A New Ending to an Old Story

Since the nineteenth century, we have been told a story about nature, man, and science. The story, the product of a materialistic worldview, tells us how science put man in his proper place: not at the center of creation, but at the periphery, a cosmic accident. Science, the story goes, not only "dethroned" man, it rendered God, and belief in God, superfluous. And of course, "there is no evidence of a spiritual realm, or that God or souls are real." There is only "matter: atoms in ceaseless, aimless motion," and since atoms have "no purposes or goals," there is no "cosmic purpose or meaning." The problem with this story, of course, as physicist Stephen Barr tells us in his new book, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, is that it doesn't take into account some of the most important "plot twists," the kind that change the ending completely. By "plot twists," Barr means recent discoveries and insights into how the universe came into being and the laws by which it is governed. One plot twist is the Big Bang. For decades, materialists believed that the universe was without a beginning. They regarded the belief that there was a beginning to time as one held for religious, not scientific reasons. But then came the discovery of the Big Bang, which shocked many of these scientists. While the Big Bang doesn't necessarily prove the Christian doctrine of creation, it is undoubtedly "a blow to the materialist view," says Barr. Another plot twist concerns the "dethroning of man." Materialism regards human existence to be a "fortuitous concourse of atoms." Then in the 1970s a new term entered scientific discourse: anthropic coincidences. What this means is that "certain features of the laws of physics seem -- just coincidentally -- to be exactly what is needed" for life to be possible. One example is what physicists call the "strong nuclear force," the force that holds atoms together. If it were only 10 percent weaker, none of the elements, much less life, would exist. Likewise, if the electromagnetism were a bit stronger, "it would make it impossible for life as we know it to exist." These are hardly the only so-called "anthropic coincidences." Barr discusses eleven of them in his book. What's more, as scientists "have looked harder, the number of such [so-called] 'coincidences' have grown." Barr doesn't say that either of these plot twists "succeeded in ending the old debate between religion and materialism." What these and other discoveries have done is to "dramatically [change] the nature of the debate." Barr tells us that "it is no longer a question of whether one can find any evidence in nature that [human beings] were built in [to the design of the cosmos]." The question is "whether that evidence . . . " -- which I think is clear -- "really means what it seems to mean." Given the dogmatic nature of materialism, the other side's answer will be "no." They will look for ways to get around the evidence. It's what materialists always do. What Christians must do is learn about these discoveries so that they can tell others about how the story really ends: It ends where it began with "In the beginning, God . . . " For further reading and information: Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003). See Friday's BreakPoint Commentary, "Lost and Found: Modern Science and Ancient Faith." Also see: "Speaking of Birthdays: A Big Brain Interprets the Big Bang," " 'In the Beginning Were the Particles'," and "Considering the Evidence." (Archived commentaries; free registration required.) Al Dobras, "It's All about Luck," BreakPoint Online, 7 April 2003. For more information on intelligent design and evolution, visit these websites: Discovery Institute,American Scientific Affiliation, and the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center. Jimmy Davis and Harry Poe, Designer Universe: Intelligent Design and the Existence of God (Broadman and Holman, 2002).


Chuck Colson


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