and why?
Some scientists claim that all the workings of the universe can be explained by rational analysis, leaving no room for divine wisdom. But many people, including scientists, are not comfortable with that view. They attempt to comprehend reality by looking to both science and religion. They feel that science deals with the how of our existence and of the cosmos around us, while religion deals principally with the why.
Explaining this dual approach, physicist Freeman Dyson said: “Science and religion are two windows that people look through trying to understand the big universe outside.”
“Science deals with the measurable, religion deals with the immeasurable,” suggested author William Rees-Mogg. He said: “Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, any more than it can prove or disprove any moral or aesthetic proposition. There is no scientific reason to love one’s neighbour or to respect human life . . . To argue that nothing exists which cannot be proved scientifically is the crudest of errors, which would eliminate almost everything we value in life, not only God or the human spirit, but love and poetry and music.”
The “Religion” of Science
Scientists’ theories often seem to rely on premises that require their own kind of faith. For example, when it comes to the origin of life, most evolutionists adhere to ideas that require faith in certain “doctrines.” Facts are mixed with theories. And when scientists use the weight of their authority to impose blind belief in evolution, they are in reality implying: ‘You are not responsible for your morality because you are merely the product of biology, chemistry, and physics.’ Biologist Richard Dawkins says that in the universe ‘there is no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pointless indifference.’
To uphold such beliefs, some scientists choose to ignore the extensive research of other scientists who contradict the theoretical foundations for their theories on the origin of life. Even if we allow for billions of years of time, the accidental forming of the complex molecules required to form a functional living cell has been shown to be a mathematical impossibility.* Thus, the dogmatic theories on the origin of life that appear in many textbooks must be considered invalid.
Belief that life originated by blind chance demands more faith than belief in creation does. Astronomer David Block observed: “A man who does not believe in a Creator would have to have more faith than one who does. In declaring that God does not exist, a person makes a sweeping unsubstantiated statement—a postulate based on faith.”
Scientific discoveries can induce a reverential attitude in some scientists. Albert Einstein admitted: “You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a religious feeling of his own. . . . Religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.” Yet, this does not necessarily lead scientists to believe in a Creator, a personal God.
The Limits of Science
It is fitting to have proper respect for scientific knowledge and achievements. However, many will agree that while science involves a way of knowing, it is not the only source of knowledge. The purpose of science is to describe phenomena in the natural world and to assist in answering how these phenomena occur.
Science provides us with insights into the physical universe, meaning everything that is observable. But no matter how far scientific investigation goes, it can never answer the question of purpose—why the universe exists in the first place.
“There are some questions that scientists can never answer,” remarks author Tom Utley. “It may be that the Big Bang happened 12 billion years ago. But why did it happen? . . . How did the particles get there in the first place? What was there before?” Utley concludes: “It seems . . . clearer than ever that science will never satisfy the human hunger for answers.”
Scientific knowledge gained through such inquisitiveness, far from disproving the need for a God, has only served to confirm what a fantastically complex, intricate, and awe-inspiring world we live in. Many thinking people find it plausible to conclude that the physical laws and chemical reactions as well as DNA and the amazing diversity of life all point to a Creator. There is no irrefutable proof to the contrary.
‘Faith Has Reality’
If there is a Creator behind the universe, we cannot expect to comprehend him or his purposes by using telescopes, microscopes, or other scientific instruments. Think of a potter and a vase that he has formed. No amount of examination of the vase itself can give an answer as to why it was made. For that, we must ask the potter himself.
Molecular biologist Francis Collins explains how faith and spirituality can help fill the void science leaves: “I would not expect religion to be the right tool for sequencing the human genome and by the same token would not expect science to be the means to approaching the supernatural. But on the really interesting larger questions, such as ‘Why are we here?’ or ‘Why do human beings long for spirituality?,’ I find science unsatisfactory. Many superstitions have come into existence and then faded away. Faith has not, which suggests it has reality.”
True religion, in answering the question of why and in dealing with the purpose of life, also offers standards for values, morals, and ethics as well as guidance in life. Scientist Allan Sandage expressed it this way: “I don’t go to a biology book to learn how to live.”
Millions of people around the globe feel that they have found where to go to learn how to live. They also feel that they have found truly satisfying answers regarding the questions: Why are we here? And where are we going? The answers exist. But where? In the oldest and most widely distributed sacred text, the Bible.
The Bible tells us that God prepared the earth especially with humans in mind. Isaiah 45:18 says regarding the earth: “God . . . did not create it simply for nothing [but] formed it even to be inhabited.” And he provided the earth with everything that people would need, not just to exist but to enjoy life to the full.
Humans were given stewardship over the earth, “to cultivate it and to take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15) The Bible also explains that knowledge and wisdom are gifts from God and that we are to exercise love and justice toward one another. (Job 28:20, 25, 27; Daniel 2:20-23) Thus, humans can find purpose and meaning in life only when they discover and embrace God’s purpose for them.*
How can a modern thinker bridge the apparent chasm between scientific reason and religious belief? What guiding principles might help one to accomplish that?
See Is There a Creator Who Cares About You?, chapter 3, “What Is the Origin of Life?,” published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
For a detailed coverage, see the brochure What Is the Purpose of Life? How Can You Find It?, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Box/Pictures on page 7]
What Some Scientists Say
Some people assume that most scientists avoid issues of spirituality and theology because they are not religious or do not wish to involve themselves in the science-versus-religion debate. That does describe some scientists but by no means all. Note what the following scientists have had to say.
“The universe had a beginning but what scientists can’t explain is why. The answer is God.” “I see the Bible as a book of truth and divinely inspired. There has to be an intelligence behind the complexity of life.”—Ken Tanaka, planetary geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey.
“The gap between the various kinds of knowledge (scientific and religious) is rather artificial. . . . Knowledge about the Creator and knowledge about creation are closely related.”—Enrique Hernández, researcher and professor at the Department of Physics and Theoretical Chemistry, National Autonomous University of Mexico.
“As we develop all this information [about the human genome], it will reveal the complexity, the interdependence of all this material. It will point to the origin as the result of an intelligent creator, an intelligent agent.”—Duane T. Gish, biochemist.
“There is no incompatibility between science and religion. Both are seeking the same truth. Science shows that God exists.”—D.H.R. Barton, professor of chemistry, Texas.
NASA/U.S. Geological Survey
NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
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Can scientific investigation answer why we are here?
Courtesy Arecibo Observatory/David Parker/Science Photo Library
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Stars on pages 2, 3, 5, and top of page 7: National Optical Astronomy Observatories