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The Silence of Science and the Whispers of God

Windmill Ministries
Published by in Think About It. ·

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson went on a camping trip. It was a summer night. Holmes and Watson set up their tent to go sleep. Very early in the morning, Holmes woke up and looked around. He quickly nudged his assistant awake.

“Watson!” He shouted.

“Yes,” Watson replied.

“Watson, what do you see!?”

"I see millions of stars, Holmes," Watson exclaimed.
There was a long pause.

"And what do you conclude from that, Watson?"
Watson thought for a moment.

"Well," he said, "astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and we are small and insignificant…What does it tell you, Holmes?"

"Watson, you idiot!” Holmes replied. Someone has stolen our tent![1]
Watson’s lack of perception is like some modern skepticism, which - whether implicitly or explicitly - weds itself to science, jointly accepting credit for advancing civilization. Naturally, it is argued, science defeats faith like a tidal wave, uprooting beliefs one-by-one. But is this true?

Kepler, Newton, Copernicus, and Boyle – the great geniuses of the scientific revolution – were passionate theists, and non-Christian philosophers like Alfred North Whitehead have highlighted the connection between Christianity and scientific origins. They argue that science is not natural. It did not arise universally. Historically, it did not emerge out of Asia, out of Hinduism or Buddhism, for example.

This is because science needed soil to grow, and this was provided by Christianity: a worldview that believes in an orderly and created universe, and sees creation as something prized but not worshipped.[2] Whitehead put it this way: “faith in the possibility of science…is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology.”[3]

Have the results of science shut the doors of faith? This is doubtful. In a recent debate, it was asserted to me in a question that 93% of scientists are atheists. This statistic goes back to Bill Maher, who is a comedian and not a statistician.  

Maher was referring to an article from Nature about 17 years ago that covered a limited, poorly-conducted survey of American scientists. A more thorough, global survey was done by Rice University in 2015. It revealed that few scientists see a conflict between science and faith. It also revealed that, although scientists in general tend to be less religious, there are notable exceptions: "39 percent of scientists in Hong Kong identify as religious compared with 20 percent of the general population of Hong Kong."

Some of the greatest arguments for God’s existence lie at the pinnacle of scientific advancement; many come, not from scientific ignorance, but from scientific understanding. Cosmogony – the science of the origin of our universe – now faces the philosophical implications of a cosmic beginning a finite time ago, and whether this points to a Cause beyond the universe itself.

We have come to know enough about the expansion of the universe, the background radiation, and the second law of thermodynamics to ask the legitimate question, “What lies beyond the origin of our universe?” And we have come to know enough about the nature of protein-building and its relationship to the information-encoded DNA to ask the question, “What is the origin of biological information?” All current information we know of results from intelligence. If we use Darwin's own methodology - looking at “causes now in operation” to make inferences about past events - the possibility that intelligence lies behind the origin of life does not appear to be unscientific.[4]

Modern skeptics are not fools, nor are they wrong about the benefits of science, but they are wrong about its implications for reality.
If we look into the universe, for example, we cannot discover God scientifically, like a specimen in a lab jar. In the same way, imagine taking a trip to visit the Castle De Haar in the Netherlands, and as you approach it you see a sign with an arrow and the words Castle De Haar painted in red. The presence of that castle is not indicated on the sign in a scientific way. You cannot contain a physical castle on a road sign. The sign is just a representation of it in words and symbols – if you can comprehend the meaning of the representation, it will direct you to the actual castle.

Similarly, you cannot contain God – an immaterial, timeless, moral being – in an amoral, material and changing world.[5] It may be fair to say that science does not reveal God’s presence, since science is the study of the natural world. But that does not mean that science supports naturalism – the belief that nature is all there is.

Scientific analysis can reveal the material make-up of the sign to Castle De Haar, just as it brings clarity about the universe we live in. But the question is, “Does the universe point to something more?” “Is the universe an arrow to something beyond?” This is where many atheists encounter the Watson problem. They analyze the data, but miss the big picture. They consider the universe, but refuse to look through it into something beyond.  

When an astronomer observes a planet acting strangely, she concludes, even without direct observation, that there must be something beyond this planet, an entity pulling it in, affecting its orbit. This is how astronomers first discovered the distant planets of our solar system, and it is also how we can think about God’s presence in our world: moving us, revealing himself to us, and calling us to Himself.

We may be not able to capture Him directly on our lenses – much like we cannot gaze directly into the blinding sun as it beams upon us - but we see His evidence in the shadows, in the experiences, and in the world He illuminates. As C.S. Lewis put it, “I believe in Christianity like I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."[6]

Watson was right in all that he said about the stars, but he was wrong in thinking that it mattered at that moment. At that moment, the tent was gone. There was something missing. Yes, there is something missing, more important, more pressing. There is something beyond the stars, something we point to each time we stop, not to wonder what it all is, but to wonder what it all means. Christianity has an answer. God has spoken. Science is silent.

That alone does not make Christianity true or atheism false; arguments must confirm this. Neither does not make Christianity desirable; repentance must accomplish this. But it does mean we should consider its relationship to science more carefully, take its truth claims more seriously, and be open to the possibility that, through the silence of science, we hear the whispers of God.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” – Psalm 19:1

[1] This anecdote is taken from Ravi Zacharias’ lecture, “What Does it Mean to be Human?” (Dec. 15, 2010). Available for viewing:
[2] Nancy Pearcey & Charles Thaxton, “The soul of science: Christian faith and natural philosophy,” Turning Point Christian Worldview Series (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), 17-18; see also, Alfred North Whitehead, "Science and the Modern World" (New York, The Free Press, 1925), 6,12, 18.
[3] Ibid., 13.
[4] Stephen Meyer, “Signature in the Cell” (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), 160.
[5] This is, of course, an imperfect analogy. A castle is in no way present on a road sign, but God is really and truly present in our world. All of His attributes are present throughout all creation, but His attributes aren’t physical and, therefore, cannot be physically contained.
[6] C.S. Lewis, quoted in the article “Christianity Makes Sense of the World” (December 2013), at:

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