Can science prove God? For the last several centuries this question would have seemed absurd. Galileo was forced to recant his discoveries before the Pope. Darwin faced vociferous opposition from religious quarters. Today, however, a new way of thinking has found expression among devout scientists.
Perhaps its most articulate representative is Frances Collins, the former head of the Human Genome Project and an evangelical Christian. Dr. Collins wrote an astounding book about DNA called The Language of God. Among his arguments is the case for what he calls “theistic evolution.” It sees evolution as the Divine mode of creation.
According to this framework, biology does not undermine God. It illustrates God’s creative powers because it shows God implanted within nature a way to evolve. In other words, faith and science are not at odds. They depend on one another. Each reveals the other’s power.
Of course some scientists would argue against this view. How can one prove a supernatural creator implanted the ability to evolve within organisms? Yet, they would have great difficulty finding a counter-argument to it. The beginnings of life remain shrouded in mystery, and will remain so.
As Max Planck, one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated scientists put it, “Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.”
What we don’t know pales in comparison to what we do know. The ultimate mystery at the heart of the universe lies beyond our grasp, and even if they do not call it God, many thoughtful scientists appreciate that mystery.
As scientists have learned more about evolution, they have also recognized a truth the Bible described long ago. Creation is vast and almost infinitely diverse. Consider, for example, that earth contains 40,000 types of beetles! The Bible celebrates this diversity in the Book of Psalms, where we read,
How manifold are your works, O God.
You have made them all in wisdom.
The earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and wide.
There the creeping things beyond count, Living things great and small.” (104:24-45)
As we learn more about the world, we are uncovering the vastness God implanted within it. Even more astonishing, this diversity shares a common source. Every organism shares the same genetic code. To use a literary metaphor, we are all part of one dictionary.
As science writer Matt Ridley put it, “Wherever you go in the world, whatever animal, plant, bug or blob you look at, if it is alive, it will use the same dictionary and know the same code. All life is one…This means – and religious people might find this a useful argument - that there was only one creation, one single event when life was born.”
The final area of convergence is language. Language is not simply the words we speak. It is a series of symbols used to structure reality. Recall how Dr. Collins entitled his book The Language of God. That language, in Collins metaphor, is DNA.
DNA are strings of letters array in different orders. The arrangement of the letters creates life. Is it coincidental that God’s creation of the world begins with the words, “God said ‘Let there be light, and there was light?”
To continue this metaphor, we can understand creation as a result of different permutations of letters. We call these letters DNA, and they are really the building blocks of life.
Science may not prove God to everybody. Yet, the more we learn, the more we grow in our awe and amazement at the beauty of God’s creation.
For more from Rabbi Evan Moffic, visit his blog Truths You Can Use.