October Journal, Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

RETURN OF THE GOD HYPOTHESIS.MEYERIt is a curious thing, just as the world as we know it appears to be collapsing, just as the materialist-atheist worldview appears to have triumphed and the Judeo-Christian worldview appears to have vanished, just as objective truth has been banished by Oregon’s schools and math thrown out as racist, just as the wisdom of centuries is stamped down and trodden upon with some kind of diabolic glee – just as all these signs and many more point to Armageddon or the end of the world or simply a second civil war in the Dis-united States, Steven C. Meyer brings us another brilliant book to argue the opposite, reminding us that science points to an Intelligent Designer behind all creation.

And just as you, dear reader, thought the above sentence would never end, so we smile with renewed hope in the future of mankind. Good news, indeed!

THE AUTHORITARIAN MOMENT. SHAPIROHaving finished off Ben Shapiro’s excellent The Authoritarian Moment (well worth the read with copious notetaking), I ordered Steven C. Meyer’s Return of the God Hypothesis. 

THE UNBROKEN THREAD. AHMANIAs I await delivery (old school print), I am returning to Sohrab Ahmari’s The Unbroken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Tradition in an Age of Chaos. His immigrant story sheds light on the disappointment many of today’s immigrants share when they see America as no longer celebrating tradition and freedom, no longer proud to be a beacon on a hill, but instead heading toward the tyranny these immigrants were escaping.

PREY. HIRSI ALIIn my growing stack of “research for the next novel, immigration theme” I am also looking forward to Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She is a vital witness to the true effect of militant Islam in the world, the silencing of women, gays, Jews, Christians, and peaceful Muslims, in obedience to sharia law.

Returning to The Return of the God Hypothesis, Steven Meyer’s work at the Discovery Institute in Seattle was part of my research for my most recent novel, Angel Mountain (Wipf and Stock, 2020). He and others built upon the work of Phillip E. Johnson of UC Berkeley, considered the “Father of Intelligent Design.” They considered whether recent scientific discoveries in genetics and the universe might throw a new light on Darwin’s theory of evolution. I found this fascinating, that science was actually supporting the idea that faith might be on the right track after all. All those monks peering at the stars from their abbey domes were right or could have been. Who knew?

And so we have the idea of an Intelligent Designer as a possibility, and the hypothesis of the reality of God, for Darwin’s theory is not enough, given what science has learned in the last twenty years, particularly the intricacy of creation and the finetuning of our universe to a vastly improbable degree. Eric Metaxas, among others, provides a simple summary of these arguments in his book, Miracles.

RESOURCE_TemplateIn my novel, Angel Mountain, one of my characters is a geneticist who, when he speaks truth to power at UC Berkeley, is pushed into an early sabbatical by the woke powers that be. In this excerpt, Dr. Gregory Worthington, 37, our geneticist, walks a trail on Angel Mountain with Catherine Nelson, 33, a UC librarian, and explains a bit about what these discoveries entail:   

     “I believe Heaven is real,” Gregory said, feeling brave.

     Catherine eyed him seriously. “Why do you believe it?”

     She is direct, he thought. “It’s been a long journey.”

     “Tell me the short version,” she said.

     Were her eyes teasing or challenging or doubting? A little of all three, Gregory decided. “I’m a scientist. I saw faith as something out there for some people, but why bother? I was raised a Christian, but somehow I hadn’t met Christ along the way.” That was pretty honest, he thought. He even surprised himself. “As Abram said about his own conversion.”

     “Go on.” 

     “In my studies of the genome and genetics, and my Stanford residency, I began asking meaningful questions, and finally connecting the dots, as it were. The intricacy and creativity and brilliance of our physical world reflected an Intelligence, a designer, and one thing led to another.”

     “But doesn’t science explain our world? With evolution? We don’t need God anymore. We don’t need a religious explanation.”

     “That’s the amazing part. Over the last few years, science has been effectively presenting a case for the existence of God.”

     Catherine looked thoughtful. “I thought it was a matter of faith, of belief, rather than scientific observation, data, and conclusions.”

     “Things have changed. In 1966, around the time of the ‘God is Dead’ movement, the astronomer Carl Sagan claimed two conditions were needed to support life on a planet. Without these two requirements, life could not exist. The first requirement was the correct star and the second was the perfect distance from that star. Calculations showed, based on this hypothesis, there were over a septillion planets that could support life, planets that had the perfect star at the perfect distance.”

     “I’ve never heard this, but then I took a minimum of science, and no astronomy.”

     “Science has made many more discoveries since 1966. But the announcement was exciting in the sixties, and it gave rise to all the space travel movies. There was a natural curiosity about aliens and life on other planets.”

     Catherine grinned. “Star Wars, Star Trek, ET, that kind of thing.”

     “Exactly. But science made new discoveries that never really made their way into the popular imagination, and people got stuck in that mindset that there is life out there. In that sense, they haven’t kept up with science.”

     “What discoveries? Did they prove life couldn’t exist on other planets?”

     “Pretty much. Well-funded programs under the umbrella ‘Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence’—SETI—tried to identify life in the universe by tracking signals through radio telescopic networks. Nothing. Silence. Congress defunded the program in 1993 but private donors continued to search for life in the universe.”

     Catherine shook her head. “Let me guess. Nothing still?”

     “Right. As of 2014, nothing.” “What happened then?” “Sagan’s requirements for life multiplied over the intervening years, way beyond two, which made the results more logical. Fewer and fewer planets met the increasing number of requisites discovered by science.”

     “How many planets today can support life? What did they come up with?” “Actually, none.” “None except for Earth?” “No, including Earth.”

     Gregory watched Catherine’s face. She wasn’t laughing at him. She wasn’t rolling her eyes. She seemed genuinely interested in his statement that it was impossible for planet Earth to support life, at least according to the math probabilities and life’s necessary requirements.

     “But—” Catherine shook her head in disbelief, at a loss for words to express her doubt. But she still seemed to take him seriously. She hadn’t written him off completely. She was listening.

     “Here we are,” Gregory said. “We are life. Sitting under an oak on the side of Angel Mountain watching the incredible tule fog move through the valleys toward the coast. We are here—we are life—so how did this happen?”

     “Go on.” Did Catherine sound intrigued or sarcastic? He wasn’t sure if she believed him.

      “The latest data show that there are over two hundred requirements for a planet to support life. Each one must be met or else life cannot exist on planet Earth. For example, near to us, planet Jupiter has a gravity pull strong enough to divert asteroids away from Earth. It is clear—at least to this scientist—that the creation of life forms was not random but finely tuned. Extremely finely tuned.”

     “What about the creation of the universe? Wasn’t that a result of the Big Bang? An explosion? Not God at all.” She gestured to the broad landscape that reached to the horizon and the endless sky.

     “Fine-tuning again. The universe was fine-tuned immediately after the Big Bang, which also had to have a cause in itself, as Aquinas argued. Today, astrophysicists claim there were four forces that needed to be fine-tuned and need to be continuously fine-tuned. If they had not been finely tuned, for example, no stars would exist. The odds are gigantic against the universe forming accidentally from an explosion, any explosion. The odds are something like ten quintillion to one.”

     “That’s all encouraging, isn’t it? Seems like meaning and purpose are now scientifically proven.”

     “Certainly in terms of probabilities, statistics. Many atheist scientists—the honest ones—have admitted that some kind of Intelligence had to be behind the creation of the universe.”

     “It doesn’t seem to make the news.”

     “The general public is about twenty years behind. Also, belief in God isn’t popular, considered too constraining in terms of ethics and behavior. The natural conclusion—not a great leap—is to identify this intelligent Creator as the God of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. All three religions make clear moral demands on our lives. All three proclaim a law. All three predict a day of Judgment.”

     “So what you’re saying is that faith and science support one another.”

     Gregory nodded as they returned to the path. “They do. Absolutely.” He grew thoughtful. “You’re a better audience than my last one.”

Sunderland, Christine. Angel Mountain (pp. 181-184). Resource Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I’m looking forward to Steven Meyer’s book, which should find its way into some of the themes in my next novel, Return to Angel Mountain, working title. The subject is fascinating, particularly at this moment in history when chaos does indeed seem to be engulfing America. The Judeo-Christian belief in a loving God, now supported by science, is literally our saving grace, our path forward, our way to love as Christ loved and as we are taught (indeed, commanded) to love by this loving God.

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