French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic theologian, Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), made many notable contributions to mathematics and physical science including a study of hydraulics which lead to the development of the syringe.
Pascal was also the first to formally use probability theory, a mathematical analysis of uncertainty such as the outcome of a dice roll or the likelihood of a success of a trip to the moon. The first use of probability theory was Pascal’s Wager which asks people to decide how best to live their lives based on the uncertainty that a Christian God exists or does not exist.
The instructions for the game are this:
Although there is no right or wrong answer, Pascal argues some wagers offer more potential benefits. There are four possible outcomes to the game:
Pascal argues that the best way for rationale people to handle the uncertainty of God’s existence is to live as though God does exist and seek to believe in God. This yields the highest benefits for the least risk.
While Pascal’s Wager is an odd way to view God and faith, it does raise some interesting questions.
What if we are all running a trial version of life? Did Adam and Eve steal God’s software?
Hold on for a bumpy idea that God has a lot in common with Bill Gates.
There are plenty of free trial or “demo” versions of software available for download from the Internet. Many times, the downloaded trial software is actually the real, full version of the software except that certain functions have been disabled. Once you register and pay a fee, you get a “key” or a long, meaningless series of letters and numbers that can be used to enable all the features.
Genesis suggests Adam and Eve were the original users of God’s software, Life, and had access to the full version: abundant food, pleasant scenery, dominion over the plants and animals, running around carefree, etc. Moreover, God was ready to provide Life for free to all other users. There was just one requirement: everyone had to follow the license agreement…not eating the forbidden fruit.
It was awesome! That is until the hacker showed up.
Serpent, the hacker, shows Eve how to steal God’s Life software, ironically, with an apple. Eve shows Adam how to steal Life. When God realizes his Life software is being stolen [“See, the man has become like one of us…” Genesis 3:22], He disabled many parts of Life which left Adam and Eve using a trial version. He also punished the hacker for intellectual property theft.
Adam and Eve find the trial version of Life is not nearly as good as the full version. Food is no longer readily available, nakedness goes out of vogue, childbearing is a real pain, and so forth. Worst of all is that, unlike the full version, the trial version of Life expires leaving the user with nothing. Because of the hack, God only makes the trial version of Life available, but it’s free for everyone. Registration is optional.
For those who do register their trial versions with Him, however, God has an incredible deal. The deal is that all registered trial version users get free upgrades to the full version when their trial versions of Life expire.
Hopefully, the ride wasn’t too rough.
God is the supreme programmer.
Perhaps everything needed for everlasting happiness, life and love already exists within us…but the best features are disabled. You can’t buy, steal or hack the key to enable them. But, you can register with Him for the special deal, because He is the key.
God has many favorite numbers that appear repeatedly in the Bible. For example:
Three (3) - Of course, this represents the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Jesus rose the third day and was tempted three times by Satan. Peter also denied Jesus three times.
Ten (10) – God gave Moses the 10 Commandments and gave Egypt the 10 plaques. Jesus uses parables about 10 servants, 10 pounds, 10 virgins and 10 coins.
Forty (40) – Moses lived for 40 years in both Egypt and the Wilderness. He also spent 40 days and nights on Mount Sinai two different times. Jesus spent forty days with the Disciples between His Resurrection and Ascension.
There are also values that God didn’t specifically mention in the Bible. However, trying to understand the magnitude of God’s work, we’ll take a swing at trying to quantify some of these values as best the Laws of Nature and Physics permit.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1
God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "oceans." Genesis 10
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 27
But not a hair of your head will perish. Luke 21: 18
These incredibly large numbers should put all of us in awe of God. Every time you get sand in your bathing suit or gripe about too many voicemails, be thankful you need only remember one number - Him.
Critics frequently point to the 1633 trial of Galileo Galilei as an example of Christians being anti-science. Unfortunately for the critics, the facts show just the opposite. However, the facts also reveal the Galileo issue was still being debated more than thirty years after man landed on the moon.
The Galileo affair was all about the question of whether the Sun and planets revolved around the Earth (geocentric model) or whether the Earth and planets revolved around the Sun (heliocentric or Copernican model). Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 - 1543) explained his heliocentric model in On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres. Galileo simply helped validate the heliocentric model with observations made through his new telescope.
Rather than denying it, the Church embraced Copernican theories to such as extent that in 1582 it replaced the Julian calendar with the improved Gregorian calendar, the one we use today. While the Church saw Copernican theories as valid, they hesitated acknowledging them because they seemingly refuted portions of the Bible such as:
So, the real problem was alignment of some Biblical interpretations with clearly visible physical reality.
Shortening the story… Galileo embarrassed Church leaders by telling them how to rationalize Copernican theories and the Bible. In 1633, he was ultimately found "vehemently suspect of heresy", sentenced to house arrest and had his writings banned. The Catholic Church eventually dropped the general prohibition on books advocating Copernican theories in 1758 but did not rescind the 1633 decisions against Galileo or his writings until 1820.
If you assume this ends the story…think again.
It wasn’t until 1992, that the Church recognized Galileo as “a brilliant physicist”. Then, in 2000, Pope John Paul II issued a formal apology for the mistakes committed in the Church’s 2,000-year history, including the trial of Galileo. A statue of Galileo was erected inside the Vatican walls in 2008…more than 400 years after the fact.
Galileo’s situation demonstrates the church is made up of humans who can be slow to react, but it is definitely not anti-science. In fact, there are scores of examples showing that the science that underlies modernity is a direct result of Christianity: medicine, hospitals, education & higher education, reading & writing for the masses, logical reasoning, experimentation and scientific investigation, empirical science and much more.
This is a story about an ardent atheist (one not believing in deities) who is also strongly believed in some type of Intelligent Design (ID).
The theory of Intelligent Design suggests that Creation is not a random act of nature but required intelligent intervention to develop in so many otherwise inexplicable ways.
The late Sir Fred Hoyle was a renowned English astronomer who discovered how carbon (the basis of organic life) is created in the Universe. Sir Fred said of his discovery:
“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 of nature [random events] would be utterly minuscule. 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 beyond question."
In 1949, Hoyle coined the term “Big Bang” theory although he had a different theory for the origin of the Universe. He rejected evolutionary biologists’ theories that life originated on Earth and vehemently opposed the notion that life happened as result of random events. It may be his unusual flair for entertaining analogies to describe the improbability of random events that he is best remembered for:
“A junkyard contains all the bits and pieces of a Boeing 747, dismembered and in disarray. A whirlwind happens to blow through the yard. What is the chance that after its passage a fully assembled 747, ready to fly, will be found standing there? So small as to be negligible, even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole Universe.”
"At all events, anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with the Rubik cube will concede the near-impossibility of a solution being obtained by a blind person moving the cubic faces at random. Now imagine 1,050 blind persons each with a scrambled Rubik cube, and try to conceive of the chance of them all simultaneously arriving at the solved form”.
You gotta love this kind of stuff!
While Hoyle dismissed traditional notions of faith, he was pointedly adamant that life was not an accident:
“Once we see, however, that the probability of life originating at random is so utterly miniscule as to make it absurd, it becomes sensible to think that the favorable properties of physics on which life depends are in every respect deliberate .... It is therefore almost inevitable that our own measure of intelligence must reflect ... higher intelligences ... even to the limit of God ... such a theory is so obvious that one wonders why it is not widely accepted as being self-evident. The reasons are psychological rather than scientific.”
For Hoyle, Christianity did not offer enough specific answers about life and death, but he explained his own hopes for an afterlife: “What I would choose would be an evolution of life whereby the essence of each of us becomes welded together into some vastly larger and more potent structure. I think such a dynamic evolution would be more in keeping with the grandeur of the physical Universe than the static picture offered by formal religion.”
In many ways, it seems as though “Sir Fred”, as he was sometimes known, was much less an atheist than a questioning scientist. Accepting nothing on faith or open to chance, he clearly sought answers to the questions we all have…the source of the Design and purpose of the Designer. Hopefully, he has found those answers beyond what he imagined.