Spend all your time thinking about life, they call you a philosopher. Spend all your time thinking about God, they call you a theologian. Spend all your time thinking about both, they call you boring.
Me? I'm boring.
As a pastor, I'm kind of trained to spend all of my time thinking about both theology and philosophy, God and life. They intersect in the pulpit, and wise is the preacher who tries to get a good grip on both. Some of us fare better than others.
So it was that I read with great interest the article "Can Science Disprove the Existence of God?" on Mother Nature Network (I actually got there via Yahoo!, but can't find that link) that suggests that, as science continues to make leaps forward, God will no longer be a necessary part of human existence.
From the article's introduction:
Although cosmic mysteries remain, Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, says there's good reason to think science will ultimately arrive at a complete understanding of the universe that leaves no grounds for God whatsoever.
Carroll argues that God's sphere of influence has shrunk drastically in modern times, as physics and cosmology have expanded in their ability to explain the origin and evolution of the universe. "As we learn more about the universe, there's less and less need to look outside it for help," he told Life's Little Mysteries.
Well then. Looks like I might need to update the resume.
Actually, the article itself is well written, and approaches three of the classical arguments for God from the perspective of pure physics. If you're a nerd, it's a must read. If you're a pastor, it's a must read. If you've ever spent time wondering about who we are, how we got here, and what it all means it's a must read.
Personally, I don' t believe science will ever do away with God. And in the strange-bedfellows world of philosophy, Dr. Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion and prominent New Atheist, agrees with me.
In a long and interesting article from The Huffington Post archives, Dr. Dawkins establishes his personal philosophy that God is a "sore thumb", an antiquated and entirely unnecessary idea in our modern world. But Dr. Dawkins, in his flippant ending, does acknowledge that disproving God is impossible.
We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can't disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can't disprove, we can say that God is very, very improbable.
So we're not saying the exact same thing - I think God is highly probable, Dawkins does not - but we do share the belief that science isn't going to put an end to the metaphysical longings of the human race. And while the nuts-and-bolts of material existence may be mapped out to a startling specificity at some point in the future, what will never be answered by science is the question of Why.
Why is the great unknown, the seemingly innate sense of the human heart to go looking for purpose in the machinery of life. Some scientists say, "There is no why. Life just is, and that's really all we need to know." In fact, the article from Mother Nature Network suggests that exact answer. But to say there is no Why doesn't eliminate the human longing for an answer. You can say the question is meaningless all you want, but if the great majority of mankind can't get past the niggling feeling that there is something more to this life than just breathing, reproducing and dying, then the question has more weight than to just be casually brushed aside.
The MNN article has this to say, and I think it's well put:
"We're not designed at the level of theoretical physics," Daniel Kruger, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Michigan, told LiveScience last year. What matters to most people "is what happens at the human scale, relationships to other people, things we experience in a lifetime."
We're not theories or highly constructed ideas; we're not questions to be deciphered in the confines of a laboratory through the scientific process. We are living beings, flesh-and-blood people who live at a very visceral, very miniscule level: the Moment of Now. If we're the introspective type, maybe we also inhabit the Moment of Then and/or the Moment of Soon, but for the most part we as a species tend to think only a bit beyond what's happening to us this second.
And if there's one thing that tends to dominate our thoughts in the midst of this very temporal, very focused life we lead, it's the question of Why.
Why pain? Why sickness? Why death? Why me?
As long as those questions continue to reverberate throughout our experience of our circumstances, we will continue to need God. As science continues to plumb the depths of outer space, we might be able to prove the universe's self-sustaining existence as a vast, multitudinous entity via a unified theory. But no science, no matter how exacting or precise, will ever be able to explain our vast inner space, those multitudes within the human heart.
We need something bigger for that voyage.
Maybe God won't be necessary to explain the universe anymore. But as long as homo sapiens trod this ball of clay, we will forever need Him to help us understand ourselves.
Looks like I won't have to go job-hunting after all...