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Essay

Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Steven Weinberg, in Dreams of a Final Theory, wrote, "All our experience throughout the history of science has tended . . . toward a chilling impersonality in the laws of nature."

In his introduction to Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, Carl Sagan wrote, "This is also a book about God . . . or perhaps the absence of God. The word God fills these pages. Hawking embarks on a quest to answer Einstein's famous question about whether God had any choice in creating the universe. Hawking is attempting, as he explicitly states, to understand the mind of God. And this makes all the more unexpected the conclusion of the effort, at least so far: a universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time, and nothing for a Creator to do."

The ideas here are similar. Both men believed (and I assume Dr. Weinberg still believes) that science has removed the need for God from human philosophy. Where humans once attributed some natural event or thing to God's actions or existence, we can now let science give a natural, rather than supernatural, explanation. Where it can't, we assume it one day will.

Secular versus Pagan

Why does the tree grow? A primitive man might have said, "A spirit lives in the tree." But science says, "Tree growth is an entirely natural process born of other natural processes. There is no spirit in there. There's nothing personal about this. This is a machine and we can tell you how the machine works. This is impersonal. There's nothing here for a god to do."

It's important to see that this is not a secular versus Christian argument, but secular versus pagan. Christians do not assert that a tree grows because a spirit dwells in it. We see and recognize the machine-like (cause and effect) quality of nature, the universe, and life. Christians such as Johannes Kepler and Isaac Newton helped lead the world to this understanding. Judeo-Christian thought has always been at odds with polytheism.

Henry and the Van

I used to own a Ford van, but I never saw old Henry. Primitive people might have seen its movement and concluded that a spirit must dwell within it. If told that it bore the Ford name, they might conclude that he was the spirit inside making the thing go.

The Bible teaches that God created everything, then rested. But the things He created didn't stop just because He rested. The machines kept going.

The universe works according to laws that can be studied and understood. To say then that, "All our experience throughout the history of science has tended . . . toward a chilling impersonality in the laws of nature" is similar to saying, "We studied your van and found no one in there."

Weinberg talks about the demystification of the heavens and of life. In fact, what he is talking about is the fact that the universe works as a machine. Like the early Soviet cosmonauts, he says we have gone into space, looked around, and we didn't see God.

Had I torn my van apart, I would not have found Henry Ford either. Nor would I have found any of the modern engineers and craftsmen who designed and built it. Can I then reasonably conclude that Henry Ford is a fable, that the van's designers and builders are a myth, and that my van sprang into existence on its own?

No?

Neither did the universe spring into existence on its own.

Henry Ford and the Story of the Universe
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Posted: 8-15-2008

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