God Did It -- An Argument from Ignorance or Evidence?
“But over centuries of research we have learned that the idea ‘God did it’ has never advanced our understanding of nature an iota, and that is why we abandoned it.” (Jerry Coyne)
In a recent essay in The New Republic, evolutionary scientist Jerry Coyne asked, “Does the empirical nature of science contradict the revelatory nature of faith? Are the gaps between them so great that the two institutions must be considered essentially antagonistic?” Coyne has no doubt that the answer is yes.
Religion is so hopelessly inimical to scientific progress that any attempt to reconcile them is futile. As Coyne explains, “Accepting both science and conventional faith leaves you with a double standard.” And to make sure you are clear on what religion is at issue, Coyne adds that “rational on the origin of blood clotting, irrational on the Resurrection; rational on dinosaurs, irrational on virgin births.”
God Did It – Science-Stopper?
Is the notion that “God Did It” even allowed in mainstream science? While hallowed bodies, like the National Academy of Sciences, claim publicly that faith and science do not conflict, privately, their “dirty little secret” is that religion is a science-stopper. Their public face, Coyne lets on, is all in the interest of maintaining public trust—one that is overwhelming religious and, professedly, Christian—and with it, public funding.
To the illuminati, a believer lumbers to the edge of every frontier of knowledge, poised to retire his investigations with “God did it!” contentment. Meanwhile, dead ends caused by their own faith in scientific materialism remain unexamined—the premature designation of “vestigial” organs and “junk” DNA being two examples.
Contrary to modern criticism, the scientist who approaches the world as a product of intelligence, rather than of matter and motion, is less likely to stop short of discovery. Instead of dismissing a feature that, at first glance, appears inert, unnecessary or just plain mystifying, he is more inclined the push the envelope of investigation to unravel its function and purpose.
Rather than obstructing science, Christianity, with its emphasis on a personal Creator, inspired an age of discovery that opened the way for science.
God Did It – Igniting Discovery
The ancients generally viewed the world as an unpredictable place governed by the fates or by the whims of the gods. But once investigators understood the universe as a creation—the work of a rational God embedded with rational principles—they dared to imagine that discovery was possible. One of the first was an astronomer whose theories ignited the scientific revolution.
Speculations about a sun-centered universe had been around for some time; but challenges to the Aristotelian model refined by Ptolemy didn’t gain serious attention until the “Copernican Turn” in the 16th century.
Nicolaus Copernicus was a Christian who understood the universe as an intelligible creation that operated according to mathematically coherent principles. His initial attraction to heliocentrism was not the result of new observational data, but of his notion that the sun—symbolic of God as Light and Lamp—seemed a fitful center of divine activity. He, along with other early researchers, believed that the elegant structure observed in creation should be describable in an elegant fashion. Thus, when heliocentrism proved more mathematically simple than the reigning earth-centered model, it gained a slow following.
Like Copernicus, Johannes Kepler was a man of faith who believed that the mysteries of nature could be unlocked with the key of mathematics. Kepler put it this way: “The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He has revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”
Kepler’s belief in the mathematical precision of the universe led to his discovery of three fundamental laws of planetary motion—the foremost, that the planetary orbits are elliptical, rather than circular as modeled by Copernicus.
While the discovery of mathematical elegance was the product of faith for these pioneers, it has been the source of faith for others. In his book, Truth Decay, Douglas Groothuis shares the account of a Russian physicist: "I was in Siberia and met God there while working on my equations. I suddenly realized that the beauty of these equations had to have a purpose and design behind them, and I felt deep in my spirit that God was speaking to me through these equations." In that moment, the young scientist stepped over the chasm from atheism to theism and, ultimately, Christianity.
God Did It – On the Shoulders of Giants
Christians using science to show that “God Did It” remained in the vanguard of scientific discovery well into the 19th century. Groundbreaking advances in electro-magnetism, microbiology, medicine, genetics, chemistry, atomic theory, and agriculture were the works of men like John Dalton, Andre Ampere, Georg Ohm, Michael Faraday, Louis Pasteur, William Kelvin, Gregor Mendel, and George Washington Carver—all believers whose achievements were the outworking of their Christian faith.
Scientists in the truest sense of the word, these were investigators who doggedly followed the evidence wherever it led, approaching the gaps of understanding not with “God did it!” resignation, but with “God created it” expectation.
Whether they realize it or not, every scientist, including Jerry Coyne, stands on the shoulders of these giants. As German physicist Ernst Mach once acknowledged, “Every unbiased mind must admit that the age in which the chief development of the science of mechanics took place was an age of predominately theological cast.”