God and Science: Oil and Water?
In a few replies on this website (for which I am a theist contributor), I find myself telling participants that we must use the scientific method correctly. In other words, the scientific method is a great tool to understanding the world around us, but it is horrible in regards to learning about God. Unfortunately, we live in a society where perception has an uncharacteristic “trump card” over philosophy and proclamation of religious faith. Many believe that the only way to perceive the world around them is with the five senses. Yet, I tell you that no one has ever seen a thought. No one has ever seen a feeling and we still believe them to exist (no, seeing neuron activity doesn’t count). Scientific method can’t explain existential meanings. Individuals try to use scientific method to learn more about faith and God. I will tell you right now that if you are waiting to physically see, touch, smell, taste, or hear God, He will never be revealed to you.
The skeptic will say, “Why not use the scientific method? The scientific method teaches us about everything we know. It is the ultimate tool for knowledge.” Well, there are a variety of reasons. Consider that God exists outside of the physical world that we know; He is outside of time. This is a hard concept to grasp for many, but you actually deal with this concept all the time. For instance, you can physically take three apples away from a pile of five. However, it is not possible or comprehensible for one to take five apples away from a pile of three.
How do we solve this dilemma? We make the problem part of the answer [3-5, 2-4, 1-3, 0-2], and therefore our answer becomes negative two (-2). Negative numbers don’t exist, they are imaginary – but they help people such as engineers solve very real problems every single day. This analogy explains the reason why God was never created (I really hate when people ask this cliché question). First, this statement assumes that God was created. However, if we perceive of God as outside of the three-dimensional world that we know, then such a question cannot apply. If God is a being that is unlimited and infinite in time (outside time), and if He has access to every piece of time as if it were now, the question of who created God is an invalid question. The question is like asking someone to draw a four-sided triangle – the terminology is self-contradictory. God exists outside of time and space, and if He is the Creator of time and space, He obviously was not created.
“Infinite” Can be a difficult concept for people to understand. Consider what world renowned religious scholar Huston Smith has to say on the subject:
“Think of infinite not just in space, but in worth. When we think about infinite now, it has been pretty much co-opted by science. We think about infinite space or infinite numbers. Well, those are scientific terms. But what about infinite value? Frankly, I believe that reality holds as much in the way of worth beyond what we are able to see with our ordinary experience, as it holds in quantity and size beyond what our naked senses can fathom.”
That being said, back to my analysis of the scientific method.
What the scientific method can do is give immense support for God. If you are familiar at all with astronomical constants, you will see that the slightest change in any of the very delicate variables would mean life as we know it would not exist. These constants exist all over the universe. For instance, if the tilt of the earth were just a few degrees one way or the other, climates would be too extreme. If Jupiter were further from the Earth, and not as big, then it wouldn’t suck in the great number of asteroids and comets that would otherwise crash into the Earth. If the ratio of protons to electrons formation was less, electromagnetism would dominate gravity which would prevent galaxy, star, and planet formation.
If you want to use some of the tenets from the scientific method in regards to God and religion, you sort of can. One driving force behind the scientific method is multiple tests of a particular phenomenon. Scientists will test over and over in order to develop explanations. This facet of the method can be applied to God (religion). Since the beginning of time, man has always had the notion that there is something greater than himself. If one looks at the prominence of religion and how it has re-occurred time and time again, the most intelligent of individuals familiar with the scientific method will admit that it is very possible we are on to something. Similar and re-occurring results increase likelihood and probability. Again, before anyone begins to waste countless minutes in trying to rebuttal this correlation of religion to the scientific method, know that this is a loose utilization. I should also note that this very concept is explained in great detail (and more effectively) by Huston Smith.
In the end, we need to stop trying to apply God to our limited view of how the creation operates – doing so is really a dis-service to both religion and science.