Why Some Scientists Believe in God
SCIENCE is constantly unraveling new secrets about the universe and the life that thrives on our planet. Nonetheless, scientists and laymen alike still face such fundamental questions as these: How did the universe come to be? What existed before that? Why does the universe appear to be expressly designed to support life? How did life arise here on earth?
Science still cannot really answer such questions. Some people doubt that it ever will. Many, then, have felt compelled to rethink their views and beliefs. Let us consider three of the mysteries that are leading some scientists to wonder about the existence of a Creator.
A Fine-Tuned Universe—By Chance?
One major question has to do with the fine-tuning of our cosmos. Why is the universe equipped with fixed physical laws and with natural constants that are precisely and ideally suited to support a planet like ours and all the life on it?
What do we mean by fine-tuning? Consider, for instance, the precise settings of four fundamental physical forces: electromagnetism, gravity, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force.* These forces affect every object in the universe. They are set and balanced so precisely that even slight changes could render the universe lifeless.
To many reasoning minds, the explanation simply has to be something more than mere coincidence. John Polkinghorne, formerly a physicist at Cambridge University, concluded: “When you realize that the laws of nature must be incredibly finely tuned to produce the universe we see, that conspires to plant the idea that the universe did not just happen, but that there must be a purpose behind it.”
Australian physicist Paul Davies made a similar point: “There is no doubt that many scientists are . . . scornful of the notion that there might exist a God, or even an impersonal creative principle.” He added: “Personally I do not share their scorn. . . . I cannot believe that our existence in this universe is a mere quirk of fate, . . . an incidental blip in the great cosmic drama.”
The Challenge of Complexity
A second problem challenging today’s scientists involves the sheer complexity of the world around us. Common sense tells us that the more complex an event, the less likely it is to occur by chance. Consider an example.
There are myriad chemical reactions that need to be precisely staged to form DNA, the building block of life. Three decades ago Dr. Frank Salisbury of Utah State University, U.S.A., calculated the odds of the spontaneous formation of a basic DNA molecule essential for the appearance of life. The calculations revealed the probability to be so tiny that it is considered mathematically impossible.*
Complexity is especially evident when living organisms have complex parts that would be useless without other complex parts. Let us focus on the example of reproduction.
According to evolutionary theories, living things continued to reproduce as they became ever more complex. At some stage, though, the female of a number of species had to develop reproductive cells requiring fertilization by a male with complementary reproductive cells. In order to supply the proper number of chromosomes to the offspring, each parent’s reproductive cells undergo a remarkable process called meiosis, whereby cells from each parent are left with half the usual number of chromosomes. This process prevents the offspring from having too many chromosomes.
Of course, the same process would have been needed for other species. How, then, did the “first mother” of each species become capable of reproducing with a fully developed “first father”? How could both of them have suddenly been able to halve the number of chromosomes in their reproductive cells in the manner needed to produce a healthy offspring with some characteristics of both parents? And if these reproductive features developed gradually, how would the male and female of each species have survived while such vital features were still only partially formed?
In even a single species, the odds against this reproductive interdependence coming about by chance are beyond measuring. The chance that it arose in one species after another defies reasonable explanation. Can a theoretical process of evolution explain such complexity? How could accidental, random, purposeless events result in such intricately interrelated systems? Living things are full of characteristics that show evidence of foresight and planning—pointing to an intelligent Planner.
Many scholars have come to such a conclusion. For example, mathematician William A. Dembski wrote that the “intelligent design” evident in “observable features of the natural world . . . can be adequately explained only by recourse to intelligent causes.” Molecular biochemist Michael Behe sums up the evidence this way: “You can be a good Catholic and believe in Darwinism. Biochemistry has made it increasingly difficult, however, to be a thoughtful scientist and believe in it.”
A Spotty Fossil Record
A third mystery that has puzzled some scientists is related to the fossil record. If evolution proceeded over aeons of time, we should expect to find a host of intermediate organisms, or links, between the major types of living things. However, the countless fossils unearthed since Darwin’s time have proved disappointing in that respect. The missing links are just that—missing!
A number of scientists have therefore concluded that the evidence for evolution is too weak and contradictory to prove that life evolved. Aerospace engineer Luther D. Sutherland wrote in his book Darwin’s Enigma: “The scientific evidence shows that whenever any basically different type of life first appeared on Earth, all the way from single-celled protozoa to man, it was complete and its organs and structures were complete and fully functional. The inescapable deduction to be drawn from this fact is that there was some sort of pre-existing intelligence before life first appeared on Earth.”
On the other hand, the fossil record closely matches the general order of the appearance of living forms found in the Bible book of Genesis. Donald E. Chittick, a physical chemist who earned a doctorate degree at Oregon State University, comments: “A direct look at the fossil record would lead one to conclude that animals reproduced after their kind as Genesis states. They did not change from one kind into another. The evidence now, as in Darwin’s day, is in agreement with the Genesis record of direct creation. Animals and plants continue to reproduce after their kind. In fact, the conflict between paleontology (study of fossils) and Darwinism is so strong that some scientists are beginning to believe that the in-between forms will never be found.”
Facing the Evidence
The foregoing represents just the tip of an iceberg of unanswered questions that puzzle those who dismiss the evidence of a Creator. Some scientists realize that the rejection of God is a path paved, not by hard evidence and careful logic, but by hopeful assumptions and conjectures.
Thus, after a lifetime of fruitful scientific research and work, astronomer Allan Sandage said: “It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It is only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.”
For more details, see chapter 2 of the book Is There a Creator Who Cares About You? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
He assumed that this molecule had the opportunity to develop by natural chemical reactions on 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1020) “hospitable” planets over a period of four billion years. What are the chances that a single DNA molecule formed? By his estimate, one in 10415!
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Questions that puzzle scientists
▪ Why is there an amazing degree of fine-tuning in the four fundamental physical forces, making possible the existence of the universe and of life?
▪ How can the extreme and often irreducible complexity of living organisms be explained?
▪ Why is the fossil record sketchy, and where is evidence of intermediate organisms, or links, between the major types of living things?
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By pure chance?
When National Geographic recently printed an appealing cover capturing the loving bond between mother and child, a reader wrote to the magazine: “The mother-and-child picture on the cover is a masterpiece. How anyone can look at that darling child that only nine months before was a pinhead-size egg and think this magical development was only a blind accident of chance is beyond me.”
Many would agree. Author and former professor of nuclear physics Dr. Gerald Schroeder compares the likelihood of mere chance being the cause behind the universe and life to the odds of winning the lottery three times in a row: “Before you collect your third winnings, you will be on your way to jail for having rigged the results. The probability of winning three in a row, or three in a lifetime, is so small as to be negligible.”
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If these four forces were not precisely tuned and balanced, no life would be possible
The weak nuclear force keeps our sun burning at a steady rate
Gravity is responsible for keeping objects on the earth
The strong nuclear force binds the nucleus of atoms together
Electromagnetism is the force behind lightning
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How could random forces produce something as complex as a single cell with its DNA, let alone a human?
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The fossil record has failed to prove that life evolved