Has Science Started Pointing Back to God?

Back on July 14, creationist Stephen Meyer managed to go mainstream when he got an article published at Newsweek entitled,  “How Science Stopped Backing Atheists and Started Pointing Back to God.”

Yes, it’s nearly 2 months old at this point, but I meant to write something on it at the time, and it just escaped my memory. But ignorance is timeless.

My initial impression right off the bat is the odd implication of the title. Meyer seems to think that science used to truly support atheism. Most Christians I know of would prefer to say that science has always pointed to God. But I’ll shelf that for now.

Meyer’s astonishingly vapid article begins with an oft-heard complaint about the rise in non-belief in America. He cites modern science as the reason, noting that 65% of atheists think that the findings of science make the existence of God less probable.

But let me present a different take. It is the fault and responsibility of creationists, who have an outsize visibility, that science is driving so many people toward atheism.

Evolution does not imply atheism.

This needs to be repeated constantly. It works well with atheism, but theism can adapt to the theory of evolution as well, and it often has (see the Catholic church). But many people were taught that evolution is incompatible with God, and so when incontrovertible evidence for evolution emerged, they rejected God. In other words, the rise of atheism must be partly blamed on creationists.

But I digress a little. Let me get to the heart of his article. Meyer cites three proofs of God, and each ought to be evaluated in turn.

1: The Big Bang

Here’s Meyer’s exact words:

First, scientists have discovered that the physical universe had a beginning. This finding, supported by observational astronomy and theoretical physics, contradicts the expectations of scientific atheists, who long portrayed the universe as eternal and self-existent—and, therefore, in no need of an external creator.

Evidence for what scientists call the Big Bang has instead confirmed the expectations of traditional theists. Nobel laureate Arno Penzias, who helped make a key discovery supporting the Big Bang theory, has noted the obvious connection between its affirmation of a cosmic beginning and the concept of divine creation. “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses…[and] the Bible as a whole,” writes Penzias.

Stephen Meyer describes a generic sort of divine creation without any reference to the biblical details – except for the quote from Penzias, and even that quote describes none of the details contained in Genesis.

Meyer has to speak this way because if he was to address the way the Bible describes creation, he’d discover it to be way out of line with science if interpreted in such a literalist way as Meyer has advocated for elsewhere. This is why those advocating for evolutionary creation/theistic evolution from a Christian standpoint regularly argue that the creation account is metaphorical.

First of all, the text does not describe creation out of nothing, and mainstream scholarship does not consider it to. In fact, there appears to have been water already. Earth was created before the sun, according to Genesis – and so were plants. Modern science has soundly refuted all of this.

Furthermore, it’s simply nonsensical to claim that the five books of Moses alone could cause one to predict what modern science says, if only because no one ever did predict any of it before modern science made the discovery on its own. This is the epitome of after-the-fact reasoning.

The Big Bang is not a complete understanding of the beginning of the universe. And all cosmologists agree that it doesn’t say anything about how it began. We may never know how it began, or science may uncover an answer. At any rate, saying that it was God just because we don’t know how it happened is fallacious reasoning.

2: Fine-Tuning

Meyer presents this tired argument again.

Second, discoveries from physics about the structure of the universe reinforce this theistic conclusion. Since the 1960s, physicists have determined that the fundamental physical laws and parameters of our universe are finely tuned, against all odds, to make our universe capable of hosting life. Even slight alterations of many independent factors—such as the strength of gravitational or electromagnetic attraction, or the initial arrangement of matter and energy in the universe—would have rendered life impossible. Scientists have discovered that we live in a kind of “Goldilocks Universe,” or what Australian physicist Luke Barnes calls an extremely “Fortunate Universe.”

Not surprisingly, many physicists have concluded that this improbable fine-tuning points to a cosmic “fine-tuner.” As former Cambridge astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle argued, “A common-sense interpretation of the data suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics” to make life possible.

First impressions. Why is Meyer citing Fred Hoyle? Fred Hoyle rejected the Big Bang, which Meyer defended earlier. Furthermore, Hoyle proposed a theory (now refuted by science) that contradicts divine creation out of nothing.

Physicist Sean Carroll thoroughly refuted the fine-tuning argument better than I ever could in this video.

Honestly the video is comprehensive enough that there’s nothing more I could say on the subject. Best to cite an actual scientist like Dr. Carroll anyways.

3: Intelligent Genes

Meyer’s last gasp at proving God goes as follows:

Third, molecular biology has revealed the presence in living cells of an exquisite world of informational nanotechnology. These include digital code in DNA and RNA—tiny, intricately constructed molecular machines which vastly exceed our own digital high technology in their storage and transmission capabilities. And even Richard Dawkins has acknowledged that “the machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like” — implying, it would seem, the activity of a master programmer at work the origin of life. At the very least, the discoveries of modern biology are not what anyone would have expected from blind materialistic processes.

I’m not a geneticist, but I am a programmer. My code of course often has many bugs in it. But if a truly perfect, inerrant programmer were to create a program, everything would work together perfectly and there would be no issues.

Let me analogize. For a while, I worked on an open-source project with many developers. We all worked independently and pieced the code together, then we each edited various parts as needed. The program bears this mark. Anyone who can read code can easily tell that the program was created by many people, over many years, and even by people who write code in different ways. It’s messy and buggy.

And that’s the world we live in. The genetic code is messy and buggy. Evolution emulates intelligence, but different evolutionary paths don’t necessarily harmonize together very well. And the generic code bears this mark. Richard Dawkins, whom Meyer irresponsibly cites, has said just as much.

If it was all created by one designer, one perfectly intelligent designer, it’d look very different. The genetic code looks exactly as it would in a naturalistic universe.

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