Science is for religion too


Sir Colin Humphreys. Materials Scientist

Science is not just for scientists: I believe it should be of key importance for believers in God. At first sight this statement may seem surprising. On the one hand, many scientists are anti-religious and believe there is no God: the title of Richard Dawkins’ best-selling book, The God Delusion, says it all. On the other hand, many Christians, Jews and Muslims are anti-science and believe that science threatens their belief in God.

So why do I think that science should be important for religious believers? It is because scientists and believers in God have at least one thing in common, they are both seekers after truth. Because truth is a unity, religious people should welcome the scientific viewpoint of truth and scientists should seek to know about the religious viewpoint of truth. The scientific viewpoint of truth is mainly gained by asking the question how? How did the Universe form? How do our brains work? How does copper conduct electricity? The religious viewpoint of truth is mainly formed by asking the questions why? Why was the Universe formed? Why are we here? The many scientists who also believe in God do not only look at our Universe through the eye of science – they also believe there is another point of view, the eye of religion. This binocular view adds an extra dimension to our understanding of our world.

Although science and religion have different viewpoints of the truth, there are regions of overlap and I believe that modern science increasingly provides key pointers to God. One of these is the extreme fine-tuning of our Universe for intelligent life. This has been revealed by science in only the last 30 years: it was not known to previous generations. Stephen Hawking writes in The Grand Design ‘The discovery relatively recently of the extreme fine-tuning of so many of the laws of nature could lead at least some of us back to the old idea that this grand design is the work of some grand designer.’ Sir John Polkinghorne states, ‘When you realise that the laws of nature must be incredibly finely tuned to produce the Universe we see, that conspires to plant the idea that the Universe did not just happen, but there must be a purpose behind it.’ So the extreme fine tuning of our Universe strongly suggests that there is a God who is the architect of our Universe, creating it fit for the purpose of producing intelligent life.

Modern science also points in other ways to the existence of God, but that is for a longer article! So science is not just for scientists: it is of key importance for believers in God. Christians believe this God revealed himself to us through Jesus, who came that ‘we might have life, life in all its fullness.’ This Christian view of life is one of love, hope and purpose. It is complementary to the purely scientific view that ‘we are just an advanced breed of monkeys’ (Stephen Hawking). Both views are needed for a fuller understanding of the wonderful world in which we live.

Colin Humphreys is Professor of Materials Science and Director of Research in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and was knighted in 2010 for “services to science”.

He founded and directs the Cambridge/Rolls-Royce Centre for Advanced Materials for Aerospace, and Directs 2D Technologies to commercialise the research of his group on two-dimensional materials. In his limited spare time he writes on science and religion and is the author of The Miracles of Exodus (Harper Collins, 2003), which has been translated into German and Portuguese and has an Audio edition, and The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Final Days of Jesus. (Cambridge University Press, 2011), which has been translated into Russian, German, Portuguese, Japanese and Greek, and has a South Asian edition.

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