RANK MATERIALISM WILL NOT DO (C. 1958)

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

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By Irving William Knobloch, Natural Scientist

M.A., University of Buffalo, Ph.D., Iowa State College. Formerly wildlife technician with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; since 1945 Professor of the Natural Sciences, Michi­gan State University. Specialist in cytology of plants, mor­phology, agrostology.

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Scientists who are “carried away” by the inherent possibilities in their subject are wont to look upon science as potentially able to solve all problems. Life to them is nothing but an expression of the operation of chemical and physical laws. Phenomena formerly attributed to supernatural forces have been properly placed, one by one, in a known cause-and-effect relationship. There is no purpose in the universe, and in obedience to the second law of thermodynamics (heat mechanics) all will end, in a cold and silent fade-out, when the supply of fuel in our solar system has been spent.

This extreme materialistic view of Nature was summed up by Bertrand Russell who said, “That man is the product of causes which have no prevision of the end they are achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and beliefs are but the outcome of accidental colloca­tions of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, alt the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.”

Not all scientists, however, feel that science is omnipotent; that it can measure or account for everything; that it can assay truth, beauty, or happiness. Science cannot explain life. Science cannot discover the purpose of life. It also can never really prove that God exists or does not exist.

Science deals with the improvement of its theories. It at­tempts to approach reality and truth but these, like the will-o’-the-wisp, retreat as the probing continues. Our impressions of the universe are based upon our imperfect senses and upon the tools which we have, relatively speaking, clumsily fash­ioned. In this connection it is interesting to note that the famous American physician and essayist, Oliver Wendell Holmes, once said that as knowledge advances, science ceases to frown upon religion. Science, properly understood, is making it more and more possible to believe in a Supreme Being.

Science has no adequate explanation for the origin of the many sub-microscopic particles of matter known to exist. It cannot explain, solely upon the laws of chance, how atoms and molecules could have come together to form life. The theory which states dogmatically that all higher forms of life have evolved to their present state by chance mutations, recombinations, polyploidy or hybridization, requires an act of faith for adherence to it, an act of unreasoned acceptance.

Yes, science demands faith—faith in the senses, faith in instrumentation, faith in authority and faith in probability, or chance. In a certain sense it can be said that here, in faith, science and religion stand upon common ground, although there is this difference that science can, within its own prov­ince, check its beliefs by observation and experimentation. By its continual self-criticism it tends to eliminate the possi­bility of error.

Religious faith is bolstered, fortified by scientific discov­eries. Enough verification, by science, of Biblical statements has occurred to “renew our strength” (Isaiah 40: 31), and we may reasonably assume that more revelations will be substanti­ated. Astronomy points to a beginning in the far distant past and physics foretells an ultimate doom. From a standpoint of modern science it is unreasonable to assume that the uni­verse always existed, or that it always will exist. Change is one of the primary characteristics of the universe, and in this regard science and religion agree.

As stated above, science can never actually prove the exist­ence of God, or explain Him. Yet the wonders of the universe have converted many neutral astronomers to the belief that someone unknown, and perhaps unknowable, has been responsible for the vastness and order so apparent. Chad Walsh once said: “All that can be asked of anyone, theist or atheist, is that he show the balance of probability to be on his side.” That of course is a rather flippant way of putting it; a rather whimsical approach to the problem.

Thomas Miller Forsyth had a sounding line that reached deep and far: “Anything that can be known by the finite or human mind concerning the existence and nature of God must be the outcome of man’s experience of God. The ex­perience must come first; the knowledge can only be an interpretation of the experience.”

As for myself, I do not rebel, as a scientist, at the laws of chance because I see them operating at many levels in our everyday fives. I do not reject materialism in toto because scientists are only successful when they attempt natural explanations of difficult phenomena.

But I believe in God. I believe in Him because I do not think that mere chance could account for the emergence of the first electrons or protons, or for the first atoms, or for the first amino acids, or for the first protoplasm, or for the first seed, or for the first brain. I believe in God because to me His Divine existence is the only logical explanation for things as they are.

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