Writings and Reflections

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Counting to God

A Personal Journey Through Science to Belief

The Good News

  • How can science reveal the existence of God?

  • It would be an illusion to think that what we are aware of at present is any more than a fraction of the full extent of biological design. In practically every field of fundamental biological research ever-increasing levels of design and complexity are being revealed at an ever-accelerating rate.
  • Biochemist and noted author Michael Denton, 
Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, p. 342

Our lives are defined by an important choice. A choice we may not even know exists. A choice between wonder and acceptance, between hope and despair, between intellectual freedom and conformity.

Many base their choice on a myth. The myth is that science has somehow displaced religion, that science has somehow triumphed over religion, that science has somehow made religion obsolete. This myth has grown for 150 years. It is a dangerous myth and, to me, the opposite of the truth.

Modern science has revealed a universe of absolute wonder. Wonder in the sense of awe, astonishment, surprise, and admiration. Wonder in what caused our universe to come into being; wonder in why our universe is designed just right for life, wonder in how the incredible complexity of even the simplest life could possibly have arisen. Each year brings new scientific evidence of wonder, facts for which there are essentially no explanations without God, no believable way around the wonder. Contrary to what you may have read, and contrary to what you may believe, science and religion are converging on wonder. The universe is a marvel to behold, and both scientists and religious believers are in awe of its magnificent design.

This book is about a largely unnoticed consensus between the mystic and the scientist. It is about both asking us to look in the same direction, toward a glimpse of a greater reality. It is about wondrous connections among the concepts of number, universe, and God. By observing the universe, through number, we detect evidence of the existence of God.

The riddle of existence is as old as the human race. Why does the universe exist? Is what we see and detect all there is, or is there some type of greater reality, of greater truth? Why do we exist? Can we believe we were put here for a purpose, and if so, what is it?

These are “great questions.” There are many questions in our lives, many uncertainties, many doubts. The great questions are in a class by themselves, deeper than all others. Like shadows in the deep, the great questions wait beneath the surface of our lives. When things are well in our lives, when the waters are smooth, it is easy to forget the great questions. But when the waters are rough and the waves threaten to overcome our little boats, the great questions often rise to the surface of our thoughts. We may not say them out loud; we may not even phrase the words. We may be in pain, in danger, alone, or simply confused, and just ask “Why?” or “What now?” When we are in trouble, under stress, when events shake us out of our complacent lives, we have a heightened awareness of the riddle of existence. We are more likely to ask the great questions. We are more likely to step out of our daily patterns and more likely to ask why.

Although ancient, the great questions are more relevant, and more important, today than ever before. They are also deeply personal. How you live your life could depend, perhaps to a great extent, on your personal answers to the great questions. Some devote their lives to a calling they believe comes from God; others mock believers and follow no moral code. Still others invent their own moral code but doubt divine intervention or design.

The good news of this book—the good news of the third millennium—is that modern science strongly supports both belief in a greater reality and belief that both our universe and life itself were designed. The Greek word for “good news” is gospel. The first four books of the New Testament are called Gospels because they proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. Two thousand years later, science—observation and experiment guided by reasoning—alters our lives in so many ways. Yet science supports the faith of Abraham. Two thousand years after the Gospels, science proclaims a new message of hope. To me, it’s like science is adding a technical footnote to the Bible. The note is that the hypothesis of God has scientific support. There is clear evidence of design.

The discoveries of modern science are the “new” good news of the third millennium. I will give you seven wonders:

  •  The universe had a beginning. It has not existed forever. Something caused our universe to come into being 14 billion years ago.
  •   The universe is fine-tuned for life. If many laws, features, and constants of physics were slightly different, life could not exist.
  •   Life is a miracle. The simplest organisms contain staggering complexity. Even hard-core Atheists admit there is no plausible chance-based explanation for the origin of life. This book will show, almost to a mathematical certainty, that life could not have arisen by accident or chance.
  •  Life has technology to dazzle. All life has the same operating system. All life stores information in DNA and transfers that information to build biological machines in basically the same way. There is no evidence there ever was a different operating system; it appears life’s operating system somehow sprang into existence 3.5 billion years ago.
  •   The origin of wholly new species remains a mystery. The fossil record yields few forms that could possibly be transitional. Many biological systems appear to be irreducibly complex, such that they could not have been formed by gradual steps.
  • Our Earth is special. There may be no planet better suited for life in our galaxy of hundreds of billions of stars.
  • Quantum physics challenges traditional concepts of matter, space, and time, and invites a different way of looking at reality. We will consider one such way—fully consistent with verified experimental facts—that strongly points to the existence of God.

Each of these wonders is scientific support for the hypothesis of God. If the God of the Bible exists, then we would expect the following:

  •   the universe was created;
  •   the universe was designed for life;
  •  the creation of life was a miracle; and
  •  life has amazing technology.

We could also expect to find that

  •  new life-forms were not created by accidental events and natural selection alone; and
  • our Earth is special.

Finally, we just might find

  • scientific evidence that traditional, materialistic views of reality are not complete.

We are each entitled to our own views, our own perceptions, our own reality. I respect Atheists and Agnostics. Although I do not share their point of view, I am not troubled by Atheists; I can see how a person could conclude that there is no God. Although I do not share their point of view, I am not troubled by Agnostics; I can see how a person could conclude that one does not know, and perhaps will never know, whether God exists. Each person is entitled to his or her own point of view, his or her personal answers to the great questions.

I do reject the misuse of science in the debate. In my view, science and mathematics strongly support belief in God. They do not compel belief. But the proposition, advanced by a small but vocal minority of Atheists, that science somehow reveals the folly of religion, is wholly false and dangerous. And I most strongly reject the animosity—even hatred—that has arisen against those who dare to suggest that science supports belief in God. Read this book; understand the facts and basic concepts; decide for yourself.

Some doubt the existence of God because of the seemingly overwhelming problems of our world. Those concerns, those doubts, are generally beyond the scope of this book. Others have addressed them eloquently—for example, Timothy Keller in The Reason for God.1 We’re going to focus on the scientific facts supporting belief in God—the science of belief. In the last chapter, when we’re “Connecting the Dots,” I’ll give you my personal thoughts on why the world may be the way it is.

This book follows my thirty-year journey to reconcile science and religion. There’s a lot to cover, and I’m going to approach it in a way that, after considerable trial and error, seems best suited to weave the different themes together.

This initial part sets the stage; it introduces the science, the concepts, and the history of the “great debate.” I’ll tell you about my journey, because your journey may be similar to mine. We’ll look at what is science and what is religion, and why they are allies, not enemies, in the search for truth. We’ll consider the concept of a paradigm and why many scientists choose to ignore, or seek to explain away, the current evidence of design, and we’ll see how key paradigms about space and time have shifted over the course of civilization. We’ll look at the history of the great debate over the existence of God and at the latest tools scientists use to detect evidence of design in physics and in life.

Part 2 reveals the science of belief, the existing evidence, and generally follows the order in which I explored each subject in my journey. We’ll start with the creation of the universe and the fine-tuning of the laws of physics. We’ll note scientific and logical problems in the concept of an infinite multiverse. Next comes the mystery of the origin of life, the technology of life as revealed by molecular biology, and the puzzles of macroevolution. Then we journey back to physics and recent evidence that our Earth is special. This part ends by suggesting a seventh wonder of modern science in the mathematical nature of the universe combined with the nonmaterial facts of quantum physics.

Part 3 sums it up. It begins with a review of the scientific arguments and counterarguments for belief. It ends with my final thoughts, how I connect the dots after thirty years.

Where possible, I’ll try to keep it light. We’re only talking about the existence of God and the meaning of life, using concepts not much more complicated than general relativity and quantum physics. You do not need to fill out a single government form.

More seriously, I want to reassure you that this book does not require heavy math. There are no equations to solve. The primary concept of number in this book is exponents. We are going to be comparing ridiculously large numbers, like stars in the universe to possible combinations of amino acids, and we need exponents to do that. Appendix A contains a simple, easy-to-understand refresher. Trust me; you can follow the math in this book. If you can count to seven, you can count to God.

I wrote this book to give my children, and hopefully you, a choice. I want to help you look at the evidence with an open mind. Again, I want to go right to the core of whether there is evidence of design in the universe, and thus evidence of a greater reality. I want to take you on a journey through number, universe, and God, and I hope to leave you with a sense of wonder—a sense of awe, astonishment, surprise, and admiration. To me, science and religion are not opposites. Science and religion are two paths on the road to truth, and both point in the direction of wonder.

This book uses the word “number” to include all of mathematics—all of its patterns, equations, symmetries, and beauty. For me “number” is mathematics as an art form. I sometimes associate the word “mathematics” with routine drudgery—as in “go do your math homework.” When I think of the art and beauty of mathematics, of stunning patterns and connections, of the triumphs of logical reasoning, I use the word “number.” In that sense, this book links number, universe, and God. In that sense, we will use number to detect evidence of God.

This is the story of my journey through science to belief.

References And Notes

    • 1
    • Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Riverhead Books, 2008). ^ Back to reading


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Doug Ell is a prominent attorney based in Washington DC and Florida. He combines an academic science background with a lifetime of independent study in his uniquely grounded approach to science, religion and philosophy.