Study Guide: Science and the “God Question”

Sunday February 3, 2019 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

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.

Extended Summary:

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!

Reflection Questions: