A Note on God and Science
To many, God and science are like oil and water. They just don’t mix. To many atheist or agnostic scientists, religion has nothing to offer to the explanation of cosmology. They see religious information as mere stories and myths. The answers, they believe, lie in science. I believe they both have their place.
If you drew a big circle on a whiteboard, you could label it “truth” and it would contain all truth, all knowledge. You could then draw a smaller circle inside it and label it “knowable truth.” That is, truth that can be discovered by human effort. How big this circle would be in relation to the larger circle is unknowable. The “truth” circle is known by God. The “knowable truth” circle contains all those things God has made available to man to know. That is where science comes in. Science is a tool to explore the “knowable truth” circle. Its use is limited to that circle. What lies beyond that circle is supernatural to us and by definition outside the purview of science. A strict scientist cannot consider anything supernatural.
It’s like a blind man who discovers the world through touch, taste, and sound. He can feel things, smell them, and taste them. If presented an elephant he would run his hands over it’s skin and feel the size and texture. As he continued to explore, he would discover legs, a trunk, ears, etc. His nose would also pickup the scent of the elephant. He could in this manner learn much about the elephant but without vision he could never know its color and what that elephant “looked” like in his mind, may not be a truly accurate representation of the elephant. He would need sight, in addition to his other senses, to truly know the elephant. Now imagine a world where everyone was born blind. Everything they learned came through the use of those non-visual senses. Overtime they might consider their way of exploration as science and come to believe that over time they could discover all there is to know this way. To someone who had sight, we would recognize that while their methods could indeed teach them much, they could not know everything. If suddenly given sight, they would realize they had only known part of the truth.
God has revealed some “unknowable” things to us through revelation in the Bible. These are things we could never have discovered on our own. When science tries to discover the origins of the universe, it runs into the limit of the knowable. In trying to discover the ultimate origin of the universe, they keep hitting their heads into a brick wall. They are looking for answers they will never find. Their theories are increasingly strained and still leave an unanswerable question. Namely, how did our universe come from nothing? Some have tried to dodge this question by saying time did not exist until the universe came into being thus there is no “before.” Therefore, they reason, it is pointless to consider anything “before” they universe existed. They think this eliminates the search for an answer to where did the universe come from.
No matter how you slice it, in the end, something had to be self-existent and outside of time and space. I believe that something is God. In saying that, I don’t mean “god” as in a higher power or an undefined force. I mean the God of the Bible. The God who revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. The God who transcends both time and space and that which lies outside of it. Science might postulate that matter was somehow self-existent and possessed inherent properties that we call the laws of physics. I think if scientists could look outside our circle, they would find God looking back. Fortunately, we don’t have to see outside the circle to know God. He occupies all of both circles and has made Himself known to us.
Quantum Physics and God
Although Quantum Physics has been around for over 100 years, it still feels like the “new thing” in physics. If you’re not familiar with the term, it is a branch of physics that describes the world of sub-atomic particles. The great British physicist, John Newton, was the father of what became known as Newtonian Physics. Also called Classic Mechanics, it is the world of macroscopic objects. This is the world and universe that we can see. Planets, stars, giant gas clouds and so on. It is the world of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Special Relativity. Quantum Physics, aka Quantum Mechanics, is the world of objects too small for the unaided human eye to see. It turns out physics in this unseen world works differently than in the macroscopic world. While the world of Newtonian Physics is orderly and predictable, the world of Quantum Physics is unpredictable and illogical.
One outcome of Quantum Physics is the concept of nothing. Imagine an airtight box we suck all the air out of creating a perfect vacuum. What’s then inside the box? Our usual answer would be to say there is nothing inside the box. There is no thing(s) inside the box. It is empty. This is how we classically viewed the vacuum of space. What lies between the earth and the moon? Empty space full of nothing although it’s nonsensical to say something is full of nothing. If I say after a meal, I am full I certainly don’t mean I ate nothing. No, I am full because I ate a lot and filled my stomach. We say the space between the earth and the moon is full of nothing because that space has the property of distance. The moon is 250,000 miles from the earth, so to get there you have to pass through 250,000 miles of a vacuum. If there was nothing there then why would the moon not be right next to the earth? Afterall, there is nothing between us.
Actually, quantum mechanics tells us that the nothing of space has pairs of matter and anti-matter appear and disappearing all the time. Each pair contains an identical amount of matter and anti-matter and within a very small amount of time they collide and cancel each other out. They disappear. Their energy is returned to the nothing. This is happening continuously. So, while the vacuum of space would appear to contain nothing it actually contains something. Just something too small and too short-lived to see.
If I sent you to an empty room in my house and when you returned asked you what was in the room you would say “nothing, it was empty.” Now we both know there was not nothing in the room. How then did you breathe? Ah, there was air in the room. How did you see that the room was empty? Ah, there were particles of light. Even if the room was pitch dark with no light, the air would still be there and your feet would be kicking up unseen dust. We say there was nothing there because there was nothing we could see. The vacuum of space is like that. It appears to contain nothing yet it contains light, and radiation from the sun. What if you could travel to some far location in the universe that had no stars close enough to it that their light had reached that location? It would be pitch dark. No light. A cold, dark vacuum. Even then there is something there. Those pesky particles of matter and anti-matter keep coming and going. That nothing is teeming with activity.
According to quantum physics, every few billion pairs of matter and antimatter would suddenly produce a singleton particle of matter with no antimatter twin. Lacking its antimatter counterpart, that singleton would remain. Over time those singletons would together form amounts of matter from which the things of the universe could be created. Thus, something was created from nothing. Of course, not really from “no thing.” It was those unpaired particles of matter.
Some atheist physicists like the late Stephen Hawking, saw this as an explanation of the creation of the universe “out of nothing.” To him this implied that no “god” was needed. Biblical theology says God created the universe ex nihlo, Latin for “out of nothing.” Yet the Bible and quantum physics are not saying the same thing. The Bible’s nothing is truly “not a thing” whereas quantum physics nothing contains matter and antimatter and an accumulating amount of singleton particles of matter. This begs the question of where did those particles of matter and antimatter come from? How did they get created “out of nothing.” Where does their energy go when destroyed? How is it that occasional singleton particles of matter show up? The answer to the Christian is obvious. “In the beginning, God created…” (Genesis 1:1). What does beginning refer to? It refers to the start of time. Einstein taught us that time requires space. Without space there is no time. Before there was something there was no concept of time. Time did not exist. When God created “in the beginning”, the cosmic clock began ticking. The Bible tells us that to the God, “yesterday, today, and tomorrow” are all the same. In other words, God lives in the eternal now which is another way of saying God’s existence is not bound to a space-time continuum. God is omnipresent and thus is everywhere all at once which includes our universe yet God’s existence does not depend on the universe. God exists independent of the universe. Since God’s existence is not dependent on space, God is not subject to time. To God it is always now. When the Bible uses time-based language, it is for our benefit as we are creatures bound to time and space at least physically. God created our souls to be able to live independent of time and space. The Book of Revelation tells us God will burn up the elements in intense heat and recreate a new universe with a new earth. If God was bound to this universe and if our souls were as well, then we could not survive the complete destruction of this universe.
Modern man sees a conflict between science and religion. Many of the early great minds of science did not see conflict. They understood that science is the method by which man discovers what can be known of God’s creation. God gave us minds capable of great discovery. We can comprehend complex mathematics, physics, art, music, literature… Yet God has not revealed or made possible for us to discover everything. There are somethings knowable only to God. He has revealed some things to us supernaturally like the fact that He is, that He crated the universe. Science is very good at discovering how the universe works and even how it has grown and changed. How stars form and how atoms work. Yet science can only go back so far then hits a dead-end. Science cannot explain where matter came from or how it got the properties it has. That is unknowable except to God. If you picture all truth as a big circle on a whiteboard, you could draw a smaller circle inside of it that represents all knowable truth. That is what man can potentially discover and know although mankind may run out of time before he fills in that circle. What lies outside that circle is all those things known only to God. That is why science will never be able to explain or prove the existence of God. It lacks the tools to do so. As intelligent as man is, our minds cannot comprehend God in all His fulness. There are truths outside our circle that God could not even explain to us as we lack the ability to understand. There are other things He could, and has, told us that we could understand yet would never have discovered it apart from God’s revelation. Maybe in heaven God will expand our minds to understand more than we can now but we will never fully comprehend God because we would need the mind of God to comprehend God and we are not and never will be God’s equal.
Science keeps trying to explain away the need for God. Yet God does not exist because we need His existence to explain our existence. God exists because He is. He would exist even if we didn’t. He does not exist out of our need. He is self-existent. We do need God, but not to explain everything. We need God because He created us and designed us to have fellowship with Him. Our need for God is more like how we need air to breathe or the flower needs sun and water. God is not the product of our mind’s need for answers though that is what many atheists assume. God is the God of nothing, of Quantum and Newtonian Physics. They do not explain Him but can be useful in explaining His creation. The mathematics of physics is mind-boggling. The equations men like Einstein came up with to explain the laws of physics are truly amazing. Very few of us could even begin to understand it much less understand how they came up with it. For thousands of years, mankind has been growing in its knowledge of the universe and how it works. If it takes the smartest of men to begin to describe and define creation, how could creation be the product of random chance? Does it not give evidence to a great Design by a Great Designer? Did not God give men like Einstein a mind to understand such things? Creation is not by chance. Chance cannot create anything. Chance is an expression of probability. Chance is not a force that can create. We are not here by chance nor did the universe come into being by chance. The fundamental truth is contained in these four words, “In the beginning, God…”