A few years ago around Christmas time an editorial by Eric Metaxas appeared in The Wall Street Journal that caught my eye: “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God.” The editorial garnered 600,000 Facebook shares, and brought to the general public an awareness of the intersection of science and faith that was largely unknown.
The Magis Center, co-founded by Father Robert Spitzer, has been at the forefront of efforts to demonstrate how new advances in the field of physics increasingly make the case that the likelihood that the universe has a Creator is extremely high – so high as to defy doubt. I’ve attempted to summarize the arguments made by Father Spitzer, which were featured in Eric Metaxas’ article:
- We start with the premise that there are two basic possibilities: the universe as we know it was made, or it just happened.
- Modern physicists have identified four fundamental forces that govern the physical laws of the universe: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force. (The latter two work at the atomic level, with the strong force holding the nucleus of the atom together, and the weak force responsible for radioactive decay).
- Physicists have likewise identified a number of equations that govern the physical laws of the universe. Many of these equations contain constant values. A famous example is Einstein’s discovery that e = mc2, where e is energy, m is mass, and c is a constant, the speed of light.
- Two more constants in equations that govern the laws of the universe are the gravitational constant and the weak force constant.
- According to the Big Bang Theory, the known universe began in a state of infinite density and temperature, and then exploded in a sense, undergoing a very rapid expansion in fractions of seconds. (1)
- If the gravitational constant and the weak force constant varied from their precise values by one part in 10 to the 50 – that is, if they were off by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 – then either the universe would have catastrophically collapsed immediately after the Big Bang, and the known universe would never have been, or the universe would have continued in its rapid expansion too long for any stars or planets to form, much less for life forms to develop.
- Since the likelihood of the gravitational constant and the weak force constant being this precisely calibrated to produce our universe is so incredibly small, we can conclude that the likelihood of the universe “just happening” on its own is so small as to be negligible.
- Therefore, the universe was made.
There are six other examples Spitzer cites to point to the existence of a Creator. I’ll just give one more here: If the strong nuclear force constant was higher by 2% there would be no hydrogen in the universe, meaning neither stars nor water would ever have formed. Likewise, if the strong nuclear force constant was lower by 2% there would no element heavier than hydrogen, and carbon-based life forms could not have emerged.
Taken as a whole, the odds against all of the conditions for our universe to exist and be capable of sustaining life are astronomically small – even much smaller than the 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 figure cited earlier.
Is this proof of God? No. As compelling as this evidence is, science cannot prove the existence of God. Ultimately belief in God requires an act of faith; indeed, it pleases God when we respond to his grace through our faith and trust in his mercy. (See John 20:29.) But the modern worldview presents science and faith as being in opposition to each other; that science is the objective pursuit of truth and faith is the refuge of the wishful and naïve. The real truth is the opposite: the available scientific data points strongly towards a Creator. Our faith can be buttressed by our reason.
It’s worth considering and responding to the arguments of the skeptics:
- Some take issue with some of the calculations, arguing for example that the strong nuclear force constant could have varied by much more than 2% without impacting the formation of hydrogen and other elements. They may be right about that calculation, but it’s the cumulative impact of all the small probabilities needed to produce our life-sustaining universe that makes the case.
- Others contend that while the probability of life as we know it is remote, there could be all kinds of forms of life that we can’t imagine. This argument has some merit, in particular when it comes to the low probability of carbon abundance and carbon bonding taking place. Maybe not all life is carbon-based. However, the example I cited of the values of the gravitational constant and the weak force constant aren’t just necessary for carbon-based life to form, but for the known universe to hold together in a state allowing anything whatsoever to form.
- Still others propose that new theories and new discoveries will make sense of all these seemingly unlikely coincidences. Well, sure: scientific knowledge is always contingent on new discoveries that advance our knowledge. All the more reason to respect and learn from science, but not make it an absolute, or treat it as a religion.
- Lastly, some posit that there are actually many universes, more than there are stars for all we know, thereby rendering the extreme improbability of our particular universe a moot point. The small catch is that these other universes are undiscovered and likely undiscoverable. And lest anyone retort, “So is God,” I offer the evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus, the Miracle of the Sun, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the blood of the martyrs, the witness of the saints, and the personal encounters with the divine experienced by the countless humble and holy of all ages, which individually are not evidence, but collectively give praise to His grace.
(1) The Big Bang Theory was first proposed in 1927 by Belgian physicist and Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre. He didn’t come up with the name, though; he dubbed his theory the “hypothesis of the primeval atom.”