I Thought Science Was Going to Replace God. I Was Wrong.
I don’t know where it came from. I’m sure I didn’t get it from my home, and I don’t remember it being taught at school. It’s almost as if I absorbed it from the atmosphere somehow. The mantra I’d internalized went like this:
‘Religion is the empty, ignorant past. Science has answered most of the questions we thought we needed God for, it’s learning more every day, and the day is coming when educated people will know we won’t need any of that old superstition anymore at all.
That’s the rumor. It’s not reality, for multiple reasons. One in particular has atheists scrambling, coming up with outrageous, unscientific answers, explanations that aren’t just out of this world, they’re out of this universe.
Life Isn’t That Easy
It’s called the fine-tuning of the universe for life. Physicists, cosmologists, and astronomers have found that the universe depends on several very, very exact physical constants and conditions to be able to support any life, much less the varied, abundant life on our earth. As far as science knows these parameters could have had any value at all. But they’ve all come out perfect for life to exist.
How perfect? I’ll illustrate with just one of them, the strength of gravity. Gravity’s strength isn’t just important for weightlifters working out at the gym, or dieters counting calories at the diner. It’s crucial for creating a place like earth. It starts with stars, actually: We couldn’t have our earth without the stars, for they were the factory that formed the stuff our planet and is made of, and everything on it, including you and me.
Like any factory, this one had specifications to meet. The stars had to be the right size and the right distance from each other to make these elements. That’s where g, the exact physical strength of gravity, comes in. Just slightly weaker, and it wouldn’t have pulled the early universe’s material together to make the stars. Just a bit stronger, and everything would have collapsed into one unimaginably massive black hole.
Gravity and the Blindfold Game of Darts
So gravity needs to be a certain strength. How much wiggle room does it have? Let’s compare it to a dart game. A standard dartboard is 18 inches across, and its center bullseye is one-half inch in diameter, making it about 1/1300th of the whole dartboard.
Now, is that 1 in 1,300 a good estimate for gravity’s wiggle room? If so, I’d call it impressive, especially if the other constants and values were that fine-tuned. Jay Richards lists 22 of them. If they’re all independent, and if they all come in at that same bullseye tolerance, their combined odds would be about 3 in 10 to the 68th power. That’s a very, very large number, approaching the number of atoms in our entire universe.
But it’s nowhere near the right number. For that we’d need to stretch out our dartboard, or better yet, make it the broad side of a barn. Instead of circle we might paint vertical stripes about an inch wide, and we’d make one stripe the one that scores big, like the bullseye on a real dartboard.
If you’re good you might hit it – except now the rules say you have to do it blindfolded. Remember, we’re talking about how the universe might have hit its “bullseye” without a God guiding it, and without God, nature couldn’t have had eyes to see life in the future.
The Dartboard the Size of the Universe
That makes it a lot tougher, right? We’re not there yet, though. The barn is too small. Way too small. Our barn example doesn’t match the true tolerance for gravity unless it’s as wide as the entire universe. Now you’ve got to hit the right one-inch stripe, blindfolded, on a barn that’s billions of light-years wide.
It’s just a word picture, but it gives you a good idea of just how exactly nature hit the bullseye with the strength of gravity. (The actual value is about 1 in 10 to the 34th power.) If it had missed by the equivalent of one inch out of the entire size of the universe, we wouldn’t be here. Nothing would be here, nothing but vast and complete emptiness, or else a complete crunch. Other physical tolerances are even tighter than that.
And that’s just the beginning of the problem. There are many of these fine-tuned parameters. Scientists have no idea how they got that way, and even if they found some principle to explain it, there’s good reason to think that explanation would have to be just as precisely tuned!
“Science” Returns to Superstition
So how do they explain it? Luck. Luck, plus an infinite number of universes. They call it the multiverse. If enough universes exist out there, all of them with different constants and values to experiment with, as it were, some of them were bound to come up with what it takes to support life somewhere. So here we are, in one of the lucky ones.
But let’s back up to where we started from. I used to think science was explaining the world so well, it was going to replace superstition and faith. But science depends on finding the simplest, testable answer that explains all the data. The multiverse blows that to pieces. An infinite (or virtually so) number of universes, completely undetectable now, and most likely forever. That’s not science, it’s a leap of faith.
Why would they even entertain such superstition? British cosmologist Bernard Carr put it nicely: “If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.” I can at least appreciate his honesty. There’s really just one reason the multiverse exists in the minds of some scientists. It’s because they know the only other alternative is God, and they don’t want that. At that point we could almost say science had returned to superstition, but we’d have to put “science” in quotes. That’s not science, it’s some naturalistic scientists’ religious preferences!
The Common Sense Explanation: God
Be assured, not everyone resorts to that desperate stab at a bad explanation. The legendary astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle saw the data and concluded, “A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.” The issue starts with incredibly technical science, but in the end, when it comes to interpreting what it means, it’s common sense to the rescue. I appreciate that.
And I appreciate, too, the word picture painted by Robert Jastrow, former director of the famed Hubble Observatory, at the end of his book God and the Astronomers. It’s quoted in the image above:
For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.
A band of theologians, I might add, who know that the power of reason, along with God’s revelation, is what got them there. Science has lots of answers, and we can thank God for that. Let’s just remember it’s God we’re thanking. Science wouldn’t be here without Him, because we wouldn’t be here without Him.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.