Science and Faith are Friends

 Science and Faith are Friends - Not Enemies

For the past week, we have explored the idea that science and faith are friends.
Both science and theology deal with the fundamental human desire to know. We are naturally curious because God made us that way. Science began with Christian believers who sought to learn more about God through His creation. A desire to learn about God through the things He has made motivated men like Roger Bacon, Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and others to create what today we call “science.”

Faith in a loving and orderly Creator opened the door to a realization that the universe is orderly and not the chaotic product of the many gods of the ancient Greeks and Romans. As a result, theology and theologians developed many of the methods of modern science. Also, it was theologians who recognized that only natural causation is open to our direct study. They knew by faith that God was the ultimate cause of the universe. But since God is not a physical being, we can only study the secondary causation.

Even though we recognize that God is the only possible cause of the universe, all we can do is discover how He did it and marvel at the precision fine-tuning of the cosmos. If we say that God “zapped” these things into existence without a process, we deny God’s engineering and architectural skills. Science and faith are friends, and we can know there is a God through the things He has made (Romans 1:20).

Today, well-known scientists use books and TV programs to proclaim atheism, materialism, and scientism. At the same time, prominent and often highly-paid religious teachers debunk science and tell people to take off their “science glasses” and put on “Bible glasses.” It’s time to call a truce in the war between science and faith. Although the Bible is scientifically accurate beyond its time, it is not a science book. Although nature can tell us much about God, only the Bible can tell us everything we need to know about the Creator of the universe and how to have a relationship with Him. Good science and good theology go hand-in-hand because science and faith are friends.

We have seen that the scientific understanding of the Cause of the universe matches the biblical description of God. Since God is outside of time, He can hear the prayers of millions of people all over the world at the same time. We can’t imagine what it would be like to be outside of time because being locked into time is all we know. If we could step out of history’s timeline and see it from God’s perspective, we could understand why God allows things to happen. We could understand the things that make us ask, “Why doesn’t God prevent that?” We could see the conclusion of all things. We would know that because of God’s wisdom, justice, and love, the conclusion is good.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Tracing the Process of Creation

Tracing the Process of Creation - James Webb Telescope
James Webb Telescope image of the early universe

As we said in our previous post, scientists have been tracing the process of creation back to almost the beginning. However, they hit a roadblock called Planck density (named for German physicist Max Planck) just before they reach the starting point. So, thus far, science finds it impossible to go back to the precise moment when the universe began.

Since tracing the process of creation back to BEFORE the cosmic creation event will probably never be possible, scientists can only study secondary causation. They can see the processes that lead to the universe we live in, but they can’t study the primary causation. Could God be the primary cause operating behind the secondary causation we can see? Science cannot say. The best science can do is to suspend judgment. Personal beliefs are not science.

Science today has set limitations on itself, confining its study to the physical realm. To go beyond that would be considered metaphysics or theology. However, some scientists don’t hesitate to make theological statements. An example is the late Carl Sagan opening the old Cosmos series on PBS television with the statement, “The cosmos is all there is or was or ever will be.” That is not a scientific statement. It is a materialistic, atheistic theological statement beyond what science can measure and examine.

Biologist Richard Dawkins is also not afraid to venture beyond science into theology when he states in River Out of Eden, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” Scientists such as Sagan and Dawkins contribute to the war between science and theology, and specifically science and the Bible. All the while, they fail to acknowledge that they are making faith statements.

If you have followed these discussions for the past week, I hope they help you understand why we say science and faith are friends, not enemies. We will have some final thoughts on that tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

The Creation Process for the Universe

The Creation Process for the Universe involves Carbon

In the past week, we have looked at the fact that the universe had a beginning. Science can trace the creation process to learn many things about why we are here.

Because the universe was created by a process, scientists can study that process and follow it back in time. They have detected the residual cosmic background microwave radiation left over from the creation event. Astronomers can look back in time to see some of the earliest stars. Chemists can analyze the elements in the stars by examining the radiation spectrum. We can know how the elements originated in the stars as we study atomic reactions.

Life is built around the carbon atom, but for a long time, it was a mystery how carbon atoms could have formed. Finally, atheist Fred Hoyle solved the mystery and was shocked by what he found. He saw the fine-tuning required to create the carbon atom, and he expressed it this way:

“Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.” — Fred Hoyle

Studying the process of creation leads to the logical conclusion that there is intelligence behind it. What is the source of that intelligence? Science can trace the creation process back to almost the beginning. However, they hit a roadblock just before they reach the starting point. We will look at more on that next time.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

What is the Cause of the Universe?

What is the Cause of the Universe?

In the past few days, we have examined this syllogism:
Premise 1- Everything that begins to exist must have a cause.
Premise 2- The universe began to exist.
Conclusion- The universe has a cause.

We concluded that premise 1 and premise 2 are both correct. That means the conclusion must be true. So what is the cause of the universe?

The scientific consensus is that the big bang was the beginning of time and space as well as matter and energy. So, what does that tell us about the Cause? It tells us that the Cause has to be non-material and outside of time and space. That fits the biblical description of God! Check it out!

Jeremiah 23:23-24- God is everywhere and sees everything.
Acts 17:28- In God, we live and move and have our being.
Psalms 90:4 and 102:27, 2 Peter 3:8- God is outside of time.
Proverbs 8:22-23, John 1:1-3, Revelation 1:8- God existed before the universe and time began.
John 4:24- God is a spirit.
1 John 4:8 and 16- God is love.

As we said before, the common name for the cosmic creation event is the big bang. However, that derisive term coined by astronomer Fred Hoyle does not accurately describe what happened at the beginning. A big bang indicates some kind of explosion. Explosions are haphazard and chaotic, so I prefer to call it the cosmic creation event. Scientists have determined that the beginning could not have been chaotic but precisely tuned to create a life-supporting universe. The more we learn about the processes of creation, the more we see that if things had been even slightly different, we would not be here.

What is the cause of the universe, and what process was used to create it? Scientists have studied that process and learned many things about it. Next time, we will think about what science has discovered.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Did the Universe BEGIN to Exist?

Did the Universe BEGIN to Exist?

Look at the syllogism in the picture above. Is it logical? Does it make sense? Yesterday, we examined premise 1 and concluded that it is true. However, looking at the second premise could be more challenging. Did the universe BEGIN to exist?

You could assume that the universe has always existed. If it didn’t BEGIN to exist, it doesn’t need a cause! That was the approach of many “thinkers” from Aristotle to Einstein. When Einstein formulated the theory of special relativity in 1905, he was concerned that his formulas indicated that the universe was not in a steady state. It was either expanding or contracting, meaning it could not have always existed. To correct that “problem,” Einstein added a “cosmological constant” that made it appear that the universe is unchanging. He just made up a number so that his equations would show that the universe was eternal. Other scientists realized that Einstein was cheating, and he later admitted it was the biggest mistake of his life.

Scientific experiments from the 1920s to the 21st century have confirmed the universe is expanding and even accelerating in its expansion. Since the universe is expanding, we can trace that expansion back to a point where the universe began as a “singularity.” So, did the universe begin to exist? The answer is yes, it had a beginning! That was something that many scientists did not want to accept because of its religious implications.

British astronomer and atheist Fred Hoyle coined the derisive term “big bang” because his faith would not allow the concept of an ultimate Causer, or God. He used that term to make fun of the idea of a beginning. However, it has now become the popular term for the beginning.

So, if premise 1 and premise 2 are both true, the conclusion must be true. The universe has a cause, and science can’t determine what it is. The scientific consensus is that the big bang was the beginning of time and space as well as matter and energy. So, what does that tell us about the Cause? It tells us that the Cause has to be non-material and outside of time and space. What fits that description? We will examine that next time.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Why Does the Universe Exist?

Why Does Anything Exist?

Yesterday we questioned, “Why does the universe exist?” So, why is there anything now if nothing existed before the cosmic creation event or big bang?

We can say that everything exists because God exists. God chose to create this fine-tuned universe of space, time, matter, and energy. We can summarize this with a simple logical statement known as a syllogism. If the first and second premises are correct, then the conclusion must be true.

Premise 1- Everything that begins to exist must have a cause.
Premise 2- The universe began to exist.
Conclusion- The universe has a cause.

Premise 1 seems to be obvious. If something did not exist and then came into existence, it must have a cause for its existence. For example, suppose you are driving down the street and notice an empty lot. Each time you drive by, there is nothing but grass growing there. You take a different route for a few months, but one day you drive down that same street, and there is a house on the lot. You would not conclude that the house appeared there without a cause.

You would logically conclude that some builders constructed that house for a reason–probably because someone wanted to live there. You could investigate to learn the identity of the occupants. You could even explore building methods to see how the house was constructed. However, you would surely not conclude that the house appeared out of nothing with no cause.

Why does the universe exist? Did it BEGIN to exist? I think that a reasonable person would be willing to accept premise 1. Tomorrow, we will examine premise 2.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Something from Nothing Does Not Make Sense

Contemplating Something from Nothing Does Not Make Sense

How can you get something from nothing? Most scientists today agree that the universe had a beginning. They disagree on how it began, but they largely accept the idea that it began to exist. However, another question many ask is, “Why does anything exist?” If there was nothing before the universe began, why are we here? If nothing existed before the universe began, it is difficult to explain why there is anything at all.

Some have tried redefining “nothing” to make it “something.” Sometimes they suggest that something is gravity. So, if gravity existed before there was anything, where did the gravity come from? What they are doing is to substitute gravity for God, but how can there be gravity without mass?

Isaac Newton described gravity as the attraction between objects that have mass. The more mass, the more gravity pulls them together. That was the accepted theory until Einstein devised a new idea. His theory defined gravity as a curvature in space-time, which is the accepted concept today. But, according to scientists, the cosmic creation event (usually referred to as the big bang) was also the beginning of space and time. So, where does gravity come from if there is no space-time or matter-energy? That still does not answer the question, “Why does anything exist?” You can’t get something from nothing.

Of course, if science says that gravity existed before anything else, atheists argue that it is no different from saying that God existed before anything else. Who or what made God? Everything that begins to exist must indeed have a cause. However, God is eternal. He did not begin to exist. God is the first cause, the unmade Maker, the necessarily existing uncaused Being. If God created time and space, He is outside of time and space.

God existed before time, but even using the term “before” shows that we are limited to thinking in time terms. There is no before or after with God. He knows the future because He can see the entire timeline of the cosmos, viewing it from the outside.

So back to our original question, “Why does anything exist?” We will look at that tomorrow.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

What is the Aphelion?

Summer Heat and the Aphelion

Across the United States, on July 4, 2022, people celebrated the anniversary of our country in various ways. There were family picnics, parades, fireworks, and other events. However, most people did not realize that in addition to being the U.S. Independence Day, July 4 was also the day for aphelion this year. What is the aphelion?

Earth’s rotation around the Sun is not a perfect circle but slightly elliptical. When Earth is farthest away, that is called aphelion, and it occurred at 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT) on the fourth of July this year. At that time, Earth was separated from the Sun by 94.51 million miles (152.1 million km). We see this as another evidence of design in our planet. Aphelion always occurs in mid-summer. When Earth makes its closest approach to the Sun, astronomers call that perihelion. That happens in mid-winter, and the next time will be January 4, 2023, when Earth will be 5 million km closer to the Sun.

Why do we consider it a design feature that Earth and Sun are closest during the winter and farthest apart in the Summer? Look at a map or globe of Earth and notice that most of the land mass is in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southern Hemisphere is mostly water. Water absorbs and dissipates heat from the Sun much more efficiently than land does. In mid-summer, the temperature can, and does, become unbearably hot when the sunshine beats down on the land. It would be even hotter if the aphelion occurred at that time.

Of course, the summer and winter seasons are determined by the tilt of Earth’s axis, not distance from the Sun. However, distance plays a minor role in the concentration of the Sun’s rays on our planet. Our orbit around the Sun maintains Earth in the “Goldilocks Zone” within the temperature range where water can exist as a liquid. Summer and winter are tempered by the aphelion and perihelion to further stabilize our climate. That is an additional indication that our planet is well-designed for life. We don’t think it’s a coincidence, but evidence of a loving God.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Historic Yellowstone Flood

Historic Yellowstone Flood
Flooding in Yellowstone National Park

You have probably heard about the historic Yellowstone flood that closed Yellowstone National Park earlier in June of 2022. On top of heavy rains, warm temperatures caused massive snow melt. The result was that Yellowstone River and its tributaries overflowed their banks, washed out roads in the park, and washed away buildings in the area. Thousands of people had to be evacuated from the park, and it was closed. The northern part of the park suffered the worst damage and is still closed at this time.

The Yellowstone River is the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48 United States. It flows for almost 700 miles without any dams to hold it back. Humans see this flooding as a disaster that will take years and millions of dollars to correct. However, from the standpoint of trees and animals, the flooding is a blessing. Cottonwood and willow trees along the river were declining. They serve to provide shade and shelter for bison, gray wolves, and grizzly bears. The flooding provided new moist soil and carried seeds, allowing new trees to sprout and grow.

When rivers don’t have an opportunity to overflow their banks, erosion deepens the channels, invasive plant species grow along the banks, and the floodplain wetlands dry up. When rivers run wild and overflow their banks, the surrounding wetlands store water and provide habitats for many birds and mammals. In addition, a raging river spreads new soil across the floodplain, reshaping and renewing the land. Scott Bosse, the director of American River’s Northern Rockies office, said, “As humans, we often think that floods are disastrous, and fires are disastrous, but they’re really only disastrous because we put human lives and property in harm’s way. They’re not disastrous from an ecological standpoint. Quite the contrary, they’re healthy for rivers, and especially for a river like the Yellowstone.”

This historic Yellowstone flood is not all bad. As far as the animals are concerned, they are probably relieved to have fewer humans around. The native cutthroat trout in the Yellowstone river can find new access to tributaries to spawn. At the same time, the introduced rainbow trout have had their eggs and fry washed away by the raging waters. The scouring of the river washed up a supply of invertebrates to provide meals for fish and birds. Ospreys, eagles, American dippers, and river otters benefit from a new food supply.

Meanwhile, the historic Yellowstone flood allows cottonwood and willow trees to release their seeds into the wet sandy soil to germinate. Cottonwoods are the dominant trees along the Yellowstone River, and the new trees will benefit breeding birds in the future. Because of the added soil moisture, the flood waters also benefit the grazing animals by giving them more plants to graze on.

Floods can benefit the ecosystem, but humans often build roads, homes, and other structures in floodplains. Or they build homes downstream from dams that have the potential to break and cause a worse flood. God gave us the responsibility to care for the Earth. To do that, we must first respect it and understand how natural systems work. In the long term, the Yellowstone River ecosystem and its tributaries benefit from the historic Yellowstone flood.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Reference: National Geographic “Historic Yellowstone Flooding Brings Renewal Despite Destruction” by S.J. Keller

What Does the Solstice Confirm?

What Does the Solstice Confirm?

At 5:14 a.m. EDT this morning (09:14 GMT), the slow northward migration of the Sun reached its peak. As a result, daylight hours are maximized, and the hours of darkness are minimized for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. For those south of the equator, the opposite is true. In the north, we call the June solstice our summer solstice, and in the south half of our planet, it’s known as the winter solstice. So what does the solstice confirm?

In truth, the Sun has not been migrating north since December 21. It just looks that way. At a precise time this morning, the Sun appears to begin its trek southward, and daylight will be a little shorter each day. In North America, we think of this as the first day of summer, but people in Scandanavian countries call it midsummer. In Sweden, Norway, Finland, and other countries many people celebrate June 24 as Midsummer’s Day.

People living north of the Arctic circle will experience the “midnight sun” today. However, south of the Antarctic circle, it will be 24 hours of darkness. This is because of the 23.5-degree tilt of Earth’s axis relative to its orbit around the Sun. That is why we have seasons and the explanation of today’s solstice. But what does the solstice confirm?

Earth’s tilt is no accident. God planned it that way for good reason. (See Genesis 1:14.) As we have explained before, the hot sunshine would constantly beat down on the equator without the Earth’s tilt, making it inhospitable for life and leaving the northern and southern latitudes too cold. The lack of seasonal change would negatively affect life in many ways.

So, what does the solstice confirm? It is one more confirmation of design. We often overlook the well-designed features of this planet that make advanced life possible. Considering even a few of them, we have to say it didn’t happen by chance. When we realize all of Earth’s precision design features, we must admit that the best explanation is an intelligent Designer.

— Roland Earnst © 2022