Seven Reasons Why a Scientist Believes in God
Seven Reasons Why a Scientist Believes in God
A. CRESSY MORRISON
(This article of Mr. A. Cressy Morrison, former President of the New York Academy of Sciences, first appeared in the "Reader's Digest" [January 1948]; then on recommendation of Professor C. A. Coulson, F.R.S., Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, was republished in the Reader's Digest [November 1960]. To my knowledge it has not appeared in Reader’s Digest since.)
WE ARE STILL IN THE DAWN of the scientific age, and every increase of light reveals more brightly the handiwork of an intelligent Creator. We have made stupendous discoveries; with a spirit of scientific humility and of faith grounded in knowledge we are approaching ever nearer to an awareness of God.
For myself, I count seven reasons for my faith:
First: By unwavering mathematical law we can prove that our universe was designed and executed by a great engineering intelligence.
Suppose you put ten pennies, marked from one to ten, into your pocket and give them a good shuffle. Now try to take them out in sequence from one to ten, putting back the coin each time and shaking them all again. Mathematically we know that your chance of first drawing number one is one in ten; of drawing one and two in succession, one in 100; of drawing one, two and three in succession, one in 1000, and so on; your chance of drawing them all, from number one to number ten in succession, would reach the unbelievable figure of one in ten billion.
By the same reasoning, so many exacting conditions are necessary for life on the earth that they could not possibly exist in proper relationship by chance. The earth rotates on its axis 1000 miles an hour at the equator; if it turned at 100 miles an hour, our days and nights would be ten times as long as now, and the hot sun would likely burn up our vegetation each long day while in the long night any surviving sprout might well freeze.
Again the sun, source of our life, has a surface temperature of 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and our earth is just far enough away so that this "eternal life" warms us just enough and not too much ! If the sun gave off only one half its present radiation, we would freeze, and if it gave as much more, we would roast.
The slant of the earth, tilted at an angle of 23 degrees, gives us our seasons; if the earth had not been so tilted, vapors from the ocean would move north and south, piling up for us continents of ice. If our moon were, say, only 50,000 miles away instead of its actual distance, our tides might be so enormous that twice a day all continents would be submerged; even the mountains could soon be eroded away. If the crust of the earth had only been ten feet thicker, there would be no oxygen, without which animal life must die. Had the ocean been a few feet deeper, carbon dioxide and oxygen would have been absorbed and no vegetable life could exist.
It is apparent from these and a host of other examples that there is not one chance in billions that life on our planet is an accident.
Second: The resourcefulness of life to accomplish its purpose is a manifestation of an all-pervading Intelligence.
What life itself is, no man has fathomed. It has neither weight nor dimensions, but it does have force; a growing root will crack a rock. Life has conquered water, land and air, mastering the elements, compelling them to dissolve and reform their combinations.
Life, the sculptor, shapes all living things; an artist, it designs every leaf of every tree, and colors every flower. Life is a musician and has taught each bird to sing its love song, the insects to call one another in the music of their multitudinous sounds. Life is a sublime chemist, giving taste to fruits and spices, and perfume to the rose, changing water and carbonic acid into sugar and wood, and, in so doing, releasing oxygen that animals may have the breath of life.
Behold an almost invisible drop of protoplasm, transparent, jellylike, capable of motion, drawing energy from the sun. This single cell, this transparent mist-like droplet, holds within itself the germ of life, and has power to distribute this life to every living thing, great and small. The powers of this droplet are greater than our vegetation and animals and people, for all life came from it. Nature did not create life; fire-blistered rocks and a saltless sea could not meet the necessary requirements.
Who, then, has put it here?
Third: Animal wisdom speaks irresistibly of a good Creator who infused instinct into otherwise helpless little creatures.
The young salmon spends years at sea, then comes back to his own river, and travels up the very side of the river into which flows the tributary where he was born. What brings him back so precisely? If you transfer him to another tributary he will know at once that he is off his course and he will fight his way down and back to the main stream and then turn up against the current to finish his destiny accurately.
Even more difficult to solve is the mystery of eels. These amazing creatures migrate at maturity from ponds and rivers everywhere - those from Europe across thousands of miles of ocean - all bound for the same abysmal deeps near Bermuda. There they breed and die. The little ones, with no apparent means of knowing anything except that they are in a wilderness of water, nevertheless start back and find their way not only to the very shore from which their parents came but thence to the selfsame rivers, lakes or little ponds. No American eel has ever been caught in Europe, no European eel in American waters. Nature has even delayed the maturity of the European eel by a year or more to make up for its longer journey. Where does the directional impulse originate?
Fourth: Man has something more than animal instinct - the power of reason.
No other animal has ever left a record of its ability to count ten, or even to understand the meaning of ten. Where instinct is like a single note of a flute, beautiful but limited, the human brain contains all the notes of all the instruments in the orchestra. No need to belabor this fourth point; thanks to human reason we can contemplate the possibility that we are what we are only because we have received a spark of Universal Intelligence.
Fifth: Provision for all living is revealed in such phenomena as the wonders of genes.
So tiny are these genes that, if all of them responsible for all living people in the world could be put in one place, there would be less than a thimbleful. Yet these genes inhabit every living cell and are the keys to all human, animal and vegetable characteristics. A thimble is a small place to hold all the individual characteristics of almost three billion human beings. However, the facts are beyond question.
Here evolution really begins - at the cell, the entity which holds and carries the genes. That the ultra-microscopic gene can absolutely rule all life on earth is an example of profound cunning and provision that could emanate only from a Creative Intelligence; no other hypothesis will serve.
Sixth: By the economy of nature, we are forced to realize that only infinite wisdom could have foreseen and prepared with such astute husbandry.
Many years ago a species of cactus was planted in Australia as a protective fence. Having no insect enemies in Australia, the cactus soon began a prodigious growth; the alarming abundance persisted until the plants covered an area as long and wide as England, crowding inhabitants out of the towns and villages, and destroying their farms. Seeking a defense, entomologists scoured the world; finally they turned up an insect which lived exclusively on cactus, and would eat nothing else. It would breed freely, too; and it had no enemies in Australia. So animal soon conquered vegetable, and today the cactus pest has retreated - and with it all but a small protective residue of the insects, enough to hold the cactus in check forever.
Such checks and balances have been universally provided. Why have not fast-breeding insects dominated the earth? Because they have no lungs such as man possesses; they breathe through tubes. But when insects grow large, their tubes do not grow in ratio to the increasing size of the body. Hence there never has been an insect of great size; this limitation on growth has held them all in check. If this physical check had not been provided, man could not exist. Imagine meeting a hornet as big as a lion !
Seventh: The fact that man can conceive the idea of God is in itself a unique proof.
The conception of God rises from a divine faculty of man, unshared with the rest of our world - the faculty we call imagination. By its power, man and man alone can find the evidence of things unseen. The vista that power opens up is unbounded; indeed, as man's perfected imagination becomes a spiritual reality, he may discern in all the evidence of design and purpose the great truth that heaven is wherever and whatever; that God is everywhere and in everything that nowhere so close as in our hearts.
It is scientifically as well as imaginatively true, as the Psalmist said: The heavens declare the Glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.