Monday, December 14, 2009

Science and the Supernatural

Today's essay is going to be about scientific knowledge and how it relates to God. First I'm going to talk about how scientific knowledge works. Then I'm going to talk about how that relates to God. I'm going to conclude by talking about knowledge that depends on faith.

Science seeks to make sense of the complex universe we live in. Science explains staggeringly complex natural phenomena in terms of relatively simple theories. The behavior of light and of electrons is explained in terms of quantum theory. The behavior of planets is explained in terms of Einstein's theory of relativity. These theories might not seem simple, but they are much simpler than the events that they seek to explain.

Because the goal of science is to simplify matters, scientific theories never explain natural events in terms of divine causes. Planetary motion is complex, but it is much simpler to understand planetary motion than it is to understand the mind of God. The Bible tells us that God's wisdom is unsearchable. For this reason, explaining something natural, like planetary motion, in terms of God's will is counterproductive. We end up with a theory that is more complex than the events that the theory explains.

Therefore God must necessarily be left out of any purely scientific explanation of the universe. This doesn't mean that God doesn't exist. It means that no scientific theory can accommodate an unsearchable being such as God. This is because science is only concerned with things that can be fully understood.

Since science is limited in this way, there are some things that can't be scientifically understood. Scientists study the universe and learn about it's history and about the laws that govern it. In the lab scientists can recreate the conditions of the early universe. But there's no way for scientists to study the creation of a new universe.

We can observe and study the universe as it currently exists, but we can't study the first steps of the process that formed it. We know a lot about our universe, but we don't know how it came about. In other words, what is known was formed by that which is unknown.

This makes it difficult for scientists to answer some basic questions about the nature of our universe. For example, why do the laws of the universe allow complex matter to form? Why was the universe initially in a low entropy state? These questions both deal with the same concern. If the universe had been significantly different from what it is now, then we would never have existed.

These facts give me confidence that God exists. The fact that the universe was formed in such a way that life could evolve suggests that it was not some random or arbitrary process. It also suggests that the universe itself is not arbitrary or meaningless, but that it has a purpose. Or, to put it another way, that God had a purpose in making it.

I think we have good reason to believe in an eternal being that created everything. Unfortunately, we can't study this being the way we study black holes or supernovas. As I said above, what is known was made by that which is unknown. Even the bible tells us that no one has seen God and that God is unknown to us.

God is unlike the rest of creation, in that he cannot be directly studied. Indeed, we would not know anything about God, except possibly that He must exist, if God had not revealed Himself to us. We cannot begin to know God unless he first reveals Himself to us. This is why I encourage people to ask God to reveal Himself to them.

I would like to conclude by clarifying the nature of faith. Some people think that faith is merely belief without evidence. I would argue that faith in God is a belief in something for which there can be no direct evidence. God is beyond our ability to understand or comprehend. Whatever we believe about God we have no choice but to believe without evidence, because there is no evidence to consider. That is what it means to have faith.

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