Subject: Atheism: Why the Christian Worldview is superior
Hebrews 11:6 “He who comes to God must believe that He is…”
“If we need an atheist for a debate, we go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn’t much use.” That quote comes from Dr. Robert Griffiths, winner of the Heinemann Prize in mathematical physics and a professor of quantum physics at Carnegie Mellon University. What do quantum physicists do for fun? On his bio page he says “My other interests include the problem of irreversibility in statistical mechanics and various issues, such as determinism and free will, at the interface between science and Christian theology.” But then again, doesn’t this sound like all of us?
So why would he make such a disclaimer for atheism when it comes to the world of physics, a foundational science for understanding how the universe operates? First of all, atheism as a worldview asserts there is no God, either in or beyond the world. And one of the several core beliefs of atheism is that the universe came to be the way it is through an unguided process that has yet to be discovered, a process which by blind chance resulted in, well, us. We, and everything in the universe, are just a ‘happy accident’.
Griffiths is both a mathematician and a physicist (my kind of nerd). What’s the basic difference? Mathematics is a precise discipline, while physics applies the precision of mathematics to the real world, in order to describe how the real world, or the universe, behaves. And when we apply these disciplines to the universe, what do we find? Not an unguided process, but rather an exquisitely designed operating system.
We know that physicists today agree on at least three things: 1) the universe had a point and time that it began from nothing, 2) all objects in the universe follow ordered mathematical equations, and 3) the universe operates under at least 38 incredibly precise factors that, if any one of them were ever so slightly varied, would make life and the universe impossible. All three of these facts negate the atheistic assertion of an unguided random process, and form a solid basis for the theistic assertion of an intelligent Designer.
Take the first fact – a universe that began from nothing. Before the discovery of the Big Bang, scientists believed the Universe was eternal, and atheism was a possibility. With no limit to time, science taught that it was logically possible that life could somehow come forth. But a universe that is at most only 13.7 billion years old makes it mathematically impossible that all the pieces needed to create and sustain life could somehow have come together by unguided, accidental events. This was the essence of last week’s article, where Einstein changed his worldview from atheism to deism when he was confronted with this fact.
And then the second fact, that all objects in the universe obey ordered mathematical equations. When Oxford University professor Richard Swinburne was asked what is the most compelling reason for him that God exists, he points to the order of the universe and uses the attractive force of gravity as his example to explain that it is logically impossible to believe that an unguided, blind process could be the genesis for why any pair of particles in the universe interacts with each other according to the exact equation of the multiplication of their masses times the acceleration constant divided by the square of the distance between them. And not only from the beginning of the Big Bang, but every split second since then. Swinburne’s point: this exquisite design in the universe screams for a Designer who caused it.
And finally the third fact. There are at least 38 unique characteristics of the universe that are dialed to a finely-tuned value in order to make physical life possible. For example, the ratio of the gravitational force constant to the electromagnetic force constant must be held to within one part in 1040 (one part in ten thousand trillion trillion trillion) or life ceases. Why? If this ratio increased by more than one part in 1040, only small stars could form. If it decreased by more than one part in 1040, only large stars could form. But life is impossible without small and large stars. We need large stars because it’s only within their thermonuclear furnaces that most life-essential elements are made. We need small stars, like our sun, because only they burn long enough and stable enough to sustain planetary life. This kind of multi-factor precision is mathematically impossible in random, unguided processes. It requires a Designer.
In his autobiography Surprised by Joy, CS Lewis says the atheism of his early teens was based on his faith in what he was told, that science had disproved God, even though he didn’t know anything about science. But as the Noble Prize-winning physicist Arthur Compton (1892-1962) once famously said, “Science has created a world in which Christianity is a necessity.”