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Forum: Science and religion
Question of the Day
As a physicist who also is religious, I wish to offer some insights/alternative views on the current debates about creationism vs. evolution. Some of the world’s greatest physicists (e.g., Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, and Albert Einstein) strongly believed in God.
However, many misunderstand the role of science which solely seeks answer questions about our physical universe. Religions endeavor, on the other hand, to answer questions that arise outside of our physical universe (e.g. our purpose and morality) that cannot be answered by experiment.
Religion and science are complementary — not contradictory — fields of human endeavor and should mutually inspire and support one another. My own efforts to gain insight into the underlying principles of the physical universe inspire me that a higher intelligence designed the physical world with all its glory.
If the fundamental constants in our universe (such as Planck’s constant, the charge and mass of the electron/proton) were varied only by a fraction of a percent, the universe as we know it would cease. Stars would collapse, complex molecules would not form. It takes many more assumptions to claim we came about by total accident in a universe that just happened to support life when the infinity of other possible values for these fundamental constants makes the probability of our current universe nearly zero. In my opinion, the very fact life evolved on this planet (and probably on many others) was planned from the start — calculated and fine-tuned by our Creator and on His time scale (billions of years), not just from the “accidentalism” that many incorrectly interpret as evolution.
As far as we know, we are the only species that unnaturally seeks the divine (i.e., there is no biological reason for believing in God). All tribes of humanity have developed complex religions to explain and find purpose to their existence in a seemingly infinite and expanding and therefore increasingly empty universe. We understand the past, present and future, and can imagine universes far greater and different than ours. This is, in my opinion, the gift of creativity from our Creator.
Evolution is the scientifically best physical theory yet proposed for the origins and development of life on this planet — it should be learned by every schoolchild, period. Creationism is not a scientific theory but a religious tenet that cannot be experimentally verified and is best taught in a course on religion, not science.
Current theories of evolution are not the final word on life. They will be modified and improved as theories often are with better experiments and improved technology that yield more insight into the mechanisms of alteration of genotype (beyond simple natural selection and chance). Jumping genes, folding of proteins, viral insertion of foreign DNA and RNA into host cells, environmental effects on genes, etc. will be better understood.
Evolution does not contradict religions such as Christianity — only those individuals who do not fully or properly interpret religious dogma and who refuse to see the enormous body of scientific evidence of ongoing creation in nature.
Humans often personify that which they do not understand (God, death, love, etc.). As a result, they often miss the full picture because of limited understanding of the physical universe and lack of open-mindedness into God’s infinite mysteries. God is much more fascinating and complex than we’ll probably ever understand. And yet, I strongly believe God made us for a reason. The “universal” challenge is to find out why.
The writer is an assistant professor of physics at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The opinions expressed in this piece are solely his own. His Web sites is:
By Orrin G. Hatch
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