By Father John Bullock
July 30th, 2009
My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.
-- J.B.S. Haldane, Fact and Faith, 1934, quoted by Mr. Kraus in 'God & Science don't mix' WSJ 26 June 09
"Within every great scientist there must be a sort of religious feeling. Because he is not able to imagine, that the extraordinary, minutely structured connections, which he sees, have been thought out by himself for the first time. Within the inconceivable Universe, an immensely superior reason is revealing itself. - The common idea, that I am an atheist, is based upon a great error. Whoever is reading this out of my scientific theories, hardly seems to have understood them..."
Albert Einstein, quoted in Gott Bekenntnisse Grosser Naturforscher, (1985).
While Einstein was no proponent of organized religion, his quote nevertheless makes an important point. Science can, and often has, lead people to making a logical leap... not to a general atheism, as Mr. Kraus stated, but to belief in God.
What's more, it isn't a God capable of working miracles which poses the greatest threat to scientific inquiry but rather pure randomness. If no logical order in the universe is recognized, which some scientists argue to avoid the first cause question (Where did it all come from?), then everything really is a matter of mere chance. Yet if this is so, not even the most basic scientific affirmations can be made. For example, how would I know for certain that the glass I drop won't fall up instead of down after doing so a hundred or a thousand times?
Thankfully our experience tells us otherwise. We find the universe organized by laws that govern every aspect: physical, astrophysical, biological, etc. It is precisely because we discover an intelligible order in the universe that we are able to empirically study it and come to dependable conclusions. This is the very foundation of science and technology.
The question then naturally arises: where do these laws or programs come from? Is it by mere chance or is there a programmer? Well, how do we get our cars, telephones and computers? Why then is it so irrational to think that this vastly complex program known as the universe, or a single strand of DNA if you will, came from a programmer? Logically, the programmer had to exist prior to that which he programmed and he must be completely independent of it; otherwise he could not be its cause. Many give this independent programmer the name God.
"But that's not science," the objection might go. I agree, but it's also not religion. It's philosophy. Yet science brings us to philosophy's door and knocks. Science is continuously seeking the causes of that which we observe: "Why does the glass fall down and not up?" While it's true that science moves in the realm of empirically verifiable data, and God is not empirical, to avoid the question of the ultimate cause of all of reality is intellectual evasion at best. The underlying principle of Scientism, that only empirical science is a valid form of knowledge, is itself non-empirical and thus self-contradicting. The irony of some of our contemporary atheists is that they are philosophically arguing that philosophy is invalid.
Finally, while philosophy can get you to recognize the need for a first mover or God, it cannot give you faith in a revealed religion, like Christianity. However, if reason helps us to reach the truth of the existence of God, then why is it implausible to also believe that this God can communicate with us? This remains faith, but no longer as irrational as our atheistic friends firmly believe it to be.