Sunday, January 21, 2007

Thoughts on the Unknowable

Many years ago I had an interest in astronomy. I read magazines such as Omni, and Sky and Telescope; the heavens and the pictures and descriptions of those extraterrestrial bodies that scientists had studied and written about fascinated me.

I bought a 4.5-inch reflector and began to look around for myself, but of course such a small telescope severely limited what I could see. I began reading more about the universe and theories of its origin. I read books on anthropology and cosmology, wondering about the origins of life and of man. They were fascinating, profound subjects.

Through that search for knowledge I accepted the Big Bang theory as the explanation for how it all began and the theory of evolution for the origins of life.

As a youngster I attended a Presbyterian church, and at church I heard that version of the origin of the universe and of life.

Many people today see religious explanations as fairy tales, lacking in hard evidence. And, of course, the key to every religion is faith, faith in the spiritual center of that belief system. These folks embrace the scientific explanation of our origin.

For my part, I don’t see the Biblical story and the scientific story as mutually exclusive; believing one does not negate the other. I believe they fit very nicely together: Neither is absolutely provable; both require faith from their adherents.

“What’s that?” you say. Yes, it’s true: Darwin’s theory is not a seamless story; it has gaping holes in it that scientists have thus far been unable to fill with provable data. You may have heard the term, “the missing link?” Well, there are a few of them in the story of evolution, and lacking proof to fill in the gaps, to provide the links, it is faith that enables one to accept evolution as real and true. How, then, is evolution substantially different from religious belief?

Professor G.R. Kerkut has written that “[i]t is therefore a matter of faith on the part of the biologist that biogenesis did occur and he can choose whatever method of biogenesis happens to suit him personally; the evidence for what did happen is not available.”

The reality is that it takes no more faith to believe that God created the Heavens and the Earth than it does to believe that creation occurred as a sort of magnificent accident. This concept is expressed eloquently by Harrison Matthews, FRS, in the book Intro to Darwin’s “The Origin of the Species,” who wrote, “The fact of evolution is the back bone of biology, and biology is thus in the peculiar position of being a science founded on an unproved theory—is it then a science or a faith? … Belief in the theory of evolution is thus exactly parallel to belief in special creation—both are concepts which believers know to be true but neither, up to the present, has been capable of proof.”

Most evolutionists will not be persuaded by my effort to point out the flaw in their theory, and will continue to believe that the wonders of the universe just happened, just because an improbable group of factors came together at just the right time in just the right circumstances producing the Big Bang and starting a chain of events which brought us to the here and now. And religious folks will continue to have faith that their theory is correct, that an omnipotent being willed the creation of the universe and all it contains.

However, regardless which camp you reside in, regardless of how avidly you believe what you believe, you have a thorny question to deal with.

For scientists, the question is: Where did all the matter released in the Big Bang come from?

For the religious, the question is: Where did God come from?

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