Science, truth and God
Science, truth and God
Although few people are scientists or even that interested inscience, the infuence of scientifc thought has never been lthough few people are scientists or even that interested in greater. We take for granted that science is true. However, in the absence of a coherent Christian philosophy, some scientists have flled the vacuum, appointing themselves philosophers and declaring that God does not exist because there is no evidence for his existence. Many people in the West believe that science has indeed proved that God does not exist. Yet on the doors of the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge is written: Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. [Psalm 111]
However, science and revelation cannot contradict each other because both come from the same author of truth, namely God. There is a wonderful history in the Church of philosophy and theology seeking to understand material and spiritual nature in the light of human thought as well as that of divine revelation. Indeed in Genesis, the account of creation is quite unlike those from other cultures such as Babylon or the native North Americans; it is not arbitrary or magical. The book of Wisdom, the Psalms and much of the OT develop a line of thought that ponders on creation as a work of the wisdom of God. In St Paul’s letter to the Romans we read: Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. (Rom. 1:20)
This idea of a “natural revelation” is part of Church doctrine, yet in general the Church has been sleeping while a virulent scientifc atheism has been growing like a cancer, with few theologians interested, let alone capable, of tackling this issue. It is my contention that theology in the last hundred years has generally ignored philosophical correspondence with scientifc reality.
The unity–law and creation
The theory of the “creation” of the universe most commonly held by physicists is that of an initial “Big Bang”, a sort of explosion of matter–energy in which time and space themselves began. As the universe cooled, nuclei, atoms, molecules, etc. began to form. Gradually organic chemicals were synthesized and eventually self-replicating complex molecules evolved, enabling the evolution of living cells, leading to multi- cellular organisms, plants and animals. This evolution, increasing in divergence and complexity, continued to the hominids and the species homo sapiens.
The natural sciences implicitly assume that material reality involves ordered being, a set of ordered, dynamic relationships between entities. Our ability to understand this vast process, from cosmological to human evolution indicates that there is some underlying structure, controlling and directing its development. The universe is not “random” in any simple sense; it is a cosmos, not a chaos. Causality is intrinsic to the material universe; without it there would be no science. Physics, in particular, is noted for its ability to use inductive reasoning to posit universal laws such as Einstein’s General Relativity, making the claim that experiments and observations on or from earth allow us to generalise a theory into universal law, i.e. a law of physics that we believe must hold everywhere in the universe because this is a law written into the fabric of the universe. Similarly, there is also a constant dynamic towards unifcation, describing the material universe by single rather than disparate laws, such as the quest to link general relativity/gravitation with quantum mechanics in a “Theory of Everything”. There is clearly a Unity–Law embedded in the material universe.
A key principle of the Faith theology is that matter is controlled and directed by “higher” matter in its environment, subject to universal scientifc laws, themselves aspects of the Unity–Law of Control and Direction (ULCD) that underlies the structure of material reality. The universe is an ecosystem, involving the dynamic interplay of many factors: an intrinsic inter-relatedness.
Controlled and directed
We do not hold to an “intelligent design” theory in which God designs each entity separately and extrinsically. Rather, God created though the ULCD written as the intrinsic “script” for the universe. In this interdependence, or “co-relativity’, of being, we have an ecosystem of relational being. An example is photosynthesis; it is not enough to have an isolated seed or root; plants need light, water, earth and air.
Matter, then, is controlled and directed. More complex material being directs matter lower than it in being; material reality is contingent, i.e. it depends for its causation on something else. But what about the ULCD itself? We cannot account for the material ULCD without implying something outside the system. What is the cause of this contingent universe? Paul Davies, a professor of theoretical physics wrote: “...a contingent physical universe cannot contain within itself an explanation for itself” (1993, p. 170-71).
Ultimately, it is “Mind” that controls. The “cause” of the material universe must be non-material and itself uncaused, in order to avoid an infnite line of causation. 18 Scientifc atheism objects that there is no evidence for a non-material Creator, but this involves a contradiction since one cannot require non-material being to be materially verifable by science. The very existence of science itself, considered philosophically, i.e. “meta”-physics, the philosophy of being and existence, indicates the need for God to explain the universe.
Evolution and humanity
There are several “theories” of evolution, but the fact of evolution, the change in species through generational selection, is undisputed in biology and biochemistry. In Genesis chapter 1, the presentation of the six days of creation is not capricious but progressive: from non-living matter, to living plants and animals, culminating in Adam and Eve, as the glory of creation. This account does not contradict scientifc evolution.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...” and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fll the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over ... every living thing that moves upon the earth.” ... And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (Gen. 1:26-31).
Adam and Eve are diferent from the other creatures, being made in God’s own image, an extraordinary claim, and having dominion over the world. Humans are both a product of the natural laws of biological evolution and the special, direct, supernatural infusion of the soul as the determining principle of the human person; the soul is our “Unity–Law”.
God’s own image
Man cannot be explained adequately by the material Unity–Law: we are not determined by our environment: we cannot fy, biologically, yet we can fy; we require oxygen to respire, yet we can go to the Moon where there is no oxygen! We have an extraordinary freedom from the constraints of the material ULCD. Unlike other animals, we have developed art, music, science, etc. and we clearly exist beyond the determining infuence of our material environment in the manner of our relationships with each other and with God. We are unique in the animal kingdom in having free will and intellect, mind. In terms of our “dominion” over nature, it is clear that we have a God-like power over matter, although, as Pope Francis points out in Laudato Si’, we do not always use this power for the good. We control nature much more than nature controls us, unlike the other animals.
Humans are unique on earth in having free will. Unlike the higher apes with their instinctual “intelligence”, we are not determined by our material environment, although of course we are in dynamic relationship with it. There must, then, be a principle of “personhood”, of free will and intellect, that is not controlled by the material environment. The human principle of determination comes from within, from the soul as “ME”, the centre of the personality. The uniqueness of Man is shown by the fact that there is no real intellect in the animals – even the higher apes show no propensity for learning other languages, for mathematics, science or art; nor do animals show evidence of free will – they are completely constrained by the material environment and by instinct. From the highest ape to MAN there is a huge leap in intellect, not explicable by material evolution, a diference of kind, not merely degree. This diference therefore must be non-material, spiritual, the “soul”. We need grace, a relationship of love with God, for our very being. The denial of our spiritual nature is also a denial of our humanity
The primate-hominid brain increased in complexity during evolution. At the summit of material animal evolution is a proto-human, but the next stage of complexity in brain function would be out of kilter with the natural environment since it is now too powerful to be subject to the ULCD from the material environment alone. Such a creature would not survive, but the direct infusion of a new principle of control, one that is not subject to the Unity–Law in matter, would enable such a being to exist in harmony with its natural environment, yet not be determined by it. The frst human is THE point in material evolution at which the infusion of the soul becomes necessary and suitable, precisely the principle required for Man to exist in harmony with the material environment. Spirit shows itself as “mind” – it controls and directs in freedom, it is personal, not subject to the intrinsic laws of matter. Matter is not “free” but determined: it cannot, of itself, explain the emergence of the spiritual soul – this must be provided by an external, spiritual agent. The world was created through God’s wisdom, through the ‘Logos’, the Mind of Christ. Christ is the meaning of the universe itself
God is our ultimate and immediate, personal, environment. In the language of this theology, God is the “Environer” of Man. The whole plan of creation is precisely directed towards this unique creature, a unity in one person of matter and spirit with 20 Unlike the rest of created the soul as the Unity–Law for the human person, in relation now to God, not merely to matter. This was God’s plan from all eternity. The world was created through God’s wisdom, through the “Logos”, the Mind of Christ. Christ is the meaning of the universe itself: “In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made”. (Jn 1:1-3)
Unlike the rest of created matter, then, we seek that which is good and true as persons, from God as a Trinity of dynamic personal and interpersonal life: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). So, God is our Environer, God is “the sunshine of the soul”, providing for us what the sun and earth, etc. provide for the plants via photosynthesis. We need grace, a relationship of love with God, for our very being. The denial of our spiritual nature is also a denial of our humanity. It is, in fact, precisely our spiritual nature, our intellect, that enables us to do science. Man now seeks to love, not merely to live: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. (Matt. 4:4) matter, then, we seek that which is good and true as persons, from God as a Trinity of dynamic personal and interpersonal life
Christ was the “One to come”, the full revelation of our true nature as the “Son of Man”, the wisdom behind the whole evolutionary sweep Man now seeks to love, of creation as Lord of the Cosmos. He also comes as “Son of God”, the revelation of the Trinity, our life-principle of being. If this is all true, one may ask why are there so many scientist–atheists? This is due to the dulling of the intellect by sin, as Pope John Paul II stated in Fides et Ratio: “If human beings with their intelligence fail to recognize God as Creator of all, it is not because they lack the means to do so, but because their free will and their sinfulness place an impediment in the way.”
Gregory Farrelly has a PhD in Niclear Structure Physics and an MTh in Modern Systematic Theology and is a member of the Institute of Physics.