Gary is an author, trial lawyer, Mequon-area resident and town of Cedarburg supervisor. He is a columnist for the News Graphic and writes for several Wisconsin area magazines and is a national columnist with The American Thinker and PJ Media. He lives with his wife, Lisa, and has three sons ages 18 to 28. Gary won Ozaukee County in his bid for the Wisconsin Assembly's 60th District in 2011, but came up just 58 votes short.
Have you ever looked up at the night sky, marveling at the vastness of the universe and your connection to it? It's hard to communicate the full sense of wonder that floods through us at such as a moment, but we all understand. At least once, the dimly glittering night sky has stopped us in our tracks, bringing quiet contemplation as to how the universe came to be and what our relationship is to everything within it.
Several years ago I represented a brain-injured father of three who had been injured in one of the most freakish accidents I’ve ever encountered. A tire on a tractor trailer traveling on 1-10 between Houston and Beaumont, Texas stripped its tread, which caused the tread to strike against the battery box on the tractor, dislodging it and allowing it to fall onto the roadway. One minute later an unknown car drove over the battery box cover, flattening it, and sending it flying like a Frisbee across the highway divider and straight through the windshield of a truck being driven by my client. The debris sliced through the windshield and through the head of the driver, removing a substantial amount of brain tissue and instantly rendering him a spastic quadriplegic. Amazingly, he was able to pull the truck safely over to the side of the freeway before slumping over in his seat. The facts of this accident alone remind me of how temporal and uncertain our life is on this earth, and to this day I can’t drive by a tractor trailer without thinking about that client.
But this case gave me pause for reflection for quite another reason. One of the many experts we hired to testify on our behalf in a lawsuit against the manufacturer and lessee of the truck and the companies that retread the tire was a professor of physics and engineering from the University of Texas, but was also a former NASA flight and design engineer. I’ll never forget the testimony he gave while being cross-examined by one of the biggest defense law firms in Houston, which won the hearts of the jurors. While discussing a sophisticated formula involved in reconstructing the accident and the forces the tread would have placed on the battery box, the following question and answer ensued:
Q: Now Doctor, you’ll have to admit that given the complexity of the factors involved and their interrelation with the formula you’ve set forth, it would take a rocket scientist to say for certain whether the design you propose would have prevented this incident from occurring, isn’t that right?
A. Mr. O’Brien, I am a rocket scientist.
With degrees in both mechanical and chemical engineering, and a doctorate in mathematics, this expert was truly one of the most scientifically intelligent people I’ve ever had occasion to converse with. In the course of preparing the case for trial and numerous depositions, I spent a good deal of time with this man, and our conversations ultimately, and perhaps not coincidentally, led to God, faith, and the origin of the universe. A proud and practicing atheist, this man considered himself to have a lot of wisdom when it came to ultimate questions. We playfully sparred over subjects like Creation, evolution, and the beginning of time. While woefully out of my league on the science end of things, I naturally relied on Scripture, which carried absolutely no weight with him whatsoever. If it weren’t provable in a laboratory, he would have nothing to do with it.
Like so many people in the scientific community, this man believed that the enlightened could not put stock in the notion of an intelligent Creator of all things, because it simply didn’t fit into any of the neat “provable” categories secular science had created. These atheistic notions (for it is hard to believe in an omnipresent and omnipotent God without giving Him credit for Creation) are willingly parroted by our media, leading the agnostics among us to further doubt what to science must seem like religious fantasy and ignorant misconceptions. But misconceptions are what the great debate is all about. Scientific investigation stops at an account of how the universe functions. It cannot go further. The thought that religion and science must be at odds is incorrect. What appeared to be diametrically opposed biblical and scientific descriptions of the creation of the universe, of the start of life on earth, and of our human origins are actually identical realities viewed from very different perspectives. Science has its limitations and it can never speak to the purpose of life, the “why” for which so many search. We would do well to render unto the Bible that which is the Bible’s, the search for purpose. The consistency of nature as a basic tenet of all scientific inquiry. The consistency of nature is also a basic tenet of biblical religion. Noble Laureate and high-energy physicist, Stephen Weinberg is a skeptic of the Bible. Yet, he agrees with the kabalist Nahmanides who wrote “Since the world came into existence, God’s blessing did not create something new from nothing, instead the world functions according to its natural pattern.” Weinberg quantifies the tuning of the energy of the Big Bang as one part in 10120 (that’s 10 followed by 120 zeros!). If the energy of the Big Bang were different by one part out of this number, there would be no life anywhere in our universe. Michael Turner, the widely quoted astrophysicist at the University of Chicago described that tuning: “The precision is as if one could throw a dart across the entire universe and hit a bulls eye one millimeter in diameter on the other side.” The evidence in favor of an intelligent designer of the cosmos is so overwhelming that it is beyond the scope of this article.
Science will take a giant leap closer to God when it realizes and acknowledges that we will never discover an absolute proof for or against the existence of the Creator by looking through a microscope or a telescope. But we ought not hold our breath. The famous astronomer Carl Sagan wrote the introduction to Stephen W. Hawking’s best-selling book, A Brief History of Time. In it he wrote:
This [book] is also about God…or perhaps about 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.
Hawking tells us that the goal of science is to provide a single “theory” that describes the whole universe. However, he explains that most scientists break this mammoth project into two parts:
1. Observing and studying laws that tell us how the universe changes with time; and, 2. Answering the question of the initial state of the universe.
Hawking says that many scientists believe that science should be concerned only with the former, leaving the latter for metaphysics or religion to answer. Conversely, I must admit that the former is something that must be left to the realm of science. Unfortunately, sinful and God-less men are not satisfied with this division of things.
Hawking tells us in his book that the universe today is described in terms of two basic partial theories – the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Relativity describes the force of gravity and the large-scale or macro view of the universe, while quantum mechanics deals with things on a very small scale – such as a millionth of a millionth of an inch. Alas, Hawking is forced to admit in his book that these two theories are inconsistent with one another – they cannot both be correct. One of his goals is to arrive at a new theory that will incorporate them both – a quantum theory of gravity. But science has not gotten that far yet.
Roger Penrose, professor of mathematics at Oxford University and a leading theorist on “black holes”, has an expertise in the study of the universe shortly after its creation – having been awarded the Wolf prize for his analytical description of the Big Bang. Penrose found that the laws of nature were tuned for life and that the balance of nature’s laws was so perfect and so unlikely they have occurred by chance that he concluded that an intelligent “creator” must have chosen them.
Ironically, it was Penrose and Hawking together, who in 1970 penned a paper that set forth the position held by most scientists today - that there must have been a big bang singularity – a beginning of the universe. Hawking has since changed his mind, believing now that quantum mechanics led him to believe that very early in time, the universe might have been very, very small. Quantum mechanics, however – at least according to Hawking – introduces an unavoidable element of unpredictability or randomness into science. Governed by what has become dubbed the “uncertainty principle”, quantum mechanics predicts a number of different possible outcomes and can only tell us how likely each of these is. Albert Einstein, however, never accepted that the universe was governed by chance. His feelings were summed up in his famous statement “God does not play dice.”
From the time of Aristotle, 2300 years ago, scientific theory has held that the universe was eternal. In the 1960's, two-thirds of leading U.S. scientists surveyed still believed this. Today, however, telescopes and particular accelerators have led scientists to acknowledge that Genesis 1:1 was correct all along. There was a beginning. Modern science now accepts this and this represents the most significant change science can ever make toward biblical philosophy. Evolution, dinosaurs, and cavemen are all trivial controversies when compared to the concept of a beginning. While the admission of a beginning by scientists does not confirm the existence of a beginner, it does open the way for that possibility.
The universe was not designed by chance. It would be like winning a lottery for which a billion people had purchased tickets, three times in a row. Carbon is element number 6 in the periodic table and life as we know it is based on carbon. It is the only element that can form the long and complex chains necessary for the processes of life. The formation of carbon, however, sits on a knife-edge of uncertainty. To form carbon, radioactive beryllium (element number 4) must absorb a nucleus of helium (element number 2) and creates element number 6 (carbon). Beryllium does not have much of an existence. The life of this radioactive beryllium atom is .0000000000000001 seconds. In that sliver of time, the helium nucleus must find, collide with, and be absorbed by the beryllium nucleus, thereby metamorphosing into the atomic staff of life. Yet, carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe and the most abundant element that is solid at temperatures when water is liquid. If this reaction to form carbon were foiled by a mismatch, the universe would contain hydrogen and helium and not much of anything else. Life would be impossible. Yet here we are.
Even Stephen W. Hawking has made some fundamental steps toward acknowledging the role of God in the universe:
Science seems to have uncovered a set of laws that, within the limits set by the uncertainty principle, tell us how the universe will develop with time, if we know its state at any one time. These laws may have originally been decreed by God, but it appears that he has since left the universe to evolve according to them and does not now intervene in it. But how did God choose the initial state or configuration of the universe? What were the “boundary conditions” at the time? Brief History, page 122.
The answer Hawking gives us one page 122 of his book should give scientific-minded Christians reason to become quite smug:
One possible answer is to say that God chose the initial configuration of the universe for reasons that we cannot hope to understand. The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.
Charles Darwin himself may have given God more credit than today’s leading scientists want to admit. Stephen J. Gould, Harvard University professor and one of the country’s leading secular evolutionists, showed his true “anti-God” agenda when he published two essays in Natural History magazine in which he quotes the closing lines of Darwin’s Origin of Species:
There is a grandeur in this view of life. . . whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved. But, Gould must have a problem with God, because the true quote from Darwin is:
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so beautiful a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
Gould put a period after “life” and capitalized “Whilst”, neatly deceiving his readers. Stephen W. Hawking draws a conclusion in his book that must bristle the hairs on the necks of many within the scientific community:
The initial state of the universe must have been very carefully chosen indeed if the hot big bang model was correct right back to the beginning of time. It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us. Brief History, page 127.
None of this should be a surprise to anyone – yet science acts like these are new “discoveries”. For 3300 years, Genesis has presented to us its account of the origin of life. Liquid water appeared on earth and life appeared immediately thereafter (both occur on day 3). The Bible tells us correctly not only the timing of the origin of life (with the appearance of liquid water), but also proposes the mechanism for its origins:
“The earth brought forth life”. Genesis 1:11.
Science has now made the two most important steps it can ever make in closing ranks with the Bible:
1. There was a beginning to our universe; and
2. Life started rapidly on earth and not after billions of years of random reactions.
There is obviously a lot more that my rocket scientist friend and I can agree on that we might have previously realized. The doctrine that God brought the universe into being makes a clear and well-understood assertion, as is evident from the fact that men are debating it. Whether one accepts the doctrine on the basis of philosophical argument, scientific evidence, or revelation, the statement that a finite time ago God brought the universe into being out of nothing is not meaningless jibberish or poppycock, but expresses a proposition with intelligible content, supported by much of what is coming out of today’s laboratories. Therefore, the doctrine most certainly does constitute a purported explanation of the origin of the world – one which science seems to getting closer and closer to. The natural theologian could quite cheerfully concede that it is not a scientific explanation; but it is an explanation nonetheless, a philosophical or metaphysical explanation – and one which offers as good or better of an explanation of that which to science, appears unexplainable. As Hawking says, we may not be able to even hope to understand God means and methods – a bitter pill for science and my rocket scientist friend to swallow.
C.S. Lewis, in his incredible book "Miracles", addresses man’s foolish wisdom. The natural can neither disprove nor prove the supernatural. The study of the natural, science, is based on observing the natural. It is nothing more than observation. Observation can only decide what is likely and what is unlikely, not what can and cannot.
Observation sets nothing in motion, but it is all that science has to offer. Knowledge of the laws of physics would help you understand a game of pool. Those laws would never play the game. Lewis explains that the instant an activity, whether natural or supernatural, occurs, the laws of the natural envelop and integrate that activity. So if you take your cue and hit the cue ball into the 6 ball, the laws of physics adapt to the spin, motion, and force you use on the cue.
If an angel's wing were to brush the cue ball, and it moved towards the center of the table, again, the laws of physics would adapt to the spin, motion, and force of the wing on the ball. The fact that the supernatural and natural work together so readily and so easily and so often implies their shared source-the Creator.
Man’s limited wisdom and his ego are a potent and deadly combination. We conclude that what we can conceive of, measure and test the hypotheses of in our sophisticated laboratories are all that there is, begging the question asked by the song lyrics, “Is That All There Is?” That which we can explain becomes science, and that which we cannot becomes philosophy or fantasy. Religion and religious explanations for the supernatural and the unexplained are politely dismissed with a wink.
Yet man’s abuse of human reason and his self-flattering pride and arrogant reliance on his limited intellect to the exclusion of all other sources of information and verification, should not come as a surprise. It’s gotten us into trouble since the dawn of man, and this phenomenon has been foretold for thousands of years. In the tenth century B.C., the most prominently identified with wisdom, King Solomon, wrote many of the Proverbs contained in the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. He wrote:
The Lord brought [wisdom] forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; [wisdom] was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. -Proverbs 8:22,23
God created wisdom and it was pure. But sin changed all that. Isn’t it ironic that it is now man’s limited wisdom that gives him the supposed basis on which to deny the origin of the universe and that which created wisdom in the first place. The wisdom of this world is no longer pure. And we are not so different from or so much wiser than the ancient Greeks. Aristides “The Just” lived in 5th Century B.C. Greece. He was so respected throughout Greece for his fairness that he was looked to as a champion of justice, and single-handedly enabled Athens to assume the leadership of the alliance against the Persian invaders. His character is a model for all ages. It was Aristides who said that at one point in Corinth, one could meet a so-called “wise man” on every street corner, each one holding his own solutions to the world’s problems, and his own answers to the same questions which have plagued man since the beginning of time. We live in a modern-day Corinth. If man has the answers, why is he still asking himself the question regarding the purpose and meaning of life?
When sin caused the people of 6th Century B.C. Jerusalem to begin to rely on their own wisdom and intellect to answer ultimate questions, God warned them:
Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish. - Isaiah 29:14
This very passage is quoted by St. Paul as he wrote to the church in Corinth 750 years after the death of Aristides, warning them about relying on their own imperfect wisdom.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God… Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?…For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength…But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise… - 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
The Bible tells us to use reason in the ministerial sense. Human reason is to serve the Word of God, but not rule over it. Sinful men in their limited wisdom have chosen to reject much of what cannot be proven in human laboratories and on human terms.
Christ himself confirmed that the eyes of the misguided intelligentsia are hidden from the truth, and my rocket scientist friend may have been smart, but he was not very wise.
I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. - Luke 10:21
The truth is not so difficult, if only sin and man’s pride wouldn’t get in the way. It is so simple a child can understand it at once, and so subtle that the greatest intellects never quite get to the bottom of it. Faith gives meaning to life. Without it, man struggles trying to put the puzzle of the universe together. He continues to hope that one day a breakthrough in science will reveal the answers that elude him – when they were right in front of his nose the entire time.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. - Genesis 1:1