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Denis katungi

The Global North, Which Sent us Missionaries Made a U-Turn as Science Advanced

Increasingly, Science has been answering questions that used to be the province of religion. As such, most people in the first world question religion and God. Dennis Katungi explores one of the big Questions as posed by Scientists. IS THERE A GOD?
posted onOctober 4, 2023

By Dennis Katungi

This is not blasphemy. It is the true story of how Science overtook religion and made those who propagated Christianity- question it. 

Religion was an early attempt to answer the questions we all ask: why are we here, where did we come from? Is there a creator of heaven and earth? Long ago, the answer was almost always the same: God or the gods made everything. The world was a scary place, so even warriors as tough as The Vikings in England or indeed the Abarusuura of Kabalega here in Uganda - believed in supernatural beings to make sense of natural phenomena like lightning, storms or eclipses.

Nowadays, science provides better and more consistent answers, but people especially in the global south [the developing world] have stuck to their religion, because it gives comfort, and they do not trust or understand science as their counterparts in the West do. While studying in the UK in the mid-1990’s, I read a headline in the respected broad-sheet - The Times of London: ‘Hawking: God Did Not Create the Universe’. The article was illustrated. God was shown in a drawing by Michelangelo, looking angry. The Newspaper printed a photo of Professor Stephen Hawking, an English Scientist looking smug. They made it look like a duel between God and Professor Hawking.  

When the scientist read the paper, [Stephen Hawking was a revered Physicist & Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge now deceased], he commented: “I don’t have a grudge against God. My work is not about proving or disproving his existence. My work is about finding a rational framework to understand the universe around us”.

If you believe in Science, you know that there are certain laws that are always obeyed. You can say the laws are the work of God, but that is more a definition of God than a proof of his existence. In 300BC, a philosopher called Aristarchus was fascinated by eclipses, especially eclipses of the Moon. He was brave enough to question whether they were really caused by gods.  Aristarchus was a true scientific pioneer. He studied the heavens carefully and reached a bold conclusion: he realized the eclipse was the shadow of the Earth passing over the Moon, and not a divine event. Liberated by this discovery, he was able to work out what was really going on above his head, and draw diagrams that showed the true relationship of the Sun, the Earth and the Moon. From there he reached even more remarkable conclusions.  

The Earth was not the centre of the Universe, as everyone had thought, but that it orbits the Sun. In fact, understanding this arrangement explains all eclipses. When the moon casts its shadow on the Earth, that’s a solar eclipse but when the Earth shades the moon, that’s a lunar eclipse. The Scientist even took it further. He suggested that Stars were not chinks in the floor of heaven, as his contemporaries believed, but that stars were other suns, like ours, only a very long distance away.  In short, he concluded that the Universe is governed by principles or laws – laws that can be understood by the human mind.

“I believe that the discovery of these laws has been humankind’s greatest achievement, for its these laws of nature – as we now call them – that will tell us whether we need a god to explain the universe at all” commented Prof. Hawking on the works of Aristarchus.

Professor Hawking goes on: ‘the laws of nature are a description of how things actually work in the past, present and future. These physical laws are unchangeable and universal. Unlike Laws made by humans, the laws of nature cannot be broken – that’s why they are so powerful and when seen from a religious standpoint, controversial too.”

Hawking poses a question: “If you accept that the laws of nature are fixed,what role is there for GOD”?  This is a big contradiction between science and religion; it is actually an ancient conflict. One could define God as the embodiment of the laws of nature.  However, this is not what most Christians would like to think of as God. They mean a human-like being, with whom one can have a personal relationship. When you look at the vast size of the Universe, and how insignificant and accidental human life is in it, that seems most implausible.

Again, Professor Hawking commented thus: ‘Like Einstein before me, I use the word ‘God’ in an impersonal sense, especially for the laws of nature, so, knowing the mind of God is knowing the laws of nature’. Hawking predicted that the world will know the mind of God by the end of the 21st Century.

When Professor Stephen Hawking published a book that asked if God created the universe, it caused a stir. Religious fanatics got upset that a scientist should have anything to say on the matter of religion.  Hawking retorted: ‘I have no desire to tell anyone what to believe, but for me asking if God exists is a valid question for science.  After all, it is hard to think of a more important or fundamental mystery than what, or who created and controls the universe.”

“The universe was spontaneously created out of nothing - [The big bang Theory] according to the laws of science” The basic assumption of science is scientific determinism. The Laws of science determine the evolution of the universe given its state.  

“Despite the complexity and variety of the universe, it turns out that to make one; you need just a few ingredients: Matter, then Dust, rock, ice, liquids and then Gas.  Lastly, you need Energy.  Energy permeates the universe, driving the processes that keep it a dynamic, endlessly changing place.” Hawking avers.

Someone may ask: Where could all this matter - energy and space come from, if not by an act of God? The scientific answer came from the insights of one man, probably the most remarkable scientist who has ever lived. His name was Albert Einstein. He realized something quite extra-ordinary: that two of the ingredients needed to make a universe – mass and energy – are basically the same, two sides of the same coin if you like. His famous equation E =mc2 simply means that mass can be thought of as a kind of energy, and vice versa. So, instead of three ingredients, we can now say that the universe has just two: energy and space. So, where did all this energy and space come from? The answer was found after decades of work by scientists: space & energy spontaneously erupted in an event we now know as the Big Bang.  At the time of the Big Bang, an entire universe came into existence – concludes both Albert Einstein and Professor Stephen Hawking in: ‘Brief Answers to the Big questions’.

The Writer is a Communications Specialist with the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance.           


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