Does the scientific study of our universe support belief in God?
There are aspects of scientific study that resonate with belief in the God, such as the laws of science and the fine-tuning of the universe.
Things that point us to a god
David Wilkinson tells Simon Smart about the aspects of his scientific study that point him towards belief in God.
SIMON SMART: So why do you believe there’s a god?
DAVID WILKINSON: I believe in a god because there are pointers within the universe itself (but not proofs) – things like laws we encounter as scientists or the fact that the universe is just right (in a Goldilocks sense) to make life possible, or the intelligibility of the laws. But ultimately, I believe in God because I’ve encountered God revealing himself supremely in Jesus. That’s been my own experience in life, and it’s fundamental to the Christian belief – that God isn’t a god who’s proved in a mathematical sense, but a god who reveals himself in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
SIMON SMART: Are there aspects of your scientific study that push you in the direction of belief in a god?
DAVID WILKINSON: Yes, absolutely. As I encounter as an astrophysicist a number of things about the universe, they point or resonate with my Christian faith. They’re not a logical proof that I can offer to other people – but, for instance, the fact that this universe is so vast (our Milky Way galaxy is 100 billion stars and it’s one of 100 billion galaxies in the universe, so there are more stars than grains of sand on the beaches of the world), and there’s a question there for me about ‘What is the significance of human beings in the vastness of the universe?’ Or as I look at the laws of science I see that they’re very beautiful and elegant, and the question there for me is, ‘Where do they come from?’ Or as I encounter the universe, the sense of awe – what do I do with that? – which is shared by many, many scientists, and for me, it leads to worship. So as a Christian I come to these things and find that they’re entirely coherent, and consistent, with belief that the universe is creation. And for many of my friends who aren’t Christians, they may be pointers towards a deeper story in the universe.close
A finely balanced universe
Tom McLeish on how the universe looks like it’s been finely tuned to allow for order and life.
SIMON SMART: Is the sense that the universe is just so right for the life we experience suggestive to you of a created place?
TOM MCLEISH: I would say that it’s consistent that it is created. There’s a history of people; interestingly, most of them atheists – Fred Hoyle and Martin Reiss, both of them in the UK, wrote in two different generations in the last century of the extraordinarily fine balance that you need in a world for the world to produce order out of chaos, for it to be an ordered universe. So it looks as though – even Hoyle said it – it looks as though somebody fixed it, it looks as if there’s a mind behind the delicate way that this world is balanced. Physics has shown it could be otherwise but as far as we’re aware if you twiddle the knobs on the numbers that determine the fundamental rules of this universe, with most other sets of numbers you get a mess – you get something which lasts about two seconds or you get something which dissipates into a cloud and nothing more forever and ever and ever. So something like this is going on.
Now, there are other ways people think of explaining that – maybe there are an infinite number of universes. Well, maybe there are. There are ways in which that might occur, but there’s no firm physical reason to understand there are. In which case, we’re obviously in the one that we’re in, the one that works. But that for me is just as difficult a leap of faith as the leap of faith into a Creator God.close
Fine Tuning and the Multiverse Theory
William Lane Craig on the weaknesses of the multiverse hypothesis to explain the fine-tuning of the universe.
SIMON SMART: In response to the fine tuning of the universe as a possible pointer towards God, we’re sometimes told that a multiverse does away with this need for this appearance of design. We just happen to be in one of billions of universes in which the properties required for life to exist as we know it are in place. This multiverse gets a bit of a run – what’s your response to it?
WILLIAM LANE CRAIG: I would say that even if a multiverse exists, it does not explain the fine-tuning. This point has been made very forcefully by Roger Penrose of Oxford University. What Penrose points out is that it is incomprehensibly more probable that our solar system would just instantaneously form through the random collision of particles than that a finely tuned universe would exist. What that means is that there are far more universes in this multiverse in which observers form just by the random collision of particles than finely-tuned worlds. If we were just a random member of a multiverse, we ought to be observing an island of order no bigger than our solar system because that’s incomprehensibly more probable than a finely-tuned universe. In fact, the most probable observable universe would be a universe in which a single brain fluctuates into existence out of the quantum vacuum and observes its otherwise empty world. So if we were just a random member of a multiverse, we ought to be having observations like that, and since we don’t, that strongly disconfirms the multiverse hypothesis.close
- Using a search engine, find one fact to do with the complexity of the universe or life on earth, and write it down on a post-it note. Compare your results with the rest of the class.
- In light of all these facts, how likely do you think it is that the universe developed by chance/uncontrolled processes?
- Is there anything you’ve seen in the natural world that points you towards belief in God?
Understand & Evaluate
Watch the videos and read the article.
- In small groups, discuss the following questions about the videos and the article. Afterwards, report back to the whole class.
- What are the aspects of David Wilkinson’s scientific study of the universe that point him in the direction of belief in God? Do any of these resonate with you?
- What four ‘hints’ from the universe does Simon Smart mention that are consistent with belief in a Creator God? What do you think about these arguments?
- How would you summarise the fine-tuning argument? Do you think the fine-tuning of the universe could point to the existence of God? What other explanations do you think might explain this?
- What are some of the strengths and weaknesses of the multiverse theory? Does this theory appeal to you?
- What is David Wilkinson’s primary reason for belief in God? Do you think this is a valid reason, or should the primary reason for belief in God always be scientific?
- Discuss as a class:
- What might be some positive things about the idea of God being the source of creation?
- What might be some negative things about this idea?
Read Genesis 1:1, Psalm 19:1-4, and Romans 1:20.
- Summarise the main point of these Bible verses in one sentence.
- Thinking about the points made in the CPX videos and article, in what ways might “the heavens declare the glory of God”?
- If it is true that “the heavens declare the glory of God”, what implications might this have for life today?
- In pairs, conduct some further research on the fine-tuning argument, and create an engaging PowerPoint or Prezi presentation summarising the argument, its possible explanations, and its potential implications.