What does belief in God require? Some say it is an addled or weak mind. There are, however, scores of highly educated and erudite men and women who testify through their lives that they think deeply, study diligently, and write convincingly in varied fields of endeavor, including the sciences. A few examples:
- John Polkinghorne – Until 1979 he was a chaired Professor of Theoretical Physics at Cambridge, an institution known to be very stingy about handing out Professor titles. He left that position, entered seminary, became an ordained minister in the Church of England, and served as a parish priest for 5 years. He returned to Cambridge in 1986 as Dean of Trinity Hall and subsequently President of Queens’ College.
- Charles Townes – Won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964 for discovering the maser, which led quickly to the laser, surely one of the most important scientific advances of the twentieth century. In a statement from his book Making Waves (American Physical Society, 1995) Professor Townes takes dead aim on Stephen Hawking. Charles Townes states “In my view, the question of origin seems to be left unanswered if we explore from a scientific view alone. Thus, I believe there is a need for some religious or metaphysical explanation. I believe in the concept of God and in His existence.”
- Arthur Schawlow (1921-1999) was another Physics Nobel Prize winner (1981), honored for his work in laser spectroscopy.Schawlow was a professor at Stanford until his recent death and did not hesitate to identify himself as a protestant Christian. He stated, “We are fortunate to have the Bible and especially the New Testament, which tells us so much about God in widely accessible human terms.” I view this statement as uniquely scientific, knowing that Professor Schawlow was convinced that his discoveries in laser spectroscopy were telling him something about God’s handiwork. However, unlike the New Testament, Schawlow’s research was difficult to express in “widely accessible human terms.”
- Probably the world’s greatest living observational cosmologist is Allan Sandage. In 1991 he received the Crafoord Prize, given by the Royal Swedish Academy every six years for cosmology and worth the same amount of money as the Nobel prize (there is no Nobel prize given for cosmology). Sandage has been called “the grand old man of cosmology” by the New York Times and is viewed as the successor to his mentor, Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), who is considered the father of modern cosmology. At the age of 50, Sandage became a Christian. In Alan Lightman’s book, Origins: The Lives and Worlds of Modern Cosmologists, Sandage states “The nature of God is not to be found within any part of the findings of science. For that, one must turn to the Scriptures.” When asked the famous question regarding whether it is possible to be a scientist and a Christian, Sandage replied, “Yes. The world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance alone. I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is simply too well put together.”
- Professor Henry F. (Fritz) Schaefer is one of the most distinguished physical scientists in the world. The U.S. News and World Report cover story of December 23, 1991 speculated that Professor Schaefer is a “five time nominee for the Nobel Prize.” He has received four of the most prestigious awards of the American Chemical Society, as well as the most highly esteemed award (the Centenary Medal) given to a non-British subject by London’s Royal Society of Chemistry. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Moreover, his general interest lectures on science and religion have riveted large audiences in nearly all the major universities in the U.S.A. and in Beijing, Berlin, Budapest, Calcutta, Cape Town, New Delhi, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, Paris, Prague, Sarajevo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sofia, St. Petersburg, Sydney, Tokyo, Warsaw, Zagreb, and Zürich. For 18 years Dr. Schaefer was a faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley, where he remains Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus. Since 1987 Dr. Schaefer has been Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Computational Chemistry at the University of Georgia.
What about faith? Yes, belief in God does require faith, but that does not imply that one must abandon reason; quite the contrary. In fact, all belief systems require faith. Many of the most vocal critics of religious belief cling – apparently consciously unaware that they are – to faith in any number of things, some of which go beyond reason.
Richard Feynman, himself a joint recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 states in his 1990 book, The Character of Physical Law, that “Everything in physical science is a lot of protons, neutrons and electrons, while in daily life, we talk about men and history, or beauty and hope. Which is nearer to God – beauty and hope or the fundamental laws? To stand at either end, and to walk off that end of the pier only, hoping that out in that direction is a complete understanding, is a mistake.”
I have witnessed scores of people who shun faith in God because they see no evidence of His existence, or they see evidence that argues against His existence. But what such people fail to understand is that (a) for two millennia now highly intelligent men and woman have chosen to believe, and (b) belief comes before understanding, not after it. Does that sound surprising? It shouldn’t. After all, if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And if you’re an atheist, everything can be explained by Darwin.
Dr. Fritz Schaefer, whom I was privileged to hear speak recently, penned this paper, which is interesting in that it shows Stephen Hawking, commonly believed to be an atheist, as nothing of the sort. His studies again and again brought him face to face with the overwhelming improbability that the universe is either itself eternal, or that it began by purely naturalistic means. Here’s the article. It requires a not insignificant investment of time and thought, but I found it to be worth every minute.