Scientists Are Getting Warmer

With hoards of new discoveries, it?s getting trickier for a scientist to be an atheist or agnostic. Hugh Ross wants to tell the world why.

God seems to be raising His voice in the science lab. Popular opinion has long held that science supports atheism, but evidence is steadily accumulating that points to a God who created the universe, including life itself.

Dr. Hugh Ross is taking it a few steps further. He is showing how recent discoveries show that the Bible is an accurate, reliable and inerrant revelation of God?s identity, character and plan for humanity. Ross, a former research fellow at Caltech, gave up full-time astronomy two decades ago for full-time ministry?but with science still a part of his job description. He and his friends founded the Reasons to Believe (RTB) ministry in 1986, just as the pace of faith-supporting scientific discoveries began to escalate. The RTB ministry brings together a team of scientists and theologians whose mission is to research and communicate the latest evidences supporting faith in Christ.

In a recent interview, Ross talked with Steve Scheele about the mounting scientific evidence?and what it means for believers.

Q: What do you mean when you say there is "scientific evidence" for a Divine creator?

Ross: As my colleagues and I comb the top science research journals week by week, we find more and more papers reporting a transcendent Cause for the universe and the "finely-tuned" characteristics of the universe, our solar system, our planet and life itself.

Q: How do you make the leap from identifying a Creator, or "Prime Mover," to identifying Him as the God revealed in the Bible, and further yet, as Jesus of Nazareth?

Ross: The astronomical evidences pointing to the God of the Bible and, more specifically, to Jesus Christ fall into four broad categories: (1) evidence for a "transcendent" Cause of the cosmos, (2) evidence of "preparation for life" in the universe and the solar system, (3) studios into the limits of random natural processes, and (4) the perfect consistency between the scientific record and the Genesis creation account. When you put these all together, you see a compelling case for the Creator?s identity as the biblical triune God.

Q: Help us understand the meaning of a "transcendent" cause.

Ross: Naturalism, as taught in most school textbooks, relies on the notion that matter, energy, space and time constitute total reality. The Bible teaches that God is real and that He exists beyond the limits of the matter, energy and space-time dimensions of our universe; that is, He is "transcendent." Evidence of a "transcendent" origin is mounting on all sides. The hot big-bang model supports it, the theory of general relativity supports it, and a recently developed theory of "strings" supports it. The hot big-bang model demands a beginning?thus, a Beginner?not just for matter and energy but also for length, width, height, time and six other space-time dimensions. This theory rests on the condition that the equations of general relativity accurately describe the dynamics of the universe.

Four years ago, radio astronomers Russell Hulse and Joseph Taylor proved general relativity correct with a certainty that reaches out to fourteen places of the decimal, that is, to better than a trillionth of a percent precision. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for their effort. The new theory of strings, which rests on the other two theories, successfully solved one of the greatest problems ever confronting physicists: it integrates gravitational theory and quantum mechanical theory.

Q: Don?t other religions also teach a transcendent Creator and creation event?

Ross: The assertion that time had a beginning and that the Maker of the universe brought into existence all matter, energy and space-time dimensions in a singular moment is a unique creation doctrine. The only place you?ll find anything like it is in the Bible, a combination and integration of the Old and New Testament books. Even non-theists acknowledge this point. Geoffrey Burbidge, an outspoken anti-theist, has publicly complained that support for the hot big-bang and for general relativity might propel his colleagues toward "the First Church of Christ of the Big Bang." Arno Penzias, who shared a Nobel prize for the discovery of cosmic background radiation (radiation left over from the big-bang event) made this remark: "Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, one which has an underlying (one might say a ?supernatural?) plan."

Q: Tell me about some of the other evidence pointing to the God of the Bible.

Ross: The biblical God outlines His plan and purpose for the creation. The earth and the life upon it belong to a larger plan, a plan that calls specifically for the existence of creatures that are simultaneously physical and spiritual. We know them (us) as human beings. The larger goal is the conquest of evil and the ultimate triumph of love. This triumph leads the way to greater glory than we can begin to imagine or describe, "the new heavens and the new earth, the new Jerusalem," as the Bible calls them. As of April 1999, astronomers had listed 34 different characteristics of the universe that demand exquisite fine-tuning for physical life, any physical life, to exist at any time in the history of the universe. Lawrence Krauss, an astrophysicist at Case Western Reserve University, contributed to the list. He showed that if the universe is "self-expanding," the physical constant that governs such expansion must be fine-tuned to within one part in 10 120 (that?s 1 with 120 zeros after it) or it would never support life. If it does not self-expand, the expansion rate must be regulated to within one part in 10 60 (1 with 60 zeros behind it). Either way, the degree of fine-tuning measures at least ten trillion trillion trillion times greater than what the most brilliant and powerful and well-equipped humans can accomplish. Just this one characteristic of the universe suggests that the Creator is at least ten trillion trillion trillion times more intelligent, knowledgeable, creative and powerful than human beings.

Q: You?re saying, then, that the evidence for a deliberate, careful creation of the universe and of life within it is adequate or more than adequate?

Ross: Yes, I?d say it?s overwhelming. Let me give you another example of this evidence: The mass density which is represented by the number of stars in the observable universe impacts the operation of nuclear fusion (subatomic particles coming together to make elements). If the observable universe contained fewer than about a hundred billion trillion stars, the universe would yield nothing but hydrogen. If it contained more than about a hundred billion trillion stars, all its elements would be heavier than iron. Only a universe of a hundred billion trillion stars will permit the production of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, potassium and the other elements essential for life chemistry. From this data we can conclude that the Being who caused the universe created a hundred billion trillion stars and carefully crafted those stars through the ages of the universe so that in one narrow, "just-right" window of time, human life would be possible. Of all the deities of all the world?s religions, the biblical God is the only claiming such care and capability, not to mention purpose.

Q: If the universe is "designed for life," as you say, how do we know that life didn?t just spring up on its own?

Ross: That?s a good question, and it gets lots of media attention, including lots of faulty assumptions. The news media seem to be backing the notion that anywhere liquid water exists, life exists. That?s a gross overstatement and oversimplification. Astronomers can measure our galaxy and solar system much more precisely than they can measure the universe, and here they find far more evidence of design. As of May 1999, scientists had identified 109 characteristics of our galaxy and solar system that required exquisite fine-tuning for life?s existence and sustenance?and that?s to say nothing, yet, about the possibility of organic matter arising from inorganic. Their measurements demonstrate that even if the universe contained as many planets as it does stars, the possibility for the existence of just one planet with the conditions necessary for life falls below 1 in 10 112. Such a minuscule probability says that neither our solar system nor this one planet, Earth, came to exist by random natural processes. It also suggests that God did more than merely search the vast cosmos for a suitable planet and star. It suggests that He specially manufactured our galaxy, solar system, and planet so that life could survive and thrive?once He placed it there.

Q: How do we know that God didn?t just turn on a switch and let life forms evolve on their own?

Ross: Biologists observe that many life forms manifest an amazing ability to adapt to changes in their environment. However, because the ratio of negative mutations to positive mutations always exceeds 10,000 to 1 (radiation essential to life?s existence produces this huge ratio), only sexually reproducing species with populations exceeding a quadrillion and with generation times shorter than three months demonstrate any capacity to change into new, survivable species. All other species would be driven to extinction before any significant beneficial changes in the species could occur. Asexual species would need even greater population sizes and shorter generation times.

These numbers imply that natural speciation is limited to viruses, bacteria, algae and possibly some insects. Birds and mammals cannot, apparently, speciate on their own prior to going extinct. Paleontologists observe, however, a high rate of speciation among advanced animals before the advent of humans, and since the appearance of humans, zoologists have failed to detect even one such speciation event. Scientists have no plausible explanation for these findings, but the Bible offers one: Genesis tells us that for six days God formed life?s habitat and the life forms it sustains. On the seventh day He ceased from His work of creating new species. The lack of an "evening" and a "morning" for the seventh day suggests that God?s rest continues through the present and on into the future (Revelation 21) when He will once again create.

Q: Do you, from your perspective as a scientist, take Genesis literally?

Ross: Yes, I do. I see no conflict between the biblical creation account and the scientific creation account record. One of the first things I noticed in reading Genesis 1 as a young adult was that the creation account is structured according to the scientific method. (I didn?t know then that the scientific method has biblical origins). Genesis 1:2 identifies the point of view for the creation narrative as the surface of Earth. It also describes Earth?s initial conditions: dark on the surface, water over the whole surface, devoid of life, and unfit for life. That?s exactly what I had learned in my astronomy studies. As I read on, I saw that the writer highlighted fourteen creation events. Each was important?from a scientific perspective?to both the possibility and quality of human life. I had to ask myself how an ancient writer could have correctly described and sequenced all these events. The only answer that made sense was divine inspiration.

Q: What kind of impact do you see when you speak on campuses and at other outreach events?

Ross: When I spoke to a group at Caltech earlier this year, the auditorium was packed and the Q-and A session lasted into the wee hours. At a recent breakfast event in Phoenix, nearly a hundred business professionals asked to participate in Bible studies and to learn more about the Christian life. I just returned from speaking in Mongolia and Japan, and there the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Interest in the connection between science and faith seems at an all-time high. I say, Let?s make the most of it!

Reprinted with permission by New Man, September/October 1999. Strang Communications Co.