A new understanding of the world

Viktor Frankl[1], a young Austrian psychiatrist who survived the horrors of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany, has conveyed his thoughts that the search for meaning is the primary motivational force in human life. That search for meaning should be found in the understanding of the world in which we live. To know the world, according to the most current scientific theories, is to understand a universe created by God.

Indeed, today we are living in a remarkable time in the history of knowledge, which gives us the opportunity to gain a new insight or understanding of the world, a deeply rewarding experience. Moreover, as underlined in an article in Spanish teaching and teacher education journal Actualidad Docente: “The scientific knowledge acquired in the last 50 years permits more rigorous forms of inductive and deductive argumentation for the existence of God.”[2]

Fundamental discoveries that lead to the idea of God

The twentieth century has witnessed countless important scientific discoveries that give rise to the idea of the existence of a Creator God as the origin of the universe and intelligent life. We know that science per se can neither prove nor disprove His existence, since God is beyond nature, but one by one the arguments that have been used in the past to deny His existence have crumbled, and new knowledge has emerged that points to a created universe and an author of that Creation. We are referring to discoveries that have been made in all fields of science: physics, cosmology, biology, mathematics, etc.

Both the theory of relativity and quantum physics have profoundly altered our thinking. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle demystified materialistic determinism, while the Big Bang theory consolidated the idea of Creation. If we have to highlight one discovery as the most important of the twentieth century, we must mention the idea that we live in an expanding universe, which inexorably leads to its beginning 13.8 billion years ago. For the first time in human history, it has been scientifically reasoned that the universe has a beginning. This idea was proposed by Georges Lemaître[3], a Catholic priest and doctor in physics, who derived it from Einstein’s equations of relativity. This concept was so groundbreaking that Einstein himself only accepted it when evidence emerged as a result of the observation. The suggestion of a universe generated from a highly energetic point was formulated by Lemaître in 1931 and was progressively completed by other scientists, although it was not generally accepted until 1968, when microwave background radiation was detected. Science leads us to the idea proclaimed in Genesis: the universe had an origin.

Moreover, this fact is supported by another area of science. The requirement for a beginning for the universe was also inferred from thermodynamics. In the second half of the 19th century, Boltzmann mathematically defined entropy, which is the measure of the disorder of a system; the second principle of thermodynamics states that the amount of entropy in the universe tends to increase over time. This law implies a beginning of our universe as posited by different scientists, among them Arthur Eddington, who coined the term “arrow of time”, saying that it runs from the past to the future. Nevertheless, the implication of a beginning of the universe was not widely recognized until the idea of the Big Bang was accepted in the late 1960s.

In 2003, a new scientific breakthrough again corroborated this initial point of the universe, through the formulation of the Edge-Vilenkin-Guth theorem (named after the three scientists who developed it), which proves that a universe that has a positive expansion rate must have had a beginning in time.

Evidence of the origin of the universe, which strongly suggests the existence of a Creator, is not the only sign provided by new scientific findings about an Intelligent Creator. Thus, we can summarize the laws of nature in a set of equations containing a certain number of constants; these allow us to make very precise calculations of the most elementary physical phenomena, calculations that are confirmed by experimental evidence. From the second half of the last century, we began to perceive that there is an infinitesimal fine-tuning of many of the constants of nature and of the initial conditions of the universe with regard to the production of life, a tuning that inexorably points to a purpose and a Creator. This important discovery was made in 1953, when Fred Hoyle wondered how carbon, so necessary for the existence of life, could be produced in the universe. It has been proven that this is possible thanks to the fact that the carbon nucleus has an absolutely precise energy level. Following this discovery, we have learned that all the constants incorporating the complex set of physical laws that define the cosmos possess infinitesimally specific values and that, if there were the slightest deviation in any of these values, the universe as we know it could not exist, much less sustain life. The acclaimed agnostic physicist Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate in Physics, wrote “[…] how surprising it is that the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe should allow for the existence of beings who could observe it. Life as we know it would be impossible if any one of several physical quantities had slightly different values”[4].

The discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick in 1953 resulted in an understanding of the complexity of information necessary for the creation of life from the inanimate. Although the exhaustive research of recent years has not enabled us to discover the mechanisms by which life is generated, it brings us to the realization of the absolute improbability of it having occurred by chance with the laws we understand. Moreover, we sense that the fine-tuning reappears in this evolutionary stage that leads to our existence. The action of a supernatural intelligence is the most logical explanation we have to explain this infinitesimal tuning of the initial conditions and constants of the universe in the Big Bang, which gave rise to the universe and life.

The abstract world of mathematics also provides us with clues leading to the existence of God. Eugene Wigner[5] considered it a miracle that mathematics can explain the physical phenomena of nature, while Kurt Gödel, probably the most influential mathematician of the twentieth century, proved the so-called incompleteness theorems. The first of these states that: for any consistent formal system, there are statements that can be expressed within that system and that are true, but that cannot be proven within that system. The consequence is that a superior system is always required to demonstrate the realities of any formal system. The incompleteness theorem is applicable not only to mathematics, but to anything that is subject to the laws of logic: science, language, and philosophy. Moreover, since the universe is mathematical and logical, incompleteness also applies to it. The result is that the universe, made up of matter, energy, space and time, cannot explain itself. It needs an explanation of something external to it that is neither matter, nor energy, nor space, nor time. i.e., something intangible that is outside the universe.

Science, at our disposal

All those people who right now feel the urge to follow the advice of Viktor Frankl and seek that understanding of the world in which we live have a lot of information at their fingertips. In Spain specifically, two books have been published in recent years, with similar titles: God: the Science and the Proof[6] and New Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God[7].

The literature in the last few years on the same topic includes books written under different sentiments and with different objectives. The following five titles are indicative of this variety of approaches.

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

Francis Collins is a geneticist who is world-renowned for his discoveries of disease-causing genes, and was director of the Human Genome Project[8] for nine years. In his book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief[9], which he wrote at the end of his time as director of the project, he initially recounts how his thinking evolved. During his time as a Chemistry and Physics student, he went from agnosticism to atheism, following the trend that seemed to prevail among men of science. Having obtained his doctorate, he decided to enroll in Medicine, later recounting how spending time in the hospital with certain patients prompted him to reflect. Encounters with patients whose faith provided them with comfort and peace despite their suffering led him to wonder if their beliefs could have a rational basis. He decided to investigate systematically, finding the best argument for the integration of faith and logic in reading C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity[10]. In his book, Collins argues his faith in the existence of God, delving into the origin of the universe, with special emphasis on biological evolution.

There is a God

Antony Flew[11] was a renowned atheist philosopher. His 1949 lecture at Oxford became one of the most widely published essays in philosophy. From then on, for more than 50 years, he held a position of prominence as an active defender of atheism, which he presented in 26 published books that were hugely influential. However, the development of the Big Bang cosmology and our gradual understanding of the fine-tuning of physical constants prompted him to change his mind. In 2007, he published his book There is a God[12], in which he reflected on all the evidence presented by current scientific knowledge. He echoed the words of 1967 Nobel Prize winner in Medicine, George Wald, who in 1984 abandoned atheism, stating that Mind, a creative intelligence, is the fundamental reality of the world: “How is it that, with so many other apparent options, we are in a Universe that possesses just that peculiar nexus of properties that breeds life? It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always, as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—that the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical Universe that breeds life, and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create.”

God: the Science and the Proof/New Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God

These two books that were launched in Spain at almost the same time are broadly similar. Their authors are, in both cases, professionals in the business world, who have confirmed the “gap between the immense growth of scientific knowledge and technical achievements on one hand, and public understanding of them” referred[13] to in the aforementioned article in Actividad Docente, in particular on the existence of God. As a consequence, they have felt the need to share that knowledge.

In both cases, the authors have tried to systematically present all the ideas and reasoning of science that lead to the existence of a Creator God. These are both in relation to the origin of the universe, as well as the fine-tuning of the constants of nature, which have to do with inanimate matter or in the transition from the inanimate to the animate, as well as arguments that derive from new mathematical knowledge or from physics. Both books also analyze the theories and arguments that try to illustrate the opposite view, the unnecessariness of a Creator.

In the case of God: the Science and the Proof, the authors, Michel-Ives Bolloré and Olivier Bonnassies, are two French engineers who have worked for 3 years in the drafting of this book and consulted around 20 scientists and specialists. It so happens that one of them, Olivier Bonnassies, had been a non-believer at one stage of his life.

The author of New Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God, José Carlos González Hurtado, is a professional who has dedicated his life to business activity, managing prominent international firms that have led him to live in up to 15 different countries. In 2020, he promoted the launch of the Spanish version of EWTN, the top Catholic religious television channel in the world. His book tackles the debate on the different questions raised by science on the subject, managing to give it the appeal of business marketing.

Science at the Doorstep to God

Robert Spitzer is a truly multifaceted Jesuit priest with a background in Business Administration, Philosophy, and Theology, and has worked as a professor of philosophy while writing numerous books and articles. He is president of the Magis Institute dedicated to educating and promoting the complementarity of science, philosophy and faith, in particular physics, cosmology, the philosophy of science and metaphysics.

Spitzer has been analyzing and debating these issues for many years, so it should come as no surprise that his book, Science at the Doorstep to God[14], constitutes a stream of precise, well-organized information and rigorous reasoning in which he does not waste a single word. It shows academically that, through reason, we can come to see not only the great intelligence of the Creator, but also signs of His love, goodness, and glory.

Understanding the world

There is a famous anecdote about the theory of relativity that had as its protagonist the astronomer and physicist Sir Arthur Eddington, a few years after it was formulated by Albert Einstein. One journalist remarked: “I have heard that you are one of only three people in the world who understands the theory of general relativity.” On hearing this, Eddington looked surprised. When the interviewer asked him the reason for his astonishment, the English physicist replied: “I’m trying to think who the third person is!”

The anecdote appears to be true and shows us that science in the past was a matter for only a few. Thanks to a number of circumstances, including the work of the writers, we can say that this is no longer the case.

We owe thanks for these efforts to pass on the knowledge produced by scientific research and the discussion on the implications that this knowledge reveals, because it facilitates that search for meaning in life which, as Frankl suggests, we can find in the understanding of the world in which we live. Any of the five books suggested, each with its different characteristics, allows us to come to understand that God is behind this universe and our own life.

Manuel Ribes

Bioethics Observatory – Institute of Life Sciences

Catholic University of Valencia

 

[1] Viktor E. Frankl El hombre en busca de sentido | Herder ISBN-13 9788425432026

[2] M. Ribes Dólera ¿Ciudadanos del Universo? | Actualidad Docente 10/02/2020

[3] M. Ribes García Lemaître, religión, ciencia: “Había dos formas de llegar a la verdad. Decidí seguir ambas”  UCV Bioethics Observatory,  16 April, 2021

[4] The BioLogos Foundation What do “fine-tuning” and the “multiverse” say about God? Updated 20/11/2023

[5] M. Ribes García El misterio de las matemáticas | UCV Bioethics Observatory  29/09/2020

[6] Oliver Bonnassies, Michel Yves Bollore Dios – La Ciencia – Las Pruebas | Editorial Funambulista ISBN-13 9788412658798

[7] José Carlos González Hurtado Nuevas evidencias científicas de la existencia de Dios | Voz de Papel ISBN-13 9788412748611

[8] The Human Genome Project was a large international, collaborative initiative that mapped and sequenced the human genome for the first time. The project, which ran from 1990 to 2003, was historic in its scope and scale.

[9] Francis S. Collins  El lenguaje de Dios: Un Científico Presenta Evidencias para Creer  Temas De Hoy 2007  ISBN-10 ‏9703706134

[10] C. S. Lewis Mero Cristianismo | Rialp ISBN-10 8432147575

[11] M. Ribes García La cosmología moderna destruye los pilares del materialismo |UCV Bioethics Observatory 8/11/2021

[12] Antony Flew Dios existe | Editorial Trotta, S.A ISBN-13 9788498793680

[13] M. Ribes Dólera ¿Ciudadanos del Universo? | Actualidad Docente 10/02/2020

[14] Fr. Robert Spitzer SJ  Science at the Doorstep to God | Ignatius Press ISBN-10 162164636X

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