In Chapter 1, Williams examines some of the 'scientific' arguments for the
existence of God.
You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all
their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in
them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
Order is Heaven's first law.
The Universe exists. That brute fact of itself - banal when written down, but
astounding when truly pondered - is one of the keys to my belief in God. It
seems the logical starting point for serious theological enquiry.
Broadly speaking, there are two issues to consider. The first is the how
existence. How did the Universe begin? How did it get to its present state? How
does it work? In this sphere of discourse, which will be the focus of this
chapter, science has a critical - but not exclusive - role to play. Learning
about science has been crucial in my path toward Christianity.
The second aspect of this enquiry is the why
of the Universe. In this sphere of
discourse, science has only a peripheral role. This is pre-eminently the realm
of theology and philosophy. Much of the rest of my book is an attempt to come to
terms with the 'why' side of things.
This dichotomy - between the 'how' and the 'why' of the Universe - seems to me a
critical one to recognise. That is why I have laid stress upon it at the outset.
When atheists like Richard Dawkins make large claims about the ambit of
scientific knowledge, they can be talking - at most - about the 'how' of the
Universe, not the 'why'.
Often, even their claims about the 'how' are exaggerated. In general, these
exaggerations fall into two categories. The first is the presentation of
inference and opinion as scientific 'fact'. In Letter to a Christian Nation
Harris declares bluntly that 'nature offers no compelling evidence for an
intelligent designer' . That is an opinion, not a fact. There is a lot of
evidence capable of leading a reasonable person to the very opposite opinion.
Speaking for myself, the more I read of physics, chemistry and biology, the more
strongly I believe in God. The discoveries of science - and especially the more
recent discoveries - point towards, rather than away from, God's existence. The
Universe is just too extraordinary to be a unique and happy accident.
Of course, this is an ancient debate. It has been pointed out many times that
there are dangers in inferring the existence of God (i.e. a supernatural,
intelligent 'Designer') by reliance upon the apparent design of things in
Nature. Over the ages many people have sought to refute the argument from
Design, even though it has moved Man to religious belief since the beginning of
recorded history. Nevertheless, the argument is still available, and - as I
shall try to demonstrate - it may well be stronger than ever.
There is a second way that atheists exaggerate their 'scientific' case.
Sometimes, they will assert that science explains the 'how' of a given process
more fully than it really does. More often, in areas of acknowledged
uncertainty, they assert with total confidence that science will in future come
up with complete answers. It is just a matter of time, they say, because there
are no truly unsolvable mysteries anymore.
My own emerging belief is that science as understood and articulated by Man will
never explain everything - or anything like it. But I suspect that many
laypeople in the West think otherwise, consciously or unconsciously. It would be
understandable if they did, because much of what they read, see and hear in the
secular media is predicated on the assumption that 'religion is now completely
superseded by science' . That assumption is false, but it is indisputable
that science has made astonishing advances in recent times, and that a few of
those discoveries have undermined orthodox religious teachings. Famously, the
development of the Darwinian theory of evolution is blamed for the general
decline of religious faith in the Western world since the mid-nineteenth
century. I will come to Darwin presently, but in some ways that whole subject
strikes me as less important, or at any rate no more important, than a number of
others. In my view, Darwinism is a prime example of a little knowledge being a
dangerous thing - for experts as much as laymen.
In this chapter I will examine four issues, all of which have obvious
theological implications. They are:
- the origin of the Universe
- the organised complexity of the Universe
- the origin of life on Earth
- the organised complexity of life on Earth
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