Dr. Ray Bohlin provides an overview of Stephen Meyer’s book Return of the God Hypothesis, looking at how recent scientific discoveries provide evidence for an intelligent creator.

Was There a God Hypothesis Prior to Scientific Materialism of Today?

Return of the God HypothesisIn this article I give an overview of Stephen Meyer’s Return of The God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries that Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe {1}. The three discoveries are first, the discovery in the 20th century of the Big Bang Model for the origin of the universe, second, the continuing discovery of the extreme fine-tuning of a universe that is friendly toward life, and third, the grand amount of genetic and cellular information needed for the origin of the first life and the Cambrian Explosion, where nearly all animal phyla suddenly appear with no ancestors.

download-podcastBut we need to cover a little history first. Meyer’s title is “Return of the God Hypothesis.” This implies that there was previously an accepted “God Hypothesis” in science. Then it was lost, and the time and evidence are right for that God Hypothesis to return. Early, Meyer quotes Richard Dawkins, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”{2} So according to Dawkins, science has shown God to be superfluous.

This has been the position of most scientists since the late 19th century, when two authors detailed a long-standing warfare between science and religion. Most of the scientific community followed along to the present day.

But Meyer goes on to document that most if not all historians of science today agree that the Christian worldview greatly influenced, some say was even necessary for, the rise of modern science. Three key Christian concepts were, first, God’s ability to choose what kind of universe He wanted to create. That meant that we can’t just reason what nature should be like, we had to discover it. Second, nature is intelligible. Humans, being created in the image of God, could discover how nature operates (Romans 1:18-20). And last, human fallibility. Humans are sinful; therefore, one man’s conclusions about the operation of nature must be subject to review of other scientists to ensure they are accurate. Christianity is the only worldview capable of developing modern science.{3}

So, what happened? Well, the Enlightenment happened where philosophers began to think only human reason is necessary or even proper to use in discovering the nature of humanity and nature around us. In the next section, I begin to investigate the three scientific discoveries that warrant a return of the God hypothesis.

Scientific Discovery #1: The Big Bang

The subtitle of Stephen Meyer’s book, Return of the God Hypothesis is “Three Scientific Discoveries That Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe.” Now we will look at the first of these discoveries, the Big Bang.

First, I know that some of our readers don’t accept the concept of the Big Bang since they are convinced that our universe is much younger than 13.7 billion years. I understand your position, [please read my article “Christian Views of Science and Earth History at probe.org/christian-views-of-science-and-earth-history/] but let’s look at this then as an argument you can use with an atheist to show that his own dating of the universe and the Big Bang requires a Mind.

In the early 20th century, scientists like Edwin Hubble began to observe that the universe was not static as previously accepted, but was actually expanding. It took several lines of evidence, more powerful instruments, and many astronomers and mathematicians to come to this conclusion. The novel result was thinking about running the clock backwards. If the universe is expanding now, if you go back in time the universe gets smaller and smaller. Eventually you get to a point where they say the universe was contained in a “particle” that was infinitely dense and occupied no space.

We know now the universe had a beginning. Astronomers and cosmologists had assumed the universe was static and existed for eternity. This conclusion was disturbing to some astronomers. Some rejected the Big Bang for philosophical reasons not scientific. Mathematician Sir Arthur Eddington said,

“Philosophically, the notion of a beginning is repugnant to me. . .. I should like to find a genuine loophole.”{4} “We [must] allow evolution an infinite time to get started.”{5}

Edmund Whitaker wrote what many were thinking: “It is simpler to postulate creation ex nihilo—divine will constituting nature out of nothingness.”{6}

And finally, Robert Jastrow wrote, “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream.  He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”{7} So, God creating matter and energy out of nothing explains the Big Bang, where any naturalistic idea simply cannot explain the evidence.

Scientific Discovery #2: The Fine-tuning of the Universe for Life

Let us now turn our attention to the second of the discoveries in Stephen Meyer’s book, the fine-tuning of the universe for life.

This has also been referred to as the “Goldilocks Universe,” meaning a lot of things turned out to be just right for the universe to be friendly to life. For instance, you may be aware that there are four
fundamental forces in the universe: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Each of these forces is expressed as an equation that contains a unique constant, and each one could have had a range of values at the Big Bang.

Meyer reveals that the gravitational constant alone is fine-tuned to 1/1035—that’s one chance in 100 billion trillion trillion. The other three constants are also fine-tuned, but even further, the constants are also fine-tuned in relation to each other. This adds another number of at least 1 part in 1050.

Meyer had the opportunity to hear Sir John Polkinghorne at Cambridge during his doctoral work in the history and philosophy of science. Polkinghorne used an illustration of a universe generating machine with numerous dials and adjustable sliders, each representing one of the many cosmological fine-tuning parameters.  Any slight change in the dials and adjusters of these parameters would render a universe hostile to life in any form. Polkinghorne would later say in an interview that a theistic designer provided a much better explanation than any materialistic hypothesis.{8}

Later, Meyer shows that including entities such as entropy and black holes, the odds of generating a life friendly universe are in this context 1 part in 10 to the power of 1 followed by 122 zeroes.{9} It would take several lines to write this number. This is an insanely impossible number to be arrived at by chance.

Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Charles Townes said, “Intelligent design as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way.”{10} This intelligence is perfectly consistent with the God of the Bible.

Scientific Discovery #3: Genetic Information for the First Cell

In this section I’m discussing the third scientific discovery; the need for complex specified genetic information for the first cell and new groups of organisms throughout time.

In Darwin’s time, the first microscopes were being used and cells could be seen. Of course, scientists understood little of what they were seeing. Most of the cell appeared to be filled with something called protoplasm, a jelly-like substance that was thought to be easily derived from combining just a few substances. I’ve often said that if Darwin knew of the amazing complexity and the need for information storage, processing and regulation, evolution would have never been offered as a chance process.

Now we understand that the need for information to compose the first living, growing, and reproducing cell, is enormous. The first cell needed DNA to store information, specific proteins and RNA to produce additional proteins for the cell to function, and a controlled means to copy DNA accurately.

For instance, life uses 20 different amino acids to link together to form proteins, the workhorses of the cell. The number of combinations of two amino acids is 400. A four amino acid stretch has 160,000 different combinations. A small protein of “just” 150 amino acids has 10195 possible combinations. But how many of these could be a protein with some function? Just one in every 1077 sequences.

But also, new groups of organisms appear suddenly throughout the fossil record. Nearly all large groups of animals, or phyla, appear in the Cambrian explosion. Animal and plant phyla rapidly diversified in at least 13 more explosions within phyla and classes into new classes, orders and families with no precursors, from flowering plants and winged insects to mammals and birds. All these explosions would require massive amounts of new genetic and developmental information.

The evidence supports the need for an intelligent designing mind to create all the needed information. Minds create information all the time. Natural processes simply can’t do it.

Do These Three Evidences Point to Theism?

The three discoveries discussed in Stephen Meyer’s book, Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries that Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe are the Big Bang, the extreme fine-tuning of the laws of physics to provide a life-friendly universe, and the necessary complex and specified information for the origin of life and the progression of complex life-forms through the fossil record.

But where does that leave us? Do these discoveries warrant a return of the God Hypothesis? Meyer examines four different worldviews to ask, would the universe we have, be expected by any of these worldviews? He uses a scientific approach called “the inference to the best explanation.”

So, given a universe that is not only friendly toward life but contains living organisms, which worldview would best explain this universe? He begins with scientific materialism. Materialism has no explanation for the beginning of the universe. There was no matter or energy before the beginning, so matter and energy cannot account for the beginning of the universe. Moreover, for the origin of complex specified information needed for life, naturalism has no answer. In fact, only theism posits an entity, God, that has the causal power to produce genetic information.

Let’s move to pantheism. Pantheism does not propose a personal God but an impersonal god. This “god” is one and the same with nature. Then pantheism suffers the same fate as naturalism in that the beginning can’t be explained by what doesn’t exist yet, matter and energy.

But what about theism and deism? To explain the notion of a beginning, an entity outside the universe is required. Both theism and deism propose a transcendent, intelligent agent, God. Both can explain the beginning and the fine-tuning. But what about the appearance of complex specified genetic information on the earth? Deism and many forms of theistic evolution require a front-loaded beginning: all the information for life was present at the beginning and natural laws took over from there—God did not intervene. But how was this information retained over billions of years until life arose on earth? And natural laws simply can’t produce complex specified information. Deism and theistic evolution won’t work. Only theism remains.

On pg. 298, Meyer states, “As one surveys several classes of evidence from the natural sciences—cosmology, astronomy, physics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and paleontology—the God Hypothesis emerges as an explanation with unique scope and power. Theism explains an ensemble of metaphysically significant events in the history of the universe and life more simply, more adequately, and more comprehensively than major competing metaphysical systems.”

Notes

1. Stephen Meyer, Return of the God Hypothesis (New York: HarperCollins, 2021).
2. Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden 133, quoted in Meyer, Return of the God Hypothesis, 14.
3. The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994) by Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton.
4. Arthur Eddington, “The End of the World: From the Standpoint of Mathematical Physics” Nature, vol. 127 (1931) p. 450.
5. Arthur S. Eddington, “On the Instability of Einstein’s Spherical World,” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 90 (May 1930): 672. Quoted in Hugh Ross, ‘A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy(Kindle Locations 484-485). RTB Press. Kindle Edition.
6. Cited in Robert Jastrow, 1978. God and the Astronomers. New York, W.W. Norton, p. 111-12.
7. Jastrow, God and the Astronomers. p. 113-114, 116.
8. Return of the God Hypothesis, p. 143-144.
9. Ibid., p. 150.
10. Bonnie Azab Powell, “’Explore as Much as We Can’: Nobel Prize Winner Charles Townes on Evolution, Intelligent Design, and the Meaning of Life,” UC Berkeley NewsCenter, June 17, 2005, www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/06/17_townes.shtml. Cited in Meyer, Return of the God Hypothesis, p. 146.

©2022 Probe Ministries

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Raymond G. Bohlin is Vice President of Vision Outreach at Probe Ministries. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois (B.S., zoology), North Texas State University (M.S., population genetics), and the University of Texas at Dallas (M.S., Ph.D., molecular biology). He is the co-author of the book The Natural Limits to Biological Change, served as general editor of Creation, Evolution and Modern Science, co-author of Basic Questions on Genetics, Stem Cell Research and Cloning (The BioBasics Series), and has published numerous journal articles. Dr. Bohlin was named a Research Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in 1997, 2000 and 2012.

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