Can a Scientist be a Christian in an Atomic Age?

C. S. Hudson, Farnborough

Category: Contemporary Issues

Because it will enhance the value of the following article to young believers to know that the author is qualified to speak as a scientist, we have prevailed upon Dr. Hudson to permit mention of some of his degrees, and the fact that he is Deputy Head of the Electrical Engineering Department of the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, and Superintendent of the Research Division of that Department.

WE LIVE IN A DAY in which the advances of science are household topics. Man-made satellites circle the earth, and attempts are being made to send rockets to the planets. The exploration of interstellar space by radio telescope is revealing new facts and wonders previously inaccessible to man. The most spectacular, if not the most important, progress of recent years, has been in the realm of nuclear physics, and it is scarcely an exaggeration to call this period in which we are living an atomic age. But what is the effect of these discoveries on the claims of Christianity? It has been asserted by some that Christianity is outmoded by science, and that thinking people do not now give it a second thought, but can we dismiss it as simply as this? For some of us the question posed by the title of this article is of vital importance; it affects however, a much wider circle, for if science has disturbed the foundations of Christianity the non-scientist is equally involved. Consider first what is meant by science. As I understand it, science is the gaining of knowledge about nature by the examination of observable facts. It makes use of the faculties of sight, hearing and touch; the range of these faculties having been extended greatly by the many scientific instruments which have been developed. The data obtained are then compared and classified; theories to explain the data are proposed and tested by further experiment, and so the frontiers of knowledge are slowly advanced. Science is thus the pursuit of truth, but the limit to what is discoverable is set by what can be observed, and beyond this the scientist can only speculate. This is particularly true of such matters as the origin of the universe, and it is of interest to note that Prof. A. C. B. Lovell, in the fifth of Iris Reith lectures on the Origin of the Universe states, 'But when we inquire what the primeval atom was like, and how it disintegrated, and by what means and at what time it was created, we begin to cross the boundaries of physics into the realm of philosophy and theology'. Also: 'As a scientist, I cannot discuss the problem of the creation of the primeval atom, because it precedes the moment when I can ever hope to infer from observation the conditions which existed'. Science can therefore only take us part of the way, it can attempt to explain what has been created, but it is silent about the first great cause of all; here another source of information is needed. We can, of course, draw inferences from what we know to be true in our own experience. For example, it is commonly recognized that anything which exhibits design, whether it be an intricate piece of equipment or a work of art, must have a designer. If this is true of the imperfect and limited things with which we are familiar, how much more should we expect it to be true of the universe. Again, as we examine the world and consider the factors which make life not only tolerable but pleasant, we are compelled to conclude that the Creator is beneficent.
Thus while it is possible by scientific methods to infer the existence of God, the Creator, there is no known scientific means of establishing contact with Him. If we are to find God, it must come by some means other than by science. In fact, there is no possibility of knowing Him unless He reveal Himself. Christianity claims that God has done this, first in the inspired writings of the Bible, and secondly in the unique person of His Son Jesus Christ. It declares that the barriers that stood in the way of man knowing God have been removed by the redemptive work of Christ, and that this experience of God is entered into by faith. But how are we to determine that these claims are valid? We can attempt to check the historical and scientific accuracy of the Bible and assess whether it is internally self consistent. Careful researches by many scholars and the massive results of archaeological investigation have shown beyond doubt that in these respects the Bible is essentially accurate. The ultimate proof is in the realm of human experience as there is submission to the claims of Christ. It will be found that such an experience, far from being a restriction and a handicap, widens the horizon and makes the world we live in a more wonderful place that it had seemed before. Many noted scientists of this and past generations have taken this course and have become confirmed Christians.

The above article was first published in the school magazine, Glebeland School, Cranleigh.