Monday, May 15, 2017

Science and Religion Face Off





On my Sunday afternoon radio show (107.1 FM), my guest, Tony, and I discussed some of the newest biblical research.  Better understanding of ancient languages, improved telescopes and computer-enhanced archaeology are continuing to shred Bible accounts.  Naturally, Tony rejected much of it because of his sincere Christian belief.

His main focus that day was on creation.  Tony argued that, even if the Big Bang Theory regarding the origin of the universe was correct, then there had to be a beginning.  He credited God for that. He also noted that the Earth is so perfect for life that it could have only been set up by a creator.

Contrary to Tony’s claims, both objections to scientific studies do not enhance his argument. Let’s look at each in turn.

Big Bang?
The Big Bang Theory proposes that the universe was created in one massive explosion, leading to the formation of galaxies, planets and everything else we see via telescope.  The idea was criticized severely, but became a paradigm after sound engineers in the 1960s uncovered the hum still echoing around the university from that powerful detonation.

Religious folks like Tony then argue that God must have started it.  They have no choice to limit His involvement to the kickoff because modern telescopes in space have revealed that planets and stars form naturally.  No divine presence is necessary.  Unfortunately for God the creator, if He actually initiated the process, He has had little else to do afterwards.  That hardly seems like a heavenly creature worth worshiping and certainly does not match up with anyone’s beliefs.

Moreover, newer research seems to indicate there are multiple universes.  Indeed, we just may be inhabiting one of many, and universes may come and go.  The most recent discovery is that part of the universe is colder than expected, which may indicate the merging of universes.  If the supposition is correct, then God is neatly excised from any creation story.

Moreover, scientists have determined how everything could appear in the universe from nothing.  I’m not a physicist and won’t try to encapsulate the well-documented  research, but there are plenty of books available to explain the process. 

Either everything occurs naturally and endlessly repeats itself or God had only one function.  Neither option supports religious claims.

Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P Rose director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, supplied the final blow to that kind of logic.  On a talk show that was streamed on Facebook, Tyson was asked if he believed in God.  His answer was the most people seem to believe in a god who is all powerful and all good.

Citing massive earthquakes and natural disasters that have killed millions of people just in recent years, Tyson said it was obvious that God couldn’t be all powerful or all good.  If all powerful, He failed miserably to preserve life.  As such, He couldn't be all good.  No one would define a devastating tsunami as good.

As such, Tyson said he couldn’t believe in that kind of deity. 

That same is true for one that starts the universe and then vanishes.

As for Tony’s second concern, the ideal conditions on Earth for life: that’s been long answered by logic.  If Earth were not the right distance from the sun, with the proper axis tilt and liquid water, we wouldn’t be here.  We all know other planets without those conditions, and they don’t seem to harbor surface life.

That would seem to make Earth unique.  Modern research has smothered that claim. There must be trillions of planets in the universe, just based on the telescopic observations that virtually every star is being orbited by multiple satellites.  There are trillions of stars and, so, many more planets.

Even if only 1 in a trillion planets is perfect for life, there would still be untold numbers of planets that would be ideal for humans. 

Some exoplanets
As a result, the argument that God must have created a perfect planet completely falls apart.  After all, we know one such planet, and, based on research, many more exist.   In fact, scientists are devoting a lot of energy to look for them and have already spotted several possible candidates among the exoplanets.

Tony, of course, will continue to believe.  In doing so, he will have to ignore both logic and scientific discoveries.  That’s never a problem for the faithful.

Turning a blind eye, however, won’t change the torrent of facts now undermining religious ideas born in darkness thousands of years ago and being exposed as aging, illogical and incorrect in the light of modern science.

I agree with Tony that science is neither reassuring nor supportive emotionally.  Religion plays that role.  Nevertheless, I prefer to place my faith in substantiated fact than earnestly spouted, but unsupported, claims.


Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve University and an M.A. in communication from Kent State University.  You can reach him at wplazarus@aol.com.

He is the author of the famed novel The Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus as well as The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Comparative Religion for Dummies.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.