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Short Description: With all the advances in science, can we prove scientifically the existence of God?
  
 
Dwight Nelson:

In a way we're all scientists, aren't we? Trying to make sense out of our lives and the world around us. I mean, some things seem pretty clear, established -- that we can count on. But sometimes, have you noticed, it seems that we're standing on the very edge of the light, reaching one hand out into the dark unknown, feeling around for something, or is it someone? What's out there? Who's out there? Is God somewhere in that mysterious unseen region, hiding just beyond our reach?

I'm Dwight Nelson. Welcome to The Evidence. We're about to step into the very heart of the debate over the existence of God. This is the crossroads of faith and science.

Dr. George Murphy is a Lutheran pastor and a theoretical physicist and the author of the book The Cosmos in the Light of the Cross. Dr. Murphy, thank you for joining us. I would think you would be perfect for this because you're a theologian and scientist. The perfect answer to the question, why can't science prove the existence of God?

George Murphy:

Well, I think the answer that I would give depends a great deal on what we mean by God. If God is fundamentally revealed in the cross and resurrection of Christ, then there is basic sense in which God is hidden, because in God's revelation in the cross, God is paradoxically hidden. The cross doesn't look anything like what we expect God to be. And if that's characteristic of the way God works, then we would expect God to be hidden from our natural observation in the world as well.

Dwight Nelson:

But not revealed in nature itself? No, if I can use this nomenclature, no fingerprints of the divine?

George Murphy:

That depends on where we start. If we try to start in just a neutral, objective way as much as we can, without any religious presuppositions, then no, we don't see fingerprints. However, if we start from the belief that God is, indeed, revealed in the cross, then that's what tells us who God is and what kind of God he is, then we can look at the world in that light, that's why the title of my book. We can look at the world in that light and hope to discern the presence and activity of that God in the world.

Dwight Nelson:

So, if there's no cross story, as you've referred to it as, then there's no possible way to know God?

George Murphy:

There is, from a Christian standpoint, no. Not as fundamentally where God--that's the core of where God is revealed.

Dwight Nelson:

Then if God is not revealed, see if I have it straight here, if God is not revealed in nature, is the cross the only place that a human being can go to understand who this God is?

George Murphy:

Well, remember, I referred to the cross resurrection event. And that is, in turn, a part of the whole biblical story. I mean, really, the cross is the high point, the center of the whole revelatory work of God that we read about, that's witnessed to in scripture. And so, in that sense, that is what we mean by speaking about God's revelation.But then, as I said, if in light of that, we look at the world, we can then see the signs of God's presence and activity there. So it's not that God isn't active in the world at all, but just that we have to know what God we're looking for.

Dwight Nelson:

Can you find this God? Let's just refer to him as this God. Can you find this God within the disciplines of science? Or is science--are you suggesting science is essentially atheistic, there just is no God in science?

George Murphy:

I think science by itself does make any religious assumptions. There are plenty of people who are excellent scientists who are atheists and the fact that they are atheists doesn't keep them from doing good science. So in that sense, yes, science is not theistic. Maybe that would be a better way to put it.

Dwight Nelson:

But, obviously, you have found congruence between science and theology in your own person, because you have blended the two disciplines.

George Murphy:

Yes.

Dwight Nelson:

How do you live with that?

George Murphy:

Because I begin with the belief in the God who is revealed in Christ and I understand my science in light of that, and I think many other scientists who are also Christians approach it in a similar way.

Dwight Nelson:

Let me bring into our conversation--you're a scientist theologian, let me bring a theologian and a philosopher in and pursue this issue of science and God. We're going to be back in just one moment. Stay right there.
[break]

We're asking why science can't prove the existence of God. Joining us in our studio are Dr. Philip Clayton and Dr.Douglas Geivett. Dr. Clayton is professor of theology at Claremont School of Theology and he is author of numerous books, including God and Contemporary Science, which I have right here. And Dr. Givet is professor of philosophy at Biola University's Talbot School of Theology, and his literary credits include Evil and the Evidence for God. Gentlemen, welcome to you both with George and me, here at this table.

We're talking science and God. Now, Doug, you just heard George a moment ago, God and science, not really. Do you concur?

Douglas Geivett:

I don't concur with that. I do think that God, having created the universe, has left His fingerprints all over the place.

Dwight Nelson:

In what ways?

Douglas Geivett:

Well, let's start with the beginning. The origin of the universe is something that scientists have something to say about. They can tell us approximately how long ago it happened and they have a good story to tell about how it happened, or at least how the beginning then resulted in the kind of universe we now have. What they can't explain, of course, is how the Big Bang -- the big explosion -- that started this whole thing occurred. What was the cause of that? That's beyond science, but science can bring us to that point, and, in that sense, provide us with evidence for the existence of God.

Dwight Nelson:

Phil, George, theoretical physicist that he is, you're a philosopher, evidence for God within the natural world?

Philip Clayton:

I have to concur with George that science is not the sort of discipline that can go about demonstrating the existence of God or any other deity, and yet, Doug is right to speak about evidence. There is evidence in the natural order. We just have to find the sort of argument, the sort of way of putting the pieces together to let that evidence speak, to let it be most convincing.

Dwight Nelson:

So, I'm not a scientist, I'm not a philosopher, I'm not a theologian, okay? Let's just say I'm walking down the street. In my journey through life can I put my fingers on that evidence that you just spoke about, Phil?

Philip Clayton:

The evidence that you're going to find is going to be more of a personal nature, it's going to be more of a philosophical nature.

Dwight Nelson:

So, it's experiential. It's what I experience, not what I see or touch as in a laboratory.

Philip Clayton:

Right, but not just subjective evidence either. There's a way in which the whole world fits together, I think, more powerfully with the hypothesis of the existence of God than in the hypothesis that there is no intelligence behind the whole universe. It's just that the scientific equations aren't going to give you that.

Dwight Nelson:

And, George is that making sense? Scientific equations don't give us God.

George Murphy:

I would agree with that. I would also say that what we consider to be convincing evidence depends on where we're starting from, what our presuppositions are. Theology has been spoken of, often is spoken of, as faith in search of understanding. We start from the standpoint of faith, then, yes, we look at the world and we see things that help us further to understand what we believe, to strengthen our understanding of who God is, but that's because we start from that standpoint of faith.

Dwight Nelson:

Do you think that God has intentionally hidden himself from human curiosity?

George Murphy:

In one sense, yes. I think the fact that God is hidden is, in an important sense, grace, because it means that we can understand the world on its own terms, in terms of natural processes and the scientific laws that describe them. And that allows us to be mature citizens of creation, rather than simply children who have to be told the answer to everything.

Dwight Nelson:

You don't consider yourself a child that has to be told the answers to everything. You're saying there's evidence out there?

George Murphy:

That's right.

Dwight Nelson:

I can identify that evidence and conclude, a supreme being, perhaps even a benevolent creator.

George Murphy:

Yeah. What I think is that we as human beings are by nature evidence-sensitive. We're highly sensitive to evidence. When we cross a busy street, even without thinking about whether our evidence supports the decision to cross, we are monitoring our environment and we are making decisions about the safety of crossing in a kind of subliminal way, aren't we? Picking up evidence and using it to get by in the world. I think that's going on all the time, and like Philip was saying, there are all sorts of personal ways that evidence plays a role in the guidance of our lives and the way we think.

So, we're picking up on all of these things. Now, when we do theology, or what's sometimes called natural theology,we want to give an argument, we can take the same data that's available to us in our experience and then formulate an argument using that data.

Dwight Nelson:

And, George, you're not suggesting that there is no internal or existential personal experience that corroborates it?

George Murphy:

No, I'm not saying that. No. But, again, we simply don't come to God on the basis of our experience by ourselves. That our experience is, if we take the Christian claim seriously, that God is revealed in Christ, then that helps us to make sense of our experience of ourselves and of the world, and to see that in the light of our understanding as creatures of God.

Dwight Nelson:

So, Phil, science has a role in somehow ushering humanity to God?

Philip Clayton:

I'm afraid I have to part with Doug on that question. The strange thing for me as a Christian intellectual is to realize that science has autonomy as a way that we gather knowledge of natural processes, and though it shows us order, it shows us beauty, it shows us harmony, and it doesn't show us the sorts of things that I hold as a person who believes in God. And it's strange that there's this limit there beyond which we simply cannot go until we make a move into a more philosophical, or existential, way of thinking.

Dwight Nelson:

Do you think that's an externally imposed limit? A divinely imposed limit? Or is that just the way it is because of our finite thinking?

Philip Clayton:

You know, you have to wonder. If God had offered proofs of his existence in nature, how would that relationship with faith been possible? Its part of humanness is that quest to understand what the nature of this universe we live in is.

Douglas Geivett:

And here's the deal, any number of scientists and other intellectuals will claim that the evidence that they deal with on a routine basis has provided them with reason to believe. Now, I think it's true that we need other evidence as well. It's not just scientific evidence, but philosophical data, the data of experience, and so forth, and I think, too, that when we start thinking about God, we start small. We take a small amount of evidence, we consider what its implication are, and if we start in the right place, then we can build on that and move towards something like what George was talking about here, where we expect God to produce a revelation in order to address the questions that we all have living in this world as we do.

Dwight Nelson:

I want to press that God-science interface a little bit harder when we come back in our next segment. Stay right there. We'll be back with our guests as we pursue this fascinating subject, is there scientific evidence of the existence of God? Don't go away, we'll be right back.
[break]

Dwight Nelson:

We've got Dr. Phil Clayton, Dr. Doug Givet and Dr. George Murphy talking about God and science. I want to get back, Dr. Murphy, to--in fact, let me interject here -- there is a fascinating paradigm today called the intelligent design movement. I'm assuming, George, that you're not real comfortable with that paradigm.

George Murphy:

That's right. Now, I think it's important to say that there are at least a couple of ways that we can understand the idea of intelligent design. One, in a very basic sense, is to say, God is the creator of the universe. God, in some sense, has designed creation, and certainly I would agree with that. But as the phrase intelligent design is used in these recent conversations. it contains the idea that intelligent design should be an explicit part of our scientific theories and our scientific explanation of things, so that some phenomena, like the origin of life, can't be explained without invoking the idea of an intelligent designer. And I do not agree with that.

Dwight Nelson:

To attempt to place God within a scientific hypothesis strikes me as just not plausible. So when William Dempski, the name that we associate with intelligent design, says that we can find from mathematical models the necessity of postulating an intelligent designer, says, well, I don't mean by that a religious hypothesis, just an intelligent designer something like God, I have to say, no, that's mixing apples and oranges, two types of concepts.

Now, if something said, the kind of order we find in the universe, philosophically, is better explained by postulating God than to say there is no designer, and places his argument up at that philosophical level, I have to endorse it. I think it's a powerful sense of some type of order lying behind this universe when we look at it. But not a scientific argument.

Dwight Nelson:

Doug, I gather from what you said just a moment ago, that you would be comfortable with that paradigm?

Douglas Geivett:

Yeah, I think that science there reaches a limit, and that's what Philip is saying, that there may be a limit to what science can explain. If it's irreducible complexity or something, the origin of the universe, and at that point you might have a metaphysical or a philosophical explanation in terms of God. That's the way I think science contributes to the case for God's existence.

Where I disagree with George is when he says that we should expect a fully naturalistic explanation for these cases of complexity and the sorts of things that drive the intelligent design movement and I don't see anything like that in the offing or any reason to expect that scientists will develop theories that can explain those things without God.

Dwight Nelson:

Then let me ask you gentlemen, the three of you, what kind of evidence would it take to prove God? Is there anything in the natural world that if you just had that, it would cinch the case?

George Murphy:

I don't think that any kind of scientific evidence is going to cinch the case for everybody. There is certainly evidence that will suggest to people that there is a God. There is evidence that for believers confirms their belief in God. But there's nothing, I think, that can be considered an open-and-shut proof of the existence of God.

Dwight Nelson:

And yet, all three of you, scientist, philosopher, theologian, all three of you believe in God. If I understand that correctly. All right? So, I'm a skeptic, okay. And I'm saying, okay, I'm into science, I dabble a little here, a little there. But I've been through high school, I've been through college, it's ingrained in me that it just--the evidence is not there. What would you say to me? To say, hey, wait a minute, wait a minute, don't give up yet, Dwight. I think if you would do this, you might find the God I found. What would you say to me?

George Murphy:

I would say, put yourself in a position to hear the message of Jesus Christ. That is, to hear the message of the gospel and open yourself, try to at least suspend disbelief and hear that. Because I think the gospel has created power to change people and to bring them to faith. And then, in light of that faith again, as we've said, one can look at the world and understand better what we need to speak about God.

Dwight Nelson:

Phil, what would you say to me?

Philip Clayton:

Whether you're comfortable using religious terms or not, you're on a quest for meaning. You're confronted with the various aspects of your life, the relationships that are good, and the death that surrounds you. You know that some day you will die and every human being has to answer for himself or herself, what is the purpose of it all? The only way to answer questions like that, it's not science, but is to raise these broader sorts of philosophical views. I think that the hypothesis that there is a God behind this entire order is the most powerful.

Dwight Nelson:

Doug, how about you?

Douglas Geivett:

I would say to the skeptic that any encounter with God is an encounter with a personal being, a personal being who wants to be known. And because we're talking about a person discovering another person, the evidence can be very different for different people and how they work through that evidence; can be very different for different people.

I would say think first about why we have the universe in the first place. Science cannot explain that. Then, once we've got a designer who created the universe, you can sense of the design features of the universe. And then ask this question, if such an intelligent, powerful being who, presumably, arranged the universe for our flourishment, our welfare, really did do that, then why do we have the problems that we have in the universe? And I think that drives, then, the expectation that there's more to knowing about God than just this. And you look at the religious scene, and, of course, I think that the best evidence we've got historically to confirm what God is really like was the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus and even of the cross of Jesus Christ as Doug was saying.

Dwight Nelson:

Three men on three faith journeys, Dr. Murphy, Dr. Clayton, Dr. Givet, thank you very much for being here and sharing the faith journey.

We're all on a journey. This has been a challenging topic, the intersection of science and faith.

I have a final comment I want to share with you in a moment, so stay right there as we put a wrap to The Evidence.

Ultimate questions about God's existence can never be resolved by laboratory experiments or deep space probes. To find answers, we have to look beyond the farthest limits of science and that's an act of faith. According to the Bible, faith is the evidence of things not seen. This isn't blind faith, but faith with eyes wide open, faith that sees the truth illuminated by divine revelation. That revelation opens the way for you and me to experience an intimate connection with a personal God, the God who doesn't hide himself from those who truly seek him. I'm Dwight Nelson, and that's what I believe. Join us next time for more of The Evidence.








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