Some well-known physicists in recent times have used language which, to many Christians, sounds as if these men have some sort of Christian faith, or are leaning in that direction. Some Christian people have thus been encouraged, even claiming that what they say authenticates the Bible.1
Albert Einstein once said, in reference to the mathematical orderliness of the universe, ‘God does not play dice’. This was taken by many to mean that Einstein had some sort of faith in God. More recently, physicist and philosopher Paul Davies titled his book The Mind of God. Leon Lederman, a Nobel Prize-winner, called his book about the Higgs boson fundamental atomic particle, The God Particle. George Smoot, the cosmologist, described finding fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation as like ‘seeing God’. Stephen Hawking, the well-known English cosmologist, seemingly echoing the sentiments of such Christian intellectual giants as Isaac Newton, tells us that the aim of science is to know the ‘mind of God’.
Are these men being drawn towards faith in God through their physics/astronomy/cosmology? Not at all! Biographies of Einstein’s life show that he had no personal faith in God. A quote from a book review published in Nature2 shows how we should not let statements such as those by Lederman, Smoot and Hawking mislead us:
‘Such statements seriously mislead the average person, who believes that the scientists are finding the personal God of traditional theology. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lederman calls the Higgs boson the “God Particle” because it is the most important particle in particle physics today; Smoot means that, when contemplating the cosmic radiation, he experiences a feeling of awe analogous to that of religious believers; and Hawking’s phrase is shorthand for the Theory of Everything. All three physicists — like most physicists of this century — describe themselves as agnostics or atheists. They do not believe in a Person who created the Universe.’
Likewise, Professor Davies does not believe in a personal creator-God either.3
Physicists tend to use religious terminology because it graphically expresses the religious/philosophical nature of their thoughts and the sense of almost religious reverence they feel about their subject. Like the ‘liberal’ theologians, they use the language of orthodox Christianity, but in using the words they do not mean what we may think they mean.
Dr Geoffrey Burbidge, Professor of Physics at the University of California, San Diego, spoke flippantly of his colleagues rushing off to join ‘the first church of Christ of the Big Bang’ because of their ‘evangelical fervour’ for the ‘big bang’, not because he saw any genuine revival of Christianity in them.4
We should not be lulled into thinking the physicists are ‘fellow travellers’ just because they use our language. Indeed, much of the physicists’ religious talk is tongue-in-cheek — and in this they ridicule true Christian faith. Even worse, they blaspheme in referring to ‘God’ as an atomic particle. Unfortunately for them, God will have the last word, for He says: ‘… I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent’ (1 Corinthians 1:19).
- For example, Hugh Ross, Cosmology’s Holy Grail, Christianity Today, 12 December 1994, pp. 24–7.
- Frank Tipler, Sophistry and Illusion, Nature, 369:198, 19 May 1994 (a review of the book The Fire in the Equations: Science, Religion and the Search for God, by Kitty Ferguson, published by Bantam).
- Professor Davies, now at the University of Adelaide, received in March 1995 the Templeton Prize for progress in religion, worth more than $A1.4 million. He abandoned conventional Christian beliefs as a teenager when the local vicar could not answer his questions about creation and the universe (The Australian, 9 March 1995, p. 1).
- Letter from Professor Burbidge dated 31 January 1995.