Science vs. miracle
A vast majority of people in this world believes that god created universe and everything in it. A small minority of us are of the opinion that everything can be explained by science, which has already has made tremendous stride in uncovering nature’s deep secrets, and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Then there are those in the middle who believe that we need to go beyond science to explain many aspects of our universe and our experience of living in it. Here are some examples of items they put forth in support of their belief.
1. There is a soul that resides in the body and leaves when a person dies. If you believe that to be true, many things can be explained. For example, soul can be the entity that makes a collection of chemicals “alive.” Soul is also the “thinker of the thought” or what gives us self-awareness. If you believe in rebirth, soul provides the way a person can be reborn, by going from a person who has died to the one who is about to be born. However, people like me would say that there is no evidence that a soul exists* and there is high likelihood that emergence of “life” from self-replicating chemicals would be explained by science someday not far in the future. Self-awareness, or consciousness, could be just a function of brain that has not yet been explored or explained, but that does not mean it will not be. According to a well-known author Yuval Harari (Sapiens, Homo Deus), conscious brains is probably a byproduct of nature making intelligence that can reason about itself and its environment. Finally, the concept of rebirth serves to provide a soothing message to those bereaved by the passing of a loved one, that he/she has not gone forever, but born elsewhere. However, as far as science is concerned, it just does not make any sense.
2. There has to be purpose in life, some deep meaning why we exist. There could be, but what if there isn’t? What if nature just does its own things, following the rules of physics, with no plan, no “meaning”? Why isn’t that an acceptable way of looking at things? Why do we need everything to have a meaning? Indeed, there is a school of philosophy behind this assertion…existential nihilism.
3. There is a mysterious energy or force that directs what goes on. There are mysterious entities such as dark matter and dark energy in universe that science is investigating. However, I don’t think this is what folks who believe in the mysterious force/energy refer to. They believe in a mysterious force that is directing how and where life should exists and that remains an active participant in our lives. On the surface, this sound very much like the concept of “Intelligence Designer,” often mentioned in place of god by folks who are of scientific bent but do not think science can explain everything. True, we don’t know for sure what is reality. However, if there is an Intelligent Designer, then who created him/her/it? A super Intelligent Designer? Who created him/her/it? Wouldn’t we get into an endless loop trying to reason out of that one?
4. “It can’t be a coincidence that I got help exactly when I needed it.” My response would be — -why can’t it be?
5. Wouldn’t the creation of an organism violate the second law of thermodynamics — -by reducing entropy? If you are not a student of science, this refers to the fact that universe goes from order to disorder; low entropy to high entropy, and an organism represents order and so low entropy. However, a deeper dive illustrates that entropy can reduce if the system is not isolated. An increase in entropy somewhere else more than compensates for that reduction, thereby keeping the second law intact. So, this argument does not apply.
6. Can universe emerge from nothing? Yes, it can. As explained by a theory called Quantum gravity, universe can and always will appear from nothing. Such universe can have matter and energy as long as the total energy, including the negative energy associated with gravity, is zero (from “A Universe from Nothing” by Lawrence Krauss). Could this universe include an Intelligent Designer? I believe that it does include a designer, in the form of laws of physics. To make it intelligent would need an intelligence maker and we will be back in the conundrum expressed under point 3.
7. How can such complexity in life be created without some intervention? Given enough time — -billions of years in this case — — and a process that incorporates variations in living organisms, coupled with natural selection (Darwin’s Theory), living things of enormous complexity, including humans, can evolve. The key here is “given enough time.” A very readable book in this area is “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin.
In summary, as Steven Weinberg, a physicist, says (ref. the above book by by Lawrence Krauss), “Science does not make it impossible to believe in God, but rather makes it possible not to believe in God. Without science, everything is a miracle. With science, there remains the possibility that nothing is.”
I agree with him.
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* Note: When I say this, I am presented with “scientific” evidence that shows that soul exists. Much like climate change, there are people who work on alternate science. So, once you are convinced of any of the items above, including the existence of soul, to be true, it is always possible to find someone to back you up. This is a clear manifestation of confirmation bias, in that you selectively look for evidence that confirms what you believe in and discard the rest.