Can (or should) science prove the existence of God? | Culture


There was a time when the idea of ​​God was all-powerful. Then not so much. Copernicus removed the Earth from the center of the universe. Darwin removed the human being from the center of evolution. And Freud even took us out of the center of our own psyche. Religious explanations of the world were receding in the face of the advance of scientific knowledge. But there are those who argue that a turn has occurred and that the idea of ​​the creator God is once again gaining ground.

The book God, science, evidence (Tightrope walker), by engineer Michel-Yves Bolloré and businessman Olivier Bonnassies, argues that modern science is inconceivable if we do not consider the existence of God. In France it was a publishing phenomenon that sold more than 250,000 copies, with a foreword by none other than the Nobel Prize in Physics Robert W. Wilson, co-discoverer of microwave background radiation, one of the proofs of the Big Bang theory. In Spain it is prefaced by María Elvira Roca Varela, the essayist known for the best-selling essay Imperiophobia (Siruela). In a similar vein, it has recently been published New scientific evidence of the existence of God (VozdePapel), by José Carlos González-Hurtado.

Bolloré and Bonnassies harshly criticize current materialism in their book and consider some of the scientific discoveries of the 20th century as “proof” (although not demonstrations) of the existence of God. Above all, the Big Bang theory: against the supporters of a stationary universe, without beginning or end, the Big Bang provides the possibility of a creative God, perhaps not in the literal terms of the Bible, but creative nonetheless. cape. God would then act, in theological language, through secondary causes: he does not directly create the things of the world, but he creates the world in which things then happen, through the laws of nature. Curiously, one of the scientists who developed the Big Bang theory, Georges Lemaître, was, in addition to being a cosmologist, an abbot. That the universe is going to end in a thermal death, cold and dark, as predicted by the Second Principle of Thermodynamics, is also a point for God’s team, according to the authors, who consider that the “irrational” thing today is to be materialistic.

Interior of the book 'God, science, proofs'
Interior of the book ‘God, science, proofs’

“Some arguments are very old,” says Antonio Diéguez, professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science at the University of Malaga. He refers to the fine-tuning argument which relates to the anthropic principle. The first focuses on the fact that the universal constants (the speed of light, the gravitational constant or the Planck constant) seem perfectly adjusted for the existence of life. It seems that someone has done it on purpose… The anthropic principle, on the other hand, observes that the universe seems to have been manufactured with us in mind. Everything fits together miraculously well. “For that there are several answers,” says Diéguez, “for example, there may be a multiverse and this is only one universe of many, where those conditions occur. Or it may be a contingency: life has arisen due to the fact that those conditions already existed.” It could also be pointed out that in a universe equalized In a different way, another type of life could appear, as, in fact, it can appear on other planets.

The cosmological argument of Thomas Aquinas resonates, recalls the professor, who says that if the universe exists, someone must have created it. There are other arguments of this type, such as the long-standing teleological or intelligent design argument: if the world is complex, a God who has engineered that complexity is necessary. Along these lines, the so-called watchmaker analogy proposes that where there is a watch, there must be a watchmaker. The complexity of the eye, for example, inspires many creationists with the need for a great designer of the world, beyond the blind chance of evolution. They are weak arguments.

“I don’t need that hypothesis.”

In short, Bolloré and Bonnassies’ book does not “prove” anything. The Jesuit François Euvé has published in France a response to the first book whose title can be translated as Is science proof for the existence of God? He concludes no. The famous anecdote about the physicist Pierre-Simon Laplace comes to mind, when he went to show Napoleon his discoveries about celestial mechanics, the reasoned explanation of the precise dance of the Solar System. The emperor, not without fascination, asked him what God had in all that. Laplace replied: “Sire, I do not need that hypothesis.” If the French book effectively proved the existence of God, we would probably be experiencing the greatest revolution in human knowledge. But, for now, the positions seem immovable, where they have always been, and religiosity seems to have remained in its natural field: that of belief.

Beyond this particular, the relationships between science and religion have always been complex. “Since the scientific revolution, many beliefs that appeared in the different sacred books have been refuted. From the movement of the Sun and the stars to the evolution of species. The hand of God has been gradually disappearing from all fields of knowledge,” says Jorge J. Frías, president of ARP (Society for the Advancement of Critical Thinking). A fundamental milestone was the trial and condemnation of Galileo for his heliocentric ideas, in 1633. Over time the conflict subsided, in part, due to the Catholic Church’s acceptance of scientific ideas, such as the theory of Evolution. Other branches of Christianity continue to support creationism, creation as literally narrated in the Bible, which causes many conflicts between science and religion in American education.

Charles Darwin (1809-1892) and, on the right, Albert Einstein (1879-1955).
Charles Darwin (1809-1892) and, on the right, Albert Einstein (1879-1955).

Among scientists, although a priori It may be thought that they tend towards atheism, there have been everything: atheists, theists (believers with revelation), deists (believers without revelation), agnostics… “Almost all the great historical physicists have been believers in one way or another,” says astrophysicist Eduardo Battaner, author of Physicists and God (Waterfall). Deism was, for example, Albert Einstein’s belief: the idea that there is a supreme being, but not personal, indifferent to our presence, who does not intervene in the world. Not the God of monotheistic religions. He sounds more mysterious, immanent, spiritual.

Paul Davies, a physicist at the University of Arizona, author of God and the new physics, who does not belong to any particular creed, but who refuses to believe that the universe is a mere “fortuitous accident.” “The physical universe is arranged with such ingenuity that I cannot accept this creation as a brute fact. There must be, in my opinion, a deeper level of explanation. Whether we want to call him ‘God’ is a matter of taste and definition,” he explains. Another position compatible with science is that of the philosopher Baruch Spinoza: God is nature itself. He is everything, not a separate entity that governs the destinies of the world. The underlying idea in many of these cases is that it is not necessary for science to deal with the idea of ​​God, which must remain in the realm of belief or, in any case, theology. “Science does not serve to prove that God exists, nor to prove that God does not exist,” says Diéguez.

Science and religion

In theory, scientists’ beliefs do not have to affect their positions and research, but things are not that simple. “We must keep in mind that scientists only have one brain and its division into two modes of operation is something artificial and not easy to achieve,” says Battaner. Historically, beliefs did influence science. Kepler wanted to be very precise in his work to inform the world how God had done it. Newton believed in the necessary intervention of God so that the Solar System did not become disordered. Einstein tried to put himself in the role of God to judge his theories… Would God have done it like that? “When it comes to working it is not easy to put feelings into a corner,” he adds.

This compatibility between science and belief has its critics. “Since humans are not objective, some scientists try to twist the issue so that it fits their own beliefs,” explains Jorge J. Frías. He refers, for example, to the paleontologist and popularizer Stephen Jay Gould, who defended that science and religion are two “magisteriums that do not overlap.” That is to say, they were perfectly compatible. “That would be true if religions affirmed that the protagonists of their legends are fictional characters,” adds Frías, “but what they say is that they create, destroy, transform and interact with the world. And that is where they collide with science.”

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