God Is Real…Why modern physics has discredited atheism.
“If we need an atheist for a debate, we go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn’t much use.”
–Robert Griffiths, winner of the Heinemann Prize in mathematical physics.
“What is mind? Never matter. What is matter? Never mind!“
Virtually everyone is familiar with the popular conundrum, “Which came first…the chicken or the egg?” But probably very few people realize that the question of God’s existence, in a very real sense, boils down to what is likely the ultimate chicken-or-the-egg conundrum: Which came first, mind or matter? In other words, is mind (or “consciousness”) the product of matter, or is matter the product of mind? Is our universe—at its core—a material universe, or is it a mental (or spiritual) universe?
It will come as a surprise to many that modern physics has done much to answer this question. And the answer which modern physics provides will require many people to completely reframe their perception of the world in which they live.
Stephen C. Meyer, author of Signature in the Cell, holds a PhD in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University. In this book, he reveals the following:
“Since the time of the ancient Greeks, there have been two basic pictures of ultimate reality among Western intellectuals, what Germans call a Weltanschauung, or worldview. According to one worldview, mind is the primary or ultimate reality. On this view, material reality either issues from a preexisting mind, or it is shaped by a preexistent intelligence, or both…This view of reality is often called idealism to indicate that ideas come first and matter comes later. Theism is the version of idealism that holds that God is the source of the ideas that gave rise to and shaped the material world.
The opposite view holds that the physical universe or nature is the ultimate reality. In this view, either matter or energy (or both) are the things from which everything else comes. They are self-existent and do not need to be created or shaped by mind….In this view matter comes first, and conscious mind arrives on the scene much later and only then as a by-product of material processes and undirected evolutionary change. This worldview is called naturalism or materialism.”
There really is no third stance. Everyone therefore needs to ask themselves, “On which side of this debate do I fall?”
Well…when Max Planck (the Nobel Prize winning physicist who founded quantum theory) says…
“As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”
and Albert Einstein says…
“Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe–a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”
and the Nobel Prize winning physicist Eugene Wigner says…
“When the province of physical theory was extended to encompass microscopic phenomena, through the creation of quantum mechanics, the concept of consciousness came to the fore again; it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness,” and “The content of consciousness is an ultimate reality.”
and the great physicist Sir Arthur Eddington says…
“The idea of a universal mind or Logos would be, I think, a fairly plausible inference from the present state of scientific theory.” ["Logos" is defined as "the word of God, or principle of divine reason and creative order."]
and the knighted mathematician, physicist and astronomer Sir James Jeans says (in his book The Mysterious Universe)…
“There is a wide measure of agreement which, on the physical side of science approaches almost unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail mind as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.” (italics added)
…there can be no question on which side of this debate modern physics falls. For a glimpse of the quantum research which has led physicists to draw conclusions such as the above, and to understand why materialism (with its belief that “either matter or energy, or both, are the things from which everything else comes” and “are self-existent and do not need to be created or shaped by mind”) can no longer be deemed scientifically plausible, please view this video of the famous double slit experiment. As this article titled The Mental Universe by Johns Hopkins University physicist Richard Conn Henry reveals, “The ultimate cause of atheism, [Isaac] Newton asserted, is ‘this notion of bodies having, as it were, a complete, absolute and independent reality in themselves.’”
The simplest explanation of why modern physics has done away with materialism/naturalism is this: Material things cannot have “a complete, absolute independent reality in themselves” because, as modern physics has demonstrated, the material world cannot exist independent from consciousness (mind). There is no reality independent of mind.
Here is how University of California, Berkeley physicist Henry Stapp puts it in his book Mindful Universe:
“…According to contemporary orthodox basic physical theory, but contrary to many claims made in the philosophy of mind, the physical domain is not causally closed. [italics are his] A causally open physical description of the mind-brain obviously cannot completely account for the mind-brain as a whole.”
“In short, already the orthodox version of quantum mechanics, unlike classical mechanics, is not about a physical world detached from experiences; detached from minds.”
Princeton University quantum physicist Freeman Dyson echoes Stapp’s above comments:
“Atoms are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe is also weird, with its laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it passes beyond the scale of our comprehension.”
Physicist George Stanciu and philosopher Robert Augros provide an excellent nutshell explanation of why the naturalist/materialist worldview is no longer scientifically or philosophically supportable in their book The New Story of Science, that further elucidates the above points:
“In the New Story of science the whole universe–including matter, energy, space, and time–is a one-time event and had a definite beginning. But something must have always existed; for if ever absolutely nothing existed, then nothing would exist now, since nothing comes from nothing. The material universe cannot be the thing that always existed because matter had a beginning. It is 12 to 20 billion years old. This means that whatever has always existed is non-material. The only non-material reality seems to be mind. If mind is what has always existed, then matter must have been brought into existence by a mind that always was. This points to an intelligent, eternal being who created all things. Such a being is what we mean by the term God.”
Mainstream biology, however, continues to embrace the naturalist/materialist view of the world. Why is this? Part of the answer lies in the fact that physics is the branch of science that most closely approaches the boundary separating science from philosophy and religion. It approaches this boundary much more closely than biology. Physics, in other words, is the branch of science that deals with the most fundamental or “big picture” aspects of our reality.
Relevant to the disagreement between modern physics and mainstream biology on this topic, biophysicist Harold J. Morowitz writes in his article Rediscovering the Mind:
“What has happened is that biologists, who once postulated a privileged role for the human mind in nature’s hierarchy, have been moving relentlessly toward the hard-core materialism that characterized nineteenth-century physics. At the same time, physicists, faced with compelling experimental evidence, have been moving away from strictly mechanical models of the universe to a view that sees the mind as playing an integral role in all physical events. It is as if the two disciplines were on fast-moving trains, going in opposite directions and not noticing what is happening across the tracks.’”
Physicist Richard Conn Henry explains why people (such as atheist biologists) cling to materialism/naturalism despite the fact that it has been completely discredited by modern physics:
“Why do people cling with such ferocity to belief in a mind-independent reality? It is surely because if there is no such reality, then ultimately (as far as we can know) mind alone exists. And if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the illusion of material reality (which has, in fact, despite the materialists, been known to be the case since the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925), then a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism.” ["Solipsism" is defined as "the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist."]
Naturalism/materialism, simply put, is critical for maintaining an atheist worldview. Mind must be the eventual product of mindless matter for atheism to stand. An atheist must therefore ignore, remain ignorant of, or rationalize away the insights of modern physics in order to prevent his/her belief system from collapsing. And because materialism/naturalism is the predominant cultural context within the insular world of atheist biologists (as well as other branches of academia), this is done collectively. As Oxford University and University of Massachusetts Professor of Biology Lynn Margulis (winner of the U.S. Presidential Medal for Science) put it in The Altenburg 16: An Expose of the Evolution Industry:
“…people are always more loyal to their tribal group than to any abstract notion of ‘truth’ – scientists especially. If not they are unemployable. It is professional suicide to continually contradict one’s teachers or social leaders.”
It would be overly simplistic, however, to state that a cultural preference for atheism among the ranks of biologists is the only factor motivating mainstream biology’s embrace of naturalism. Biologists are in the business of providing explanations for the phenomenon of life. Therefore, an admission by biologists of the existence of a creator would also be an admission that there are aspects of the phenomenon of life that are beyond the bounds of science. One should not be surprised that biologists would find such an admission humbling and unpleasant. It is crucial, then, for readers to understand that what is presented by atheist biologists as a scientific conclusion of atheism is in reality an assumption of atheism made on philosophical grounds that precedes and therefore filters and distorts scientific inquiry. Harvard University geneticist Richard C. Lewontin famously admitted in 1997:
” …It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
(For a more in-depth exploration of mainstream biology’s rigid adherence to materialism, please read the post entitled “If the Evidence for God is So Strong, Why Are So Many Smart People Unconvinced?“. Please also read The Ultimate Cart-Before-the-Horse (Why Atheism is Illogical), which is closely related to this essay.
Perhaps Werner Heisenberg, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for creating quantum mechanics, explained the divergence between biology and physics (with regard to God) best when he wrote:
“The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you.”
With the phrase “the bottom of the glass,” Heisenberg is referring to the study of the most fundamental aspects of reality…which are investigated by physics.
For a more in-depth discussion of why materialism/naturalism is no longer scientifically supportable, please read The Matter Myth by physicists Paul Davies and John Gribbin. Much of the first chapter (entitled The Death of Materialism) is viewable by clicking on the above link to the book at Amazon.com. Please also read The New Story of Science by physicist George Stanciu and philosopher Robert Augros. The entire book can be read by clicking on the preceding link. Chapter 4 entitled “God” begins on page 53, but it is recommended that readers read the book in its entirety.
Additional citations from extremely important contributors to modern physics (indeed, the majority of the most important physicists) relevant to this subject matter appear below (as well as other prominent figures such as philosophers). Please also view the post entitled, “Some quotes to consider….if you think science leads to atheism.”
“…This sense of wonder leads most scientists to a Superior Being – der Alte, the Old One, as Einstein affectionately called the Deity – a Superior Intelligence, the Lord of all Creation and Natural Law.”
–Abdus Salam, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in electroweak theory. He is here quoted in his article entitled Science and Religion.
“I have looked into most philosophical systems and I have seen that none will work without God.”
“Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We have reached the utmost limit of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent it must have been created.”
–Physicist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell, who is credited with formulating classical electromagnetic theory and whose contributions to science are considered to be of the same magnitude as those of Einstein and Newton.
“For myself, faith begins with a realization that a supreme intelligence brought the universe into being and created man. It is not difficult for me to have this faith, for it is incontrovertible that where there is a plan there is intelligence—an orderly, unfolding universe testifies to the truth of the most majestic statement ever uttered—-’In the beginning God.’”
–Nobel Prize winning physicist Arthur Compton, discoverer of the Compton Effect.
“Those who say that the study of science makes a man an atheist must be rather silly.”
“Something which is against natural laws seems to me rather out of the question because it would be a depressive idea about God. It would make God smaller than he must be assumed. When he stated that these laws hold, then they hold, and he wouldn’t make exceptions. This is too human an idea. Humans do such things, but not God.”
–Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Born, who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics.
“I believe that the more thoroughly science is studied, the further does it take us from anything comparable to atheism.”
–Lord William Kelvin, who was noted for his theoretical work on thermodynamics, the concept of absolute zero and the Kelvin temperature scale based upon it.
“Both religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations… To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.”
“There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other.”
“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
Religion and Natural Science (Lecture Given 1937) Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers,trans. F. Gaynor (New York, 1949), pp. 184
“God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.”
–Nobel Prize winning physicist Paul A. M. Dirac, who made crucial early contributions to both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics.
“In the history of science, ever since the famous trial of Galileo, it has repeatedly been claimed that scientific truth cannot be reconciled with the religious interpretation of the world. Although I am now convinced that scientific truth is unassailable in its own field, I have never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking as simply part of an outmoded phase in the consciousness of mankind, a part we shall have to give up from now on. Thus in the course of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought, for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point.”
–Werner Heisenberg, who was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics for the creation of quantum mechanics (which is absolutely crucial to modern science).
“We all know that there are regions of the human spirit untrammeled by the world of physics. In the mystic sense of the creation around us, in the expression of art, in a yearning towards God, the soul grows upward and finds fulfillment of something implanted in its nature. The sanction for this development is within us, a striving born with our consciousness or an Inner Light proceeding from a greater power than ours. Science can scarcely question this sanction, for the pursuit of science springs from a striving which the mind is impelled to follow, a questioning that will not be suppressed. Whether in the intellectual pursuits of science or in the mystical pursuits of the spirit, the light beckons ahead and the purpose surging in our nature responds.”
–The great physicist Sir Arthur Eddington, as quoted in his classic work The Nature of the Physical World:
“Science is a game – but a game with reality, a game with sharpened knives. If a man cuts a picture carefully into 1000 pieces, you solve the puzzle when you reassemble the pieces into a picture; in the success or failure, both your intelligences compete. In the presentation of a scientific problem, the other player is the good Lord. He has not only set the problem but also has devised the rules of the game – but they are not completely known, half of them are left for you to discover or to deduce. The uncertainty is how many of the rules God himself has permanently ordained, and how many apparently are caused by your own mental inertia, while the solution generally becomes possible only through freedom from its limitations. This is perhaps the most exciting thing in the game.”
–Erwin Schroedinger, winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics “for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory.”
“It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”
–Nobel Prize winning Harvard University biologist George Wald, as quoted in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe. Wald is a noted exception to the widespread tendency of biologists to embrace materialism for ideological reasons (despite the fact that materialism has been completely discredited by modern physics).
“…Discussing the creation of the universe in terms of time and space is like trying to discover the artist and the action of painting by going to the edge of the canvas. This brings us very near to those philosophical systems which regard the universe as a thought in the mind of its Creator, thereby reducing all discussion of material creation to futility.”
—The knighted physicist, mathematician, and astronomer Sir James Jeans.
“The more I study science the more I believe in God.”
“I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.”
“It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.”
–James Joule, propounder of the first law of thermodynamics (on the conservation of energy). Joule also made important contributions to the kinetic theory of gases. The unit of heat known as the “Joule” is named after him.
“An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.”
–Srinivasa Ramanujam, who is widely regarded to be one of the greatest mathematicians of all time (on a similar plane with such greats as Archimedes and Newton).
“Is intelligent mind an ultimate and irreducible feature of reality? Indeed, is it the ultimate nature of reality? Or is mind and consciousness an unforeseen and unintended product of basically material processes of evolution?”
“If you look at the history of philosophy, it soon becomes clear that almost all the great classical philosophers took the first of these views. Plato, Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Kant, Hegel—they all argued that the ultimate reality, often hidden under the appearances of the material world or time and space, is mind or spirit.”
–Keith Ward, retired Professor of Philosophy at Kings College, London, and a member of the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, as quoted in his book Doubting Dawkins, Why There Almost Certainly is A God.
“It is as impossible to conceive that ever pure incogitative matter should produce a thinking intelligent being, as that nothing should of itself produce matter.”
–Philosopher John Locke, who was one of the most important Enlightenment thinkers.
“It seems that the world that appears to us is not reality as it is in itself. It is a construct of human consciousness. Materialist philosophers argue that consciousness is a construct of matter. But Plato and almost all the great classical philosophers, East and West, suggest the opposite. Matter, at least as it appears to us, is a construct of consciousness.”
“…Consciousness is real and creative. It is not just a by-product of the world we perceive. Without consciousness, that world, the world we perceive, would not even exist. Another quantum physicist, John von Neumann, said, ‘All real things are contents of consciousness.’ This is about as far from materialism as you can get – and it is an interpretation of modern physics, not some weird religiously inspired theory.”
––Keith Ward, retired Professor of Philosophy at Kings College, London, and a member of the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy (mentioned above), as quoted in his book Is Religion Irrational?
**But one does not need to be a physicist or mathematician to understand why the materialist / naturalist worldview does not hold water. Please see my post titled Riddles for Atheists for a greater understanding of why theism is a better explanation.