I have just received the first August Tablet edition and immediately noticed an article entitled God's Chance Creation by astrophycist Jesuit George Coyne who has been Director of the Vatican Observatory since 1978.The observatory is one of the oldest in the world and it roots go back to astronomical observations commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII as part of his reform of the calendar in 1582.
In his article he rebuts the idea that random evolution is incompatible with belief in a creator God. He explains the interactivity between chance, necessity and fertility in our universe and how what is random is also bound together through the process of fertility.
What is meant by this fertility? Coyne’s brilliant article explains the birth and death of stars and the combination of chemicals and molecules that ultimately form our life as we are creations from that star dust.
He rejects the notions of an omnipotent and omniscient God: the universe is not god and it cannot exist independently of God. Neither pantheism nor naturalism is true. But ,if we confront what we know of our origins scientifically with religious faith in God the Creator –if, that is , we take the results of modern science seriously –it is difficult to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient in the sense of many of the scholastic philosophers. For the believer, science tells us of a god who must be very much different from a god as seen by them.
In my recent posting of the Poem entitled Echoes of the Heavenly Spheres I began the second verse with the words: The earth is its identity like a childhood embrace.
Coyne also explores this idea for the universe in a similar way eg A theologian already poses the concept of god’s continuous creation with which to explore the implications of modern science for religious belief. God is working with the universe, the universe has a certain vitality of its own like a child does, it has the ability to respond to words of endearment and encouragement.
Hi conclusion is: God lets the world be what it will be in its continuos evolution, He is not continually intervening but rather allows, participates; loves. Is such thinking adequate to preserve the special character attributed by religious thought to the emergence not only of life bit also of spirit, while avoiding a crude creationism?
Only a protracted dialogue will tell. But we should not close off the dialogue and darken the already murky waters by fearing god will be abandoned if we embrace the best of modern science.
I think this is what is feared by many in the US and by George W Bush who is advocating that the so called theory of a “Designer God” should be taught alongside the theory of random evolution in High Schools.
I think the need for a ‘Designer God” arises out of a fear that if we believe our creation arose from random evolution, (which it does) we will have no need of God. Hence many feel threatened by science and the idea of a “Designer God” is an attempt to superimpose a suitable explanation in lieu of random evolution.
These fears are groundless as science is completely neutral to philosophical or theological conclusions. Coyne makes the vital link to god’s continuous creation and for me it is a far richer and more meaningful concept than that advanced by the proponents of a “Designer God” theory.
In the end we can only come to know god by analogies and I like to choose an identity of the world to the universe as likened to the warmth and love of a childhood embrace. As we understand more about the interaction of chance and necessity which are responsible for directionality we can renew one's faith in gods realtionship to his creation.
I also discount the “cataclysmic” event theorists who expect we will all be affected one day by some tumultuous prophesised event. If that be so it will be of our own making or it will occur as consequence of some giant meteorite colliding with the earth as has happened in the past. The idea of it coming out some sort of prophesy seems completely at odds with science or of a loving God of creation to me.
Another more disturbing conclusion from the “Designer God” concept concerns the environment. I refer to the current parlous environmental state of planet earth as a consequence of the deep wounds inflicted upon her by humanity. Those who espouse the views of a “Designer God”, one who actively intervene will no doubt feel less inclined to do something about such problems.
Nowhere is this more evident is than the US, for if the rest of the world was to consume resources and energy in like manner we would immediately need another 4 worlds to maintain its current level of consumption. It’s a sobering thought to consider China with a population of 1.3 billion consumes per capita 1 seventeenth in energy to that of the US on present consumption.