Is There a Role for Natural Theology
By Dr. Owen Gingerich
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Dr. Owen Gingerich is Senior Astronomer at the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory and Professor of Astronomy and of the
History of Science at Harvard University. His professional interests
range from the recomputation of an ancient Babylonian mathematical
table to the interpretation of stellar spectra. He is co-author
of two successive standard models for the solar atmosphere and
is a leading authority on the works of Johannes Kepler and Nicholas
Copernicus. Gingerich has edited, translated, or written 20 books,
over 150 technical or research articles, 200 popular articles,
and 150 reviews.
In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone,
and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly
answer, that, for any thing I knew to the contrary, it had lain
there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity
of this answer.
But supposing I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should
be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should
hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for
any thing I knew, the watch might have always been there. Yet
why should not this answer serve for the watch as well as for
the stone? Why is it not as admissible in the second case, as
in the first?
For this reason, and for no other, viz. that, when we come to
inspect the watch, we perceive that its several parts are framed
and put together for a purpose .... Th[e] mechanism being observed
(it requires indeed an examination of the instrument, and perhaps
some previous knowledge of the subject, to perceive and understand
it; but being once, as we have said, observed and understood),
the inference, we think, is inevitable, that the watch must have
had a maker: there must have existed, at some time, and at some
place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed it for
the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended
its construction, and designed its use.
Whether you have read this passage before or not, I'm sure you
recognize it as the famous argument from design that introduces
William Paley's Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence
and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of
Nature. Paley's Evidences, written nearly two hundred years ago,
continues to have its modern repercussions, as witnessed by the
title of the best- seller from the Oxford biologist, Richard Dawkins:
The Blind Watchmaker. Dawkins writes, "When it comes to complexity
and beauty of design, Paley hardly even began to state his case."
But he also declares that Paley's argument "is wrong, gloriously
and utterly wrong," and the subtitle of his book boldly
states, Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without
As an astronomer, I have always been intrigued by some of the
astonishing details of the physical world, to say nothing of the
intricacy and complexity of the biological domain. To me, looking
out at the universe through the eyes of faith, these data have
seemed to be impressive evidences of design and purpose. I propose
to sketch briefly the modern scientific scenario of the creation
of the universe and the origin of the elements, pointing out at
least two wonderful episodes where it appears, on the face of
it, that a designing hand has been at work.
Yet science today eschews any hint of design or purpose in its
description of the world. Thus, my scientific scenario will be
grist for two more specific questions: Dare a scientist believe
in design? and, Is there a role for natural theology today?
Modern Science Rejects Teleology
That it is unfashionable in scientific explanations today even
to hint at purpose or design is made clear repeatedly, and not
just in such avowedly atheistic polemics as exemplified by Dawkins'
subtitle. Reductionism is the name of the game.
A few years ago Science magazine carried a report on the toxins
of certain cone shells, which I happened to notice because my
wife and I are avid shell collectors. A supplementary news article,
entitled "Science digests the secrets of voracious killer
snails," remarked that "the great diversity and specificity
of toxins in the venoms of the cone snails are due to the intense
evolutionary pressure on the snails to stop their prey quickly,
since they can't chase it down."
Very promptly a letter to the editor objected that this language
implied that some real pressure was driving the snails to develop
the toxins. "The reality is that those snails that produced
toxins that immobilized their prey quickly tended to obtain food
more often than those possessing slower-acting or no toxins, and
thus over time the population of cone shells became dominated
by those possessing the fast-acting agents. There was no pressure!
In the vernacular, `If it works, it works; if it don't, it don't.'"
The response shows clearly the current philosophical orthodoxy
about the non-directed nature of evolution. It also typifies the
enormous change of view that has occurred over the past century
with respect to the wonders of the biological world. What is now
seen as the zigzag, largely accidental path to amazing organisms
with astonishing adaptations was in earlier times routinely interpreted
as the design of an intelligent Creator. The long neck of the
giraffe, which so well adapts the creature to an environment where
food is available high off the ground, would have been seen, in
William Paley's words, as a "mark of contrivance, in proof
of design, and of a designing Creator."
Even Jean Jacques Rousseau, not best known as a theist, declared,
"It is impossible for me to conceive that a system of beings
can be so wisely regulated without the existence of some intelligent
cause which affects such regulation. . . I believe, therefore,
that the world is governed by a wise and powerful Will."
The notion of design suggests, of course, the existence of a goal-directed
or end-directed process, what can aptly be termed teleology. Ernst
Mayr, a leading evolutionist who has written very clearly on the
modern philosophy of evolution, remarks that there are different
types of end-directed processes. "The third category, organic
adaptness, is not directed toward an end but rather an adaptation
to the environment in the widest sense of the word, acquired during
evolution, largely guided by natural selection. The fourth teleology,
the cosmic one, is not supported by scientific evidence."
So much then, for a role for the Creator in modern biology.
"Man was not the goal of evolution, which evidently had no
goal," wrote G. G. Simpson in a more visceral fashion. "He
was not planned, in an operation wholly planless."
Astonishing Details of the Universe
Yet, despite the articulate denials of cosmic teleology by the
leading evolutionists of our age, there still remain enough astonishing
details of the natural order to evoke a feeling of awe-beginning
with the remarkable scenario that the cosmologists have woven
together concerning the earliest moments of the universe. During
the past two decades knowledge of the world of the smallest possible
sizes, the domain of particle physics, has been combined with
astronomy to describe the universe in its opening stages. The
physics ultimately fails as the nucleo-cosmologists push their
calculations back to Time Zero, but they get pretty close to the
beginning, to 1.0e-43 second. At that point, at a second split
so fine that no clock could measure it, the entire observable
universe is compressed within a dot of pure energy, a wavelike
blur described by the uncertainty principle, so tiny and compact
that it could pass through the eye of a needle. And then comes
the explosion. "There is no way to express that explosion"
writes the poet Robinson Jeffers,
... All that exists
Roars into flame, the tortured fragments rush away from each other
into all the sky, new universes Jewel the black breast of night;
and far off the outer nebulae like charging spearmen again
It's an amazing picture, of pure and incredibly energetic light
being transformed into matter, and leaving its vestiges behind.
"But," you may well ask, "how do we know this story
is plausible? Or is it just a strange kind of science fiction?"
I have not time here to outline the systematic steps, starting
with the ancient Greek astronomers, in laying out the scale of
ever larger reaches of the cosmos, and culminating in our own
century with the measurements of the realm of galaxies, where
the distances are so vast that they are reckoned in millions and
billions of light years. Added to this is the remarkable discovery
that the more distant the galaxy, the faster it is rushing away
from us. These data arrived on the scene just as the cosmologists
had begun to speculate on the large-scale properties of the universe,
and out of this confluence of theory and observation arose the
concept of the expansion of the universe. It was a picture of
quite awesome beauty: from a super- dense state, "All that
exists roars into flame, the tortured fragments rush away from
each other into all the sky" in Robinson Jeffer's phrase.
Let us, for a moment, run time backward in mind's eye, and inquire
what happens as the universe is squeezed back together and its
density increases. The total of the mass and energy remains the
same, but the temperature rises as the matter-energy is compressed.
Finally the temperature becomes so high, and the mean energy of
the components so great, that the presently-known laws of physics
no longer apply.
Now let us run the clock forward again. In the first microseconds
the high-energy photons vastly outnumber particles of matter,
but there is a continual interchange between the photons and heavy
particles of matter and antimatter. Einstein's famous E=mc^2 equation
helps describe how the energy of the photons is converted into
mass and vice versa. By the end of the first millisecond, the
creation of protons and antiprotons is essentially finished, and
the vast majority have already been annihilated back into photons.
As the universe loses its incredible compression, the average
energy per photon drops, and during this first second electrons
and antielectrons (called positrons) are repeatedly formed and
annihilated, finally leaving about 100 million photons of light
for every atom.
The thermonuclear detonation of the universe is now on its way,
and in the next minute fusion reactions take place that build
up deuterium and helium nuclei. After the first few minutes the
explosive nuclear fireworks are over, but the headlong expansion
continues, and the cosmic egg gradually cools. The left-over radiation,
redshifted into the microwave region of the spectrum, is ours
to observe, and those photons have been observed by looking out
every direction into space, the fossil evidence of the primeval
fireball of the Big Bang. "It was like seeing the face of
God," declared astronomer George Smoot in an over- enthusiastic
response to the especially accurate data from the COBE satellite.
This observed background radiation is one piece of evidence supporting
the contemporary scientific picture of creation. The other is
the observed abundance of helium and of deuterium, which match
well the predicted amounts that would be formed in that cosmic
This picture, by itself, seems quite mind boggling, but there
is something else that astrophysicists began to notice a few decades
ago. The universe seems quite finely balanced between the outward
energy of expansion and the inward pull of gravitation. Had the
universe exploded with somewhat greater energy, it would have
thinned down too fast for the formation of galaxies and stars,
the astrophysicists concluded. Had the energy been somewhat less,
gravity would have quickly got the upper hand and would have pulled
the universe back together again in a premature Big Crunch. Like
the Little Bear's porridge, this universe is just right.
Let me be just a little more specific. According to this scenario,
only two elements-hydrogen and helium-are produced in any abundance
in the Big Bang itself. In order to get the carbon, oxygen, and
iron needed for the formation of life, a very long period of cooking
in stellar interiors-some billions of years-is required. So, to
have a life-bearing universe, it must be very old and very large.
It sometimes seems a little intimidating to be on such a small
speck of a planet in such vastness of space, but according to
our modern understanding, this immensity is a requirement for
us to be here. Not just that: it looks as if the entire universe
has been tuned-shall I say designed?-for the emergence of intelligent
life. And these facts have not escaped notice. The evidence of
design appeared so striking that cosmologists even gave it a name:
the anthropic principle. The initial energy balance of the universe
and many other details were so extraordinarily right that it seemed
the universe had been expressly designed to produce intelligent,
sentient beings. Such was the original context that led to the
Unique Properties of Carbon
I shall return to the idea of the energy of the universe being
so finely balanced, but first I wish to examine another evidence
of design. One of the first scientists to consider how the environment
itself made life possible was the Harvard chemist L. J. Henderson.
Early in this century, after Darwin's emphasis on the fitness
of organisms for their various environments, Henderson wrote a
fascinating book entitled The Fitness of the Environment, which
pointed out that the organisms themselves would not exist except
for certain properties of matter. He argued for the uniqueness
of carbon as the chemical basis of life, and everything we have
learned since then reinforces his argument. But today it is possible
to go still further and to probe the origin of carbon itself,
through its synthesis deep inside evolving stars.
Let me sketch briefly how stars spend their lives in order to
explain where elements like carbon and oxygen come from. Most
of the time stars get their energy by converting hydrogen into
helium. But when the available hydrogen has been exhausted, the
core of the star pulls together under the irresistible tug of
gravity, the temperature increases, and finally the formerly inert
helium becomes a fuel, fusing into carbon and later into oxygen.
If the star is massive enough, a whole sequence of higher elements
will be generated.
Eventually, however, there comes a place where the atoms no longer
yield up nuclear energy for powering the star; instead, they demand
energy. This happens when the chain has gone about a quarter of
the way through the list of elements, approaching the element
iron. When the star has burned the atoms to this point, it swiftly
falls into bankruptcy, and the star is about to become a supernova.
Gravity resumes its inexorable grasp, and within a split second
the core of the star collapses, squashing the electrons and protons
into a dense sphere of neutrons. On the rebound, the neutrons
irradiate the lighter atoms, and in a colossal overshoot, they
build up the heavier elements including the gold and uranium.
From the cosmic debris come the building blocks for future stars
and planets, and even for you and me. We are, in a sense, all
recycled cosmic wastes, the children of supernovae.
Now back to carbon, the fourth most common atom in our galaxy,
after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. Carbon is made in the cores
of stars long before they reach the supernova stage, although
it is the later explosion that spews the element back into space
where it becomes available for a subsequent generation of stars
and planets. A carbon nucleus can be made by merging three helium
nuclei, but a triple collision is tolerably rare. It would be
easier if two helium nuclei would stick together to form beryllium,
but beryllium is not very stable. Nevertheless, sometimes before
the two helium nuclei can come unstuck, a third helium nucleus
strikes home, and a carbon nucleus results. And here the details
of the internal energy levels of the carbon nucleus become interesting:
it turns out that there is precisely the right resonance within
the carbon that helps this process along.
Let me digress a bit to remind you about resonance. You've no
doubt heard that opera singers such as Enrico Caruso could shatter
a wine glass by singing just the right note with enough volume.
I don't doubt the story, because in the lectures at our Science
Center at Harvard, about half a dozen wine glasses are shattered
each year using sound waves. It's necessary to tune the audio
generator through the frequency spectrum to just the right note
where the glass begins to vibrate-the specific resonance for that
particular goblet-and then to turn up the volume so that the glass
vibrates more and more violently until it flies apart.
The specific resonances within atomic nuclei are something like
that, except in this case the particular energy enables the parts
to stick together rather than to fly apart. In the carbon atom,
the resonance just happens to match the combined energy of the
beryllium atom and a colliding helium nucleus. Without it, there
would be relatively few carbon atoms. Similarly, the internal
details of the oxygen nucleus play a critical role. Oxygen can
be formed by combining helium and carbon nuclei, but the corresponding
resonance level in the oxygen nucleus is half a percent too low
for the combination to stay together easily. Had the resonance
level in the carbon been 4% lower, there would be essentially
no carbon. Had that level in the oxygen been only half a percent
higher, virtually all of the carbon would have been converted
to oxygen. Without that carbon abundance, neither you nor I would
be here now.
I am told that Fred Hoyle, who together with Willy Fowler found
this remarkable nuclear arrangement, has said that nothing has
shaken his atheism as much as this discovery. Occasionally Fred
Hoyle and I have sat down to discuss one point or another, but
I have never had enough nerve to ask him if his atheism had really
been shaken by finding the nuclear resonance structure of carbon
and oxygen. However, the answer came rather clearly about a decade
ago in the Cal Tech alumni magazine, where he wrote:
Would you not say to yourself, 'Some super- calculating intellect
must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise
the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces
nature would be utterly minuscule.' Of course you would .... A
common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a
superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with
chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth
speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the
facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost
Natural Theology: Evidence, not Proof
A few years ago I used the carbon and oxygen resonance in a lecture,
and in the question period I was interrogated by a philosopher
who wanted to know if I could quantify the argument. Clearly my
petitioner was daring me to convince him, despite the fact that
I had already proclaimed that arguments from design are in the
eyes of the beholder, and simply can't be construed as proofs
to convince skeptics. So now I hasten to dampen any notion that
I intended the resonance levels in carbon and oxygen nuclei to
demonstrate how to prove the existence of God.
Even William Paley, with his famous watch and his conclusion that
it pointed to the existence of a watchmaker, said that "My
opinion of Astronomy has always been, that it is not the best
medium through which to prove the agency of an intelligent creator;
but that, this being proved, it shows, beyond all other sciences,
the magnificence of his operations."
For me, it is not a matter of proofs and demonstrations, but of
making sense of the astonishing cosmic order that the sciences
repeatedly reveal. Fred Hoyle and I differ on lots of questions,
but on this we agree: a common-sense and satisfying interpretation
of our world suggests the designing hand of a superintelligence.
Impressive as the evidences of design in the astrophysical world
may be, however, I personally find even more remarkable those
from the biological realm.
The game plan for evolutionary theory, however, is to find the
accidental, contingent ways in which these unlikely and seemingly
impossible events could have taken place. The evolutionists do
not seek an automatic scheme-mechanistic in the sense that Newtonian
mechanics is determined-but some random pathways whose existence
could be at least partially retraced by induction from the fragmentary
historical record. But when the working procedure becomes raised
to a philosophy of nature, the practitioners begin to place their
faith in the roulette of chance and they find Hoyle an aggravation
to their assumptions about the meaninglessness of the universe.
Despite the reluctance of many evolutionary theorists, there does
seem to be enough evidence of design in the universe to give some
pause. In fact, scientists who wish to deny the role of design
have taken over the anthropic principle. Briefly stated, they
have turned the original argument on its head. Rather than accepting
that we are here because of a deliberate supernatural design,
they claim that the universe simply must be this way because we
are here; had the universe been otherwise, we would not be here
to observe ourselves, and that is that. As I said, I am doubtful
that you can convert a skeptic by the argument of design, and
the discussions of the anthropic principle seem to prove the point.
Natural Theology: Coherency
So this leads back to my central question: Is there a role for
natural theology today? If you can't convert skeptics, what's
its use? Is it all mere rhetoric? And I would answer, "Of
course it's rhetoric, but rhetoric is not mere rhetoric."
In the twelfth century, logic and rhetoric were equally esteemed
components of the medieval curriculum. In some pursuits logic
was more suitable, whereas in others, such as ethics, rhetoric
led the way. In the following century, the time of Thomas Aquinas,
logic began to gain the ascendancy. Today, common opinion places
logic on a pedestal, while "mere rhetoric" is a term
Actually, surprisingly little in science itself is accepted by
"proof." Let's take Newtonian mechanics as an example.
Newton had no proof that the earth moved, or that the sun was
the center of the planetary system. Yet, without that assumption,
his system didn't make much sense. What he had was an elaborate
and highly successful scheme of both explanation and prediction,
and most people had no trouble believing it, but what they were
accepting as truth was a grand scheme whose validity rested on
its coherency, not on any proof. Thus, when a convincing stellar
parallax was measured in 1838, or when Foucault swung his famous
pendulum at 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, January 8, 1851, these
supposed proofs of the revolution and of the rotation of the earth
did not produce a sudden, new-found acceptance of the heliocentric
cosmology. The battle had long since been won by a persuasiveness
that rested not on proof but on coherency, and what persuaded
people of that coherency was the cogency of the essentially rhetorical
arguments mustered in its favor.
Now if we understand that science's great success has been in
the production of a remarkably coherent view of nature rather
than in an intricately dovetailed set of proofs, then I would
argue that a belief in design can also have a legitimate place
in human understanding even if it falls short of proof. What is
needed is a consistent and coherent world view, and at least for
some of us, the universe is easier to comprehend if we assume
that it has both purpose and design.
Just as I would try to persuade my hearers that the awesome details
of the natural world make more sense, have more coherence, in
a theistic framework, there are those who polish their rhetoric
to make the contrary case, as Dawkins puts it, to allow atheists
to be intellectually fulfilled. Dawkins gives a lively and
articulate defense of natural selection as the agent that has
very gradually led to sentient, questioning beings. When I saw
the subtitle of his book, Why the evidence of evolution reveals
a universe without design, I guessed, quite wrongly, that he introduced
some empirical evidence against the role of design. He might,
as Darwin frequently did, have defended the notion of imperfect
design, or he might have argued from the stupefying percentage
of species that have gone extinct, that if a designer was at work,
he was at best clumsy and inefficient. But no, Dawkins seems to
feel that by defending the view that a mechanistic process could
have brought about humankind, his case against design had been
But we can look at the same data and come to opposite conclusions.
He is no more able to prove the non-existence of a Creator than
I, by arguments from design, can prove the existence of a super-intelligent
Designer and Creator. It's as if someone from a far different
age or culture were to hear what he might take as a cacophony
of sounds, but to us that same onrush of notes would be a Mozart
symphony. We hear the same notes, but come to opposing interpretations.
I would like to think that hearing the sounds as a Mozart symphony
is closer to reality. With respect to natural theology, it is
not a tight logical deduction, but, in Pascal's memorable words,
"the heart has its reasons that reason does not know."
Natural Theology: Alleged Weaknesses
I, having made the leap of faith, find the arguments from design
very illuminating; nevertheless, there are two issues worth facing
before giving even a qualified endorsement to a modern-day natural
theology. On the one hand, there has been a persistent criticism
that arguments from design will cause scientific investigators
of Christian persuasion to give up too easily. If the resonance
levels of carbon and oxygen are seen as a miracle of creation,
would a Christian physicist try to understand more deeply why,
from the mechanistic view of physics, the levels are that particular
way and not in some other configuration? Might it not be potentially
detrimental to the faith to explain a miracle? On the other hand,
what if the scientific explanation changes, and an argument suddenly
loses its efficacy? Is faith now undermined?
Consider once more the design of the Big Bang, the observation
that the universe seems so closely balanced between too much and
too little energy of expansion. During the past decade this narrow
balance has been the focus of ever greater attention, and cosmologists
versed in the intricacies of the general theory of relativity
found that the situation was more acute than they had earlier
imagined. If the universe has too little energy to expand forever,
its global geometry corresponds to what mathematicians call Riemannian
or spherical space. If it has an excess, the global geometry is
called Lobachevskian or hyperbolic space, and if it hangs in the
balance in between, the familiar Euclidian geometry holds and
the space is referred to as flat even though the universe has
more than two dimensions.
The wonderful discovery was that in the very earliest stages of
the expansion, the universe had to be incredibly flat to maintain
its present near-flatness. Even a tiny departure one way or the
other would cause a runaway situation that would bend the space
one way or the other. And-hold your breath-the flatness required
was one part in 1.0e60, that is, one followed by 60 zeros.
To the cosmologists, this looked like more than just good luck
or a super-intelligent designer who tuned the universe this way.
It seemed that some fundamental property required the universe
to be this way. I won't go into the splendid scenario schemed
up to make this happen, called inflation. It would derail us to
consider its technical aspects or some of its fascinating ramifications,
such as the fact that this theory can't be empirically demonstrated
and simply must be believed because of its beauty. But in a sense
it punctures the notion of a Creator, who, with a kind of cosmic
roulette, picks just the right starting conditions to enable us
to arrive on the scene. Of course, it can make us turn in awe
at a Designer who built the inflationary epoch into the plans
for creation, and perhaps all we have to worry about is whether,
in fact, the Designer had a choice in the matter.
If natural theology is mistakenly viewed as a source of proof
for the Divine in the universe, then inevitable changes in scientific
ideas pose a serious threat. However, if natural theology deals
with hints and coherencies, not proofs and forced convictions,
then I think it is on safe and reasonable ground. But what about
the other criticism, that belief in design could deter investigators
from pushing their inquiries to the limit? In other words, dare
a scientist believe in design?
There is, I believe, no contradiction between holding a staunch
belief in supernatural design and being a creative scientist,
and perhaps no one illustrates this point better than the seventeenth-century
astronomer Johannes Kepler. He was one of the most creative astronomers
of all time, a man who played a major role in bringing about the
acceptance of the Copernican system through the efficacy of his
tables of planetary motion. One of the principal reasons Kepler
was a Copernican arose from his deeply held belief that the sun-centered
arrangement reflected the divine design of the cosmos. Kepler's
life and works provide central evidence that an individual can
be both a creative scientist and a believer in divine design in
the universe, and that indeed the very motivation for the scientific
research can stem from a desire to trace God's handiwork.
In reflecting on these questions I have attempted, in a somewhat
guarded way, to delineate a place for design both in the world
of science and in the world of theology. There is persuasion here,
but no proof. However, even in the hands of secular philosophers
the modern mythologies of the heavens, the beginnings and endings
implied in the Big Bang, give hints of ultimate realities beyond
the universe itself. Milton Munitz, in his closely argued book,
Cosmic Understanding, declares that our cosmology leads logically
to the idea of a transcendence beyond time and space, giving lie
to the notion that the cosmos is all there is, or was, or ever
Munitz, in coming to the concept of transcendence, describes it
as unknowable, which is somewhat paradoxical, since if the transcendence
is unknowable then we cannot know that it is unknowable. Could
the unknowable have revealed itself? Logic is defied by the idea
that the unknowable might have communicated to us, but coherence
is not. For me, it makes sense to suppose that the superintelligence,
the transcendence, the ground of being in Paul Tillich's formulation,
has revealed itself through prophets in all ages, and supremely
in the life of Jesus Christ.
To believe this requires accepting teleology and purpose. But
I think that the philosophers might rightfully point out that
purpose transcends design, that is, there can be purpose without
design; God could work God's purposes even in a universe without
apparent design, or with designs beyond our finite comprehension.
It would be possible to be a theist and a Christian even in the
absence of observed design.
Nevertheless, just as I believe that the Book of Scripture illumines
the pathway to God, so I believe that the Book of Nature, with
its astonishing details-the blade of grass, the Conus geographus
(with its lethal harpoon), or the resonance levels of the carbon
atom-also suggests a God of purpose and a God of design. And I
think my belief makes me no less a scientist.
To conclude, I turn once again to Kepler, who wrote, "If
I have been allured into brashness by the wonderful beauty of
thy works, or if I have loved my own glory among men, while advancing
in work destined for thy glory, gently and mercifully pardon me:
and finally, deign graciously to cause that these demonstrations
may lead to thy glory and to the salvation of souls, and nowhere
be an obstacle to that. Amen."
[This article is an abridged reprint from Science and Theology:
Questions at the Interface, edited by Murray Rae, Hilary Regan,
and John Stenhouse (T & T Clarke, Edinburgh, 1994), pp. 29-48.]
1. William Paley, Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence
and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of
Nature (first edition, 1803; quoted from Edinburgh, 1816), pp.
2. Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (New York and London,
1987), p. 21.
3. Dawkins, op. cit., p. 5.
4. Marcia Barinaga, "Science Digests the Secrets of Voracious
Killer Snails," Science, 249 (20 July 1990), 250-51.
5. James L. Carew, "`Purposeful' Evolution" (letter),
Science, 249 (24 August 1990), 843.
6. William Paley, Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the Existence
and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearances of
Nature (Edinburgh, 1816), Chapter 5, section 5, p. 61.
7. J. J. Rousseau, Profession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar (1765),
quoted in Alan Lightman and Owen Gingerich, "When Do Anomalies
Begin?" Science, 255 (1992) 690-95.
8. Ernst Mayr, "The Ideological Resistance to Darwin's Theory
of Natural Selection," Proceedings of the American Philosophical
Society, 135 (1991), 123-39, esp. p. 131.
9. George Gaylord Simpson, The Meaning of Evolution (Mentor Edition,
New York, 1951), p. 143.
10. Fred Hoyle, "The Universe: Past and Present Reflections,"
pp. 8-12 in Engineering and Science, November, 1981, esp. p. 12.
11. William Paley, op. cit., (note 4), Chapter 22.
12. Dawkins, op. cit. (note 2), p. 6.
13. Blaise Pascal, Pensees, in Great Books of the Western World,
vol. 33 (Chicago, 1952), p. 222.
14. Milton K. Munitz, Cosmic Understanding: Philosophy and Science
of the Universe (Princeton, 1986).
15. End of Book V, chapter 9 of Harmonice mundi, Johannes Kepler
Gesammelte Werke, 6, 362; my translation is based on the ones
by Charles Glenn Wallis in Great Books of the Western World, 16,
and by Eric J. Aiton, forthcoming, American Philosophical Society.
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