Scrap Yard: Does God Exist?
Victor Stenger, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, recently released a book, God: The Failed Hypothesis—How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. We asked Charles Hayes, dean of the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Natural Sciences, to offer an opposing viewpoint on the relationship between God and science.
Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy, University of Hawai‘i; adjunct professor of philosophy, University of Colorado
By this moment in time, science has advanced sufficiently to be able to make a definitive statement on the existence or nonexistence of a God having the attributes that are commonly associated with the Judaic-Christian-Islamic God. This God should be readily detectable by scientific means, given that he supposedly plays such a central role in the operation of the universe and in the lives of humans.
The process I follow is the scientific method of hypothesis testing. Many of the attributes commonly associated with God have specific consequences that can be tested empirically.
If God is the intelligent designer of life on Earth, then we should find evidence for that in observations of the structure of life. We do not. If God has endowed humans with immaterial souls and is the source of morality, then we should find evidence for that in observations of human behavior. We do not.
If God is the creator of the universe and the laws of nature, then we should find evidence for that in astronomy and physics. We do not. If humans are a special creation of God, then the universe should be congenial to human life. It is not.
My search for evidence of God is conducted according to the same standards that are applied in the investigation of any extraordinary claim in science. After evaluating all the evidence, we conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe and life look exactly as they can be expected to look if there is no God.
Dean of the University of Hawai‘i’s college of natural sciences
it’s true that many scientists do not believe in a personal God. However, there are also well-known scientists who do. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, for example, says, “As a believer, I see DNA, the information molecule of all living things, as God’s language, and the elegance and complexity of our own bodies and the rest of nature as a reflection of God’s plan.”
There is scientific evidence that God exists. Take, for example, the anthropic principle: If the values of certain physics parameters were changed, life as we know it could not exist. The existence of life implies a designer. Atheists argue that perhaps there are other universes that do not have life. However, there is no evidence for the existence of other universes or other life. If you accept that no evidence means no existence, those options are not possible.
Other atheists point out that carbon, which is needed for life, makes up only a small percentage of the mass in the universe. Why, they ask, would God create such a big universe for man, who exists in only a small portion of it? We do not know what God has in mind for his creation, but our inability to explain it does not disprove God. If he created things by evolution, the evidence for evolution does not disprove God, but simply shows how he created. Consider the Genesis passage, “God formed man from the dust of the earth.” The Hebrew word for “formed” is also used in the book of Isaiah to describe God forming the nation of Israel, something he did slowly, step by step. We could then translate the Genesis passage as, “God evolved man from small particles.”
For every argument that claims to use science to show that God does not exist, there is another side that shows he does.