Every human being—and every scientist—sooner or later needs to consider the nature of God.
During the Intelligence Squared debate about “Science Refutes God,” which has served as the framework for this series of BahaiTeachings.org essays, the nature of God came up often. For example, atheist writer Michael Shermer said:
If God is supernatural, that is, outside of the space and time, there’s no way for us to know it. Therefore, whatever God is, it would have to be a natural being or at least some kind of a being that reaches in to stir the particles, and if he does, then we should be able to measure it, because that’s what we do as scientists. We measure the motions of particles. And so far we have no evidence of that.
The history of science is replete with examples of scientists observing things and describing them erroneously because they didn’t know what they were looking at or failed to discern the correct evidence. In other words, when one has a hammer, everything looks like a nail, meaning that how we interpret information depends in large part on context. Of course, context sets expectations—a point the atheist Dr. Krauss made in reference to natural laws.
Shermer may not be aware of evidence that God ”stirs the particles,” but possibly that’s because he is one of the particles being stirred. I would submit that the very intellect which allows us to ask questions about reality and attempt to answer them is, itself, evidence of the particles being stirred.
Further evidence of God “stirring the particles” exists in the wisdom of such authorities as Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, Baha’u’llah, etc. The transformation their teachings bring to human lives creates a striking parallel to Shermer’s stirring of particles.
Science deals in physical reality; religion deals in spiritual reality. The two intersect in the human intellect—the rational soul. We are the portal through which the supernatural reaches into the natural universe to stir the particles.
Dinesh D’Souza closed by providing a real-world context for the motion that science refutes God:
American botanist Asa Gray wrote Darwin a letter in which he said, “As a Christian, I was very inspired upon reading your book, because I have read in the book of Genesis that God made the world and God made man, but there’s no information about how this might’ve occurred. And when I read your book, I understood not only why God made humans, but why there’s so much suffering in the world…”
… has science refuted God? And at some senses, we’ve been talking past each other. If I take a pot of water and put it on the stove … I’m trying to make a cup of tea. Now, Lawrence Krauss would come along and say that the molecules are heating up, he could give a full scientific account of what’s going on, but he would’ve completely missed the purpose behind what I’m doing. Scientific explanation doesn’t refute the purposeful explanation, it coexists alongside it, and so it is with God.
Einstein goes even further on this crucial topic:
It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.
Scientific/physical and spiritual explanations don’t just coexist, they are interdependent. I write books. If you ask me how I do that, I can give you two different types of answers. I can talk about sitting down at the computer and typing for hours, how the manuscript bounces between me and my editor before we have a final book. I can describe how the book is printed—what sort of ink and paper are used, and how the books are packed into boxes and shipped to bookstores.
Or I can talk about inspiration, ideas, and characters who speak to me. I can describe how the ideas come together in my head, about ‘aha’ moments and feeling like I’m riding a creative roller coaster, and about how when that all comes together, it seems as if I’m taking dictation from a mystical source and the words pour effortlessly out onto the page.
One explanation focuses on the physical manufacture of the book. The other focuses on what’s in the book—the reason it exists in the first place. To be clear, one explanation isn’t right and the other wrong; they’re both equally valid. The book can’t come into physical existence without both parts of the process, but the essential part of that process is the imagining and writing of the book. Without that creative act, all the paper and ink in the world would be mute. No one would derive any benefit from that ink and paper without the creative act that preceded it:
Consider the lady beside me who is writing in this little book. It seems a very trifling, ordinary matter; but upon intelligent reflection you will conclude that what has been written presupposes and proves the existence of a writer. These words have not written themselves, and these letters have not come together of their own volition. It is evident there must be a writer.
And now consider this infinite universe. Is it possible that it could have been created without a Creator? Or that the Creator and cause of this infinite congeries of worlds should be without intelligence? Is the idea tenable that the Creator has no comprehension of what is manifested in creation? Man, the creature, has volition and certain virtues. Is it possible that his Creator is deprived of these? – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 115.
When we look for proof that God stirs the particles, I think we often neglect to look at ourselves. This is a puzzling oversight, given how many sacred texts insist that we are created in the image of God. As Baha’u’llah puts it: “He hath known God who hath known himself.”