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Science and the “God Question”

• Greg Boyd

This weekend we continued our sermon series, “A Priest and a Physicist Walk Into a Bar…” in which we explore how the science of our universe might point to an intelligence beyond itself.

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We begin today with a video acknowledging that a “leap of faith” without any reason or evidence behind it is an insufficient foundation for believing in God. Just because someone cannot prove that there isn’t a God doesn’t prove that there is. Using this same logic we could “leap” to the conclusion that there is a floating all-powerful tea-pot or a flying spaghetti monster.

Portrayed in this video is the common assumption that faith is just something one chooses without reason or evidence. This creates the impression that faith is about wishes, hopes, and feelings, while science is about reality. It is this characterization of faith that must be rejected and combated. Faith should always go beyond the evidence, but it should never go against the evidence. God created us with brains to reason with evidence and facts, and all truth is ultimately God’s truth.

Psalm 19:1-4 (ESV)

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,

 As Greg explains, nature is telling us something of God. Take the Big Bang Theory for example. The theory is that if you go back about 13.7 billion years ago, all the matter of the universe was packed into a super condensed speck which then exploded. The reason this theory is believed is the discovery that the universe (space itself) is expanding. Though some Christians have sought to discredit or reject this theory out of fear that it explains the origin of universe without God, it is actually the opposite that is true. What this theory suggests is that the universe had a beginning. This idea was actually resisted by scientists because it means that the universe itself is not eternal. If the universe has a beginning, then that means the universe is not self-explanatory. The logic follows: You can’t get something from nothing. So if there is something, then there must always have been something. Therefore, something must be eternal.

Getting into the history about how the Big Bang Theory came about, Greg explains, when Vesto M. Slipher noticed a Doppler effect, he suspected that our galaxy was moving away from other galaxies. This was the first evidence that the universe was expanding. Later, Einstein then put forth his theory of relativity. Willem de Sitter noticed that Einstein’s theory only worked if the universe was expanding. Einstein himself hated this idea. Einstein was hoping that the universe was a steady state. One hope was that the Big Bang would be followed by a Big Crunch as the universe collapsed back in on itself and then exploded again. This would salvage the universe being self-contained. Later, Edward Hubble using improved telescopes discovered that the farther out we look, the faster the expansion. This, along with the second law of thermodynamics, ruined the Big Crunch model. Lastly, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered background radiation exactly of the same pattern that the Big Bang Theory predicts would be there. This was the final straw that caused everyone to concede that the universe had a beginning. It is then fair to postulate that the universe began roughly 13.7 billion years ago and after the second law of thermodynamics has its way, in roughly 20-25 billion years, all energy in the universe will dissipate and everything will become a cold wasteland. Between these two eternal nothingnesses the universe played a sick joke and evolved humans who actually thought that something mattered.

Greg explains how this explanation alone seems extremely intellectually unsatisfying.

“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.”
― Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers

Science assumes that there is a natural explanation for every natural effect, but when it comes to the origin of the universe this assumption is betrayed. The Big Bang is begging for an explanation, but this explanation would have to be something eternal that transcends the universe itself. Science can’t go there, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t go there. There is no reason to believe that the only things that are real are that which conform to the scientific methodology. If reason points beyond what science can give us, it is rational to say that there is something beyond what science can give us.

 The second aspect of the universe that points to there being a God is how finely tuned the universe is to produce solid matter. There are roughly 47 cosmic constants and if any of their ratios were off by a very small degree, the universe would be a jumbled scrambled mess almost like a television with no reception. Science can’t explain why the universe produced the exact perfect ratios of these constants. It all would be by chance. The problem is the probability that these ratios would be as finely tuned as they are by chance is 1/10^154. The more unlikely an occurrence is to occur by chance, the more appealing to intelligence makes sense. Being that the chance of 47 of these cosmic constants are in perfect ratio with each other is virtually infinitely unlikely, appealing to intelligence as the cause for this fine tuning is rational. Existence itself is a miracle!

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Topics: Defense of Christian Faith

Sermon Series: A Priest and a Physicist Walk Into a Bar…


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Video File
Study guide (opens new window)
Slides
Philosophy Video used in Sermon (6:40-8:10)


Focus Scripture:

  • Psalm 19:1-4

    The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
    Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
    There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
    Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
    In them he has set a tent for the sun,

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3 thoughts on “Science and the “God Question”

    Mike says: Tuesday February 5, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    So, just for the sake of argument, let’s say it happened randomly, and instead of all the magnetic fields being like they are, everything ended up differently when the big bang went off. However it is totally possible that life could have been supported somewhere in the universe, although it probably wouldn’t have been life as we know it. Maybe it would have been beings made of metal, that required nitrogen to live, rather than oxygen, or beings that were made of (fill in the blank) and breathed (fill in the blank). Whatever life could have existed in the conditions of that particular outcome of the big bang. And these beings would be saying, “What’s the chances of everything happening exactly the way it had to in order for us to exist?”

    Reply
    Jerry says: Wednesday February 6, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    Greg’s sermon Science and the “God Question” really tripped my trigger.

    The magnets and the correlation to all the cosmological constants was great stuff.

    Biblical Claims for a Transcendent Cosmic Beginning

    All today’s scientists were upstaged at least 2,500 years earlier by Job, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other Bible authors. The Bible’s prophets and apostles stated explicitly and repeatedly the two most fundamental properties of the big bang, a transcendent cosmic beginning a finite time period ago and a universe undergoing a general, continual expansion. In Isaiah 42:5 both properties were declared: “This is what the Lord says—He who created the heavens and stretched them out.”

    The Hebrew verb translated “created” in Isaiah 42:5 is bara’ which has as its primary definition “bringing into existence something new, something that did not exist before.” The proclamation that God created (bara’) the entirety of the heavens is stated seven times in the Old Testament (Genesis 1:1, 2:3, 2:4; Psalm 148:5; Isaiah 40:26, 42:5, 45:18). This principle of transcendent creation is made more explicit by passages like Hebrews 11:3 which states that the universe that we humans can measure and detect was made from that which we cannot measure or detect. Also, Isaiah 45:5– 22, John 1:3 and Colossians 1:15–17 stipulate that God alone is the agent for the universe’s existence. Biblical claims that God predated the universe and was actively involved in causing certain effects before the existence of the universe is not only found in Colossians 1 but also in Proverbs 8:22–31, John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2, and 1 Peter 1:20.

    If it was any smaller or larger or younger or older or brighter or darker or humans arrived any sooner or any later or observers were located where most stars and planets reside the view to the out most reaches would be blocked, we’d be blind to the realm we live in and more importantly no one would even be around to see it. But because of all these factors are exactly perfect we can view, in principle, 99.9 % of cosmic history. The velocity of light serves like a time machine like leafing through a detailed photo album of a middle-aged person whose life is documented from the time they were formed in the mother’s womb until the latest photo was taken.

    Our Sun the closest star has been orbiting for about five billion years. Light travels at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, or 670 million miles per hour. A beam of light can travel from New York to Los Angeles in 0.016 seconds. It can pass around Earth at the equator in 0.133 seconds. The moon is 239,000 miles away, yet a light beam can get there in only 1.29 seconds and go beyond to the sun (93 million miles away) in just eight minutes. But the light that reaches our eyes from the next closet star, Proxima Centauri, traveling at 186,000 miles per second will have left there 4.35 years ago.

    How many stars are in the known universe? If each star was a grain of sand and railroad hopper cars were filled with these grains, passing by at the rate of one per second, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It would take three years for all the sand-filled cars to pass by.

    The observable universe has 200 billion galaxies, 50 billion trillion stars. The average star is 1 million miles across. The average distance between stars is 40 trillion miles. The totality of stars seen, unseen and burned out is less than 1% of universe total mass. 95% of the universe we can’t see.

    String and Multiverse Theory is science materialist’s last stand against God.

    To avoid a creator God emerging in a new guise, most leading cosmologists prefer to believe that our universe is one of a vast, and perhaps infinite, number of parallel universes, all with different laws and constants, as M-theory also suggests. We just happen to exist in the one that has the right conditions for us. This multiversity theory is the ultimate violation of Ockham’s Razor, the philosophical principle that “entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity,” or in other words that we should make as few assumptions as possible. It also has the major disadvantage of being untreatable. And it does not even succeed in getting rid of God. An infinite God could be the God of an infinite number of universes.

    The multi-verse theory posits there is a universe exactly identical to the one we are in another, slightly different, where I’m typing (thee) instead of (the) in this sentence. Physicists have calculated all the particles in the universe with all their states and came to the number of universes being the sum of all possible states. The current largest number was not big enough, 103003 Millinillion, so they invented a new number, a googolplex defined as a 1 followed by writing zeroes until you get tired, but is now commonly accepted to be 10googol = 10(10100).

    I’ve created a PDF offering hope that Science and Christianity are in agreement to give to a friend or loved one that just doesn’t believe any more.

    I sent a copy to Greg and he took a quick peek and, from what he read, gave it thumbs up!

    So I’m putting it out on Scribed, here’s the link:

    https://www.scribd.com/document/398899882/The-Bible-a-double-telling-ours-and-Gods-of-the-same-story.pdf

    Reply
    Nancy says: Saturday February 16, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    Loved the podcast. I also love the Hebrews summary in 11:3: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible [“visible” being the operative word, as in a small speck of dust enveloped in darkness]. “Big Bang!” is written in the margin of my Bible.

    Reply

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