31 January 2010
Have you ever stopped to wonder why it is that we feel such an urge to explore our neighboring planets? Or for that matter, why do we feel so naturally curious about just about everything? Let's investigate.
If you stop to think about the discipline of science, it's really built on the belief that there is measurable order to the universe. It's built on the assumption that our world is predictable.
When a good scientist becomes curious about something he sees in nature, he develops a hypothesis about what makes it happen. Then he goes into the lab and runs a series of carefully controlled tests to see if his theory is right. If he can reproduce the events he saw in nature, he becomes confident that he has discovered WHY things happen the way they do.
It's called the scientific method, and by and large, it's done us a world of good. Before we had the scientific method, people used to just make assumptions about why things happen, and sometimes that led to some pretty strange ideas.
For example, Aristotle once made the statement that men and women have a different number of teeth, but before he said that, he never bothered to open anybody's mouth to check. And so for centuries, many people simply assumed that it was true.
It was also believed, at one time, that life could spontaneously erupt from non-living matter. When you left a piece of meat out in the sun too long, after all, it spontaneously gave birth to maggots.
And when the Nile River flooded every year, it made the dust wet, and then the dust spontaneously gave birth to frogs. And if you let grain get old and moldy, that could give birth to mice. So it was obvious to everybody that life could suddenly spring out of non-life.
But then a doctor by the name of Francesco Redi challenged that idea in 1668. He believed that maggots came from the eggs of flies, not from meat, and so he tested his theory under controlled circumstances, and he was right.
But unwilling to give up a cherished idea, scientists debated his findings, until finally, in 1859, almost 200 years later, Louis Pasteur finally proved him right, beyond the shadow of a doubt. And because of that, today we have better methods of preserving food.
So the scientific method has proven to be a useful tool to the human race. Science has led to better methods of farming, advancements in health care, better transportation, better communication, a better understanding of genetics, and millions of other discoveries that give us a better standard of living.
But the scientific method, unfortunately, has also given birth to a bit of old-fashioned human pride. Somewhere along the way, we picked up the idea that because we have been able to address so many problems, we no longer need God. We've convinced ourselves that a little rational thought is all we need.
Now, that was particularly true of the 19th century, when a growing spirit of scientific rationality was leading us out of the superstition of the Dark Ages. However, it also led us down a road of prideful unbelief that eventually caused the German philosopher Nietzsche to declare that God was dead.
Belief in the word of God was ridiculed in academic circles. Darwinists said that the creation story was nonsense. Marxists said that religion was just an oppressive tool used to keep the lower classes in their place. And it seemed as if Christianity was going to die out, because it seemed obvious to almost everyone at the time that the Bible could not be reconciled with science.
But if you think about it, it was kind of a surprising conclusion for the age of science to come to, because the scientific method was originally based on the assumption that there is a measurable design to the universe. The first scientists were simply trying to discover how God had made the world.
Take the great 17th century scientist, Isaac Newton, for example. Speaking about the universe, he once said, "This most beautiful system could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being."
He understood that the things he saw through his reflecting telescope were the work of a Supreme intelligence. He knew that the law of gravity was not an accident, but the result of careful planning by the Creator.
"Gravity explains the motions of the planets," he said, "but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done."
Does that sound like a man whose faith was shaken by scientific discovery? Not at all! It sounds more like a man who could recognize the fingerprints of God in the universe. Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans: (Romans 1:20 NKJV)
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse."
There is enough evidence in this world for us to discover the existence of God. One of my favorite Christian authors, writing at the zenith of scientific unbelief in the 1890s, describes it this way:
"Look at the wonderful and beautiful things of nature. Think of their marvelous adaptation to the needs and happiness, not only of man, but of all living creatures. The sunshine and the rain, that gladden and refresh the earth, the hills and seas and plains, all speak to us of the Creator's love. It is God who supplies the daily needs of all His creatures."
Even though this world has been marred by sin, you can still see the fingerprints of God. Everything works in perfect harmony to sustain human life. There is just the right proportion of oxygen and nitrogen in the air.
If we were closer to the sun, we would fry, and if we were further away, we would freeze. The force of gravity is just right to keep us on the surface without crushing us. And water is one of the only things that actually expands when it freezes, so it floats on top of the lake instead of killing everything below the surface.
John O'Keefe, an astronomer at NASA, said this:
"We are, by astronomical standards, a pampered, cosseted, cherished group of creatures. ...If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision, we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in."
When the citizens of the ancient city of Lystra saw Paul heal a crippled man, they mistakenly believed that Paul must have been a god. To prove the point that he wasn't, he pointed the people to the world around them: (Acts 14:15-17 NKJV)
"We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."
Immediately, Paul points to the creation as ample evidence of the existence of God. "Take a good look," he said, "and you'll notice that somebody designed this planet. No thinking person could believe otherwise." There is enough proof to establish the existence of God.
In fact, there is so much evidence, it's almost as if God can't wait to be found. Philip Yancey points out something interesting in his book, Reaching for the Invisible God.
For children, the point of hide-and-go-seek is not so much hiding as it is being found. I have a grandson who loves to play hide-and-go-seek, but he's not very good at it. When I close my eyes and start to count, he dashes across the house and hides in exactly the same spot he hid in last time. Or sometimes, if I'm getting close, I can hear him giggling. And if I say, "I wonder if Jacob's hiding under the bed?" He'll scream, "No, Grandma, I'm in the closet!"
Why? Because he wants to be found! And I believe the same is true of God. He wants to be found, and He's sprinkled enough evidence around this world to make it really easy. Listen to something I came across in an article first published in the Wall Street Journal in 1997. It was called "Science Resurrects God."
Find out tomorrow what it said!
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