Excerpted from The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, edited by John Clover Monsma. New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1958



By John Cleveland Cothran, Mathematician and Chemist

Ph.D., Cornell University; formerly on staff of Cornell University and Head of Department of Physical Science, Duluth State Teachers College; thereafter Professor of Chemistry and Chairman of Science and Mathematics Division, Duluth Branch, University of Minnesota; Lecturer in Chemistry, Kansas State Teachers College. Specialist in the preparation of ammonium trinitride and tetrazole; purification of tungsten.

Lord Kelvin, one of the world’s greatest physicists, has made the following significant statement: “If you think strongly enough, you will be forced by science to believe in God.” I must declare myself in full agreement with this statement.

Intelligent and informed consideration of what is pres­ently known about the universe as a whole discloses that it must include at least three major realms of actuality. These three are the material (matter), the intellectual (mind), and the spiritual (soul).

The contribution from the field of chemistry to this con­sideration is necessarily limited since it is only one of many in the symposium.

Because chemistry is primarily concerned with the com­position and the changes in composition of matter, along with the energy changes that accompany its changes in composition, including the interconvertibility of matter and energy, it is evidently a predominantly material and apparently an utterly un-spiritual science. How, then, can it be expected to afford any evidence of the existence of a su­preme spiritual Being, God, as the Creator and Director of the universe? How can such a science be expected to help dispose of the idea that the universe owes its existence to mere chance, is ruled by chance, and that all the occur­rences therein are haphazard and due only to chance?

The tremendous development that has taken place in all the physical sciences, including chemistry, during the past hundred years has resulted chiefly from the application of the “scientific method” to the study of matter and energy. In the experimental part of this study every effort is made to eliminate every known possibility that the results ob­tained are in any way due to mere chance. This study con­sistently has shown in the past, and still continues to show, that the behavior of even insensible matter is not at all haphazard, but on the contrary “obeys” definite “natural laws.” Frequently the validity of a law is established long before any reason for its existence and its mode of operation has been discovered. But once the conditions are known under which it has been shown to be valid, chemists are completely confident that under those same conditions the law will continue to operate to produce the same results. They could not have this confidence if the behavior of matter and energy were haphazard and ruled by chance. And when finally the reason why the law exists, and operates as it does, has been found, even the most remote possibility of haphazardness is completely removed.

In the arrangement of the great Russian chemist, Mendelejeff, a hundred years ago (later somewhat modified and amplified), of the chemical elements in order of increasing atomic weight, could the periodicity of occurrence of ele­ments possessing similar properties reasonably be ascribed to mere chance? If so, the post-prediction discovery of all of the elements whose existence he predicted, and their possession of almost exactly the properties he predicted for them, effectively removed any such possibility. His great generalization is never called “The Periodic Chance.” In­stead, it is “The Periodic Law.”

Again, did scientists of that day ascribe to mere chance the fact that atoms of element “A” would react readily with atoms of element “B” but apparently not at all with atoms of element “C”? No. Instead they argued that there must be some sort of force or “affinity” which operated strongly between all atoms of element “A” and all atoms of element “B,” but either only feebly or not at all between all atoms of element “A” and all atoms of element “C.”

Again, they knew that the rate of chemical reaction of the atoms of the alkali metals with, for example, water in­creased with increasing atomic weight while exactly the reverse was true for atoms of the different members of the halogen family. Nobody knew the reason for this, but ap­parently nobody ascribed this seemingly contradictory be­havior to chance or argued that perhaps next month all the different kinds of atoms would react at the same rate, or not at all, or in reverse order, or in some perfectly haphazard fashion.

The discovery of atomic structure has now revealed that in all these examples of chemical behavior definite laws prevail, not haphazardness or chance.

Consider the 102 (sic) known chemical elements and their amazing diversities and similarities. Some are colored, others are colorless; some are gases extremely difficult to liquefy and to solidify, others are already liquids, while still others are solids extremely difficult to liquefy and to vaporize; some are very soft solids, others extremely hard; some are extremely light, others extremely heavy; some are excellent conductors, others extremely poor; some are mag­netic, others not; some are very reactive, others apparently totally non-reactive; some form acids, others form bases; some possess very long life, others exist for only a fraction of a second. Nevertheless all conform with the previously mentioned Periodic Law.

Yet, with all this seeming complexity, each atom of every one of the 102 elements consists of exactly the same three kinds of electrical particles: protons (positive), electrons (negative), and neutrons (each apparently some sort of combination of one proton with one electron); all the pro­tons and neutrons of a given kind of atom are located in a central “nucleus”; all the electrons, equal in number to the protons, spin on their axes and revolve in various “orbits” about the nucleus at relatively great distances from it— rather reminiscent of a miniature solar system, so that most of the volume of the atom is merely “empty space” just as is that of the solar system. And, incredibly simplified though it may seem, the difference between an atom of one kind of element and an atom of another kind of element is due merely to the difference in the number of protons (and neutrons) in the nucleus and the number and arrangement of the electrons outside the nucleus! So that all the millions of different kinds of substances, both elements and com­pounds, “simplify down” to three kinds of electrical particles which, in turn, appear to be only different forms of the one primary entity, electricity, which, finally, may be only a form or attribute or manifestation of the ultimate in sim­plicity: energy.

Now, matter as an aggregate of molecules and atoms; the molecules and atoms themselves; their constituent protons, electrons, neutrons; electricity; energy itself—are all found to obey appropriate laws, not the dictates of chance. So true is this that 17 atoms of element 101 sufficed for its identifi­cation. The material universe is unquestionably one of sys­tem and order, not chaos; of laws, not chance and hap­hazards.

Can any informed and reasoning intellect possibly believe that insensible and mindless matter just chanced to originate itself and all this system, then chanced to impose the system upon itself, whereafter this system just chances to remain imposed? Surely the answer is “No!” When energy trans­forms into “new” matter, the transformation proceeds “ac­cording to law” and the resulting matter obeys the same laws that apply to the matter already existing.

Chemistry discloses that matter is ceasing to exist, some varieties exceedingly slowly, others exceedingly swiftly. Therefore the existence of matter is not eternal. Conse­quently matter must have had a beginning. Evidence from chemistry and other sciences indicates that this beginning was not slow and gradual; on the contrary, it was sudden, and the evidence even indicates the approximate time when it occurred. Thus at some rather definite time the material realm was created and ever since has been obeying law, not the dictates of chance.

Now, the material realm not being able to create itself and its governing laws, the act of creation must have been performed by some non-material agent. The stupendous marvels accomplished in that act show that this agent must possess superlative intelligence, an attribute of mind. But to bring mind into action in the material realm, as, for example, in the practice of medicine and in the field of parapsychol­ogy, the exercise of will is required, and this can be exerted only by a person. Hence our logical and inescapable con­clusion is not only that creation occurred but that it was brought about according to the plan and will of a “Person” endowed with supreme intelligence and knowledge (omnis­cience), and the power to bring it about and keep it run­ning according to plan (omnipotence) always and every­where throughout the universe (omnipresence). That is to say, we accept unhesitatingly the fact of the existence of “the supreme spiritual Being, God, the Creator and Director of the universe,” mentioned in the beginning of this chapter.

The advances that have occurred in science since Lord Kelvin’s day would enable him to state more emphatically than ever: “If you think strongly enough, you will be forced by science to believe in God.”


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