Are humans insignificant particles?

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“Are we humans, as atheists argue, nothing but insignificant particles in a vast and limitless universe?”

In a conversation with Diane Sawyer in 2010 Stephen Hawking explained why he rejected the concept of a personal God with whom we can have a personal relationship: “When you look at the vast size of the universe and how insignificant an accidental human life is in it, that seems most impossible.”

Nevertheless, there is what scientists call “The Anthropic Principle” that strongly suggests this universe was designed by a personal being with human life in mind! Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, reasons: 

“When you look from the perspective of a scientist at the universe, it looks as if it knew we were coming.  There are 15 constants … that have preset values.  If any one of those constants was off by even one part in a million, or in some cases, by one part in a million millions, the universe could not have actually come to the point where we see it.  Matter would not have been able to coalesce, there would have been no galaxy, stars, planets or people (Timothy Keller, The Reason for God, p. 134).”

British physicist and Fellow at Cambridge University John Polkinghorne writes: 

“The much- discussed insights of the “Anthropic Principle” make it clear that the early universe was already pregnant with the possibility of carbon-based life billions of years before its actual emergence, in that the forces of nature, as we experience them, are ‘finely tuned’ to have just that character and those intrinsic strengths that alone would enable the possibility of the long and delicately balanced chain of circumstances, both terrestrial and astrophysical, that have led to life on earth. The slightest change in the detailed constitution of these forces would have rendered the universe boring and sterile in its history.”

Carolyn Weber once attended a “high table” Christmas dinner while a Commonwealth scholar at Oxford University. It was a life altering experience in which she heard the guest of honor, “a brilliant scientist whose expertise lay in the intersection of time, space, speed, sound, and light, once cracked a notoriously complicated algorithm, which won him much fame.”

When asked if his “immense scientific knowledge and rational research… are at odds with the existence of God” he surprised both a philosopher professor and an American politician who were sitting nearby. The professor opined, “of course these (scientific) theories must be at odds with the existence of God… what rational theory would not dispel an irrational one?” The politician from America commented: “God and state don’t mix, so why should God and science?” 

The famous scientist answered: 

“Everything I’ve witnessed in the natural world seems to operate in a desire to attain equilibrium. What rises, falls. What heats, cools. What freezes, thaws. The magnet both attracts and repels the thing most like it, another magnet. Yet without this force, nothing in the world would function. We are the only planet in this solar system with such delicate conditions for life… The more I discovered of the scientific world, the more it convinced me of the amazing interconnectedness and brilliancy of God’s design.  People tend to think of science as being at odds with faith, but nothing could be further from the truth. The one only confirms the other; the one only illuminates its echo, and yet its limitations and dependence, in the face of the other.”

Even Hawking made this concession: “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications.” However, he chose to dismiss them in favor of his “spontaneous creation.” Finally, after an astounding 55-year battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease, Stephen Hawking died as he had lived, a committed atheist. It saddens me to think of how this ever so gifted genius would die believing that everything came from nothing but the law of gravity, and that everyone dies and disappears into nothingness. 

I return to that “high table” at Oxford where the brilliant, believing scientist handed-off the conversation in defense of God to “an imminent heart surgeon” from America by asking him: “How do you reconcile God and science?” He replied as a surgeon who has had to deal with death and telling families that their loved ones had died. He explained:

“I don’t know how one can go to medical school and not be in greater awe of a Creator than ever before. When I see death, I know it is wrong… really, really wrong. It was not meant for us … not just my death, but the death of every living thing. For me God’s love is so great that it can attract even the farthest, most lost, most seemingly random cell to Him. That we desire to respond, to have right relationship with Him, is the secret. To set it all right. For everything to be all right.” 

His words, his thoughts and feelings ring so true. They vibrate through our heart, soul, mind, and body reminding us that we are far more than mere particles in an impersonal universe that came from and will return to nothingness. That must be wrong… really, really wrong! As we approach Christmas, we as Christians have every reason to thank God for His love for us, creating us with the ability and responsibility to love and forgive each other – as God loves and forgives us. 

I close with these final words from that scientist at Oxford who made time to chat with a waiter who asked him what he thought was the “strongest force in the world.” He answered: “There is nothing more powerful, more radical, more transformational than love… the Great Love of the Universe, as I like to call it … Life, as it was intended to be, is love. Start loving, and you’ll start living. There is no other force in the universe comparable to that.” 

The Great Love of the Universe is God’s grace embodied in Jesus the Christ who came to live among us, suffer with us, die for us and live in us through the presence and power of His life-loving, life-saving and life-changing Spirit.

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