2017-38 Science and faith

The signs of God’s presence in the universe

Every man who sincerely seeks the truth sees clear signs of the Almighty God’s presence and activity in the universe around us.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1737), an English physicist, wrote: “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) emphatically rejected, as false and restricting our cognitive powers, the conviction that only this which is cognizable to our senses exists. He wrote: “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind. That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.” And the Nobel Prize laureate Belgian chemist Ilia Prigogine (1917-2003) said: “The statistical probability that organic structures and the most precisely harmonized reactions that typify living organisms would be generated by accident, is zero.”

Lift up your eyes on high and see

The results of all scientific investigations of both the macro- and micro- cosmos lead any scientist who is guided by intellectual honesty and who looks for the truth in earnest to an obvious conclusion: that the entire universe was created by God, who makes it subsist and function perfectly. From the very beginning of the existence of mankind, God unseen has manifested his existence through the beauty, harmony and vastness of the universe. The Creator shows us who he is through his creation: “Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing” (Isa 40:26).

“If human beings with their intelligence fail to recognize God as Creator of all, it is not because they lack the means to do so, but because their free will and their sinfulness place an impediment in the way” (St. John Paul II)

How big is the universe?

If we travelled across the universe that we know with the speed of light, that is 300,000 kilometers per second (in one second we would orbit our Earth seven times), it would take us about 28 billion light years!

Today scientists claim that the universe encompasses about 350 billion large galaxies and 7 trillion smaller dwarf ones further in space. We do not know what lies beyond the space we are able to observe – possibly more trillions of galaxies, which can be a component of a still larger whole!

Every galaxy consists of hundreds of billions of stars and its diameter is millions of trillions kilometers long. It is estimated that beyond the Milky Way, there are more stars than there are grains of sand on all the beaches of the Earth.

When we look at a starry sky, we see a stunning scenery spread before our eyes. We can see the Milky Way or our Galaxy, which is a spiral galaxy. If we counted one star per second, 24 hours a day, we would need 9.5 million years to count all the stars in a single galaxy. Our Galaxy is relatively small: its diameter is about a trillion (1012) kilometers long. To cover this distance with a speed of 300,000 kilometers per second, a ray of light would need 100,000 years.

“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all…. It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe…. The impression of design is overwhelming” (P. Davies)

Our knowledge of the universe, our Galaxy, the Milky Way, is very limited indeed. It must be remembered that the entire solar system, including the sun and the planets, is only a small fragment of the Galaxy. Astronomers can observe only 0.000003% of the Milky Way and only 2,500 stars, while there are from 200 to 400 billion of them out there. The British theoretical physicist Paul Davies (b. 1946) said: “There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all…. It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe… The impression of design is overwhelming.”

The wisdom, omnipotence and love of the Creator

Our sun, a medium-sized star, is the main source of energy for the earth’s inhabitants. It is 150 million kilometers away from us and it is so large that it could hold a million planets the size of Earth. In our Galaxy, there are stars several hundred times larger than the sun. For instance, the diameter of one of them, Betelgeuse, is 600 times longer than that of our sun, and shines 60,000 times brighter. Scientists estimate that the temperature in the core of the sun is 15 million degrees Celsius and each second the sun produces 400 trillion watts of energy, and at the same time losing 4.5 million tons of its mass. In a single second, it emits more energy than mankind has produced since it appeared on Earth. The energy of the sun heats the Earth and makes life on it possible. The Earth, however, is reached only by one billionth of the energy the sun produces.

Our planet Earth is in the perfect position to receive exactly as much heat and light from the sun as is needed to sustain the life of plants, animals and people. The abundance of water and a perfect atmospheric balance make Earth an ideal place for the development of life and is no doubt a miracle in the entire universe.

The Scottish-American naturalist John Muir (1838-1914) wrote: “When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”

The sun and other stars produce energy thanks to nuclear fusion whereby hydrogen is changed into helium. Scientists estimate that there are about 100 billion galaxies altogether. The vastness of the entire universe and the might of energy produced by the stars found in it, surpass any human imagination.

Energy produced by stars is the manifestation of God’s genius and omnipotence. The creation of all this energy and might existing in the universe is described in the Bible in one sentence: “He also made stars”. It is reason that tells us that God has brought to life the entire universe: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps 33:6).

The unimaginable immensity of the Universe and spectacular galaxies and nebulae proclaim the glory of God. The immense universe surrounding us surpasses our powers of cognition and calls on us to admire in prayer the greatness, wisdom and love of the Creator: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps 33:8-9). Contemporary science is not able to determine the number of stars in the universe. Only the Creator, as we read in the Scriptures, “determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground” (Ps 147:4-6).

The omnipotence necessary to create the stars, planets and galaxies, the wisdom necessary to maintain them in perfect harmony, the incredible beauty of the universe – all this is indicative of the majesty, wisdom and love of the Creator

The omnipotence necessary to create the stars, planets and galaxies, the wisdom necessary to maintain them in perfect harmony, the incredible beauty of the universe – all this is indicative of the majesty, wisdom and love of the Creator. It was the Lord who “made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightnings for the rain, and he brings out the wind from his storehouses” (Jer 10:12-13).

Man, owing to the gift of reason, may admire with awe the immensity and beauty of the universe and say to the Creator: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor” (Ps 8:4-6).

They are without excuse

The discoveries of contemporary science make it absolutely clear that the universe is the work of a brilliant Designer; that is, it has a fixed beginning in time and space. The British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington said: “The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory.” Alan Sandage (1926-2010), an American astronomer and the winner of the Crawford Prize, writes in turn: “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.”

Any person of sound mind and capable of logical reasoning and recognizing the astounding beauty and precision with which the universe functions, both in the macro- and micro-cosmos, will reach the conclusion that there must be Supreme Intelligence which designed, brought to life and directs the entire universe.

This truth is remembered in the Scriptures: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse” (Rom 1:19-20). Who is without excuse when he says there is no God? St. Paul writes that these are those “who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18).

“The belief of atheists that God does not exist and that the first cell came into being by chance is so absurd and illogical as the conviction that after the passage of a tornado over a junkyard, a fully assembled, ready to fly Boeing 747 will be created” (F. Hoyle)

“If human beings with their intelligence fail to recognize God as Creator of all, it is not because they lack the means to do so, but because their free will and their sinfulness place an impediment in the way”, St. John Paul II explains (Fides et ratio, 19). St. Paul says that such people, having given themselves over to the slavery of sins, “became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:21-22). And in the Book of Wisdom, we read: “For all people who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know the one who exists, nor did they recognize the artisan while paying heed to his works; […] For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator” (Wis 13:1,5). St. John Paul II explains that “for the Bible, in this foolishness there lies a threat to life. The fool thinks that he knows many things, but really he is incapable of fixing his gaze on the things that truly matter. Therefore he can neither order his mind (Prov 1:7) nor assume a correct attitude to himself or to the world around him. And so when he claims that ‘God does not exist’ (cf. Ps 14:1), he shows with absolute clarity just how deficient his knowledge is and just how far he is from the full truth of things, their origin and their destiny” (Fides et ratio, 18).

The world-famous British astronomer, mathematician and astrophysicist Fred Hoyle said that the belief of atheists that God does not exist and that the first cell came into being by chance is so absurd and illogical as the conviction that after the passage of a tornado over a junkyard, a fully assembled, ready to fly Boeing 747 will be created.

Using our reason, we may only confirm the fact of the existence of God the Creator. While only “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen […]. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible” (Heb 11:1, 3).

„That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God” (A. Einstein)

Coming closer to God and entering into a relationship of love with him is made possible because it was God himself who revealed the whole truth about himself, becoming a true man in Jesus Christ. It was him, “the Son of God [that] has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true” (1 John 5:20). Jesus Christ has revealed to us the entire truth about God, that he is one in three persons, that “through Christ, the Word made flesh, man might in the Holy Spirit have access to the Father and come to share in the divine nature (Vatican Council II, Dei verbum, 2), that God invites all to unite with him in love. The natural light of reason is only the first step on the road to the cognition of personal God, the Creator of heaven and earth, whereas the full cognition of God, by entering into a relationship of love with him, is achieved only through “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). One simply has to renounce all sin and each day entrust all your life to Christ in persistent prayer, sacraments of penance and the Eucharist and in practicing Christian mercy.

“‘The obedience of faith’ (Rom. 13:26; see 1:5; 2 Cor 10:5-6) is to be given to God who reveals, an obedience by which man commits his whole self freely to God, offering ‘the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals,’ and freely assenting to the truth revealed by Him” (Vatican Council II, Dei verbum, 5).