Can science and God co-exist?
For centuries, science and religion have been at odds, with some fearing that the more scientists uncover, the more religious theories may unravel. But perhaps the complexity and the wonder of the universe doesn't disprove the existence of a higher being at all.
It's an argument that mathematician Amir Aczel makes in his new book "Why Science Does Not Disprove God." He speaks to The Takeaway about the differences between religion and faith, and why an argument that science rules out God may not be based in fact.
"In my mind, I make a distinction between two Gods—the Gods of organized religions, and the Gods of Einstein," says Aczel.
When reflecting on Einstein, Aczel says the world-renowned scientist used to say things like, "Subtle is the lord, but malicious he is not," or "I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details."
"To me, Einstein was, in a sense, a believer in some kind of power behind the universe," says Aczel. "That's the God I'm trying to defend here—not the God of religions."
Aczel says that rather than believing in some sort of creator that planned and designed our universe, he believes more in a God that initiated things and then took a step back.
"It's the second God that I'm interested in," he says. "If you look at what happened in the first second of the universe, or even a fraction of a second, suddenly there's this huge explosion. An explosion doesn't really do anything. Then there's this mass creation through the Higgs [particle]. Why would there be a creation of mass using the Higgs mechanism which is so highly mathematical, so complicated? To me, that thought behind it, that's God."
The precision that was needed to create our universe—some may call it chance while others view it as divine intervention—awes Aczel. In the seconds after the Big Bang, the universe consisted of a hot soup of basic particles called quarks and gluons. A few microseconds later, those particles started to cool and formed protons and neutrons—the building blocks of matter.
"That was exactly what was needed to create matter," he says. "The universe is so fine tuned, there has to be something behind it that made it that way."
Aczel says that religion can learn things from science and vice versa. Until 1929, physicists believed the universe had always existed until Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe was expanding. The book of Genesis, on the other hand, contends that the universe was created at a certain point. While Aczel doesn't believe that the universe was created in a matter of days as Gneiss describes, he says it can still provide a lesson.
"Many of the early scientists were religious," says Aczel. "Galileo, his daughter was a nun, and he never really tried to argue that religion was wrong, he just said, 'Look, the Earth rotates.' It's really the literal interpretation of scripture that gets us in trouble. In the 21st century, I'd like to see atheistic scientists really stay on what science is designed to do, which is to understand nature, and not to jump to conclusions that are not warranted. If you look at data, statistically, you can't really disprove that something is beyond the universe. Some people call it God—maybe we should let them do that."
While it may be the case that science can't disprove the existence of God, that does not make an argument for the existence of God. Aczel says he is not trying—or even pretending to—prove the existence of God.
"All I'm doing is trying to point out that these very well known atheists who claim that science has proven there is no God—that science says so, that the math says so, the equations say so, the physics say so, the biology says so—that's just not true," says Aczel. "But that's where I stop."
Aczel says that he believes in some kind of power that underlies and extends beyond the universe, but stops short of endorsing divine intervention.
"Does that power intervene in our everyday lives? That's hard to think that way because statistics prove that it probably doesn't happen," he says. "I believe there's a consciousness in the universe, and a power in the universe that we have not yet uncovered that you may choose to call God."