The dream of there being a ‘Theory of Everything’ has never been far from the surface in our efforts as a race to make sense of ourselves and also the world and universe in which we exist. The Large Hadron Collider at the heart of the CERN project on the French/Swiss border, was constructed at least in part to explore this theory scientifically. So too, the fact Eddie Redmayne won his best actor Oscar in his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything shows it is an idea that has fascinated not only great academics for centuries, but also ordinary people trying to make sense of the world we live in. There is a connectedness throughout the known universe that cries out for a coherent explanation.
There are many facets to this connectedness, but one that has fascinated scientists and philosophers alike has been the concept of ‘fine-tuning’. The fact the basic physical constants needed to sustain life in the universe are found only within a remarkably narrow band. And this range of constants involved is so complex that to account for it on the basis of mere probability goes well beyond the realm of credibility.
These observations have led scientists from all kinds of philosophical and religious backgrounds to conclude that behind the irreducible complexity of the universe there has to be some kind of intelligence. One that has designed it in such a way as to not only account for the origin of life, but also for the fact it is sustainable.
Not all scientists would suggest that such a claim requires us to believe there is a God behind it all. And, on the basis of logic on its own, they are correct in reaching that conclusion. There are other ways of explaining an intelligence behind the universe other than that of a deity – like that of alien design – but the problem with all of them is they have the effect of virtually deifying whatever the source of this super-intelligence might be.
Since this brief post is not intended to be a thesis on the subject, just a way of planting a thought, there is not space to explore it at length. But I do want to offer some brief reflections.
One is the observation that the ferocity with which some scientists, like Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins, reject the possibility of a divine intelligence behind the finely tuned universe in which we live seems rather odd. It is as though their claim to objectivity in reasoning collapses at this point and gives way to unreasonable prejudice. St. Paul speaks about such an attitude as lying at the very heart of the human problem. He talks about about people who ‘suppress the truth’ (Romans 1.18) as a wilful rather than a rational attempt to reject God.
Another observation is the Bible’s frequent references to the link between Jesus and the world and universe of which we are a part. That is, Jesus as the Son of God who took on our humanity and entered our world to join himself to our race and link himself to creation in a way that had never been true before his incarnation.
St. John tells us that he not only existed before the world was made, he was also at work in the act of creation itself (John 1.1-3). This echoes a rather enigmatic statement in the book of Proverbs that speaks about ‘Wisdom’ being God’s agent in creation (Proverbs 3.19-20) – often taken to be an allusion to the role of the God the Son in creation.
St. Paul adds another dimension to our understanding of the divine involvement in the world and universe. He speaks not only of God as Trinity as Creator of all things (Romans 11.36), but in particular of God the Son in the role he played and continues to play in the cosmos. He is not only the agent of creation, but also the One in whom ‘all things hold together’ (Colossians 1.16-17). A thought that is echoed in the letter to the Hebrews where it says, ‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word’ (Hebrews 1.3).
In other words, the Bible presents a view of the cosmos which does not merely attribute its existence to the wisdom and work of a Creator God, but which also points to God’s ongoing, interested and intimate involvement with all he has made. He is not the God of the 17th Century Deists who saw him as a cosmic Watchmaker who, having made the universe like an intricate timepiece, stepped away from it to watch it gradually run down and disintegrate. Instead he loves it in its entirety and is committed to its wellbeing.
The fine-tuning of the universe speaks not merely of the intricacy of its origin, but also of how it is maintained by its Maker. He is not the absentee landlord of the cosmos, but its ever-present Caretaker.
Regardless of what a person may believe about how the world and universe came to be and how they manage to continue to exist, it requires faith. Whether it be faith in a human theory or faith in a divine being. But the question every expression of faith must answer is whether or not it is reasonable. That is, does it take into account all the aspects of complexity – philosophical, moral and spiritual, as much as material – that confront us in the cosmic entity? It would be unreasonable to try and answer that question by completely excluding the Bible.