Friday, January 22, 2021

Science, religion, physics and God

The Purpose-Guided Universe: Believing in Einstein, Darwin and God
Bernard Haisch
Nonfiction, 222 pages
New Page Books. 2010

In this follow-up to “The God Theory,” Bernard Haisch argues that the findings of modern physics tend to support, rather than refute, the existence of God. Haisch believes in a God that neatly fits in with the theory of evolution. Unfortunately, to the extent that Haisch makes the notion of God acceptable to scientists, he also envisions a God who is unacceptable to fundamentalists.

Let’s examine how Haisch attempts to convince scientists of God’s existence and then look at why his argument might repel fundamentalists.

Haisch reports that according to some surveys, atheists account for the majority of scientists. Their atheism, Haisch believes, is partially due to the way that some have defined God. Haisch, himself rejects a God that, “… littered a 6,000-year-old earth with phony fossils to fool the arrogant archaeologists …” Such an act would be dishonest on God’s part, and therefore, un-godlike.

Isaac Newton created physics “almost single-handedly” when he published his Principia in 1687. Although Newton was a deeply religious man, his physics had an unfortunate side effect. It worked too well. Newtonian physics made it theoretically possible to determine the cause of every event that ever happened and predict the occurrence of every event to come.

In a Newtonian universe everything is predetermined. Western theology tells us that God gives us freewill. Not in a clockwork universe, he doesn’t. In fact, God isn’t even required, except perhaps to set the clock in motion. And so, God fell out of favor in the scientific community.

But then, in the twentieth century, quantum physics came along. The quantum universe is not predetermined — there’s an element of chance involved. Once again, there’s room for freewill.

Haisch describes ten ways in which the universe is finely tuned to support life. It looks as if there may be a creator after all. Not so, claim some scientists. There are a multitude of universes. This one just happens to support life. Haisch replies that the probability of our universe having occurred by chance can be described by a one followed by at least 500 zeros. That’s an enormous number of universes. Furthermore, there is no evidence to support a theory of multiple universes and no possibility of acquiring evidence. The possibility that God exists is at least as likely as the possibility of multiple universes.

Writing in the first half of the twentieth century, Sir James Jeans popularized astronomy. In his book, The Mysterious Universe, he writes of a universal mind “… the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.”

A number of experiments have shown that particle behavior is influenced by what an observer intends to measure. The act of measuring determines the reality. Some have concluded that it is not reality that gives rise to consciousness, but consciousness that gives rise to reality.

Haisch believes that God, who exists outside of time, manifested a conscious universe, in which we are conscious actors, who will ultimately return to God.

If this doesn’t convince atheist scientists that there’s a God, it at least gives them something to think about. Now, how about those fundamentalists?

Well, they don’t like evolution or the possibility that the earth is millions of years old. But suppose we could overcome that obstacle, could we bring them around to Haisch’s view? Probably not.

Haisch’s religious views echo a mystical thread found in all the major religions. Aldous Huxley, in his book of the same name, calls this thread, The Perennial Philosophy. Although this thread is found in every religion, it is emphasized more in some than others.
Meister Eckhart is perhaps the best known Christian proponent of the perennial philosophy. The Christian tradition generally teaches that God is outside of His creation. Yet, Eckhart said, “The more God is in all things, the more He is outside them. The more He is within, the more without.”* Saying that sort of thing during the Middle Ages could get you charged with heresy, as indeed, Eckhart was.

People who have had mystical experiences tend to report, like Eckhart, that God is both within themselves and outside themselves. During such experiences, words are irrelevant. However, after the experience, verbal contradictions may come into play. While Hindus may not have difficulties with such contradictions, some Christians might.

Religious beliefs, like poetry and dreams, can be understood on several levels. Although that thread of meaning, called the perennial philosophy, can be found in Christianity, it does not occupy its mainstream. Some fundamentalist and mainstream Christians may have difficulty accepting Haisch’s elaboration of his God theory.

Regardless, Haisch’s attempt to reconcile science with religion is admirable. What Haisch does not address, yet I feel compelled to add, is that if religious believers were to be more tolerant of other faiths, than atheists would be less likely to condemn them for their beliefs.

*As quoted in Huxley’s The Perennial Philosophy.

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