ark Twain, in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:
It's lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened. Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; I judged it would have took too long to make so many. Jim said the moon could 'a' laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn't say nothing against it, because I've seen a frog lay most as many, so of course, it could be done. We used to watch the stars that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they'd got spoiled and was hove out of the nest.
What language is thine, O sea ? The language ofeternal question. What language is thy answer, O sky ? The language ofeternal silence.
What about the really big question which follows the preceding chapter? Does God exist? Is the language of the Universe one of eternal silence?
Kosmos [sic], the adornment, the orderly arrangement, the ideal beauty, harmony, and grace, of the Universe! Is there or is there not in the mind of man a conception answering to these magnificent, these magical words? Is their sound an empty clang, a hollow ringing in our ears, or does it stir up in the depths of our inward being a sentiment of something interwoven in our nature of which we cannot divest ourselves, and which thrills within us as in answer to a spell whispering more than words can interpret?
asks Sir John Herschel (quoted from Herschel's 1848 review of a book entitled Kosmos by A. von Humboldt).
Earlier, his father Sir William Herschel (1738-1822), who discovered the planet Uranus and two of its moons (Figure 177), said that: "The undevout astronomer must be mad."
In preparing this chapter, David drew up a questionnaire which he distributed to many of his colleagues. We thus surveyed the thoughts of a number of astronomers as well as the mind of Sir John Eccles, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine-Physiology. We communicated with Sir John shortly before his death in Switzerland. Some of the replies received read as follows:
George Herbig (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii) writes:
I have no religion, although exposed to the Methodist-Episcopal church as a child. Does God exist? I enjoy immensely the art and music and architecture that religion has brought about, but cannot take seriously the Old Testament vision of God, or the strictures and ceremonies of organized religion.
Possibly our marvelous Universe, and all the physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy ... within it is the creation of some super-entity that designed it all and set it in motion, and now sits back to contemplate the result. If so, is that God? Is it likely to respond to our prayers, entreaties, sacrifices, burning of incense?
Paul Hodge (University of Washington):
I believe that God exists, but am not sure whether God is a He, a She or some Terrifying Mathematical Equation. I don't think it matters which. What does
matter is that each of us should do what we can to make our stay on Earth a positive force in which we consider the happiness, the welfare and the place of other people, other beings, and other things.
Guillermo Gonzalez (author of The Rare Earth):
My real passion is trying to learn more about God by studying His Creation.
William Keel (University of Alabama):
The deepest questions must be answered by turning inward and outward in spiritual (rather than material) senses - the existence and nature of God, from which all the other answers proceed. I see astronomy - tracing the threads ofthe grand tapestry of Creation - as in a supporting role, but not necessarily one that is crucial even to my own views. To follow my frequent practice ofciting C.S. Lewis, you won't see God in space unless you can find Him on Earth.
My lack ofdoubt about God's existence is at a personal level, in that I am conscious of his presence every moment ofthe day. I could no more doubt his existence than doubt my own.
Ben Gascoigne (Emeritus Professor, Mount Stromlo):
You feel as if it [the Universe] has been designed by purpose.
Owen Gingerich (Figure 178):
Dare a scientist believe in design ? There is, I shall argue, no contradiction between holding a staunch belief in supernatural design and working as a creative scientist, and perhaps no one illustrates this point better than the seventeenth-century astronomer Johannes Kepler. He was one ofthe most inventive astronomers of all time, a man who played a major role in bringing about the acceptance of the Copernican system through the accuracy of his tables of planetary motion ... Could the unknowable have revealed itself? That the unknowable might have communicated with us defies logic, but it does not contradict coherence. For me, it makes sense to suppose that
the transcendence, the ground of being, in Paul Tillich's formulation, the serendipitous creativity of Gordon Kaufman's In Face of Mystery, has revealed itself through prophets in all ages, and supremely in the life of Jesus Christ.
It was Galileo who wrote that the reality of the world was dually expressed in the Book of Scripture and in Nature, and these two great books could not contradict each other, because God was the author of both. So, just as I believe that the Book of Scripture illumines the pathway to God, I also believe that the Book of Nature, in all its astonishing detail ... suggests a God of purpose and a God ofdesign. And I think my beliefmakes me no less a scientist.
(Quoted from the William Belden Noble lectures by Owen Gingerich, Harvard University. Subsequently published by Harvard University Press in
A BOOK ENTITLED God'S Universe BY OWEN GlNGERICH.)
In the course of human history, the Logos (I Am) enters our confines of space and of time. We cannot think outside of time, so God enters the confines of Time. We cannot think outside of space, so God enters Space. To me, the miracle of the Incarnation as announced to shepherds abiding their flock (Figures 179 and 180) by night is indeed the Creator taking off his timeless "I Am" mask to enter our one dimensional time line. We see through a glass, darkly, so God penetrates the Shroud of the Night; thereby identifying with our dreams, our anxieties and our fears. The Magi (Figure 181) find Emmanuel - God with us - in Bethlehem. That perfect balance between God's transcendence ("I Am") and his immanence ("Here I Am") is found in Jesus, the luminous figure of the Nazarene.
Sir William McCrea:
As we have seen repeatedly, we cannot formulate any science without reference to the observer and, again as a matter of history, progress in fundamental science has been made by increasingly recognizing the role of the observer. It seems to me therefore that we cannot think about the Universe without the concept of personality. Cosmology requires, I venture to assert, the concepts of Creator and of personality, and together these mean God.
In my mind a conflict between believing in God and believing in the Big Bang theory ofthe Universe never existed. In fact, just the opposite has occurred. The incredible beauty, wonder, and simplicity ofthe Universe have helped me to strengthen my belief in God and to seek deeper knowledge about this relationship.
I believe the Universe evolved by the laws of physics, but I also believe that it was God who originated these laws.
Sir John Eccles (Nobel laureate in medicine-physiology):
I maintain that the human mystery is incredibly demeaned by scientific reduction-ism, with its claim in promissory materialism to account eventually for all of the spiritual world in terms of patterns of neuronal activity. This beliefmust be classed as a superstition ... we have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls
existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world.
Each soul is a new Divine creation which is implanted into the growing foetus at some time between conception and birth. I submit that no other explanation is tenable; neither the genetic uniqueness with its fantastically impossible lottery, nor the environmental differentiations which do not determine one's uniqueness, but merely modify it.
Eccles paints the human mystery in terns of wonder (Figure 182).
Nobel laureate C. Townes (who, in 1954, together with Arthur Schawlow, invented the maser - microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, using ammonia gas and microwave radiation -the maser came before the optical light laser was invented by Townes' doctoral student at Columbia University, Gordon Gould), writes about science and religion:
But what of the concept of "proof? Certainly, many would argue that proofs give scientific ideas a kind ofabsolutism and universalism that religion lacks. In truth, however, we can never prove anything completely. Even scientifically and mathematically, we can never be absolutely sure our conclusions are correct. Our science is based on postulates, or assumptions, which, like faith, we may believe in firmly, but cannot prove absolutely.
Throughout my career, I have had to convince others to let me keep following my own instincts and interests, an experience shared by many academic scientists.
And as I have had the chance to explore and try to understand the Universe around me, I have felt enriched, not just by the usefulness of science, but also by its awesomeness and connectedness to all of the world's dimensions. I have been both religious and scientifically oriented since childhood, and the two realms have always fit together from my point of view. What is the world all about? What is its purpose? How is it made? How does it work?
Blaise Pascal, in his work Pensees, speaks of the twisted and turned knot of our condition and concludes:
This shows that God, in His desire to make the difficulties of our existence unintelligible to us, hid the knot so high, or more precisely, so low, that we were quite unable to reach it. Consequently it is not through the proud activity of our reason but through its simple submission that we can really know ourselves.
To some of us, God has placed eternity in our hearts. Einstein said: "It is only to the individual that a soul is given."
Many seek some echo of response in the Universe at large to the chord struck within. Kepler put it thus:
There is nothing I want to find out and long to know with greater urgency than this. Can I find God, whom I can almost grasp with my own hands in looking at the Universe, also in myself?
In a course of lectures delivered at the University of Oxford, C.S. Lewis, writing from Magdalene College, expresses these thoughts:
I hope no one will think that I am recommending a return to the Medieval Model. I am only suggesting considerations that may induce us to regard all Models in the right way, respecting each and idolizing none. We are all, very properly, famil- The Mind ofGod iar with the idea that in every age the human mind is deeply influenced by the 371
accepted Model of the Universe. But there is a two-way traffic; the Model is also influenced by the prevailing temper of mind. We must recognize that what has been called "a taste in Universes" is not only pardonable but inevitable. We can no longer dismiss the change of Models as a simple progress from error to truth. No Model is a catalogue of ultimate realities, and none is a mere fantasy. Each is a serious attempt to get in all the phenomena known at a given period, and each succeeds in getting in a great many. But also, no less surely, each reflects the prevalent psychology of the age [emphasis, ours] almost as much as it reflects the state of that age's knowledge. Hardly any battery of new facts could have persuaded a Greek that the Universe had an attribute so repugnant to him as infinity; hardly any such battery could persuade a modern that it is hierarchical.
[We find it fascinating to read these comments by C.S. Lewis, for the Universe is indeed hierarchical, though not in the concentric sense of Ptolemy; astronomers see a hierarchy of structures ranging from galaxies to clusters of galaxies, superclusters and the largescale filaments that delineate the structure of the Universe today.]
To continue the quote:
It is not impossible that our own Model will die a violent death, ruthlessly smashed by an unprovoked assault of new facts - unprovoked as the nova of 1572. But I think it is more likely to change when, and because, far-reaching changes in the mental temper ofour descendants demand that it should. The new Model will not be set up without evidence, but the evidence will turn up when the inner need for it becomes sufficiently great (emphasis, ours). It will be true evidence. But nature gives most of her evidence in answer to the questions we ask her. Here, as in the courts, the character of the evidence depends on the shape of the examination, and a good cross-examiner can do wonders. He will not elicit falsehoods from an honest witness. But, in relation to the total truth in the witness's mind, the structure of the examination is like a stencil. It determines how much of that total truth will appear and what pattern it will suggest. Shrouds of the Night (C.S. Lewis in The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and
372 Renaissance Literature)
Our minds are indeed stencils, wherein are embedded our belief systems, our prejudices, which pencil and trace our answers to the Grand Questions.
Astronomer Ben Gascoigne hits the nail on the head:
How did the laws of physics come into being?
Why do the laws of physics have the specific form which they do?
Philosopher William Craig enquires further: "I find that most scientists do not reflect philosophically upon the metaphysical implications of their theories ... the ultimate question remains why the Universe exists rather than nothing."
Why is there a Universe? Why does anything exist at all?
We live in a Grand Cathedral of Nature, to quote Henry Longfellow:
The vast cathedral of Nature is full of holy scriptures, and shapes of deep, mysterious meaning; but all is solitary and silent there; no bending knee, no uplifted eye, no lip adoring, praying. Into this vast cathedral comes the human soul, seeking its Creator; and the universal silence is changed to sound, and the sound is harmonious, and has a meaning, and is comprehended and felt.
(from Longfellow's Hyperion)
From Tagore's eternal silence, to Longfellow's meaningful and harmonious sound.
The vast cathedral of Nature, indeed. As depicted in drawing (Figure 183); as recorded in the digital age (Figure 184).
A final resounding question, from Sir John Templeton:
Would it not be strange if a Universe without purpose accidentally created The Mind ofGod humans who are so obsessed with purpose ? 373
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