Religion and Science: The Emerging Relationship

                                                 Part III

 

          In the last article I discussed the discovery that we exist in an expanding universe; the result of the Big Bang.  This theory has contributed to a renewal of the cosmological proof of the existence of God, as hinted at in the previous articles in this series.  While science cannot speak to this issue using the methods of science, it is clear that modern discovery is provoking the question about God among some scientists who have turned to philosophy and theology for guidance. Other discoveries about the universe have continued to fuel this discussion

 

            Modern science has discovered that there exists a balance of forces in the universe that are so fine that any variation would have meant a very different type of universe—or none at all!  In the words of scientist Stephen Hawking:

 

            If the rate of expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million it would have recollapsed before it reached its present size. 1

 

            There are other intriguing aspects of the universe as well. For instance, if the strong nuclear force were even slightly weaker we would only have hydrogen in the universe.  If it were slightly stronger, all the hydrogen would have been converted to helium.

 

          In either case, stable stars and compounds such as water could not have been formed.  Again, the nuclear force is only barely sufficient for carbon to form; yet if it had been slightly stronger, the carbon would all have been converted to oxygen.  Particular elements, such as carbon have many other special properties that are crucial to the later development of organic life as we know it. 2

 

            Another extraordinary condition of the universe is the particle/anti-particle ratio. That is, for every billion anti-protons in the early universe, there were one billion and one protons.  The billion pairs annihilated each other to produce radiation, with just one proton per billion left over.  A greater or smaller number of survivors or none at all would have made our universe impossible.

 

            The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous.  I think there are clearly religious implications. 3

 

                The physicist Freeman Dyson writes:

 

            The Argument from Design, gives a number of examples of ‘numerical accidents’ that seem to conspire to make the universe habitable…The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe is some sense must have known we were coming. 4

 

                While these discoveries are compelling and seem to point to the possibility of a Grand Designer, theologians are cautious about using these discoveries to argue for the existence of God to avoid the God of the gaps.  That is using God to explain something about the natural world that we do not have an explanation for at this time.

 

Notes

 

1. Ian Barbour, Religion in an Age of Science, (San Francisco: Harper Publishing, 1990), p.13

 

2. Barbour, p. 128

 

3. Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe, (New York: Harper and Row, 1979), p. 250

 

4. Barbour, p. 141

 

 

Deacon Robert M. Pallotti, D