Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Science and Religion 2

It may help to have read the previous post.

“What was God’s role in the process?” was the question which ended the last post on science and religion. As I understand scientific theory, nature suffers the uncertainty of random events. The Big Bang, if one accepts it, was a random event from a vacuum which began not just the cosmos but time itself. On that point alone – there was a time before which there was no time – I am able to challenge my reluctant 15 yr old religious studies students that some scientific ideas sound no easier than some religious ones.

Religious scientists are asking how a random fluctuation of natural laws could create the exact environment for human life. The “God question” gets moved to a deeper place. Are the arbitrary parameters of science there by design, then? Why do the constants have the value they do? Why is the universe the way it is?

Is it that only such a finely tuned universe can sustain the sophisticated life forms it does or is it that life has adapted to fit the scientific laws that govern the universe? Is there a role for God regardless?

We have to speculate then that there could be other universes with other constants and values. Could there be a multiverse containing every possible universe with our quantum mechanics unique to this one? Would God have to take little green flesh elsewhere, or is the atonement here literally a once and for all event? There would have to be trillions of such universes unless we are back to the instinctive idea of a finely tuned universe here by design, which would mean that the constants were fixed, or allowed to develop to this point by God for a purpose.

“A divine agent is a more fitting unexplained starting point for a world which includes people and moral values than brute matter” (John Polkinghorne)

Science is supposed to give reasons and rational answers, but the atheist is forced to argue that the laws of science are reasonless and exist for no purpose. Are they sufficient in themselves or do they point beyond themselves?

Georges Lemaitre was both a Catholic priest and a leading cosmologist of his day. He once said: “There were two ways of arriving at the truth. I decided to follow them both.” He said that assuming the Bible tried to teach science was “a good deal like assuming that there must be authentic religious dogma in binomial theorem.” He is credited with stopping Pope Pius X11 proclaiming against cosmology. Galileo had also had to come to terms with his deep religious faith and his belief in science. “The Bible teaches men how to go to Heaven, not how the Heavens go.”

Although the overwhelming majority of experts endorse the Big Bang theory, this does not mean that the theory is complete. Cosmologists at the start of the twenty first century continue to explore difficult issues such as the existence of dark matter and dark energy but some scientists are now saying that the universe is best defined by our presence in it, so we do not have a complete scientific answer to why we exist. However, science has put us back to where religion always said we were: at the centre of the universe.