To a believer, there's no doubt God created the world

  • November 18, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - Science can't adequately explain the role of God in the universe, says Fr. George Coyne, S.J., the former director of the Vatican Observatory who, at one time, was referred to as “the pope's astrophysicist.”

But as a religious believer, the American professor said he is able to answer the question of God's role.

“God created everything that I investigate as a scientist,” said Coyne, the president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation and adjunct professor at the University of Arizona.

During his lecture, entitled “The dance of the fertile universe: Searching for God in a scientific universe,” Coyne said science “gives us good things to think about.” But, he added that science “is not the totality of our human experience.”

“All the science I know and all the scientists I know cannot say anything about God. They cannot include or exclude God,” he told a packed crowd of about 200 people at The Newman Centre on the University of Toronto campus.

“Science is completely neutral, with respect to any philosophical or theological considerations, so it's weak. It's inadequate,” Coyne said.

“The universe was not built by God like a washing machine or a car, to store up parts and keep it going. God created a universe that has a dynamism of its own.”

What God isn't, Coyne added, is an “engineer.”

A vocal critic of “intelligent design,” which is a theory that complex biological systems require a designer, Coyne said that explanation is “wrong” and is best classified as a religious and political movement supported by some Christian fundamentalist groups in the United States.

“We can explain by neo-Darwinian evolution a certain dynamism within the universe itself. Intelligent design is clearly a religious movement,” he said.

This dynamism is seen in the formation of stars and human beings since the Earth's creation 13.7 billion years ago.

Coyne said, “If there was no star birth or death, you and I wouldn't be here.” There wouldn't be enough carbon to make an earlobe or a toenail without this process, he said.

Rather, God's role is more like that of a parent who is “nurturing the universe but He's not determining the total future of the universe.”

Eventually, a parent has to allow freedom of choice, he said.

“Though it's inadequate, I think God is dealing with the universe in that way.”

As a believer, Coyne said he believes in a God who created the universe “because He was so full of love He had to share it and in sharing it, He also had the fond wish that human beings would come out of this sharing that could love Him because love by its very nature is mutual.”

When Coyne stepped down as director of the Vatican Observatory two years ago, a British newspaper alleged that he was sacked from the post for his support of evolution. But Coyne told The Register after the event that “it was all journalistic nonsense.” He remains an astronomer at the observatory.

Asked if Catholics should accept that evolution exists, Coyne told The Register, “It's the best scientific explanation we have.” The controversy surrounding evolution, he said, was based upon an unfounded fear that accepting evolution means that “God is not going to have control. It's not true. Scientific evolution does not take away from God at all.”

The theory of evolution, he said, shows God as “a marvellous God. It's not a God who just threw us out there. It's a God who made us be so that we can love Him in return.”

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