Counting to God

Chapter 1: The Great Question

Let me ask you a question. Do you think we live in a meaningless universe, and human beings were created by accident? Or do you think we live in a universe designed and created by a great intelligence, and human beings were designed? Accident or design—that is the question. What do you think?

I think it’s a “great question.” I think it’s the great question. It is about the existence of God.

In this book, I’ll share new clues. They come not from traditional religion or some televangelist, not from a new prophet or miracle, and certainly not from the government or our mass media. They come from an unexpected source, perhaps the last place you might expect, a place you might think is far from questions of faith. They come from science.

Modern science strongly supports belief in God. That’s the message of this book. Contrary to what you may have read, and contrary to what you may believe, modern science strongly supports belief in the God of the Bible. Did you know something caused our universe to come into existence 14 billion years ago? That the laws of physics are fine-tuned to allow the existence of life? That scientists don’t have a “mildly plausible” theory for the origin of life by pure chance? That the technology of life is dazzling and more sophisticated than anything human beings have ever created? That the origin of wholly new species remains a mystery? That our Earth is special, and possibly unique, in our entire galaxy in its ability to sustain life over billions of years?

As our scientific knowledge grows, so does the evidence for a designed universe. Each year brings new scientific evidence of wonder. The arrow of scientific discovery points directly to God.

That’s not the message of our mass culture, but it is the message of hundreds of scientists, and their numbers are growing. It’s a message our culture needs to hear. “When we consider what religion is for mankind, and what science is, it is no exaggeration to say that the future course of history depends upon . . . the relations between them.”

You may not be ready for this message. I wasn’t. Like millions of others, I thought our modern world had no place for God. I love science; I double majored in math and physics at MIT. Science taught me, or what I mistook for science taught me, that religion is obsolete. I thought only science held the truth, and I thought I had to choose between science and religion.

I wrestled with what seemed to be a conflict. Is modern science consistent with belief in God? After thirty years of thinking, after thirty years of studying philosophy, particle physics, cosmology, evolution, molecular biology, planetary formation, quantum physics, and more, I’ve learned that modern science is consistent with the Bible, with the three faiths of Abraham—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. As strange as it may sound, science and mathematics are now the foundation of my faith.

You have a right to believe. Not just a legal right, but an intellectual right. Parts of our society, certain vocal Atheists and much of our mass culture, suggest and sometimes even loudly proclaim that belief in God is outdated and somehow intellectually inferior. That worldview is false. There is a cultural war over your freedom to believe. As one renowned Chinese paleontologist (fossil specialist) said, when asked whether he was concerned that the fossil evidence he had uncovered did not agree with the prevailing theory of evolution: “In China, we can criticize Darwin, but not the government. In America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”* That is sad. We pride ourselves on being the land of the free, but in this country scientists are not free to criticize the beliefs of mainstream academia.

Just as you have a right to believe, you have a right not to believe. I’m not out to mock or demean Atheists and Agnostics (but I will poke fun at some of their statements). Many are careful thinkers, very moral and very responsible. I’ll present the evidence, their arguments, and my arguments, and encourage you to decide for yourself.

We all have doubts and beliefs. When it comes to God, you have a choice. Atheism is a system of belief, which is why it and the word Atheist are capitalized throughout this book. Atheism may not be as detailed as Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, but it can have an equally profound impact on how you live your life. We will examine beliefs about God using reason. I have spent much of my life trying to resolve reason and belief. If you stick with me, I hope to leave you with a deeper, richer appreciation both of our wonderful universe and of God. We will get there with reason and proven scientific facts.

You cannot doubt the existence of God unless you have some faith in the belief that God does not exist. You may say you don’t care about God, or have no need for God. If so, you are betting your life that no God exists that could hold you accountable or provide meaning and hope in your life. As Timothy Keller says, “That may or may not be true, but…it is quite a leap of faith.” Before you take that leap, before you base your life on the belief that no God exists that could make your life meaningful, I urge you to consider the evidence.

I welcome your doubts, and I want to challenge them with science. I want to go right to the core of the new scientific evidence of design in the universe, and thus of the existence of God. To me, it is the most exciting issue of our age. Science is now so advanced that it sheds light, actually a great deal of light, on this ancient and profound question. Let’s pose the existence of God as a hypothesis and test it with all the tools of science, all of the experiments, observations, and logic developed over the centuries. Should we believe in God, or should we believe there is no God? We are going to look at the evidence, at the facts, at what I call the “science of belief.”

It’s a marvelous quest, but it is also one that many are reluctant to embrace. Many theologians shy away, perhaps in part because of a fear that their faith will be damaged by a negative answer and perhaps in part because they think the world of science and the world of faith do not intersect. Many educated persons shun this quest, perhaps in part because they have wrapped themselves in a worldview where the existence of God is literally unthinkable. Many others reject it because, for them, the existence of God would be an inconvenient truth. They do not wish to be held accountable.

For those who do undertake the great quest, there are barriers. First, the current literature, particularly the scientific literature, is often poorly written and ridiculously opaque. Academics write mostly to impress other academics, not for the public. Second, even where the text is readable, it tends to be one-sided, so much so that it may confuse fact and fiction, knowledge and belief, and not acknowledge, or properly state, opposing facts or views. Third, and most insidious, are the barriers deliberately constructed by those who fashion themselves to be our ruling intellectual elite. They have fired, demoted, ostracized, and attacked dozens, perhaps hundreds, of scientists who dare to point out the overwhelming evidence of design, both in physics and in life itself.

This book will help you over these barriers. Let’s put the basic facts and arguments “on the table,” so to speak. Let’s look at the evidence. We are not going to ignore or demean science—to the contrary, we are going to revel in science. I have spent years explaining technical concepts in reasonably plain English, and that is my goal here. I know firsthand that today’s scientists are generally bright, educated, and well intentioned. I seek not to disparage the scientific community but to bring you the evidence and promote free debate, and to introduce important scientists whose voices have been lost or ignored by our culture.

I believe in God. Many bright, thoughtful people do not. So let’s look at the evidence. As I explain later in this book, it is often very difficult for the existing mainstream paradigm to change as new evidence appears. Mainstream academic economists continued to teach, and preach, the virtues of collective economies even as the Soviet Union imploded and China embraced markets. Sigmund Freud was popular on college campuses long after working psychiatrists had moved past him. It took a long time for behavioral finance to supplant efficient markets theory, despite overwhelming evidence for the former. And so it is with the great question—there is stunning new evidence of design. I will use reason and modern science, not blind faith, to make the case for God. You decide.

* This statement was made by J. Y. Chen, during a lecture at the University of Washington. Professor Chen is one of the discoverers of the maotianshan Shale fossils in southern China, which is generally thought to contain the most exquisitely preserved Cambrian-era fossils in the world. He had described the fossil evidence documenting the sudden emergence of animal life in what is commonly called the “Cambrian explosion.” This evidence is discussed in chapter 12.  See Steven C. Meyer, Darwin’s Doubt: Th e Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (New York: HarperOne 2013). See also Phillip Johnson, “The Church of Darwin,” Wall Street Journal, August 16, 1999, also available at http://www.arnorg/docs/johnson/chofdarwin.htm.