Who Wrote the Laws of Physics?
This post is for a friend of mine who is an atheist, who believes in science, and who is currently suffering. He is resistant to the idea of God. My purpose in writing is to suggest some thoughts that may encourage speculation beyond science. Let me be clear: I believe in science. I accept that evolution is real, since the scientific evidence seems to suggest it. I find anti-evolutionist arguments occasionally thought provoking, but rarely convincing.
On the other hand, I don’t believe that science is the last word. It explains our physical world–for the most part. It surely has gaps in it that may or may not be filled some day. But it fails to explain why some of the amazing aspects of creation came into being. And it fails to explain anything beyond the physical world.
Let me start with an example: how is it that the material on which life depends is “coincidentally” the only material I am aware of that has the property of being lighter as a solid than as a liquid at temperatures that support life (as we know it). That material is, of course, water, and this property allows complex ecosystems to survive in temperatures at which water freezes. If it didn’t do this, lakes would freeze from the bottom up, killing much of what lived in their waters. A partial list of other materials with this property are silicon, gallium, germanium, bismuth, plutonium, and sand, which do not in any way lend this property to the support of life as we know it.
Is consciousness really just a series of chemical reactions in the brain? How, then, do we explain the experience many of have had of a dog or cat sensing our mood changes, even from another room? (We once had a goat that had this ability, too.)
How do we explain people who can read another person’s thoughts, and those who sometimes know the future?
Science itself admits that it can’t explain some of what it sees. A team once did a long-term study of nuns in an attempt to discover why they didn’t get Alzheimer’s Disease with the same frequency as the general population. Over the course of many years, they discovered (through autopsies) that the nuns did in fact get Alzheimer’s with the same frequency, or at least their brains showed the physical effects of deterioration. Yet they didn’t manifest symptoms. The only explanation they could find was the effect of constant prayer, which of course they could neither define nor measure in a scientific way.
Moreover, the majority of double-blind studies on intercessory prayer have shown that it improves healing. A fascinating article on the NIH website suggests:
Although the very consideration of such a possibility may appear scientifically bizarre, it cannot be denied that, across the planet, people pray for health and for relief of symptoms in times of sickness. Healing through prayer, healing through religious rituals, healing at places of pilgrimage and healing through related forms of intervention are well-established traditions in many religions.
Cha et al. found that the women who had been prayed for had nearly twice as high a pregnancy rate as those who had not been prayed for (50 vs. 26%; P <0.005). Furthermore, the women who had been prayed for showed a higher implantation rate than those who had not been prayed for (16.3 vs. 8%; P <0.001). Finally, the benefits of prayer were independent of clinical or laboratory providers and clinical variables. Thus, this study showed that distant prayer facilitates implantation and pregnancy…
Lesniak found that the prayer group animals had a greater reduction in wound size and a greater improvement in hematological parameters than the control animals. This study is important because it was conducted in a nonhuman species; therefore, the likelihood of a placebo effect was removed.
The authors raise some important issues on the study of prayer within scientific context, some of which have a theological nature (i.e. does it matter which God is prayed to; does God have limitations?). They conclude that a satisfactory scientific study is virtually impossible because of the variety of religions, assumptions, and theological questions. Nevertheless, they do not discount the idea that prayer is beneficial.
And how do we explain noncorporeal entities? In my own life, I’ve encountered two ghosts, dozens of earth spirits (I call them fairies), and innumerable dark spirits that I refer to as demons. My wife tells of encountering a skinwalker. At present, there is no means in science to explain (or even study) these, because so far as I know there is no way to empirically measure them. And yet my experience, even as an infant when I didn’t yet know what such things were, is that they exist.
It seems to me that we exist in a physical world, and yet not only in a physical world. We potentially have access to a realm beyond the physical which is as yet immeasurable through physical science. Yet our post-enlightenment culture discourages us from taking seriously anything that can’t be explained through science and logic. Is that logical? There are enough experiences and enough questions to suggest that it isn’t. By no means do we need to discard science. We don’t discard accounting just because it fails to address the issues of humanity, and neither do most of us suggest that such issues don’t exist because accounting can’t address them. We don’t discard music or art just because they fail to explain science, nor do we deny science on that basis. And we shouldn’t discard our search for knowledge of the physical world. But neither should we presume that the physical world is all we have just because that’s all science can explain.