God, the universe, clutching at straws & the new high priests

In March of this year in a case of poor translation a Chinese paper on the bio-mechanics of the hand apparently attributed this to the Creator, which did not go down too well.

Put simply, it’s incredibly inappropriate to offer up a supernatural entity as an explanation for a biological mechanism in a paper seeking to advance scientific knowledge, no matter what your personal religious beliefs are.

If you grow up in the a western liberal society this ‘truth’ forms the background to your education. It’s ‘incredibly inappropriate’ to offer up a deity as an explanation for anything, including the universe itself. It’s long been held to be self-evident that believing in God as the author and Creator of the universe is ridiculous. This having been clearly disproved by science.

However the alternative theories are far from compelling.

Elon Musk thinks (following philosopher Nick Bostrom) that the chances are we’re all living in a simulation of the universe rather than the real thing (a bit like The Matrix).

Martin Rees, one of the UK’s most respected astrophysicists and the Astronomer Royal (which is one of the coolest job titles ever) thinks our universe could be just one island in a vast cosmic archipelago. This is the multiverse theory for which there is absolutely no evidence. At all.

Neil deGrasse Tyson speculates that ‘Planet Earth could be an elaborate zoo created by a hyper-intelligent alien civilisation’ which is well, odd.

And more and more people are believing in UFOs. It’s a good job we’ve all gone and got more rational since abandoning faith.

Lawrence Krauss thinks the laws of physics may have spontaneously generated from nothing and may be different in different universes. He also freely admits that we have no idea where the energy in the universe comes from but is nevertheless happy to proclaim that God is redundant, as an idea at the very least.

So while the idea of God may have been thoroughly rejected it hasn’t stopped people from believing in all sorts of things. As it turns out our best understanding of how the universe works relies on something we cannot yet see, have never yet been able to test and only know of its existence because of the profound effects it has on everything else. Sound familiar? Except now we’re talking about dark matter.

In fact 68% of the known universe is thought to be dark energy and 27% dark matter and the remaining 5% is stuff that we can, you know, actually see.

This article is a really good explainer piece on dark matter and from it we learn that ‘dark matter anchors everything together, despite being invisible’. It is ‘like the wind: we can’t directly see it, but we know it’s there.’

At this point I can hear the scoffing used by my sceptical atheist friends upon hearing the same analogy when used for God.

The article even acknowledges that dark matter is proving to be an uncomfortably elusive concept.

At this point you may be throwing your arms up in frustration. “First they decided there’s all this invisible matter, now they’ve decided it’s made of some new kind of stuff that they can’t detect! This is silly.” Well, you’re not the first person to say it.

In fact it can easily be seen as a kind of ‘god of the gaps‘ theory except not to prove the existence of God but really the existence of anything at all.

Now I’m not suggesting that dark matter doesn’t exist. I am inclined, after all, to believe in the existence of something that is all around us but that we cannot see or feel.

So when some scientific type proclaims with great confidence about the nature of the universe, there are good grounds to be cautious. Physics have offered up two great explanations so far for the way the universe is the way it is but what we really need is one (*the article is fine but the video contains a fair amount of swearing).

There are two very robust theories that hold up incredibly well when it comes to describing why the Universe is the way it is – Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and quantum field theory – but they don’t agree with each other. They appear to be right on their own, but wrong together, and that’s a problem.

There are three main problems for those of you more capable than me at physics (which should be just about everybody).

  1. Symmetry – there is symmetry in the universe and no one knows why.
  2. Dark matter – we don’t what it is but it has a lot to answer for.
  3. Gravity – Harder to explain than you might think when applied to galaxies and such like

All this boils down to this: we don’t know why the universe works the way it does, we don’t know what holds it all together (yes, yes dark matter but we don’t know what that is) and we don’t know why there is symmetry or order.

Yet despite this belief in God is still seen as ridiculous?

It’s likely that at some point that clever people will be able to prove dark matter (although maybe not in my life time – 80  years and counting so far) and be able to solve some of the problems above. It doesn’t really matter to me.

What interests me is this: at this present moment in time, the very best explanation we have for accounting for the universe involves relying on something we have absolutely zero hard evidence for. All we have is circumstantial.

Why would be happy to believe them? For most of human history, people have turned to priests, shaman, gurus and spirit guides to answer questions of existence – at least this is how people believe religions were formed and now we have new high priests for the age of science. They are the clever people of the world who give us answers to explain what we cannot otherwise explain and who ridicule what has gone before. They blind us with their knowledge and power and yet, right now, all they know and we know is that we don’t know.

In the midst of all that as I consider the evidence for the resurrection, as I see the change in people’s lives as they turn to Christ that I have good reasons to believe. I believe in something I can’t see because of the profound effects I can see when people encounter this unseen power.

For more articles like this consider:

We are alone in the universe or Very special or very, very lucky

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