23.  Rediscovering God
in the Age of Science

As a recap:  what were the steps up to the present situation in which religious Truth has been chased out of our modern culture as being just so much superstition?
  • Let us remember that over 300 years ago the new science that people like Descartes, Newton and Locke were putting together began to put a huge gap between its new world of secular Truth and the older world of Christian Truth.
    • The new science claimed that the only real Truth was in the world of "facts," ones that could be clearly shown through careful experiments upon the operation of the visible or empirical world around us.
    • The new science claimed that all other truths, and in particular the truths of "revealed" religion, had no such strong basis in fact and therefore could not be considered as real Truth.
  • Let us remember that in the 1800s scientists were even beginning to show how God was not only unnecessary to our understanding of Truth (Laplace and Darwin) but that to continue to insist on the reality of religious or revealed Truth was to engage in dangerous foolishness (Marx).
  • Let us remember that by the early 1900s "sophisticated" people had concluded that to take religious Truths too seriously was merely to demonstrate how gullible we could be.  Freud called such people neurotic or "delusional."
  • Even 1600 Presbyterian pastors agreed that a mature person had to get past all the religious superstition, including a too-close reading of Scripture.  We needed to de-mythologize Christianity to put it on a firm "factual" basis.
  • Let us remember that the law courts of America also chased Christianity from public places--now reserved only for "real Truth" (meaning, the new religion of empirical science or "secularism")--and banished the practice of Christianity (or any of the older religions) to the religious ghettos of the dying churches and synagogues.
  • In Europe this event didn't even need the cooperation of the courts.  Christianity simply died a death of being ignored by the world-bound culture around it.

How did relativity theory begun to “break the box” of scientific "realism"?
  • Even as modern secular science was establishing its grip over the Western mind and culture, Albert Einstein was laying the foundations of a new vision of "Truth" that would work to undermine secularism.  In 1905 he published the results of several experiments that challenged some of the key principles of "empiricism."
  • Most notable of these challenges was to the empirical notion that Reality exists out there, on its own, pretty much as human eyes behold it--as "fixed fact."
    • Ever since the time of Descartes, Newton and Locke we had assumed that the fundamental material of all reality was tiny bits of hard particles called atoms.  Atoms were the physical building blocks of all reality.  Everything was made up of a combination of these hard particles--at the most basic level atoms forming into "elements" and these elements into compound molecules and these molecules into the building material of all life.
    • Einstein however took a quite different view of reality.  His view was that these "hard particles" of atoms (which in fact no one had ever seen but only guessed that they were there!) were indeed only points of convergence (coming together) of forces of energy.  He proved his point by being able to show mathematically that Energy (E)--which acts more like a wave than a particle in space--was the same as matter or mass (m) to the ratio of the speed of light (c) squared: E=mc2!!
    • We know that this theory was used to break down very unstable matter (such as plutonium) into its enormous energy equivalent--as an atomic bomb!  We know that this led us to understand how the Sun can "burn" energy at huge rates and still stay pretty much the same size (it will eventually in hundreds of millions of years however finally burn out).
  • In something he called the Relativity Theory, Einstein was also able to show that "reality out there" shifts and stretches as the universe of energy moves about in relationship to us (or we move in relationship to it.)  There is nothing "fixed" about the size and movement of the fields of energy that make up the universe.  Depending on our location and speed in time and space, the "reality" of the energy fields around us will take on different qualities--especially as our movement begins to approach the speed of light (which Einstein thought was the outer limit of all "reality.")
  • We may not understand exactly what this means or how this all looks.  But we can understand the idea that nothing can be said about True about anything, except in terms of how it relates directly to us.  That is what Einstein meant by "relativity" theory:  he meant a theory in which Truth and Reality depends of how things relate to us.  Apart from such relationship we can say nothing certain about things.   And these "certainties" will differ from observer to observer, depending on where he or she is and in which direction and at what speed they are moving in relationship to the thing they are trying to observe (a star, a galaxy--even an atomic "particle")
  • All in all, Einstein challenged forever the notion that reality is made up of hard bits of matter that exist on their own "out there" in the universe.  "Hard reality" may be only fields of energy which our senses convert for us into the form of visible "matter."   The implication of Einstein's discovery is that Newton's empirical reality may be the true "illusion"--existing in our minds only as our minds reconstruct energy into what we recognize as "matter"--and only as it appears in relation to us as we focus our thoughts on it.

How did quantum theory further shake loose the hold of the empirical mindset on modern science?
  • In a way Albert Einstein started off the quantum revolution with his Relativity Theory.  And at about the same time Max Planck also made huge contributions to the development of quantum theory by demonstrating that energy gave off its power not in a steady stream, but in random or somewhat unpredictable "jumps" of tiny energy packets he called quanta.  Both men undermined the idea that reality is fixed and absolute in its existence.
  • Other men such as Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger carried the work of quantum physics forward--pointing to the impossibility of describing reality in absolute terms.  Reality had a way of "performing" in accordance to the expectations of an observer either as a wave or a particle--or actually both.  It was impossible to get more than a fuzzy "fix" on reality because you could not study both the position of an atomic particle and its relative direction and speed at the same time.  Furthermore your own observations itself influenced any experiment in such a way that could never be eliminated.  Finally, nothing could be said to be absolutely true about anything until the actual act of observation took place.  And there is no way of speculating backward before the event to say what might have been true even a split second before the observation occurred.  In other words, it was wrong to make logical jumps from what is seen under observation to what reality might be without such observation.  The very act of observation itself was a necessary part of "collapsing" the potential of reality into its actual observed condition.
  • How could this be?  How could reality not just "exist" in and of itself?  Why did reality have to await the act of actual observation in order for reality to "be"?  Einstein and Bohr argued this point endlessly.
  • Furthermore, later physicists noticed that atomic phenomena seemed to act in such a way during an experiment that made it seem that they seemed to "know" whether you expected them to behave as a particle or as a wave.  Now physicists were saying that even "dead matter" was acting as if it were very much "alive" and interactive with our own consciousness, even subconsciousness.   Indeed, it could be said that all of reality is very much alive--filled with the power of life from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the largest supergalaxy.  But how could this be?  It defied completely our Newtonian vision of the concrete, "dead-matter" world "out there."  Somehow all of reality is related to the phenomenon of alive consciousness--in relationship with the larger environment of equally alive consciousness.  The whole universe is alive with consciousness.
  • Another quantum physics experiment shook up the world of advanced physics even more.  It was found that two paired atomic particles (one charged positively and its mate charged negatively) if separated at some distance still kept their electronic relationship.  Thus if the polarity of one of the atomic particles was reversed--the other partner would also reverse itself automatically so as to preserve the positive-negative balance.  This was exactly what you would expect.  But the fact that they performed their polar reversals exactly simultaneously was puzzling.  They seemed to be able to communicate to each other--without even the speed of light being a limiting speed at which they communicated.  They communicated to each other totally simultaneously.  Now how could they do that?  Every telecommunication we know about can go no faster than the speed of light.  There is always a second or two delay in the conversation between a space vehicle and the ground control--a delay that works at exactly the speed of light.  So--how could atomic particles escape that limit that Einstein was positive was the absolute limit to the universe--in every respect.  Atomic particles, in their signaling their polar action to each other, operate in such a way that they show no such limitation.  How could this be?
How has the “big bang” theory reopened among scientists the debate on God?
  • In the 1930s scientists who studied the stars discovered "red shift" in the light of stars reaching earth, indicating that the stars (all of the stars) were moving away from our point of observation here on earth.  This movement was away from earth in every direction.  It was as if we were a dot on a balloon and every other point on the surface of the balloon was stretching away from us--as the balloon was being blown up.  There could be only one conclusion:  the universe was in a state of expansion.
  • Furthermore, an analysis of the rate of expansion suggested another thought.  If we reverse the speed and direction of expansion we can begin to think backward to the time when the expansion first began.  By calculating the speed of expansion in the opposite direction it appeared that everything converges back on a starting point some 10 to 20 billion years ago (14 billion years is getting to be a point of consensus for many physicists).
  • Physicists such as the Belgian priest Georges Lemaître even suggested as early as 1927 that the whole process of starting up the universe began as a cosmic explosion, a "big bang."  At first his theories were ignored (except by Einstein who took a great interest in Lemaître's work).  But gradually the scientific community began to come around to Lemaître's thinking--where by the 1960s it was becoming more and more the conventional wisdom of the scientific community--especially after the discovery in outer space of trace elements of the primal explosion.
  • But how could a cosmic explosion produce by sheer accident the perfect symmetry of the universe?  If it were one trillionth greater in intensity it would have consumed all the "matter" making up the universe.  If it were one trillionth lesser in intensity, the explosion would have quickly reached its greatest extent and gravity would have pulled it all back in upon itself.
  • Some suggested that there may have been billions of such explosions and that our universe is simply statistically the one in a billion to have succeeded.  But actually the probability of that is even less than one in a billion.  As one physicist put it, the odds of the universe exploding at exactly the right intensity to produce the hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, etc. molecules that make up our universe is in the same order as standing on one side of the universe and shooting across it to hit a target on the other side of the universe the size of a quarter!  Not a very likely accident!
  • This raised the matter of arguing "by design" in favor of the existence of a very meticulous God.  Now the "argument by design" is a very tricky argument that often fails.  But the evidence of very purposeful design in the creation of our universe is too strong to ignore.
  • But as physicists protest:  this is the business of theologians, not physicists, to work out.  Unfortunately very few theologians are really up on advanced physics--and thus the issue remains largely unanswered.  But we are headed toward a time when "believers" will want to investigate this matter more fully.
  • All of this certainly seems to want to put to an end the hypothesis of Charles Darwin that our world came forth simply by accident--something that "popular" science has fully accepted and has been teaching in our schools and public institutions for most of the last 100 years as a matter of absolute or "religious" Truth.
  • There is one other feature of the "big bang" theory that we need to mention.  Scientists agree that the big bang was not just simply the explosion of huge amounts of matter out into empty space, but the big bang included the creation of the concept of space itself.  In fact it also included the creation of the 4th dimension of time as well.  You cannot talk in terms of where and when things were before the big bang.  These dimensions just simply didn't exist--for both space and time were birthed with the explosive creation of our universe itself.
How has “chaos theory” demonstrated Divine design in creation?
  • Meanwhile in yet even another area of research science has begun to recognize the intricate design of nature, which turns even "accident" into a well-planned system of design.
  • Scientists have always noted that every experiment on the structure of nature includes a very tiny element of unpredictable exception to every rule of structure, something considered as a small "noise" in the experiment--something perhaps related to Newton's second law of thermodynamics that states that there is a small portion of "breakdown" or "waste" in every event in which energy is converted into "work."  This tiny margin of uncooperative "noise" was simply discounted as a statistically tiny, but unavoidable error that typically occurs in every experiment.
  • But some scientists, such as the meteorologist (studies weather patterns) Edward Lorenz, began to look more closely at this tiny element of "statistical error"--and began to notice that this error was in fact the source of a critical dynamic which kept all systems wondrously flexible and responsive to new situations.
  • The Polish mathematician, Benoit B. Mandelbrot, even went further and began to map mathematically the way this error could compound itself mathematically into an incredibly beautiful geometric figure--that even as it shifted and changed preserved the fundamental features of its original design--but in new symmetries and patterns which he called "fractals."
  • With the onset of the computer, these mathematical "errors" could be reformulated into an endless array of change and at an almost infinite level or stage of existence--demonstrating that all things are designed in such a way as to hold to their original design even as they underwent change--and that this design was found at all levels of existence of a structure.
What other branches of science have been adding to this post-Newtonian revolution in modern science?
  • Chaos theory was very much like the discovery (1953:  James Watson and Francis Crick) in biology of DNA: an intricate design of life which emerges from a simple formula of original design--which makes all things unique in their structure--yet also closely related to each other in that same structure.  "Accident"  was certainly a dynamic element of all DNA design--but even there, there seems to be incredible purpose in the way that even accident works out.
  • Another discovery (Rupert Sheldrake) was how new biological information is communicated across or throughout a species in such rapid order that defies Darwin's notion of "accident."  There is something about life that enables it to communicate "thought" almost mystically across time and space.
  • Just like the polarized atomic particle we talked about above, "communication" is key to all life--human or otherwise--and is somehow reflective of the makeup of the entire universe.
  • One of the most recent discoveries in this new area of science has been in the mathematical world of holographics (which we have as evidence on the small pictures on our parents' credit cards--which are not easily duplicated by a forger).  The bizarre feature of a holograph is not only that it seems to give forth a 3-dimensional picture on a flat 2-dimensional space--but that every tiny portion of the holograph is an exact copy of the entire picture (just like the DNA molecule found in all human cells is a small copy of the genetic formulation of the entire creature.)
Overall, what are the "lessons" we can begin to draw from the "new" science or "post-modern" (or "post-Newtonian") science as it is being called?
  • The most obvious is that there is nothing accidental about life itself.  Things do not just "happen" as we have supposed for the past few hundred years.
  • We do not live in a soul-less universe made up of "things" operating according to eternal mechanical laws.  We are beginning to rediscover that all creation is wondrously alive, changing and developing--all in accordance to higher design or plans bigger than the things themselves.  It is as if all life is a great orchestra with each unique instrument making its own contribution to the entire symphony--and all in accordance with the direction of some Great Conductor.
  • All of life stays in harmony because of a wonderful system of communication which flows throughout the entire universe.
  • Humans are unique because they have the ability to disregard the greater harmony by focusing on their own inner wills.  But in doing so they lose much of the power of life.
  • It is important to stay conscious of life's design--a process that requires us to stay very mindful  of the whole structure of created life.  We do so most effectively through prayer and meditation--and through careful study of the wisdom of the ancients who understood these higher or Divine Truths through some mysterious power of revelation which made them "prophets" to the world around them.
  • Behind all this order stands the One who not only originally created everything--but who continues to breathe "life" into all existence by His own thoughtful regard to our universe.  Our God does not slumber or sleep--but remains in a totally "awake" state that keeps the entire universe running.
  • What we do is participate with God in giving creation proper regard, by beholding its glory and giving praise to it and its Creator:  in short by worshiping with the heavens and the earth God Almighty, the Master of all that is and ever will be.  By doing this, we ourselves are drawn forward into an ever greater dimension of being, of heightened existence, of eternal life.
  • Any questions?  Look to Jesus.  He was sent to us to show us exactly how to do all of this!

Continue on to the final section:  In Review
Return to the Table of Contents:  "Our Story" — Material for a Confirmation Class
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Miles H. Hodges