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John Simkin

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Core beliefs of atheists?

Well there were some Christians who supported slavery and some opposed slavery; some supported and some opposed war; some supported and some opposed the Russian revolution; some supported and some opposed Apartheid. I could go on!

I would say that the core belief of Christians is in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. If atheists do not have shared core values/beliefs how can they give themselves the label 'atheist'? The examples you gave above are about the application and interpretation of values and beliefs, not of the values and beliefs themselves... :huh:

I do not wish to interfere in your church, mosque, synagogue or temple. In return do not interfere in our school. It is for the whole community.

I presume this is not directed at me - I have already agreed that it is counter-productive to force Christian worship upon pupils... :)

:) Doug

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John asked:

Is it possible to believe in science and religion?


The simple answer to your question is one word: Yes.

The proof that is the correct answer is that many highly qualified scientists do in fact believe in God. Some believe in what is sometimes refered to as a "personal God" while others believe that there must be a supernatural creature who started the Universe but do not believe this "God" continues to play a personal role in it.

If it were not possible to believe in both science and religion, then presumably there would be few if any qualified scientists who believed in a God (of whatever nature).

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Members might find this article of interest.

Truth Journal

A Scientist Reflects on Religious Belief

Dr. Allan Sandage


Q. Can the existence of God be proved?

I should say not with the same type of certainty that we ascribe to statements such as "the earth is in orbit about the sun at a mean distance of 93 million miles, making a complete journey in 365.25 days," or "genetic information is coded in long protein strings of DNA that, in cells of a particular individual, replicate during mitosis, and in reproduction unite with DNA from another individual to produce the hereditary similarity of progeny with their parents, etc." The enormous success of modern science is undeniable in producing such facts, which have a strong ring of certainty, and this success simply cannot be ignored.

Proofs of the existence of God have always been of a different kind-a crucial point to be understood by those scientists who will only accept results that can be obtained via the scientific method. God can never be proved to them for that reason (Those who deny God at the outset by some form of circular reasoning will never find God.) Science illumines brightly, but only a part of reality.

The classical proofs of God by Anselm and by Aquinas via natural theology do not give the same type of satisfaction as proofs of propositions arrived at by the method of science. To the modern mind they seem contrived. Nevertheless, they were sufficient for Pascal to finally approach his certainty in God's existence by preparing his mind for God's necessity, if the world is to make ultimate sense. After that preparation, he simply could then abandon the God of natural theology and of the philosophers, and could at last will himself to faith by leaping across the abyss, from the edge of reason on this side of the chasm. For those who have experienced this way to God, I would say that God's existence has been proved beyond doubt for them.

Q. Must there necessarily be a conflict between science and religion?

In my opinion, no, if it is understood that each treats a different aspect of reality. The Bible is certainly not a book of science. One does not study it to find the intensities and the wavelengths of the Balmer spectral lines of hydrogen. But neither is science concerned with the ultimate spiritual properties of the world, which are also real.

Science makes explicit the quite incredible natural order, the interconnections at many levels between the laws of physics, the chemical reactions in the biological processes of life, etc. But science can answer only a fixed type of question. It is concerned with the what, when, and how. It does not, and indeed cannot, answer within its method (powerful as that method is), why.

Why is there something instead of nothing? Why do all electrons have the same charge and mass? Why is the design that we see everywhere so truly miraculous? Why are so many processes so deeply interconnected?

But we must admit that those scientists that want to see design will see design. Those that are content in every part of their being to live as materialistic reductionalists (as we must all do as scientists in the laboratory, which is the place of the practice of our craft) will never admit to a mystery of the design they see, always putting off by one step at a time, awaiting a reductionalist explanation for the present unknown. But to take this reductionalist belief to the deepest level and to an indefinite time into the future (and it will always remain indefinite) when "science will know everything" is itself an act of faith which denies that there can be anything unknown to science, even in principle. But things of the spirit are not things of science.

There need be no conflict between science and religion if each appreciates its own boundaries and if each takes seriously the claims of the other. The proven success of science simply cannot be ignored by the church. But neither can the church's claim to explain the world at the very deepest level be dismissed. If God did not exist, science would have to (and indeed has) invent the concept to explain what it is discovering at its core. Abelard's 12th century dictum "Truth cannot be contrary to truth. The findings of reason must agree with the truths of scripture, else the God who gave us both has deceived us with one or the other" still rings true.

If there is no God, nothing makes sense. The atheist's case is based on a deception they wish to play upon themselves that follows already from their initial premise. And if there is a God, he must be true both to science and religion. If it seems not so, then one's hermeneutics (either the pastor's or the scientist's) must wrong.

I believe there is a clear, heavy, and immediate responsibility for the church to understand and to believe in the extraordinary results and claims of science. Its success is simply too evident and visible to ignore. It is likewise incumbent upon scientists to understand that science is incapable, because of the limitations of its method by reason alone, to explain and to understand everything about reality. If the world must simply be understood by a materialistic reductionalist nihilism, it would make no sense at all. For this, Romans 1:19-21 seems profound. And the deeper any scientist pushes his work, the more profound it does indeed become.

Q. Do recent astronomical discoveries have theological significance?

I would say not, although the discovery of the expansion of the Universe with its consequences concerning the possibility that astronomers have identified the creation event does put astronomical cosmology close to the type of medieval natural theology that attempted to find God by identifying the first cause. Astronomers may have found the first effect, but not, thereby, necessarily the first cause sought by Anselm and Aquinas.

Nevertheless, there are serious scientific papers discussing events very shortly after the big bang creation (ex nihilo?) out of which all the types of matter that we know (baryons, electrons, photons, etc.) were made, and in what quantities. Even the creation of matter is said now to be understood. Astronomical observations have also suggested that this creation event, signaled by the expansion of the Universe, has happened only once. The expansion will continue forever, the Universe will not collapse upon itself, and therefore this type of creation will not happen again.

But knowledge of the creation is not knowledge of the creator, nor do any astronomical findings tell us why the event occurred. It is truly supernatural (i.e. outside our understanding of the natural order of things), and by this definition a miracle. But the nature of God is not to be found within any part of these findings of science. For that, one must turn to the scriptures, if indeed an answer is to be had within our finite human understanding.

Q. Can a person be a scientist and also be a Christian?

Yes. As I said before, the world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance alone. I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is simply too well put together. Each part of a living thing depends on all its other parts to function. How does each part know? How is each part specified at conception? The more one learns of biochemistry the more unbelievable it becomes unless there is some type of organizing principle-an architect for believers-a mystery to be solved by science (even as to why) sometime in the indefinite future for materialist reductionalists.

This situation of the complication and the order to function of an organism, where the sum is greater than its parts (i.e. has a higher order), becomes more astonishing every year as the scientific results become more detailed. Because of this, many scientists are now driven to faith by their very work. In the final analysis it is a faith made stronger through the argument by design. I simply do not now believe that the reductionalist philosophy, so necessary to pursue the scientific method and, to repeat, the method which all scientists must master and practice with all their might and skill in their laboratory, can explain everything.

Having, then, been forced via the route of Pascal and Kierkegaard in their need for purpose to come to the edge of the abyss of reason, scientists can, with Anselm "believe in order to understand" what they see, rather than "understand in order to believe." Having willed oneself to faith by jumping to the other side, one can pull, at first, a wee small thread across the abyss, pulling in turn a still more sturdy rope, until finally one can build a bridge that crosses in reverse the chasm that connects the sides of life that are reason and faith. It is, then, by faith that a scientist can become a Christian, and yet remain a scientist-believing in some form of Abelard's dictum.

Without that faith there is no purpose, and without purpose all the arguments for its need drive one once again to build Pascal's bridge.

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John asked:

Is it possible to believe in science and religion?

I wrote:

The simple answer to your question is one word: Yes.

The proof that is the correct answer is that many highly qualified scientists do in fact believe in God.

And after a few minutes of web-searching I found a great article on point by a very eminent scientist. I hope you will find it worthwhile to read the entire article but let me put the closing paragraph here:

There is a tremendous tradition of distinguished scientists who were and are Christians. I hope that my work is considered sufficiently outstanding to fall into the distinguished among that category. I also hope I have given you enough evidence that you will never again believe that it is impossible to be a scientist and a Christian.

The author of those words is the third-most quoted chemist in the world and a Nobel prize nominee. Please read his article. Quite interesting.

Scientists and Their Gods

( also known as

Science and Christianity:

Conflict or Coherence? )

Dr. Henry F. Schaefer, III


Dr. "Fritz" Schaefer is the Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and the director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. He has been nominated for the Nobel Prize and was recently cited as the third most quoted chemist in the world. "The significance and joy in my science comes in the occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, 'So that's how God did it!' My goal is to understand a little corner of God's plan." --U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 23, 1991.


The Genesis of This Lecture

I first began teaching freshman chemistry at Berkeley in the spring of 1983. Typically we lectured in halls that held about 550. On the first day of class you could fit in 680, which we had that particular morning. It was a full auditorium. Those of you who have had freshman chemistry at a large university will know that many have mixed feelings about that course.

I had never addressed a group of 680 people before and was a bit concerned about it. But I had a fantastic demonstration prepared for them. At Berkeley in the physical science lecture hall, the stage is in three parts. It rotated around, so you could go to your part of the stage and work for several hours before your lecture, getting everything ready. My assistant, Lonny Martin who did all the chemistry demonstrations at Berkley, was in the process of setting up 10 moles of a large number of quantities—10 moles of benzene, iron, mercury, ethyl alcohol, water, etc. At just the right time, at the grand crescendo of this lecture, I was going to press the button and Lonny would come turning around and show them the ten moles of various items. The student would have great insight as they realized that all these had in common was about the same number of molecules of each one.

It was going to be wonderful. We got to that point in the lecture and I said, "Lonny, come around and show us the moles." I pressed the button to rotate the stage but nothing happened. I didn't realize that he was overriding my button press because he wasn't ready with the moles. This was very embarrassing. I went out in front of the 680 students and was really at a complete loss of what to say, so I made some unprepared remarks. I said, "While we're waiting for the moles, let me tell you what happened to me in church yesterday morning."

I was desperate. There was great silence among those 680 students. They had come with all manner of anticipations about freshman chemistry, but stories about church were not among them!

I continued, "Let me tell you what my Sunday School teacher said yesterday." That raised their interest even more. "I was hoping the group at church would give me some support, moral, spiritual, or whatever for dealing with this large class, but I received none. In fact, the Sunday School teacher asked the class, in honor of me:

What was the difference between a dead dog lying in the middle of the street and a dead chemistry professor lying in the middle of the street?

The class was excited about this and I hadn't even gotten to the punch line. They roared with laughter. The very concept of a dead chemistry professor lying in the middle of the street was hilarious to them. I'm sure some of them began to think, "If this guy were to become a dead chemistry professor very close to the final exam, we probably wouldn't have to take the final exam. They'd probably give us all passing grades and this would be wonderful."

I told them my Sunday school teacher had said that the difference between the dead dog lying in the middle of the road and the dead chemistry professor lying in the middle of the road is that there are skid marks in front of the dead dog.

The class thought this was wonderful! Just as they settled down, I pressed the button and around came Lonny with the moles. It was a wonderful beginning to my career as a freshman chemistry lecturer.

About 50 students came down at the end of class. About half had the usual questions like "Which dot do I punch out of this registration card?" There is always some of that. But about half of these students all had something like the same question. Basically they wanted to know "What were you doing in church yesterday?" One in particular said, "The person I most have admired in my life was my high school chemistry teacher last year. He told me with great certainty that it was impossible to be a practicing chemist and have any religious view whatever. What do you think about that?"

We didn't have a long discussion at that time, but the students asked me if I would speak further on this topic. That became the origin of this lecture.

I gave this talk in Berkeley and in the San Francisco area many times. When I moved to the University of Georgia several years ago, the interest increased. And some faculty members complained to the administration. It was an interesting chapter in my life. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, the largest newspaper in the southeastern United States, came out with an editorial supporting my right to give this talk, saying, "Fanatics are demanding rigorous control over the dissemination of ideas."

A Perspective on the Relation of Science and Christianity

Let's put this question of the relationship between science and Christianity with as broadest, most reasonable perspective we can. The relation between science and other intellectual pursuits has not always been easy. Therefore, many feel there has been a terrible warfare between science and Christianity. But I feel this is not the whole story.

For example, the recent literature text by Susan Gallagher and Roger Lundeen says,

Because in recent history, literature has often found itself in opposition to science, to understand modern views about literature the dominance of science in our culture. For several centuries, scientists have set the standards of truth for Western culture. And their undeniable usefulness in helping us organize, analyze, and manipulate facts has given them an unprecedented importance in modern society.

Not everybody has liked that. For example, John Keats, the great romantic poet, did not like Isaac Newton's view of reality. He said it threatened to destroy all the beauty in the universe. He feared that a world in which myths and poetic visions had vanished would become a barren and uninviting place. In his poem Lamia, he talks about this destructive power. In this poem, he calls "science" "philosophy", so I will try to replace the word "philosophy" with "science" because that is what he means.

Do not all charms fly

At the mere touch of cold science?

There was an awful rainbow once in heaven

We knew her woof and texture.

She is given in the dull catalog of common things.

Science will clip an angels wings,

Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,

Empty the haunted air and gnome's mind,

Unweave a rainbow.

My point is there has been some sparring between science and virtually every other intellectual endeavor. So it should not be entirely surprising if there weren't a bit of that between science and Christianity.

Has Science Disproved God?

Nevertheless, the position is commonly stated that "science has disproved God." C. S. Lewis says, in his autobiography Surprised by Joy, that he believed that statement. He talks about the atheism of his early youth and credits it to science. He says,

You will understand that my atheism was inevitably based on what I believed to be the findings of the sciences and those findings, not being a scientist, I had to take on trust, in fact, on authority.

What he's saying is that somebody told him that science had disproved God and he believe it, even though he didn't know anything about science.

A more balanced view is this by one of my scientific heroes, Erwin Schrodinger. He was the founder of wave mechanics and the originator of what is the most important equation in science, Schrodinger's equation. He says,

I'm very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world is very deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experience in a magnificently consistent order, but it is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight, knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, God and eternity. Science sometimes pretends to answer questions in these domains, but the answers are very often so silly that we are not inclined to take them seriously.

People do tell good stories. Scientists do tell some interesting stories about religion. This one is from Chemistry in Britain, which is kind of like the Time Magazine of they chemical profession in England. Talking about the release of a new book on science policy, they explore an interesting idea.

If God applied to the government for a research grant for the development of a heaven and earth, he would be turned down on the following grounds:

His project is too ambitious.

He has no previous track record.

His only publication is only a book and not a paper in a refereed journal.

He refuses to collaborate with his biggest competitor.

His proposal for a heaven and earth is all up in the air.

The Alternatives to Belief in the Sovereign God of the Universe

Lev Landau

I want to give examples of two atheists. The first is Lev Landau, the most brilliant Soviet physicist of this century. He was the author of many famous books with his coworker Lifchets. I actually used some of these books as a student at M.I.T. This is a story about Landau from his good friend and biographer Kolotnikov. This appeared in Physics Today. This is a story from the end of Landau's life. Kolotnikov says

The last time I saw Landau was in 1968 after he had an operation. His health had greatly deteriorated. Lifchets and I were summoned to the hospital. We were informed that there was practically no chance he could be saved. When I entered his ward, Landau was lying on his side with his face turned to the wall. He heard my steps, turned his head, and said, "Kollat, please save me." Those were the last words I heard from Landau. He died that night.

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

Chandrasekhar was a famous astrophysicist. He won the Nobel prize in physics in 1983. He was a faculty member at the University of Chicago for many years. At the back of his biography is an interview. Chandrasekhar says,

In fact, I consider myself an atheist. But I have a feeling of disappointment because the hope for contentment and a peaceful outlook on life as the result of pursuing a goal has remained largely unfulfilled.

His biographer is astonished. He says:

What? I don't understand. You mean, single–minded pursuit of science, understanding parts of nature and comprehending nature with such enormous success still leaves you with a feeling of discontentment?

Chandrasekhar continues in a serious way, saying:

I don't really have a sense of fulfillment. All I have done seems to not be very much.

The biographer seeks to lighten up the discussion a little saying that everybody has the same sort of feelings. But Chandrasekhar will not let him do this, saying:

Well that may be, but the fact that other people experience it doesn't change the fact that one is experiencing it. It doesn't become less personal on that account.

And Chandrasekhar's final statement:

What is true in my own personal case is that I simply don't have that sense of harmony which I'd hoped for when I was young. I've persevered in science for over fifty years. The time I've devoted to other things is miniscule.

Is it Possible to be a Scientist and a Christian?

So the question I want to explore is the one that I was asked by that young man after my freshman chemistry class at Berkeley, "Is it possible to be a scientist and a Christian." The student and his high school chemistry teacher obviously thought it was not possible.

C. P. Snow

Let me begin from pretty neutral ground by quoting two people with no particular theistic inclination. The first one is C. P. Snow. C. P. Snow used to be very famous as the author of a book called The Two Cultures. C. P. Snow was a physical chemist at Oxford University. He discovered about halfway through his career that he also was a gifted writer and he began writing novels. They are about university life in England. One in particular is called Masters, which I would recommend. C. P. Snow became quite wealthy doing this and then he was able to sit in an in–between position, between the world of the sciences and the world of literature.

He wrote this book, which in it's time was very famous, about the two cultures—the sciences and the humanities. He said statistically slightly more scientists are in religious terms, unbelievers, compared with the rest of the intellectual world, although there are plenty that are religious and that seems to be increasingly so among the young. So is it possible to be a scientist and a Christian? C. P. Snow, who was certainly not a Christian, said yes.

Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman, Nobel prize in physics in 1965, was a very unusual person. He said some 9 years before receiving the Nobel prize, "Many scientists do believe in both science and God, the God of revelation, in a perfectly consistent way." So is it possible to be a scientist and a Christian? Yes according to Richard Feynman.

A good summary statement in this regard is by Alan Lightman, who has written a very well–received book called Origins. He's an M.I.T. professor who has published this book with Harvard University Press. He says,

References to God continued in the scientific literature until the middle to late 1800's. It seems likely that the lack of religious references after this time seem more from a change in social and professional conventions among scientists rather than from any change in underlying thought. Indeed, contrary to popular myth, scientists appear to have the same range of attitudes about religious matters as does the general public.

Now one could regard that statement as strictly anecdotal. Americans love statistics. Here's the result of a poll of the professional society Sigma Zi. Three thousand three hundred responded, so this is certainly beyond statistical uncertainty. The headline says, "Scientists are anchored in the U. S. mainstream." It says that half participate in religious activities regularly. Looking at the poll is that 43% of Ph.D. scientists are in church on a typical Sunday. In the American public, 44% are in church on a typical Sunday. So it's clear that whatever it is that causes people to have religious inclinations is unrelated to having an advanced degree in science.

Michael Polanyi

Let go a little deeper with a statement from Michael Polanyi, professor of chemistry and then philosophy at the University of Manchester. His son, John Polanyi, won the Nobel prize in 1986. I think that it's probably true that when John Polanyi's scientific accomplishments, which have been magnificent, have been mostly forgotten, his father's work will continue.

Michael Polanyi was a great physical chemist at the University of Manchester. About halfway through his career, he switched over to philosophy. He was equally distinguished there. His books are not easy to ready. His most influential book is called Personal Knowledge. He was of Jewish physical descent. He was born in Hungary. About the same time he switched from chemistry to philosophy, he joined the Roman Catholic church. He said,

I shall reexamine the suppositions underlying our belief in science and propose to show that they are more extensive than is usually thought. They will appear to coextend with the entire spiritual foundations of man and to go to the very root of his social existence. Hence I will urge our belief in science should be regarded as a token of much wider convictions.

If you read the rest of the book, you will probably make the same conclusion that I make. I've concluded that Polanyi is pointing out that the observer is always there in the laboratory. He always makes conclusions. He is never neutral. Every scientist brings presuppositions to his or her work. A scientist, for example, never questions the basic soundness of the scientific method. This faith of the scientist arose historically from the Christian belief that God the father created a perfectly orderly universe.

Now I want to give you some evidence of that.

Science Developed in a Christian Environment

I'd like to begin with an outrageous statement that always causes reaction. This is a statement from a British scientist, Robert Clark. It will make you think. He says,

However we may interpret the fact scientific development has only occurred in a Christian culture. The ancients had brains as good as ours. In all civilizations, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, India, Rome, Persia, China and so on, science developed to a certain point and then stopped. It is easy to argue speculatively that science might have been able to develop in the absence of Christianity, but in fact, it never did. And no wonder. For the non–Christian world felt there was something ethically wrong about science. In Greece, this conviction was enshrined in the legend of Prometheus, the fire–bearer and prototype scientist who stole fire from heaven thus incurring the wrath of the Gods."

I'd prefer if he had said "sustained scientific development." I think he's gone a little too far here, but this will certainly give people something to think about.

Francis Bacon

Let's explore the idea involved in the statements that Clark and Polanyi made, that is, that science grew up in a Christian environment. I was taught that Francis Bacon discovered thescientific method. The higher critics now claim he stole it from somebody else and just popularized it. We'll leave that to the science historians to settle.

One of Francis Bacon's statements is called the two–books statement. It's very famous. He said:

Let no one think or maintain that a person can search too far or be too well studied in either the book of God's word or the book of God's works.

He's talking about the Bible as the book of God's words and nature as the book of God's works. He is encouraging learning as much as possible about both. So right at the beginning of the scientific method, we have this statement.

Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler posited the idea of elliptical orbits for planets. He's considered the discoverer of the laws of planetary motion. He was a devout Lutheran Christian. When he was asked the question "Why do you do science?", he answered that he desired in his scientific research to obtain a sample test of the delight of the Divine Creator in his work and to partake of his joy. This has been said in many ways by other people, to think God's thoughts after him, to know the mind of man. Kepler might be considered a Deist based on this first statement alone. But he later said:

I believe only and alone in the service of Jesus Christ. In him is all refuge and solace.

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal was a magnificent scientist. He is the father of the mathematical theory of probability and combinatorial analysis. He provided the essential link between the mechanics of fluids and the mechanics of rigid bodies. He is the only physical scientist to make profound contributions to Christian thinking. Many of these thoughts are found in the little book, The Pensees, which I had to read as a sophomore at M.I.T. (They were trying to civilize us geeks at M.I.T., but a few years later decided that it wasn't working, so we didn't have to take any more humanities courses.)

Pascal's theology is centered on the person of Jesus Christ as Savior and based on personal experience. He stated:

God makes people conscious of their inward wretchedness, which the Bible calls "sin" and his infinite mercy. Unites himself to their inmost soul, fills it with humility and joy, with confidence and love, renders them incapable of any other end than Himself. Jesus Christ is the end of all and the center to which all tends.

Pascal also said:

At the center of every human being is a God–shaped vacuum which can only be filled by Jesus Christ.

Robert Boyle

Robert Boyle was perhaps the first chemist. He developed the idea of atoms. Many of my freshman chemistry students know Boyle's law. Every once in a while I'll meet one of my former chemistry students. I ask them "What do you remember from the course?" Occasionally they will say: pv = nrt. Then I know I was successful. This is the ideal gas law of which Boyle's law is a part.

Boyle was a busy man. He wrote many books. One is The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation. He personally endowed an annual lectureship promoted to the defense of Christianity against indifferentism and atheism. He was a good friend of Richard Baxter, one of the great Puritan theologians. He was governor of the Corporation for the Spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England.

Isaac Newton

Although I disagree, a recent poll on who the most important person of history was gave that honor to Sir Isaac Newton. Newton was a mathematician, physicist, co–discoverer with Liebnitz of calculus, the founder of classical physics. He was the first of the three great theoretical physicists. He wrote about a lot of other things. He tried to do chemistry, but was a little bit before his time. He wrote more books on theology than on science. He wrote one about the return of Jesus Christ entitled Observations on the prophecy of Daniel and the Revelation of Saint John. He said:

This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.

One might assume from this statement that Newton was a Deist (system of natural religion that affirms God's existence but denies revelation). However, quotes like this shows this is not true:

There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history.

One concludes that Newton was a Biblical literalist. It was not enough that an article of faith could be deduced from Scripture, he said:

It must be expressed in the very form of sound words in which it was delivered by the apostles. For men are apt to run into partings about deductions. All the old heresies lie in deductions. The true faith was in the Biblical texts.

George Trevellian, a secular historian, summarized the contributions of these individuals as follows:

Boyle, Newton and the early members of the Royal Society were religious men who repudiated the skeptical doctrines of Thomas Hobbs. But they familiarized the minds of their countrymen with the idea of law in the universe and with scientific methods of inquiry to discover truth. It was believed that these methods would never lead to any conclusions inconsistent with Biblical history and miraculous religion. Newton lived and died in that faith.

Michael Faraday

My very favorite—and probably the greatest experimental scientist of all—is Michael Faraday. The two hundredth birthday of Michael Faraday's birth was recently celebrated at the Royal Institution (multi–disciplinary research laboratory in London). There was an interesting article published by my friend Sir John Thomas, who said if Michael Faraday had been living in the era of the Nobel prize, he would have been worthy of at least eight Nobel prizes. Faraday discovered benzene and electromagnetic radiation, invented the generator and was the main architect of classical field theory.

Let me contrast the end of his life with the end of Lev Landau's life. Faraday was close to death. A friend and well–wisher came by and said, "Sir Michael, what speculations have you now?" This friend was trying to introduce some levity into the situation. Faraday's career had consisted of making speculations about science and then dash into the laboratory to either prove or disprove them. It was a reasonable thing to say.

Faraday took it very seriously. He replied:

Speculations, man, I have none. I have certainties. I thank God that I don't rest my dying head upon speculations for "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day."

James Clerk Maxwell

The second of the three great theoretical physicist of all time would certainly have been James Clerk Maxwell. Someone has documented Maxwell's career this way:

Maxwell possessed all the gifts necessary for revolutionary advances in theoretical physics—a profound grasp of physical reality, great mathematical ability, total absence of preconceived notions, a creative imagination of the highest order. He possessed also the gift to recognize the right task for this genius—the mathematical interpretation of Faraday's concept of electromagnetic field. Maxwell's successful completion of this task resulting in the mathematical [field] equations bearing his name, constituted one of the great achievements of the human intellect.

I disagree with one statement made above. If Maxwell indeed had a total absence of preconceived notions, he would have accomplished a total absence of science. So this is obviously written by somebody who is not a scientist (a squishyhead). However, this statement is basically good.

Maxwell said:

Think what God has determined to do to all those who submit themselves to his righteousness and are willing to receive his gift [of eternal life in Jesus Christ]. They are to be conformed to the image of his Son and when that is fulfilled and God sees they are conformed to the image of Christ, there can be no more condemnation.

Maxwell and Charles Darwin were contemporaries. Many wonder what he thought of Darwin's theories. In fact, once he was to go to a meeting on the Italian Riviera in February to discuss new developments in science and the Bible. If you've ever spent time in Cambridge, England, you know it is very gloomy in the wintertime. If I had been a faculty there, I would have taken an opportunity to go to the Italian Riviera at this time of the year.

Maxwell turned down the invitation. He explained:

The rate of change of scientific hypotheses is naturally much more rapid than that of Biblical interpretation. So if an interpretation is founded on such a hypothesis it may help to keep the hypothesis above ground long after it ought to be buried and forgotten.

This is true. An example of this is the steady–state theory, which was popularized by Fred Hoyle and many others. It is one of the two competing theories of the origin of the universe. The steady–state hypothesis basically says that what you see is what was always there. It became less tenable in 1965 with the observation of the microwave background radiation by Arnold Pansias and Robert Wilson. There are not very many people left who believe in the steady–state hypothesis. It is interesting to go back to about 1960 and find commentaries on the book of Genesis and see how they explain how the steady–state hypothesis can be reconciled with the first chapter of Genesis. Any reasonable person can see that Genesis is talking about a beginning from nothing (ex nihilo), so it takes interesting explanations to reconcile a beginning with the steady–state hypothesis.

The steady–state hypothesis is going to be, within about 20 years, gone and forgotten. These commentaries will probably still be available in libraries and no one will be able to understand them.

Science is Inherently a Tentative Activity

[shaefer shows audience a well–known cartoon].

In checking with several mathematicians, I came to realize that the equation in this cartoon means absolutely nothing at all, but the punch line is appropriate. [One character] says, "What is most depressing is the realization that everything we believe will be disproved in a few years." I hope that is not true of my work in quantum chemistry. I don't think it will be true, but there is some truth to this in that science is inherently a tentative activity. We come to understandings that are subjected to, at least, some further refinement.

Somebody who obviously not an admirer of the Christian of Faraday and Maxwell said:

The religious decisions of Faraday and Maxwell were inelegant, but effective evasions of social problems that distracted and destroyed the qualities of the works of many of their ablest contemporaries.

What he is saying is that because they were Christians, Maxwell and Faraday did not become alcoholics nor womanizers nor social climbers as their able colleagues appeared to do.

Organic Chemists

William Henry Perkin

I need to put a little organic chemistry in here so that my colleagues on the organic side will know that I paid a little attention to them also. William Henry Perkin represents perhaps the first great synthetic organic chemist. Discoverer of the first synthetic dye and the person for whom the Perkin transactions of the Royal Society of London is named, Perkin sold his highly profitable business and retired to private research and church missionary ventures at the age of 35 in the year 1873.

George Stokes

We can read about George Stokes in any issue of the Journal of Chemical Physics, which is the best journal in my field. In recent issues, Coherent Anti–Stokes Romin Spectroscopy (CARS) has been a subject of discussion. He is one of the great pioneers of spectroscopy, study of fluids and fluorescence. He held one of the most distinguished chairs in the academic world for more than fifty years, the Lucasian Professorship of Mathematics at Cambridge—a position held by Sir Isaac Newton and currently by Stephen Hawking. He was also president of the Royal Society of London.

Stokes wrote on other topics besides organic chemistry, including the topic of natural theology. Concerning the issue of miracles, Stokes said:

Admit the existence of a personal God and the possibility of miracles follows at once. If the laws of nature are carried out in accordance with his will, he who willed them may will their suspension….

William Thomson

William Thomson was later known as Lord Kelvin. Thomson was a fantastic scientist. He is recognized as the leading physical scientist and the greatest science teacher of his time. His early papers on electromagnetism and heat provide enduring proof of his scientific genius. He was a Christian with a strong faith in God and the Bible. He said:

Do not be afraid to be free thinkers. If you think strongly enough, you will be forced by science to the belief in God.

J. J. Thomson

In 1897, J. J. Thomson discovered the electron. He was the Cavendish professor of physics at Cambridge University.

The old Cavendish laboratory sits in the middle of Cambridge campus. So much was discovered there that it was turned into a museum. A total of fifteen Nobel Prizes resulted from work done there. Inscribed over its door is a Latin phrase "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." [A new] Cavendish laboratory was rebuilt out in the country. However, it also has this sentence from the book of Proverbs written over the door, but in English rather than Latin.

J. J. Thomson made this statement in Nature,

In the distance tower still higher [scientific] peaks which will yield to those who ascend them still wider prospects and deepen the feeling whose truth is emphasized by every advance in science, that great are the works of the Lord.

Theoretical Chemist

Charles Coulson

Charles Coulson is one of the three principal architects of the molecular orbital theory. He probably would have received the Nobel prize but he did not pass the first test. The first test to get the Nobel prize is to live to be 65 years old. The second test is to have done something very important when you were about 30 years old. Coulson did very significant work when he was in his thirties, but he died at 64, thus disqualifying himself from the Nobel prize.

Coulson, a professor of mathematics at Oxford University for many years was also a Methodist lay minister. He was a spokesman for Christians in academic science and the author of the term "God of the gaps" theology.

From the biographical memoir of the Royal Society after Charles Coulson's death, we read a description of his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ in 1930 as a 20–year–old student at Cambridge University. Coulson testified:

There were some ten of us and together we sought for God and together we found Him. I learned for the first time in my life that God was my friend. God became real to me, utterly real. I knew Him and could talk with Him as I never imagined it before and these prayers were the most glorious moment of the day. Life had a purpose and that purpose coloured everything.

Coulson's experience is fairly similar to my own at Berkeley. It would be nice if I could say there was a thunderclap from heaven and God spoke to me in audible terms and that is why I became a Christian. However, it did not happen that way, but I did have this same perception Coulson is talking about—this sense of purpose and more of a vividness to the colors of life.

The successor to Coulson as theoretical chemistry professor at Oxford, was Norman March, a good friend of mine. He as well is a Methodist lay minister.

Robert Griffiths, a member of our U.S. Academy of Sciences, Otto Stern professor of physics at Carnegie Mellon University received one of the most coveted awards of the American Physical Society in 1984 on his work in physical mechanics and thermodynamics. Physics Today said he is an evangelical Christian who is an amateur theologian and who helps teach a course on Christianity and science.

He recently said:

If we need an atheist for a debate, I'd go to the philosophy department—the physics department isn't much use.

At Berkeley University, among 55 chemistry professors, we only had one who was willing to openly identify himself as an atheist, my good friend Bob, with whom I still have many discussions about spiritual things.

Richard Bube

For many years, Bube was the chairman of the department of materials science at Stanford and carried out foundational work on solid state physics concerning semiconductors. He said:

There are proportionately as many atheistic truck drivers as there are atheistic scientists.

John Suppe

Member of the U.S. Academy of Sciences and noted professor of geology at Princeton, expert in the are of tectonics, began a long search for God as a Christian faculty member. He began attending services in the Princeton Chapel, reading the Bible and other Christian books. He committed Himself to Christ and had his first real experience of Christian fellowship in Taiwan, where he is on a fellowship. He states:

Some non–scientist Christians, when they meet a Christian, will call on to debate evolution. That is definitely the wrong thing to do. If you know what problems scientists have in their lives—pride, selfish ambition, jealousy—that's exactly the kind of thing Jesus Christ said that He came to resolve by His death on the cross. Science is full of people with very strong egos who get into conflict with each other. The gospel is the same for scientists as it is for anyone. Evolution is basically a red herring; if scientists are looking for meaning in their lives, it won't be found in evolution. I have never met a non–Christian who brought up evolution with me.

Charles H. Townes

My candidate for the scientist of the century is Charlie Townes. (Of course, he is a friend of mine and there could be some bias here.) He did something fairly significant when he discovered the laser. He almost got a second Nobel Prize for the first observation of an interstellar molecule. He has written his autobiography, entitled Making Waves (a pun referring to the wavelike phenomenon of lasers).

An excerpt from his life's story:

You may well ask, "Where does God come into this," to me, that's almost a pointless question. If you believe in God at all, there is no particular "where"—He is always there, everywhere….To me, God is personal yet omnipresent. A great source of strength, He has made an enormous difference to me.

At eighty [years old], Charlie Townes still has a very active research program at Berkeley.

Arthur Schawlow

Schawlow won a Nobel Prize in physics, 1981, serves as physics professor at Stanford and identifies himself as a Christian. He makes this unusual statement which I think could only be made by a scientist:

We are fortunate to have the Bible, and especially the New Testament, which tells so much about God in widely accessible, human terms.

Allan Sandage

The world's greatest observational cosmologist, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution, was called the Grand Old Man of cosmology by The New York Times when he won a $1 million prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He said:

The nature of God is not to be found within any part of the findings of science. For that, one must turn to the Scriptures.

In one book, Sandage was asked the classic question, "Can one be a scientist and a Christian?" and he replied, "Yes, I am." Ethnically Jewish, Sandage became a Christian at the age of fifty—if that doesn't prove that it's never too late, I don't know what does!

This is the man who is responsible for our best values for the age of the universe: something like 14 billion years. Yet, when this brilliant cosmologist is asked to explain how one can be a scientist and a Christian, he doesn't turn to astronomy, but rather to biology:

The world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance…I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order and each of its organisms is simply too well put together.

William Phillips

Now in physics, you can be a lot younger and get the [Nobel] Prize. Phillips is not even 50 years old and he's got it already. His citation was for the development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light. At a press conference following the announcement of his winning the Nobel Prize, he said:

God has given us an incredibly fascinating world to live in and explore.

According to The New York Times, Phillips "formed and sings in the gospel choir at Fairhaven United Methodist Church, a multi–racial congregation of about 300 in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He also teaches Sunday School and leads Bible studies." If you read further in that article, you find out that every Saturday afternoon, he drives with his wife into downtown Washington, D.C. to pick up a blind, 87–year–old African American lady to take her grocery shopping and then to dinner.

David Cole & Francis Collins

Since my area of expertise is right between chemistry and physics, I cannot speak as well for the field of biological sciences. However, my longtime colleague, Berkeley biochemist David Cole and cystic fibrosis pioneer, Francis Collins—director of the Human Genome Project, the largest scientific project ever undertaken—are both well–known as outspoken Christians.

Why Are There So Few Atheists Among Physicists?

Many scientists are considering the facts before them. They say things like:

The present arrangement of matter indicates a very special choice of initial conditions.

—Paul Davies

In fact, if one considers the possible constants and laws that could have emerged, the odds against a universe that produced life like ours are immense.

—Stephen Hawking

A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.

—Fred Hoyle

As the Apostle Paul said in his epistle to the Romans:

Since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.

Why the Perception of Ongoing Battle?

The last question I want to ask, then, is this, Why do so many people still think that there is an ongoing battle between science and Christianity? I don't deny that there is an ongoing discussion. But I think the facts are that, what you think about God doesn't depend on whether you have a Ph.D. in the sciences.

Why would some people like to think that this supposed battle rages on? At least in part, I honestly feel it is a misrepresentation. Let me give you just one example. Andrew Dickson White was the first president of Cornell University, the first university in the United States formed on strictly secular principles. (All others had been founded on a Christian basis.) He wrote a very famous book, The History of the Warfare of Science With Theology, in 1896. An excerpt:

[John] Calvin took the lead in his commentary on Genesis, by condemning all who asserted that the earth is not the center of the universe. He clinched the matter by the usual reference to the first verse of the 93rd Psalm and asked, "Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus above that of the Holy Spirit?"

(This is not making John Calvin look very good!) What's the real story behind this? Alistair McGrath, Brampton Lecturer at Oxford University and perhaps the greatest living scholar on Calvin, has recently written an authoritative biography of Calvin, in which he goes into question with great detail:

This assertion of Calvin is slavishly repeated by virtually every science writer on the theme of religion and science, such as Bertrand Russell in his History of Western Philosophy. Yet it may be stated categorically that Calvin wrote no such words in his Genesis commentary and expressed no such sentiments in any of his known writings. The assertion that he did is to be found characteristically unsubstantiated in the writings of the nineteenth century….

It would be fair to ask what Calvin really thought of Copernicus' heliocentric theory of the solar system, and the answer is that we don't know. He probably didn't even know about him—Copernicus was not exactly a household name in France or Switzerland in 1520. But in his preface of his translation of the New Testament into French, Calvin wrote:

The whole point of Scripture is to bring us to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and, having come to know Him with all that this implies, we should come to a halt and not expect to learn more.


I hope that I have given you a flavor of the history of science. Those of you who have taken a freshman chemistry or physics course will surely find many of these people familiar. In fact, the reason I have prepared this talk is that these represent the very people I have taught in such courses.

There is a tremendous tradition of distinguished scientists who were and are Christians. I hope that my work is considered sufficiently outstanding to fall into the distinguished among that category. I also hope I have given you enough evidence that you will never again believe that it is impossible to be a scientist and a Christian.

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And this article merits your very careful consideration. I urge you to read it carefully. A lot of important information. Thanks!

Is There Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God? How the Recent Discoveries Support a Designed Universe

Dr. Walter L. Bradley


Walter L. Bradley received his B.S. in Engineering Science and his Ph.D. in Materials Science from the University of Texas in Austin. Married in 1965, he lives in College Station, Texas with his wife, Ann. He taught as an Assistant and Associate Professor of Metallurgical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines before assuming a position as Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University (TAMU) in 1976. Dr. Bradley, also served as Head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University and as Director of the Polymer Technology Center at TAMU. He currently serves as Distinquished Professor of Engineering at Baylor University. Visit Dr. Bradley's Online Faculty Office and read his personal story, etc.


Introduction -- What is implied by the concept of "an intelligently designed universe"?

What does it mean on a grand scale to assert that the universe is the product of an intelligent designer? In a scientific age that exalts rationalism and chance, what empirical evidence could possibly support such a claim? As humans contemplating the immense complexity of the cosmos, might certain features of the universe suggest that our "home" has in fact been carefully crafted for our benefit? Can our own human experiences of creativity and design illuminate the concept of a cosmic designer? These questions underlie the discussion of intelligent design theory, a resurgent area of inquiry by both Christian and secular scientists in search of a reasonable explanation for the marvelous complexity of the universe.

In his classic, Natural Theology (1802),{1} eighteenth-century English philosopher and theologian William Paley marshaled evidence for a designed universe from both the physical and biological sciences. However, his argument for design was called into question by Darwin's theory of evolution. But new discoveries in the latter half of the twentieth century in the fields of astronomy, cosmology, and abiogenesis (the origin of life) have provided extremely compelling evidence for a designed universe. These findings have been publicized in the popular print media (Time, December 1992 and Newsweek, July 1998), featured in television specials on PBS and BBC, and disseminated through a wide variety of popular and scholarly books, including entries from prestigious academic publishing houses such as Oxford and Cambridge University Presses.

My personal experience as a lecturer supports the growing openness to intelligent design theory in the academic world. Having given over 135 talks on this subject to more than 65,000 students and professors at over 65 major university campuses from 1986 to 2002, I have observed a dramatic change in audience receptivity to the idea that an intelligent designer of the universe may exist. I have noted a widespread acceptance (albeit begrudging in some quarters) that this growing body of scientific evidence demands an intellectually honest reckoning, as no exclusively naturalistic explanation seems capable of rising to the occasion.

Before we examine the evidence from cosmology, physics, and chemistry that suggests the universe has been designed as an ideal habitat for life in general and for humans in particular, let me first clarify what is meant by the term "design."

How Can We Identify Designed Objects in the Natural World?

Richard Dawkins, a British zoologist and one of the world's foremost apologists for classical Darwinism, addressed the question of design in his 1996 essay collection, Climbing Mount Improbable,{2} by contrasting particular, designed artifacts with similar accidents in nature. Dawkins illustrates the concept of design with the example of Mount Rushmore, upon which are carved the clearly recognizable images of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt (Figure 1). By contrast, a naturally occurring rock in Hawaii casts a shadow that resembles President John F. Kennedy (Figure 2), illustrating an accidental occurrence in nature. It is self-evident that a sculptor (in this case, Gutzon Borglum) carved Mount Rushmore. The sheer number of details in which the Mount Rushmore faces resemble the faces of the four presidents testifies to the presence of an intelligent cause, a human sculptor. No one could seriously attribute these magnificent faces to the creative forces of wind, rain, sleet, and hail.

Figure 1. An intelligent design: Mount Rushmore with presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln.

Figure 2. An accident of nature: President John F. Kennedy's profile formed by shadow cast by a large rock in Hawaii.

Dawkins defines designoids as artifacts of the natural world that appear to be designed but "have in fact been shaped by a magnificently non-random process which creates an almost perfect illusion of design."{2} A designoid is an artifact in nature that looks like Mount Rushmore but can in fact be explained by natural processes (with, say, natural selection being the non-random process in the case of living systems).

The first step in evaluating the possibility of intelligent design is to examine closely the characteristics (or artifacts) of the natural world in order to assess whether all external "appearances" of design are merely "designoids," or whether they are, in fact, true examples of design by an intelligent Creator. Let us begin by considering the essential elements of intelligent design by human beings.

How Does An Engineer Design Consumer Products?

Design engineers using their understanding of natural laws, as described by mathematics, and their capacity to prescribe the conditions under which these natural laws function locally to produce a purposeful outcome. Let me illustrate. Suppose I wanted to throw a water balloon from the leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy to hit a friend walking on the plaza below. Solving the differential equation that Newton discovered for motion in a gravitational field, I would obtain a solution in the form of a simple, algebraic equation that describes the descent of the water balloon to its target below.

H(t) = h0 - (Gm /r2) t2 /2 - v0t


Here "H(t)" represents the height of the balloon as a function of time ("t"); "G" is a universal constant signifying the strength of the gravitational force of attraction; "m" and "r" are the mass of the Earth and the radius of the Earth, respectively; and "h0" and "v0" are the height of the tower from which I shall throw the balloon, and the vertical velocity with which I shall throw the balloon, respectively. By entering the numerical values for "G," "m," and "r," I obtain Gm/r2 = 32.2 ft/s2 , usually designated "g." Now Equation 1 can be simplified to:

H(t) = ho - g t2 / 2 - vo t = ho - 32.2 t2 / 2 - vo t


I can now solve Equation 2 for the time "t" it will take for the water balloon to reach the ground [H(t) = 0] if I specify the height of the tower [ho] and the initial velocity [vo] with which the water balloon is thrown. This equation may be used to guarantee that my balloon arrives at the plaza at just the right time to hit my strolling friend. Simply dropping the balloon will also accomplish my goal. I specify v0 = 0 and H(t) = 0 and solve for the correct time to drop the balloon.

Human Design Consists in Setting the Boundary Conditions

These three essential factors to predict the motion of my water balloon are the same ones generally necessary to achieve design outcomes in engineering. They are:

the mathematical form that nature takes (see Equations 1 and 2);

the values of the universal constants (G in Equation 1) and local constants (the radius of Earth, r, and the mass of the Earth, m, in Equation 1); and

the boundary conditions (the height [h0] and initial velocity [v0] in this example.

Note that the engineer has no control over the laws of nature and the mathematical forms they assume. Neither does the engineer have any control over the values of the universal constants, such as the gravity force constant. The engineer can only set the boundary conditions; for example, when drawing up blueprints to specify exactly how a device will look and operate when it has been manufactured.

If we revisit the design process, this time using the more realistic--though complex--example of automobile design, the engineer must carefully prescribe the boundary conditions such that the chemical energy released by the internal combustion of gasoline is converted into mechanical energy in the form of torque to the car wheels. Furthermore, the dimensions for each engine part are of critical importance. The absolute size and shape of each part is determined by the car's desired weight, speed, passenger and luggage capacity, and other performance specifications. These factors determine the size of the engine cylinders and pistons and the rate of gasoline injected into the engine cylinders, the scale of the brake and suspension systems, the size and type of tires, and so forth. And whatever their absolute characteristics, the parts chosen must also be scaled in relationship to one another so that they can work together harmoniously.

Notice that many of the specifications are related to each other and therefore cannot be independently specified or assigned. The greater this interdependence of specified boundary conditions, the more complex and demanding is the design process. Small errors in the specification of any such requirement will produce either a car with very poor performance or, worse, a car that does not function at all.

In summary, we can see that human design consists in specification of conditions under which the laws of nature operate to produce a purposeful outcome. In the next section, we will see that cosmic design involves specification of not only the conditions under which the laws of nature operate, but the laws themselves and the universe constants that scale the "building blocks" (e.g., rest masses of elemental particles), "energy blocks" (e.g., quanta of energy), and the fundamental forces in nature to provide the purposeful outcome of a habitable universe for life, and life itself!

Needs Statement for a Habitable Place in a Suitable Universe

We teach mechanical engineering students to begin the design process by specifying as clearly as possible the "needs statement" for their project. Then, the assignment for the semester is to develop a design solution that accomplishes the "need(s)" specified for the project. In similar fashion, the minimal needs to be satisfied for a universe to be capable of supporting life of any imaginable type, not just life as we know it, must be identified. Like our automobile illustration, many of the specifications will necessarily be interrelated to make a functional universe. From this essential "needs statement" we can then see how these needs (or design requirements) are met in our universe. We are essentially doing reverse engineering, constructing the blueprint backwards from the product (like an illicit manufacturing company copying a competitor's product). Only then will we be ready to entertain Dawkins' question, "Are there many ways in which these requirements could be satisfied within nature?"{2} Or are the conditions so unique and interrelated that their collective satisfaction by accident would be a "miracle" in its own right? Let us then begin by drafting a "needs statement" for a habitable universe. Then we shall see how these requirements are satisfied in our universe.

Needs Statement for a Suitable Universe

An abbreviated list of requirements for a universe suitable to support life of any imaginable type must include the following items:

Order to provide the stable environment that is conducive to the development of life, but with just enough chaotic behavior to provide a driving force for change.

Sufficient chemical stability and elemental diversity to build the complex molecules necessary for essential life functions: processing energy, storing information, and replicating. A universe of just hydrogen and helium will not "work."

Predictability in chemical reactions, allowing compounds to form from the various elements.

A "universal connector," an element that is essential for the molecules of life. It must have the chemical property that permits it to react readily with almost all other elements, forming bonds that are stable, but not too stable, so disassembly is also possible. Carbon is the only element in our periodic chart that satisfies this requirement.

A "universal solvent" in which the chemistry of life can unfold. Since chemical reactions are too slow in the solid state, and complex life would not likely be sustained as a gas, there is a need for a liquid element or compound that readily dissolves both the reactants and the reaction products essential to living systems: namely, a liquid with the properties of water.

A stable source of energy to sustain living systems in which there must be photons from the sun with sufficient energy to drive organic, chemical reactions, but not so energetic as to destroy organic molecules (as in the case of highly energetic ultraviolet radiation).

A means of transporting the energy from the source (like our sun) to the place where chemical reactions occur in the solvent (like water on Earth) must be available. In the process, there must be minimal losses in transmission if the energy is to be utilized efficiently.

Unless ALL of these conditions and many more not included in this list are met, we would have a universe that would preclude the possibility of conscious, complex life forms. However, it is possible to meet all of these conditions for the universe and still not necessarily find a suitable habitat in the universe for complex, conscious life. Therefore, we might say that the above requirements for our universe are necessary, but not by themselves sufficient, conditions for a habitat suitable for complex human life. Next we try to identify the additional conditions within such a suitable universe that would provide a place of habitation for conscious, complex life.

Needs Statement for a Habitat Place in the Suitable Universe for Complex, Conscious Life

An abbreviated, but illustrative, list of additional requirements must be specified for a place of habitation in this universe. First, we need a star that is located in a relatively "quiet" region of the universe (e.g., not too many neighbors that are producing high intensity, sterilizing radiation). This star needs to have its highest intensity of radiation in the range that is suitable to drive the chemical reactions essential to life without destroying the products of these reactions. Furthermore, this star needs to have a very special satellite within its solar system. A partial list of the requirements this satellite must meet include:

a planet or moon that is terrestrial--or, solid rather than gaseous;

a temperature range suitable to maintain the universal solvent as a liquid rather than a solid or gas;

just the right concentration of heavy (radioactive) elements to heat the core of the planet and provide the necessary energy to drive plate tectonics, to build up land mass in what would otherwise be a smooth, round planet completely covered with solvent;

just the right amount of solvent (carefully coupled to the plate tectonics activity) to provide a planet with similar proportions of its surfaces as oceans and land mass;

just the right protection from the destructive forces in nature such as radiation and asteroids over a reasonable amount of time; and

just the right stabilized axis tilt and angular velocity to give moderate, regular, and predictable seasons and moderate temperature fluctuations from day to night.

While one is temped to think that these requirements are easily met, given the large number of stars, it should be noted that there are few places in the universe sufficiently free of sterilizing radiation to provide a suitable solar system. The number of candidate "neighborhoods" is further reduced by the requirements of a sun with the right amount of mass to give the right electromagnetic radiation spectrum. Furthermore, the occurrence of a suitable satellite in conjunction with such a star is even more problematic. Only the earth in our solar system of sixty-two satellites meets the above requirements for a "home" (earth) in safe "neighborhood" like our sun and solar system, which are well placed in a quiet place in a suitable universe as described above.

In the next sections, we will see how these universal and local "needs" (or design requirements) are met by: the specific mathematical form encoded in nature, the exact values of the universal constants in our universe, and the remarkable "coincidence" that initial (or boundary) conditions are exactly what they must be. We will also see that the "evolutional" or developmental path that our universe navigated is consistently remarkable, making the origin of our "Garden of Eden" all the more wondrous and enigmatic.

Blueprint for a Habitable Universe - Mathematics and the Deep Structure of the Universe

Mathematics--in contrast to mere calculation--is an abstract intellectual activity that began in Greece in the sixth century BC. Pythagoras was a key figure, as were his successors, Euclid and Archimedes. Their studies focused especially on geometric objects such as straight lines, circles, ellipses, and conic sections (i.e., the curves made by cutting a cone with a plane).

In the third century BC, Appolonius of Perga wrote eight monumental volumes devoted to these curves, describing their properties as "miraculous." Yet the geometric and mathematical formulations to which they devoted themselves were actually descriptions encoded into the very fabric of nature. Imagine the delight of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) some eighteen centuries later, when he discovered that the orbits of planets around the sun conformed to these same beautiful but abstract mathematical forms. Kepler declared: "The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics."{3}

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) asserted that "the laws of nature are written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics."{4} In his Mathematics: The Loss of Certainty,{5} historian Morris Kline demonstrates that the religious mathematicians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries--including Newton, Galileo, Kepler, and Copernicus--viewed the universe as orderly and capable of mathematical description precisely because a rational God had fashioned it thus. These scientist-mathematicians believed that, since God had designed the universe, then "all phenomena of nature would follow one master plan. One mind designing a universe would almost surely have employed one set of basic principles to govern all related phenomena."{5}

Only in the 20th century have we come to fully understand that the incredibly diverse phenomena that we observe in nature are the outworking of a very small number of physical laws, each of which may be described by a simple mathematical relationship. Indeed, so simple in mathematical form and small in number are these physical laws that they can all be written on one side of one sheet of paper, as seen in Table 1.

Physicists and Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner in his widely quoted paper, The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Physical Sciences notes that scientists often take for granted the remarkable--even miraculous--effectiveness of mathematics in describing the real world. Wigner muses:

The enormous usefulness of mathematics is something bordering on the mysterious . . . . There is no rational explanation for it . . . . The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve.{6}

Albert Einstein was struck by the wondrous orderliness of the world.

You find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world (to the extent that we are authorized to speak of such a comprehensibility) as a miracle or as an eternal mystery. Well, a priori one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be grasped by the mind in any way . . . . [T]he kind of order created by Newton's theory of gravitation, for example, is wholly different. Even if man proposes the axioms of the theory, the success of such a project presupposes a high degree of ordering of the objective world, and this could not be expected a priori. That is the "miracle" which is being constantly reinforced as our knowledge expands.{7}

Table 1. The Fundamental Laws of Nature.

Mechanics (Hamilton's Equations)

Electrodynamics (Maxwell's Equations)

Statistical Mechanics (Boltzmann's Equations)

Quantum Mechanics (Schrödinger's Equations)

General Relativity (Einstein's Equation)

Yet even the splendid orderliness of the cosmos, expressible in the mathematical forms seen in Table 1, is only a small first step in creating a universe with a suitable place for habitation by complex, conscious life. The particulars of the mathematical forms themselves are also critical. Consider the problem of stability at the atomic and cosmic levels. Both Hamilton's equations for non-relativistic, Newtonian mechanics and Einstein's theory of general relativity (see Table 1) are unstable for a sun with planets unless the gravitational potential energy is proportional to r-1, a requirement that is only met for a universe with three spatial dimensions. For Schrödinger's equations for quantum mechanics to give stable, bound energy levels for atomic hydrogen (and by implication, for all atoms), the universe must have no more than three spatial dimensions. Maxwell's equations for electromagnetic energy transmission also require that the universe be no more than three-dimensional.

Richard Courant illustrates this felicitous meeting of natural laws with the example of sound and light: "[O]ur actual physical world, in which acoustic or electromagnetic signals are the basis of communication, seems to be singled out among the mathematically conceivable models by intrinsic simplicity and harmony."{8}

To summarize, for life to exist, we need an orderly (and by implication, intelligible) universe. Order at many different levels is required. For instance, to have planets that circle their stars, we need Newtonian mechanics operating in a three-dimensional universe. For there to be multiple stable elements of the periodic table to provide a sufficient variety of atomic "building blocks" for life, we need atomic structure to be constrained by the laws of quantum mechanics. We further need the orderliness in chemical reactions that is the consequence of Boltzmann's equation for the second law of thermodynamics. And for an energy source like the sun to transfer its life-giving energy to a habitat like Earth, we require the laws of electromagnetic radiation that Maxwell described.

Our universe is indeed orderly, and in precisely the way necessary for it to serve as a suitable habitat for life. The wonderful internal ordering of the cosmos is matched only by its extraordinary economy. Each one of the fundamental laws of nature is essential to life itself. A universe lacking any of the laws shown in Table 1 would almost certainly be a universe without life. Many modern scientists, like the mathematicians centuries before them, have been awestruck by the evidence for intelligent design implicit in nature's mathematical harmony and the internal consistency of the laws of nature. Australian astrophysicist Paul Davies declares:

All the evidence so far indicates that many complex structures depend most delicately on the existing form of these laws. It is tempting to believe, therefore, that a complex universe will emerge only if the laws of physics are very close to what they are....The laws, which enable the universe to come into being spontaneously, seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design. If physics is the product of design, the universe must have a purpose, and the evidence of modern physics suggests strongly to me that the purpose includes us.{9}

British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle likewise comments,

I do not believe that any scientist who examines the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside stars. If this is so, then my apparently random quirks have become part of a deep-laid scheme. If not then we are back again at a monstrous sequence of accidents.{10}

Nobel laureates Eugene Wigner and Albert Einstein have respectfully evoked "mystery" or "eternal mystery" in their meditations upon the brilliant mathematical encoding of nature's deep structures. But as Kepler, Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Davies, and Hoyle and many others have noted, the mysterious coherency of the mathematical forms underlying the cosmos is solved if we recognize these forms to be the creative intentionality of an intelligent creator who has purposefully designed our cosmos as an ideal habitat for us.

Blueprint for a Habitable Universe: Universal Constants - Cosmic Coincidences?

Next, let us turn to the deepest level of cosmic harmony and coherence - that of the elemental forces and universal constants which govern all of nature. Much of the essential design of our universe is embodied in the scaling of the various forces, such as gravity and electromagnetism, and the sizing of the rest mass of the various elemental particles such as electrons, protons, and neutrons.

There are certain universal constants that are indispensable for our mathematical description of the universe (see Table 2). These include Planck's constant, h; the speed of light, c; the gravity-force constant, G; the rest masses of the proton, electron, and neutron; the unit charge for the electron or proton; the weak force, strong nuclear force, electromagnetic coupling constants; and Boltzmann's constant, k.

Table 2. Universal Constants. Speed of light

c = 3.0 x 108 m/s

Planck's constant

h = 6.63 x 10-34 J-s

Boltzmann's constant

k = 1.38 x 10-23 J / oK

Unit charge

q = 1.6 x 10-19 Coulombs

Rest mass proton

mp = 1.67 x 10-27 kg

Rest mass of neutron

mn = 1.69 x 10-27 kg

Rest mass of electron

me = 9.11 x 10-31 kg

gravity force constant

G = 6.67 x 10-11 N-m2/ kg2

When cosmological models were first developed in the mid-twentieth century, cosmologists naively assumed that the selection of a given set of constants was not critical to the formation of a suitable habitat for life. Through subsequent parametric studies that varied those constants, scientists now know that relatively small changes in any of the constants produce a dramatically different universe and one that is not hospitable to life of any imaginable type.

The "just so" nature of the universe has fascinated both scientists and laypersons, giving rise to a flood of titles such as The Anthropic Cosmological Principle,{11} Universes,{12} The Accidental Universe,{13} Superforce,{14} The Cosmic Blueprint,{15} Cosmic Coincidences,{16} The Anthropic Principle,{17} Universal Constants in Physics,{18} The Creation Hypothesis,{19} and Mere Creation: Science, Faith and Intelligent Design.{20} Let us examine several examples from a longer list of approximately one hundred requirements that constrain the selection of the universal constants to a remarkable degree.

Twentieth-century physicists have identified four fundamental forces in nature. These may each be expressed as dimensionless numbers to allow a comparison of their relative strengths. These values vary by a factor of 1041 (10 with forty additional zeros after it), or by 41 orders of magnitude. Yet modest changes in the relative strengths of any of these forces and their associated constants would produce dramatic changes in the universe, rendering it unsuitable for life of any imaginable type. Several examples to illustrate this fine-tuning of our universe are presented next.

Balancing Gravity and Electromagnetism Forces - Fine Tuning Our Star and Its Radiation

The electromagnetic force is 1038 times stronger than the gravity force. Gravity draws hydrogen into stars, creating a high temperature plasma. The protons in the plasma must overcome their electromagnetic repulsion to fuse. Thus the relative strength of the gravity force to the electromagnetic force determines the rate at which stars "burn" by fusion. If this ratio of strengths were altered to1032 instead of 1038 (i.e., if gravity were much stronger), stars would be a billion times less massive and would burn a million times faster.{21}

Electromagnetic radiation and the light spectrum also depend on the relative strengths of the gravity and electromagnetic forces and their associated constants. Furthermore, the frequency distribution of electromagnetic radiation produced by the sun must be precisely tuned to the energies of the various chemical bonds on Earth. Excessively energetic photons of radiation (i.e., the ultraviolet radiation emitted from a blue giant star) destroy chemical bonds and destabilize organic molecules. Insufficiently energetic photons (e.g., infrared and longer wavelength radiation from a red dwarf star) would result in chemical reactions that are either too sluggish or would not occur at all. All life on Earth depends upon fine-tuned solar radiation, which requires, in turn, a very precise balancing of the electromagnetic and gravitational forces.

As previously noted, the chemical bonding energy relies upon quantum mechanical calculations that include the electromagnetic force, the mass of the electron, the speed of light ©, and Planck's constant (h). Matching the radiation from the sun to the chemical bonding energy requires that the magnitude of six constants be selected to satisfy the following inequality, with the caveat that the two sides of the inequality are of the same order of magnitude, guaranteeing that the photons are sufficiently energetic, but not too energetic.{22}

mp2 G/[_ c]>~[e2/{_c}]12[me/mp]4


Substituting the values in Table 2 for h, c, G, me, mp, and e (with units adjusted as required) allows Equation 3 to be evaluated to give:

5.9 x 10-39 > 2.0 x 10-39


In what is either an amazing coincidence or careful design by an intelligent Creator, these constants have the very precise values relative to each other that are necessary to give a universe in which radiation from the sun is tuned to the necessary chemical reactions that are essential for life. This result is illustrated in Figure 3, where the intensity of radiation from the sun and the biological utility of radiation are shown as a function of the wavelength of radiation. The greatest intensity of radiation from the sun occurs at the place of greatest biological utility.

Figure 3.

(Figure 3.1.)

(Figure 3.2.)

(Figure 3.3.)

(Figure 3.4.)

Figure 3. The visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (~1 micron) is the most intense radiation from the sun (Figure 3.1); has the greatest biological utility (Figure 3.2); and passes through atmosphere of Earth (Figure 3.3) and water (Figure 3.4) with almost no absorption. It is uniquely this same wavelength of radiation that is idea to foster the chemistry of life. This is either a truly amazing series of coincidences or else the result of careful design.

Happily, our star (the sun) emits radiation (light) that is finely tuned to drive the chemical reactions necessary for life. But there is still a critical potential problem: getting that radiation from the sun to the place where the chemical reactions occur. Passing through the near vacuum of space is no problem. However, absorption of light by either Earth's atmosphere or by water where the necessary chemical reactions occur could render life on Earth impossible. It is remarkable that both the Earth's atmosphere and water have "optical windows" that allow visible light (just the radiation necessary for life) to pass through with very little absorption, whereas shorter wavelength (destructive ultraviolet radiation) and longer wavelength (infrared) radiation are both highly absorbed, as seen in Figure 3.{23} This allows solar energy in the form of light to reach the reacting chemicals in the universal solvent, which is water. The Encyclopedia Britannica{24} observes in this regard:

Considering the importance of visible sunlight for all aspects of terrestrial life, one cannot help being awed by the dramatically narrow window in the atmospheric absorption...and in the absorption spectrum of water.

It is remarkable that the optical properties of water and our atmosphere, the chemical bonding energies of the chemicals of life, and the radiation from the sun are all precisely harmonized to allow living systems to utilize the energy from the sun, without which life could not exist. It is quite analogous to your car, which can only run using gasoline as a fuel. Happily, but not accidentally, the service station has an ample supply of exactly the right fuel for your automobile. But someone had to drill for and produce the oil, someone had to refine it into liquid fuel (gasoline) that has been carefully optimized for your internal combustion engine, and others had to truck it to your service station. The production and transportation of the right energy from the sun for the metabolic motors of plants and animals is much more remarkable, and hardly accidental.

Finally, without this unique window of light transmission through water, which is constructed upon an intricate framework of universal constants, vision would be impossible and sight-communication would cease, since living tissue and eyes are composed mainly of water.

Nuclear Strong Force and Electromagnetic Force - Finely Balanced for a Universe Rich in Carbon and Oxygen (and therefore water)

The nuclear strong force is the strongest force within nature, occurring at the subatomic level to bind protons and neutrons within atomic nuclei.{25} Were we to increase the ratio of the strong force to the electromagnetic force by only 3.4 percent, the result would be a universe with no hydrogen, no long-lived stars that burn hydrogen, and no water (a molecule composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom)--our "universal solvent" for life. Likewise, a decrease of only 9 percent in the strong force relative to the electromagnetic force would decimate the periodic table of elements. Such a change would prevent deuterons from forming from the combination of protons and neutrons. Deuterons, in turn, combine to form helium, then helium fuses to produce beryllium, and so forth.{26}

Within the nucleus, an even more precise balancing of the strong force and the electromagnetic force allows for a universe with an abundance of organic building blocks, including both carbon and oxygen.{27} Carbon serves as the universal connector for organic life and is an optimal reactant with almost every other element, forming bonds that are stable but not too stable, allowing compounds to be formed and disassembled. Oxygen is a component of water, the necessary universal solvent where life chemistry can occur. This is why when people speculate about life on Mars, they first look for signs of organic molecules (ones containing carbon) and signs that Mars once had water.

Quantum physics examines the most minute energy exchanges at the deepest levels of the cosmic order. Only certain energy levels are permitted within nuclei-like steps on a ladder. If the mass-energy for two colliding particles results in a combined mass-energy that is equal to or slightly less than a permissible energy level on the quantum "energy ladder," then the two nuclei will readily stick together or fuse on collision, with the energy difference needed to reach the step being supplied by the kinetic energy of the colliding particles. If this mass-energy level for the combined particles is exactly right, then the collisions are said to have resonance, which is to say that there is a high efficiency within the collision. On the other hand, if the combined mass-energy results in a value that is slightly higher than one of the permissible energy levels on the energy ladder, then the particles will simply bounce off each other rather than fusing, or sticking together.

It is clear that the step sizes between quantum nuclear energy levels depends on the balance between the strong force and the electromagnetic force, and these steps must be tuned to the mass-energy levels of various nuclei for resonance to occur and give an efficient conversion by fusion of lighter element into carbon, oxygen and heavier elements.

In 1953, Sir Fred Hoyle et al. predicted the existence of the unknown resonance energy level for carbon, and it was subsequently confirmed through experimentation.{28} In 1982, Hoyle offered a very insightful summary of the significance he attached to his remarkable predictions.

From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? Following the above argument, I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has "monkeyed" with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.{29}

The Rest Mass of Subatomic Particles - Key to Universe Rich in Elemental Diversity

Scientists have been surprised to discover the extraordinary tuning of the masses of the elementary particles to each other and to the forces in nature. Stephen Hawking has noted that the difference in the rest mass of the neutron and the rest mass of the proton must be approximately equal to twice the mass of the electron. The mass-energy of the proton is 938.28 MeV and the mass-energy of the neutron is 939.57 MeV. The mass-energy of the electron is 0.51 MeV, or approximately half of the difference in neutron and proton mass-energies, just as Hawking indicated it must be.{30} If the mass-energy of the proton plus the mass-energy of the electron were not slightly smaller than the mass-energy of the neutron, then electrons would combine with protons to form neutrons, with all atomic structure collapsing, leaving an inhospitable world composed only of neutrons.

On the other hand, if this difference were larger, then neutrons would all decay into protons and electrons, leaving a world of pure hydrogen, since neutrons are necessary for protons to combine to build heavier nuclei and the associated elements. As things stand, the neutron is just heavy enough to ensure that the Big Bang would yield one neutron to every seven protons, allowing for an abundant supply of hydrogen for star fuel and enough neutrons to build up the heavier elements in the universe.{31} Again, a meticulous inner design assures a universe with long-term sources of energy and elemental diversity.

The Nuclear Weak Coupling Force - Tuned to Give an Ideal Balance Between Hydrogen (as Fuel for Sun) and Heavier Elements as Building Blocks for Life

The weak force governs certain interactions at the subatomic or nuclear level. If the weak force coupling constant were slightly larger, neutrons would decay more rapidly, reducing the production of deuterons, and thus of helium and elements with heavier nuclei. On the other hand, if the weak force coupling constant were slightly weaker, the Big Bang would have burned almost all of the hydrogen into helium, with the ultimate outcome being a universe with little or no hydrogen and many heavier elements instead. This would leave no long-lived stars and no hydrogen-containing compounds, especially water. In 1991, Breuer noted that the appropriate mix of hydrogen and helium to provide hydrogen-containing compounds, long-term stars, and heavier elements is approximately 75 percent hydrogen and 25 percent helium, which is just what we find in our universe.{32}

This is obviously only an illustrative--but not exhaustive--list of cosmic "coincidences." Clearly, the four forces in nature and the universal constants must be very carefully calibrated or scaled to provide a universe that satisfies the key requirements for life that we enumerated in our initial "needs statement": for example, elemental diversity, an abundance of oxygen and carbon, and a long-term energy source (our sun) that is precisely matched to the bonding strength of organic molecules, with minimal absorption by water or Earth's terrestrial atmosphere.

John Wheeler, formerly Professor of Physics at Princeton, in discussing these observations asks:

Is man an unimportant bit of dust on an unimportant planet in an unimportant galaxy somewhere in the vastness of space? No! The necessity to produce life lies at the center of the universe's whole machinery and design.....Slight variations in physical laws such as gravity or electromagnetism would make life impossible.{33}

Blueprint for a Habitable Universe: The Criticality of Initial or Boundary Conditions

As we already suggested, correct mathematical forms and exactly the right values for them are necessary but not sufficient to guarantee a suitable habitat for complex, conscious life. For all of the mathematical elegance and inner attunement of the cosmos, life still would not have occurred had not certain initial conditions been properly set at certain critical points in the formation of the universe and Earth. Let us briefly consider the initial conditions for the Big Bang, the design of our terrestrial "Garden of Eden," and the staggering informational requirements for the origin and development of the first living system.

The Big Bang

The "Big Bang" follows the physics of any explosion, though on an inconceivably large scale. The critical boundary condition for the Big Bang is its initial velocity. If this velocity is too fast, the matter in the universe expands too quickly and never coalesces into planets, stars, and galaxies. If the initial velocity is too slow, the universe expands only for a short time and then quickly collapses under the influence of gravity. Well-accepted cosmological models{34} tell us that the initial velocity must be specified to a precision of 1/1060. This requirement seems to overwhelm chance and has been the impetus for creative alternatives, most recently the new inflationary model of the Big Bang.

Even this newer model requires a high level of fine-tuning for it to have occurred at all and to have yielded irregularities that are neither too small nor too large for the formation of galaxies. Astrophysicists originally estimated that two components of an expansion-driving cosmological constant must cancel each other with an accuracy of better than 1 part in 1050. In the January 1999 issue of Scientific American, the required accuracy was sharpened to the phenomenal exactitude of 1 part in 10123.{35} Furthermore, the ratio of the gravitational energy to the kinetic energy must be equal to 1.00000 with a variation of less than 1 part in 100,000. While such estimates are being actively researched at the moment and may change over time, all possible models of the Big Bang will contain boundary conditions of a remarkably specific nature that cannot simply be described away as "fortuitous".

The Uniqueness of our "Garden of Eden"

Astronomers F. D. Drake{36} and Carl Sagan{37} speculated during the 1960s and 1970s that Earth-like places in the universe were abundant, at least one thousand but possibly as many as one hundred million. This optimism in the ubiquity of life downplayed the specialness of planet Earth. By the 1980s, University of Virginia astronomers Trefil and Rood offered a more sober assessment in their book, Are We Alone? The Possibility of Extraterrestrial Civilizations.{38} They concluded that it is improbable that life exists anywhere else in the universe. More recently, Peter Douglas Ward and Donald Brownlee of the University of Washington have taken the idea of the Earth's unique place in our vast universe to a much higher level. In their recent blockbuster book, Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe,{39} they argue that the more we learn about Earth, the more we realize how improbable is its existence as a uniquely habitable place in our universe. Ward and Brownlee state it well:

If some god-like being could be given the opportunity to plan a sequence of events with the expressed goal of duplicating our 'Garden of Eden', that power would face a formidable task. With the best of intentions but limited by natural laws and materials it is unlikely that Earth could ever be truly replicated. Too many processes in its formation involve sheer luck. Earth-like planets could certainly be made, but each would differ in critical ways. This is well illustrated by the fantastic variety of planets and satellites (moons) that formed in our solar system. They all started with similar building materials, but the final products are vastly different from each other . . . . The physical events that led to the formation and evolution of the physical Earth required an intricate set of nearly irreproducible circumstances.{40}

What are these remarkable coincidences that have precipitated the emerging recognition of the uniqueness of Earth? Let us consider just two representative examples, temperature control and plate tectonics, both of which we have alluded to in our "needs statement" for a habitat for complex life.

Temperature Control on Planet Earth

In a universe where water is the primary medium for the chemistry of life, the temperature must be maintained between 0° C and 100° C (32° F to 212° F) for at least some portion of the year. If the temperature on earth were ever to stay below 0° C for an extended period of time, the conversion of all of Earth's water to ice would be an irreversible step. Because ice has a very high reflectivity for sunlight, if the Earth ever becomes an ice ball, there is no returning to the higher temperatures where water exists and life can flourish. If the temperature on Earth were to exceed 100°C for an extended period of time, all oceans would evaporate, creating a vapor canopy. Again, such a step would be irreversible, since this much water in the atmosphere would efficiently trap all of the radiant heat from the sun in a "super-greenhouse effect," preventing the cooling that would be necessary to allow the steam to re-condense to water.{41} This appears to be what happened on Venus.

Complex, conscious life requires an even more narrow temperature range of approximately 5-50° C.{42} How does our portion of real estate in the universe remain within such a narrow temperature range, given that almost every other place in the universe is either much hotter or much colder than planet Earth, and well outside the allowable range for life? First, we need to be at the right distance from the sun. In our solar system, there is a very narrow range that might permit such a temperature range to be sustained, as seen in Fig. 1. Mercury and Venus are too close to the sun, and Mars is too far away. Earth must be within approximately 10% of its actual orbit to maintain a suitable temperature range.{43}

Yet Earth's correct orbital distance from the sun is not the whole story. Our moon has an average temperature of -18° C, while Earth has an average temperature of 33° C; yet each is approximately the same average distance from the sun. Earth's atmosphere, however, efficiently traps the sun's radiant heat, maintaining the proper planetary temperature range. Humans also require an atmosphere with exactly the right proportion of tri-atomic molecules, or gases like carbon dioxide and water vapor. Small temperature variations from day to night make Earth more readily habitable. By contrast, the moon takes twenty-nine days to effectively rotate one whole period with respect to the sun, giving much larger temperature fluctuations from day to night. Earth's rotational rate is ideal to maintain our temperature within a narrow range.

Most remarkable of all, the sun's radiation has gradually increased in intensity by 40 percent over time--a fact that should have made it impossible to maintain Earth's temperature in its required range. This increase, however, has been accompanied by a gradual decrease in the Earth's concentration of carbon dioxide. Today although the Earth receives more radiation, the atmosphere traps it less efficiently, thus preserving approximately the same temperatures that the Earth experienced four billion years ago. The change in the concentration of carbon dioxide over four billion years has resulted first from plate tectonics (by which carbon dioxide has been converted to calcium carbonate in shallow waters), and more recently through the development of plant life. Such good fortune on such a grand scale must be considered a miracle in its own right. But there is still more to the story.

Mercury, Venus, and Mars all spin on their axes, but their axis angles vary chaotically from 0 to 90 degrees, giving corresponding chaotic variations in their planetary climates. Earth owes its relative climatic stability to its stable 23-degree axis of rotation. This unique stability is somehow associated with the size of Earth's large moon. Our moon is one-third the size of Earth--rare for any planet. To have such a large moon is particularly rare for planets in the inner regions of the solar system, where a habitable temperature range can be sustained. The most current theories explaining this proposition lead us again to the suspicion that such a remarkable and "fortuitous accident" occurred specifically for our benefit.{44}

Figure 4. In our solar system (drawn to scale), notice that the habitable zone is the region within ~10 percent of the orbital radius for planet earth, a very small part of our large, solar system.{43}

Plate Tectonics - Continent Builder, Temperature Controller, Cosmic Radiation Protecter

How does plate tectonics contribute to our planet's becoming habitable for complex life? First, plate tectonics have produced a landmass on an earth that would otherwise have remained a smooth sphere covered by 4000 feet of water. Second, plate tectonics on Earth formed regions of shallow water just beyond the landmass. In these shallows, carbon dioxide chemically reacts with calcium silicate to form calcium carbonate and silicon oxide (or sand). This process removes sufficient carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to avoid overheating as the sun's radiant energy increases. Third, plate tectonics allows for sufficiently large thermal gradients to develop the convective cells in the Earth's core that generate our magnetic field, which in turn protects us from cosmic radiation.

It is reasonable to assume that without plate tectonics, no planet could be habitable.{45} Of the 62 satellites in our solar systems, only Earth has plate tectonic activity--a fact that reflects the difficulty to meet the conditions required for this transformational process. Plate tectonics requires just the right concentration of heavy, radioactive elements in a planet or moon's core, in order to produce the proper amount of heat through radioactive decay. Furthermore, the core must be molten, with a solid, but viscous crust. The viscosity of the crust must be carefully calibrated to the heat generation in the core. The total volume of surface water present on a planet is also critical (on Earth, it is 0.5 percent by weight).{46} Too much water will yield a planet with only oceans. Too little water or too much plate tectonic activity will produce a planet with almost all land mass and very small oceans. This imbalance would leave the Earth with a water cycle that could not aerate the landmass adequately to sustain life. The oceans also buffer temperature fluctuations, helping to keep the Earth's surface temperature in a viable range. Earth's current proportion of 30 percent landmass to 70 percent oceans is biologically ideal. However, this complex end result arises from a myriad of factors that appear to be independent. Again, an explanatory model based on "accidents of nature" seems insufficient to account for yet another remarkable feature of our planet.

Blueprint for Life: Information and The Origin of Life

We have not yet touched on the greatest "miracle" in our terrestrial narrative of origins. While we have noted the remarkable provision of a suitable universe with a local habitat that is ideal for life, the most remarkable artifact in our universe is life itself. While biological evolution, including macroevolution, continues to have a larger constituency than is justified by the evidence (in my opinion), all major researchers in the field of chemical evolution (i.e., the origin of life) acknowledge the fundamental mystery of life's beginnings from inanimate matter. The enigma of the origin of life comes in the difficulty of imagining a simply biological system that is sufficiently complex to process energy, store information, and replicate, and yet at the same time is sufficiently simple to have just "happened" in a warm pond, as Darwin suggested, or elsewhere.

Complex molecules, such as proteins, RNA, and DNA, provide for essential biological functions. These biopolymers are actually long chains of simpler molecular building blocks such as amino acids (of which there are 20 different types--see Figure 5), sugars and bases. Their biological function is intimately connected to their precise chemical structure. How, then, were they assembled with such perfect functionality before the origin of life itself? If I stand across the street and throw paint at my curb, I am not very likely to paint "204," which is my house number. On the other hand, if I first place a template with the numbers "204" on my curb and then sling paint, I can easily paint "204" on my curb. Living systems contain their own templates. However, such templates did not guide the process before life began (i.e., under prebiotic conditions). How, then, did the templates and other molecular machinery originate?

To illustrate the staggering degree of complexity involved here, let us consider a typical protein that is composed of 100 amino acids. Amino acids are molecules that can have two mirror image structures, usually referred to as "left-handed" and "right-handed" variants, as seen in Figure 6. A functional protein requires the amino acids from which it is built to be (1) all left-handed; (2) all linked together with peptide bonds (Figure 7), and (3) all in just the right sequence to fold up into the three-dimensional structure needed for biological function, as seen in Figure 8. The probability of correctly assembling a functional protein in one try in a prebiotic pond, as seen in Figure 8, is 1/10190.{48} If we took all of the carbon in the universe, converted it into amino acids, and allowed it to chemically react at the maximum permissible rate of 1013 interactions per second for five billion years, the probability of making a single functioning protein increases to only 1/1060. For this reason, chance explanations for the origin of life have been rejected. Some non-random process or intelligent designer must be responsible. However, there are no apparent nonrandom processes (such as natural selection is claimed to be in evolution) that would seem to be capable of generating the required complexity and information for the first living system.

Figure 5. Schematic of five amino acids. Twenty different amino acids are utilized in protein molecules.

Figure 6. Left- and right-handed versions of amino acids that occur with equal frequency in nature. Only left-handed amino acids are incorporated in protein molecules.

Figure 7. Schematic representation of the formation of peptide bonds with water formed as a byproduct.

Figure 8. Schematic representation of the three-dimensional topography of a chain of amino acids. Note shape is critical to biological function.

Making a viable protein from scratch is analogous to writing a sentence in a language with 20 letters in its alphabet (e.g., distinct amino acids), using a random sequencing of the letters as well as random orientations (that is upside down or sideways). Creating a coherent sentence or short paragraph from such a random sequencing of letters strains the imagination. Creating a functioning living system becomes as arduous as writing a long paragraph with such an inefficient approach. These information-generating requirements present the single, greatest obstacle to a purely naturalistic explanation for the origin of life. Researchers in this field are quick to acknowledge this huge problem. For example, Miller and Levine, in their popular textbook, describes the problem as follows:

The largest stumbling block in bridging the gap between nonliving and living still remains. All living cells are controlled by information stored in DNA, which is transcribed in RNA and them made into protein. This is a very complicated system, and each of these three molecules requires the other two--either to put it together or to help it work. DNA, for example, carries information but cannot put that information to use, or even copy itself without the help of RNA and protein.{47}

One of the giants in origin of life research, Leslie Orgel, in a 1998 review entitled The Origin of Life - a review of facts and speculations{48} summarized the current state of affairs with:

There are several tenable theories about the origin of organic material on the primitive earth, but in no case is the supporting evidence compelling. Similarly, several alternative scenarios might account for the self-organization of a self-replicating entity from pre-biotic organic material, but all of those that are well formulated are based on hypothetical chemical syntheses that are problematic.

Nicholas Wade writing in the New York Times (6/13/2000){49} about the origin of life notes:

The chemistry of the first life is a nightmare to explain. No one has yet developed a plausible explanation to show how the earliest chemicals of life - thought to be RNA, or ribonucleic acid, a close relative of DNA, might have constructed themselves from the inorganic chemicals likely to have been around on the early earth. The spontaneous assembly of a small RNA molecule on the primitive earth "would have been a near miracle" two experts in the subject helpfully declared last year.

Interested readers are directed to my more detailed treatment of this topic in a book I co-authored entitled The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories.{50}

Do Discoveries of the Last Fifty Years Support Naturalism or Intelligent Design?

My initial example of design was very simple. It involved one physical law, one universal constant, and two initial conditions. These could easily be prescribed so that my water balloon would arrive on the plaza below the Leaning Tower of Pisa just in time to hit my strolling friend. This was a relatively easy design problem.

A universe that contains a special place of habitation for complex, conscious life is so truly remarkable that it is, realistically speaking, impossible to believe it is the result of a series of cosmic accidents. To choose to believe that there is a naturalistic explanation for (a) the mathematical forms encoded in the laws of nature, (;) the precise specification of the nineteen universal constants and © the remarkable initial conditions required for star formation and the simplest living systems is to believe in a miracle by another name. Physicist Freeman J. Dyson of Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study seems to implicitly affirm theism when he say,

"As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming."{51}

Physicist and Nobel laureate Arno Penzias, contemplating our enigmatic universe, observes:

Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe that was created out of nothing and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan.{52}

Astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle argued in The Nature of the Universe{53} in 1950 for the role of sheer coincidence to explain the many unique but necessary properties of the universe and of planet Earth. But the discoveries of the next thirty years dramatically changed his mind, as described in his book The Intelligent Universe in 1983; to quote,

"Such properties seem to run through the fabric of the natural world like a thread of happy coincidences. But there are so many odd coincidences essential to life that some explanation seems required to account for them."{54}

It is easy to understand why many scientists like Sir Fred Hoyle changed their minds in the past thirty years. They now agree that the universe, as we know it, cannot reasonably be explained as a cosmic accident. Frederic B. Burnham, a well-known historian of science appearing on ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel, confirmed the current openness to the intelligent design model with his comment,

"The scientific community is prepared to consider the idea that God created the universe a more respectable hypothesis today than at any time in the last 100 years."{55}

Concluding Comments

Returning to the Mt. Rushmore illustration with which we began, we must ask ourselves whether our universe and place in it (planet Earth) are more analogous to Mt. Rushmore or to the rock in Hawaii that captures John F. Kennedy's silhouette in its shadow? It seems to me the answer is perfectly clear, based on the myriad of information presented in this paper and the much larger amo

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So what are the core values to the average atheist's belief system? (other than 'there is no God')? If all you've got is the 'process' then you're simply drifting through life on a sea of change. I'd much rather be securely fastened to a rock...  ;)

Everyone has a set of moral values that they use to guide their behaviour. This is true of atheists as well of those who possess religious faith. These moral values come from a wide variety of sources. This includes your experiences as a child (mainly from the moral values of your parents), the laws of the society that you live in, your experiences as an adult, the books you read, etc.

In my case, the most significant influence on my moral values has concerned my assessment of the behaviour of my parents. I say that because it is not just enough for adults to tell you what is right or wrong. They mainly teach you by their own behaviour. For example, my parents told me that it was wrong to smoke. This message was much more powerful because they did not smoke themselves.

My parents were not active Christians. My father was an atheist whereas my mother was an agnostic. This obviously had an influence on my own thinking. However, I could have reacted against my parents views. After all, many people do.

My religious views were not set in stone. At the age of 19 I decided to marry a strict Roman Catholic. This also had a temporary influence on my thinking. (I went through a period of being an agnostic) My wife is now a passionate atheist (more so than I am).

This is not to say I have been unaffected by Christianity. I have no objections to the teachings of Jesus Christ. In fact, he has been a great influence on my own moral values. However, the problem for me is that so many of his followers have set such a bad example.

An important influence on my moral code has come from my reading of history. Christianity has inspired some people to do great things for the benefit of the human race (for example, Martin Luther King). However, so many devout Christians have acted appallingly (recent examples include George Bush and Tony Blair).

If one considers the great moral issues in history (slavery, political and economic equality, democracy, welfare state, etc.) Christians have been just as likely as non-Christians to have been on the wrong side. In fact, the leaders of the Christian Church, have virtually always been on the wrong side. The reason for that is that in direct contrast to Jesus Christ, Christian leaders have wished to please the rich and powerful over the poor and the powerless).

To sum up, I have judged people’s moral values of people by what they do, rather than what they say. As a result I am an atheist rather than a religious believer. I get rather angry when Christians tell me that this means that I am in some state of crisis. That life is devoid of meaning. To be a atheist is a liberating experience. To know that when you die there will be nothingness changes your approach to life. It means that you have no time to waste. It is what you do in this life that matters. I use my moral code to help me decide the way to behave. It is up to people who know me, rather than some mythical God, to judge me.

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Everyone has a set of moral values that they use to guide their behaviour. This is true of atheists as well of those who possess religious faith. These moral values come from a wide variety of sources. This includes your experiences as a child (mainly from the moral values of your parents), the laws of the society that you live in, your experiences as an adult, the books you read, etc.


This is not to say I have been unaffected by Christianity. I have no objections to the teachings of Jesus Christ. In fact, he has been a great influence on my own moral values. However, the problem for me is that so many of his followers have set such a bad example.

The difference is, though, that whereas religious values are objective, those belonging to atheists are man-made and of a pick-and-choose nature. It leads to a position which Richard Rorty calls 'ethnocentrism'. He believes this to be a good thing, but in fact it simply leads to communities who cannot understand one another. Although their value and belief systems are completely different, they are seen as equally valid. If you have no fixed point of reference, you have no standard against which to judge the worth of your values.

An important influence on my moral code has come from my reading of history. Christianity has inspired some people to do great things for the benefit of the human race (for example, Martin Luther King). However, so many devout Christians have acted appallingly (recent examples include George Bush and Tony Blair).

If one considers the great moral issues in history (slavery, political and economic equality, democracy, welfare state, etc.) Christians have been just as likely as non-Christians to have been on the wrong side. In fact, the leaders of the Christian Church, have virtually always been on the wrong side. The reason for that is that in direct contrast to Jesus Christ, Christian leaders have wished to please the rich and powerful over the poor and the powerless).

Of course it would be easy to dismiss those who have been 'on the wrong side' as not being true Christians! Leading a Christian life does not mean having a 'God shield', 'righteousometer' or knowing exactly what the correct course of action is in any given situation. Having a loving God who will forgive you and a manual about life which He's written for your certainly helps though. One of the core Christian messages is that we are all inherently sinful and naturally rebel against God. Even Christians. (it's just that we're aware of it and ask for forgiveness) <_<

To sum up, I have judged people’s moral values of people by what they do, rather than what they say. As a result I am an atheist rather than a religious believer. I get rather angry when Christians tell me that this means that I am in some state of crisis. That life is devoid of meaning. To be a atheist is a liberating experience. To know that when you die there will be nothingness changes your approach to life.  It means that you have no time to waste. It is what you do in this life that matters. I use my moral code to help me decide the way to behave. It is up to people who know me, rather than some mythical God, to judge me.

I'll ignore the inflammatory last sentence and concentrate on what you say about atheists' approach to life. You say that 'it is what you do in this life that matters'. Philosophers since Socrates have been interested in what consitutes a 'good life'. They haven't been able to agree. The Christian point is that you can never be good enough to please a perfect God in and of yourself. That is why you need the ulimate sacrifice of Jesus to atone for your sin. So in the end, although what you do matters, it's not up to you to reach the 'pass mark'.

Now, I've been on the other side of the fence, before I was a Christian. I know from an agnostic/atheist point of view how silly what I've said might sound. Do me a favour, we're talking about serious stuff here, please give it some further thought and investigation...

;) Doug

Edited by Doug Belshaw
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Doug wrote:

Of course it would be easy to dismiss those who have been 'on the wrong side' as not being true Christians! Leading a Christian life does not mean having a 'God shield', 'righteousometer' or knowing exactly what the correct course of action is in any given situation. Having a loving God who will forgive you and a manual about life which He's written for your certainly helps though. One of the core Christian messages is that we are all inherently sinful and naturally rebel against God. Even Christians. (it's just that we're aware of it and ask for forgiveness)

and he also wrote:

I'll ignore the inflammatory last sentence and concentrate on what you say about atheists' approach to life. You say that 'it is what you do in this life that matters'. Philosophers since Socrates have been interested in what consitutes a 'good life'. They haven't been able to agree. The Christian point is that you can never be good enough to please a perfect God in and of yourself. That is why you need the ulimate sacrifice of Jesus to atone for your sin. So in the end, although what you do matters, it's not up to you to reach the 'pass mark'.

Now, I've been on the other side of the fence, before I was a Christian. I know from an agnostic/atheist point of view how silly what I've said might sound. Do me a favour, we're talking about serious stuff here, please give it some further thought and investigation...

Doug has expressed it remarkably well. Although I became a Christian at an early age overr the years I committed some serious sins. Christians do sin and have also been on the wrong side of social issues. But that does not mean that Christianity itself is false, because, as John points out, the Bible teaches that Christians will sin, especialy when they fall "out of fellowship" with the Lord.

But one of the greatest proofs of Christianity is the miracle of lives transformed by personally accepting Christ into one's life. And one who has experienced that knows that Jesus is alive and His power is real.

And understand that when Doug says: "Do me a favour, we're talking about serious stuff here, please give it some further thought and investigation" it is because having met you and talked to you through the Forum, you are like friends to us and we long for you to personally know God, through His Son, as we do.

It is fitting that this topic started on Palm Sunday since this Friday is when we celebrate that Friday when God the Father poured out his wrath on His Son to pay for the sins of all those who believe in Him. On the Cross, Jesus said: "Father, why have you forsaken me?" which was more suffering for Jesus than the physical pain and torment so graphically portrayed in Gibson's movie. Who among us would sacrifice a son or daughter to pay for the sins of those who had hated us? We do not fully understand it but it was only through that sacrifice that God could redem sinners. The sacrifice had to be paid for man's sins, and Jesus did it for every one of us. He knew every one of our names as he died for us.

And one great proof of Christianity is that His disciples who had lied and deserted him in fear of their own arrest and execution started to boldly proclaim Him and willingly die for Him after they had experienced the resurrection. Then and only then did they truly know that everything Jesus had told them was true.

So like Doug, I too would hope that you would carefully consider these isues. I believe an aceptable "prayer of salvation" is "God, if you are real, forgive my sins and enter my life." I think if you are willing to sincerely say that prayer, you will truthfully undedrstand God.

Finally, a note re John's coment on Bush. I do not think it is corect to judge Christianity because you disagree with the policies of Bush and/or Blair. But lok at Bush's personally testimony. He had a serious alcohol problem and was on the verge of losing his marriage when he accepted Christ as His Saviour and it transformed his personal life and he immediately gave up the alcohol. What happened to Bush personally, regardless of your opinion re his politics, is a prof of Christianity.

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John wrote:

If one considers the great moral issues in history (slavery, political and economic equality, democracy, welfare state, etc.) Christians have been just as likely as non-Christians to have been on the wrong side. In fact, the leaders of the Christian Church, have virtually always been on the wrong side. The reason for that is that in direct contrast to Jesus Christ, Christian leaders have wished to please the rich and powerful over the poor and the powerless).

John is partially correct. But it is Christians who have also been the leaders of novements to right wrongs. It was Christians, for instance, that led the fight against slavery. Consider John Brown who was willing to give his life to achieve social justice.

But John is correct that Jesus always emphasized the poor and the powerless over the rich and powerful. Indeed, Jesus commented that it was very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven because he would have to give up his earthly riches. And I have no respect for the TV preachers so prevalent in the United States that offer their followers earthly riches. That is NOT what the Gospels teach. To the contrary, the New Testament says: "Do not store up your treasures on this earth."

The Bible says that not all who proclaim Jesus' name, and do miracles in His name, are Christians.

I know that John has studied Christ's teachings and understands how correct they are. How diferent the world woulkd be if we each loved our neighbors as we love ourselves, and only did unto others what we would like done to us. But it must be undedrstod that the man who had all of these great moral teachings proclaimed Himself the Son of God. So either He was indeed the Son of God or He was a xxxx or a lunatic. I think the wiseness of His moral teachings, Which John acknowledges, demonstrates Jesus was he he says he was.

I sense that I "know" John Simkin and he is a wonderful man who indeed lives his life according to those moral teachings. In one sense I think it is more difficult for someone who is a "good" person to recognize the need for his or her salvation than someone who is a great sinner. I hope, though, that John and others will recognize that it is unlikely that someone with all that moral knowledge was a xxxx or a lunatic. Far more likely He was indeed the Son of God!

Edited by Tim Gratz
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It is interesting that most of the scientists Tim cites are physicists. Most biologists have a very different take on the argument from design. I find this interesting in part because I am a biologist, but also because biologists deal most closely with life - where one might expect the argument from design to be most powerful. I would say the majority of evolutionary biologists - including of course our friend Richard Dawkins - are atheists.

The argument from design was handily destroyed by Hume on a philosophical level, and Darwin finished it off with natural selection, which explains apparent design without resort to a divine intelligence. That, of course, is deeply troubling to religious people of a certain stripe (I doubt a Buddhist would be at all troubled by it...).

Certainly it is possible for a scientist to be a Christian (or any other religion for that matter). However, they don't rely on science to sustain that belief - because they can't. In that sense, science and religion do have trouble getting along.

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thanks for the posts. Interesting comment re the scientists. I know there are well qualiied biologists who have written books about creation science. I shall try to locate them and refer you to them.

I found on Amazon a book called Faith, Form and Time, written by Kurt Wise who has a MA and a Ph.d from Harvard where he was taught by Stephen Jay Gould. Wise was wise enough not to believe everything Gould taught him! (sorry for the play on words).

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An interesting article. The very fact that we understand god morals proves the existence of God, argues philosopher William Lane Craig (who received his Ph.D in England):

The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality

Dr. William Lane Craig


William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife Jan and their two teenage children Charity and John. At the age of sixteen as a junior in high school, he first heard the message of the Christian gospel and yielded his life to Christ. Dr. Craig pursued his undergraduate studies at Wheaton College (B.A. 1971) and graduate studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A. 1974; M.A. 1975), the University of Birmingham (England) (Ph.D. 1977), and the University of Munich (Germany) (D.Theol. 1984). From 1980-86 he taught Philosophy of Religion at Trinity, during which time he and Jan started their family. In 1987 they moved to Brussels, Belgium, where Dr. Craig pursued research at the University of Louvain until 1994.


Theism and naturalism are contrasted with respect to furnishing an adequate foundation for the moral life. It is shown that on a theistic worldview an adequate foundation exists for the affirmation of objective moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability. By contrast, naturalism fails in all three respects. Insofar as we believe that moral values and duties do exist, we therefore have good grounds for believing that God exists. Moreover, a practical argument for believing in God is offered on the basis of moral accountability.


Source: "The Indispensability of Theological Meta-ethical Foundations for Morality." Foundations 5 (1997): 9-12.


Can we be good without God? At first the answer to this question may seem so obvious that even to pose it arouses indignation. For while those of us who are Christian theists undoubtedly find in God a source of moral strength and resolve which enables us to live lives that are better than those we should live without Him, nevertheless it would seem arrogant and ignorant to claim that those who do not share a belief in God do not often live good moral lives--indeed, embarrassingly, lives that sometimes put our own to shame.

But wait. It would, indeed, be arrogant and ignorant to claim that people cannot be good without belief in God. But that was not the question. The question was: can we be good without God? When we ask that question, we are posing in a provocative way the meta-ethical question of the objectivity of moral values. Are the values we hold dear and guide our lives by mere social conventions akin to driving on the left versus right side of the road or mere expressions of personal preference akin to having a taste for certain foods or not? Or are they valid independently of our apprehension of them, and if so, what is their foundation? Moreover, if morality is just a human convention, then why should we act morally, especially when it conflicts with self-interest? Or are we in some way held accountable for our moral decisions and actions?

Today I want to argue that if God exists, then the objectivity of moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability is secured, but that in the absence of God, that is, if God does not exist, then morality is just a human convention, that is to say, morality is wholly subjective and non-binding. We might act in precisely the same ways that we do in fact act, but in the absence of God, such actions would no longer count as good (or evil), since if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. Thus, we cannot truly be good without God. On the other hand, if we do believe that moral values and duties are objective, that provides moral grounds for believing in God.

Consider, then, the hypothesis that God exists. First, if God exists, objective moral values exist. To say that there are objective moral values is to say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so. It is to say, for example, that Nazi anti-Semitism was morally wrong, even though the Nazis who carried out the Holocaust thought that it was good; and it would still be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them.

On the theistic view, objective moral values are rooted in God. God's own holy and perfectly good nature supplies the absolute standard against which all actions and decisions are measured. God's moral nature is what Plato called the "Good." He is the locus and source of moral value. He is by nature loving, generous, just, faithful, kind, and so forth.

Moreover, God's moral nature is expressed in relation to us in the form of divine commands which constitute our moral duties or obligations. Far from being arbitrary, these commands flow necessarily from His moral nature. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, the whole moral duty of man can be summed up in the two great commandments: First, you shall love the Lord your God with all your strength and with all your soul and with all your heart and with all your mind, and, second, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On this foundation we can affirm the objective goodness and rightness of love, generosity, self-sacrifice, and equality, and condemn as objectively evil and wrong selfishness, hatred, abuse, discrimination, and oppression.

Finally, on the theistic hypothesis God holds all persons morally accountable for their actions. Evil and wrong will be punished; righteousness will be vindicated. Good ultimately triumphs over evil, and we shall finally see that we do live in a moral universe after all. Despite the inequities of this life, in the end the scales of God's justice will be balanced. Thus, the moral choices we make in this life are infused with an eternal significance. We can with consistency make moral choices which run contrary to our self-interest and even undertake acts of extreme self-sacrifice, knowing that such decisions are not empty and ultimately meaningless gestures. Rather our moral lives have a paramount significance. So I think it is evident that theism provides a sound foundation for morality.

Contrast this with the atheistic hypothesis. First, if atheism is true, objective moral values do not exist. If God does not exist, then what is the foundation for moral values? More particularly, what is the basis for the value of human beings? If God does not exist, then it is difficult to see any reason to think that human beings are special or that their morality is objectively true. Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything? Who or what imposes any moral duties upon us? Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science from the University of Guelph, writes,

The position of the modern evolutionist . . . is that humans have an awareness of morality . . . because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth . . . . Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says 'Love they neighbor as thyself,' they think they are referring above and beyond themselves . . . . Nevertheless, . . . such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory . . . .1

As a result of socio-biological pressures, there has evolved among homo sapiens a sort of "herd morality" which functions well in the perpetuation of our species in the struggle for survival. But there does not seem to be anything about homo sapiens that makes this morality objectively true.

Moreover, on the atheistic view there is no divine lawgiver. But then what source is there for moral obligation? Richard Taylor, an eminent ethicist, writes,

The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well.

Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things are war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are 'morally wrong,' and they imagine that they have said something true and significant.

Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion.2

He concludes,

Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning.3

Now it is important that we remain clear in understanding the issue before us. The question is not: Must we believe in God in order to live moral lives? There is no reason to think that atheists and theists alike may not live what we normally characterize as good and decent lives. Similarly, the question is not: Can we formulate a system of ethics without reference to God? If the non-theist grants that human beings do have objective value, then there is no reason to think that he cannot work out a system of ethics with which the theist would also largely agree. Or again, the question is not: Can we recognize the existence of objective moral values without reference to God? The theist will typically maintain that a person need not believe in God in order to recognize, say, that we should love our children. Rather, as humanist philosopher Paul Kurtz puts it, "The central question about moral and ethical principles concerns this ontological foundation. If they are neither derived from God nor anchored in some transcendent ground, are they purely ephemeral?"4

If there is no God, then any ground for regarding the herd morality evolved by homo sapiens as objectively true seems to have been removed. After all, what is so special about human beings? They are just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. Some action, say, incest, may not be biologically or socially advantageous and so in the course of human evolution has become taboo; but there is on the atheistic view nothing really wrong about committing incest. If, as Kurtz states, "The moral principles that govern our behavior are rooted in habit and custom, feeling and fashion,"5 then the non-conformist who chooses to flout the herd morality is doing nothing more serious than acting unfashionably.

The objective worthlessness of human beings on a naturalistic world view is underscored by two implications of that world view: materialism and determinism. Naturalists are typically materialists or physicalists, who regard man as a purely animal organism. But if man has no immaterial aspect to his being (call it soul or mind or what have you), then he is not qualitatively different from other animal species. For him to regard human morality as objective is to fall into the trap of specie-ism. On a materialistic anthropology there is no reason to think that human beings are objectively more valuable than rats. Secondly, if there is no mind distinct from the brain, then everything we think and do is determined by the input of our five senses and our genetic make-up. There is no personal agent who freely decides to do something. But without freedom, none of our choices is morally significant. They are like the jerks of a puppet's limbs, controlled by the strings of sensory input and physical constitution. And what moral value does a puppet or its movements have?

Thus, if naturalism is true, it becomes impossible to condemn war, oppression, or crime as evil. Nor can one praise brotherhood, equality, or love as good. It does not matter what values you choose--for there is no right and wrong; good and evil do not exist. That means that an atrocity like the Holocaust was really morally indifferent. You may think that it was wrong, but your opinion has no more validity than that of the Nazi war criminal who thought it was good. In his book Morality after Auschwitz, Peter Haas asks how an entire society could have willingly participated in a state-sponsored program of mass torture and genocide for over a decade without any serious opposition. He argues that

far from being contemptuous of ethics, the perpetrators acted in strict conformity with an ethic which held that, however difficult and unpleasant the task might have been, mass extermination of the Jews and Gypsies was entirely justified. . . . the Holocaust as a sustained effort was possible only because a new ethic was in place that did not define the arrest and deportation of Jews as wrong and in fact defined it as ethically tolerable and ever good.6

Moreover, Haas points out, because of its coherence and internal consistency, the Nazi ethic could not be discredited from within. Only from a transcendent vantage point which stands above relativistic, socio-cultural mores could such a critique be launched. But in the absence of God, it is precisely such a vantage point that we lack. One Rabbi who was imprisoned at Auschwitz said that it was as though all the Ten Commandments had been reversed: thou shalt kill, thou shalt lie, thou shalt steal. Mankind has never seen such a hell. And yet, in a real sense, if naturalism is true, our world is Auschwitz. There is no good and evil, no right and wrong. Objective moral values do not exist.

Moreover, if atheism is true, there is no moral accountability for one's actions. Even if there were objective moral values and duties under naturalism, they are irrelevant because there is no moral accountability. If life ends at the grave, it makes no difference whether one lives as a Stalin or as a saint. As the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky rightly said: "If there is no immortality, then all things are permitted."7

The state torturers in Soviet prisons understood this all too well. Richard Wurmbrand reports,

The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The Communist torturers often said, 'There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.' I have heard one torturer even say, 'I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.' He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflected on prisoners.8

Given the finality of death, it really does not matter how you live. So what do you say to someone who concludes that we may as well just live as we please, out of pure self-interest? This presents a pretty grim picture for an atheistic ethicist like Kai Nielsen of the University of Calgary. He writes,

We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view, or that all really rational persons should not be individual egoists or classical amoralists. Reason doesn't decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me . . . . Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.9

Somebody might say that it is in our best self-interest to adopt a moral life-style. But clearly, that is not always true: we all know situations in which self-interest runs smack in the face of morality. Moreover, if one is sufficiently powerful, like a Ferdinand Marcos or a Papa Doc Duvalier or even a Donald Trump, then one can pretty much ignore the dictates of conscience and safely live in self-indulgence. Historian Stewart C. Easton sums it up well when he writes, "There is no objective reason why man should be moral, unless morality 'pays off' in his social life or makes him 'feel good.' There is no objective reason why man should do anything save for the pleasure it affords him."10

Acts of self-sacrifice become particularly inept on a naturalistic world view. Why should you sacrifice your self-interest and especially your life for the sake of someone else? There can be no good reason for adopting such a self-negating course of action on the naturalistic world view. Considered from the socio-biological point of view, such altruistic behavior is merely the result of evolutionary conditioning which helps to perpetuate the species. A mother rushing into a burning house to rescue her children or a soldier throwing his body over a hand grenade to save his comrades does nothing more significant or praiseworthy, morally speaking, than a fighter ant which sacrifices itself for the sake of the ant hill. Common sense dictates that we should resist, if we can, the socio-biological pressures to such self-destructive activity and choose instead to act in our best self-interest. The philosopher of religion John Hick invites us to imagine an ant suddenly endowed with the insights of socio-biology and the freedom to make personal decisions. He writes:

Suppose him to be called upon to immolate himself for the sake of the ant-hill. He feels the powerful pressure of instinct pushing him towards this self-destruction. But he asks himself why he should voluntarily . . . carry out the suicidal programme to which instinct prompts him? Why should he regard the future existence of a million million other ants as more important to him than his own continued existence? . . . Since all that he is and has or ever can have is his own present existence, surely in so far as he is free from the domination of the blind force of instinct he will opt for life--his own life.11

Now why should we choose any differently? Life is too short to jeopardize it by acting out of anything but pure self-interest. Sacrifice for another person is just stupid. Thus the absence of moral accountability from the philosophy of naturalism makes an ethic of compassion and self-sacrifice a hollow abstraction. R. Z. Friedman, a philosopher of the University of Toronto, concludes, "Without religion the coherence of an ethic of compassion cannot be established. The principle of respect for persons and the principle of the survival of the fittest are mutually exclusive."12

We thus come to radically different perspectives on morality depending upon whether or not God exists. If God exists, there is a sound foundation for morality. If God does not exist, then, as Nietzsche saw, we are ultimately landed in nihilism.

But the choice between the two need not be arbitrarily made. On the contrary, the very considerations we have been discussing can constitute moral justification for the existence of God.

For example, if we do think that objective moral values exist, then we shall be led logically to the conclusion that God exists. And could anything be more obvious than that objective moral values do exist? There is no more reason to deny the objective reality of moral values than the objective reality of the physical world. The reasoning of Ruse is at worst a text-book example of the genetic fallacy and at best only proves that our subjective perception of objective moral values has evolved. But if moral values are gradually discovered, not invented, then such a gradual and fallible apprehension of the moral realm no more undermines the objective reality of that realm than our gradual, fallible perception of the physical world undermines the objectivity of that realm. The fact is that we do apprehend objective values, and we all know it. Actions like rape, torture, child abuse, and brutality are not just socially unacceptable behavior--they are moral abominations. As Ruse himself states, "The man who says that it is morally acceptable to rape little children is just as mistaken as the man who says, 2+2=5."13 By the same token, love, generosity, equality, and self-sacrifice are really good. People who fail to see this are just morally handicapped, and there is no reason to allow their impaired vision to call into question what we see clearly. Thus, the existence of objective moral values serves to demonstrate the existence of God.

Or consider the nature of moral obligation. What makes certain actions right or wrong for us? What or who imposes moral duties upon us? Why is it that we ought to do certain things and ought not to do other things? Where does this 'ought' come from? Traditionally, our moral obligations were thought to be laid upon us by God's moral commands. But if we deny God's existence, then it is difficult to make sense of moral duty or right and wrong, as Richard Taylor explains,

A duty is something that is owed . . . . But something can be owed only to some person or persons. There can be no such thing as duty in isolation . . . . The idea of political or legal obligation is clear enough . . . . Similarly, the idea of an obligation higher than this, and referred to as moral obligation, is clear enough, provided reference to some lawmaker higher . . . . than those of the state is understood. In other words, our moral obligations can . . . be understood as those that are imposed by God. This does give a clear sense to the claim that our moral obligations are more binding upon us than our political obligations . . . . But what if this higher-than-human lawgiver is no longer taken into account? Does the concept of a moral obligation . . . still make sense? . . . . the concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart form the idea of God. The words remain, but their meaning is gone.14

It follows that moral obligations and right and wrong necessitate God's existence. And certainly we do have such obligations. Speaking recently on a Canadian University campus, I noticed a poster put up by the Sexual Assault & Information Center. It read: "Sexual Assault: No One Has the Right to Abuse a Child, Woman, or Man." Most of us recognize that that statement is evidently true. But the atheist can make no sense of a person's right not to be sexually abused by another. The best answer to the question as to the source of moral obligation is that moral rightness or wrongness consists in agreement or disagreement with the will or commands of a holy, loving God.

Finally, take the problem of moral accountability. Here we find a powerful practical argument for believing in God. According to William James, practical arguments can only be used when theoretical arguments are insufficient to decide a question of urgent and pragmatic importance. But it seems obvious that a practical argument could also be used to back up or motivate acceptance of the conclusion of a sound theoretical argument. To believe, then, that God does not exist and that there is thus no moral accountability would be quite literally de-moralizing, for then we should have to believe that our moral choices are ultimately insignificant, since both our fate and that of the universe will be the same regardless of what we do. By "de-moralization" I mean a deterioration of moral motivation. It is hard to do the right thing when that means sacrificing one's own self-interest and to resist temptation to do wrong when desire is strong, and the belief that ultimately it does not matter what you choose or do is apt to sap one's moral strength and so undermine one's moral life. As Robert Adams observes, "Having to regard it as very likely that the history of the universe will not be good on the whole, no matter what one does, seems apt to induce a cynical sense of futility about the moral life, undermining one's moral resolve and one's interest in moral considerations."15 By contrast there is nothing so likely to strengthen the moral life as the beliefs that one will be held accountable for one's actions and that one's choices do make a difference in bringing about the good. Theism is thus a morally advantageous belief, and this, in the absence of any theoretical argument establishing atheism to be the case, provides practical grounds to believe in God and motivation to accept the conclusions of the two theoretical arguments I just gave above.

In summary, theological meta-ethical foundations do seem to be necessary for morality. If God does not exist, then it is plausible to think that there are no objective moral values, that we have no moral duties, and that there is no moral accountability for how we live and act. The horror of such a morally neutral world is obvious. If, on the other hand, we hold, as it seems rational to do, that objective moral values and duties do exist, then we have good grounds for believing in the existence of God. In addition, we have powerful practical reasons for embracing theism in view of the morally bracing effects which belief in moral accountability produces. We cannot, then, truly be good without God; but if we can in some measure be good, then it follows that God exists.


1 Michael Ruse, "Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics," in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262, 268-9.

2 Richard Taylor, Ethics, Faith, and Reason (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), pp. 2-3.

3 Ibid., p. 7.

4 Paul Kurtz, Forbidden Fruit (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1988) p. 65.

5 Ibid., p. 73.

6 Critical notice of Peter Haas, Morality after Auschwitz: The Radical Challenge of the Nazi Ethic (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), by R. L.Rubenstein, Journal of the Americn Academy of Religion 60 (1992): 158.

7 Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, trans. C. Garnett (New York: Signet Classics, 1957), bk. II, chap. 6; bk. V, chap. 4; bk. XI, chap. 8.

8 Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1967), p. 34.

9 Kai Nielsen, "Why Should I Be Moral?" American Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1984): 90.

10 Stewart C. Easton, The Western Heritage, 2d ed. (New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1966), p. 878.

11 John Hick, Arguments for the Existence of God (New York: Herder & Herder, 1971), p. 63.

12 R. Z. Friedman, "Does the 'Death of God' Really Matter?" International Philosophical Quarterly 23 (1983): 322.

13 Michael Ruse, Darwinism Defended (London: Addison-Wesley, 1982), p. 275.

14 Taylor, Ethics, Faith, and Reason, pp. 83-4.

15 Robert Merrihew Adams, "Moral Arguments for Theistic Belief," in Rationality and Religious Belief, ed. C. F. Delaney (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre dame Press, 1979), p. 127.


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I like the idea that atheists are immoral. It would be so much better with a bit of evidence.

Likewise the idea that a basic moral position which can be interpreted to support slavery or interpreted to oppose slavery has any validity. If you are telling me that a belief in Jesus Christ would not make the slightest difference to whether I supported slavery or war or racism, it does not seem to have much utility.

If it has no use and cannot be proven, what is the point of it?

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Oh and incidentally my son, the atheist, received a masters degree in astrophysics at Cambridge "in nomine patris, et filiis et spiritus sanctus" - please tell me what that proves.

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