Unanswered Questions

Are there questions about natural phenomena that science alone is incapable of answering? Andy Crouch discusses how a creator helps explain how the universe works.

Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection

  1. Do you ever feel like there's no need for God anymore?
  2. Are you uncomfortable with life's unanswered questions?

There's a whole bunch of natural phenomenon that, that, that, you know, religious people used to just attribute to God. Uh, you know, it— thunder is the sky god getting angry or, or whatever. And now we have scientific explanations for this. We know exactly how thunder works. We know how lightning works. We know clouds form. We know, uh, you know, to choose a Biblical example, why there's a rainbow. It's because of the, the prism effect, right, of, of moisture in the atmosphere. And so it can feel like there's no need for God anymore because we've got scientific explanations for all this. Uh, however, there's a whole bunch of questions science has opened up that actually didn't exist in pre-modern times or pre-scientific times that are even harder to answer than, "Why is there thunder?" or "Why is there a rainbow?" And that's a question, like, for example, "Why does the universe have a beginning?" Because, uh, for a long time, uh, in the kind of early modern era, people just assumed it was steady state. The universe had always been there, uh, so there was no need for a creator because you didn't have a beginning. Uh, and then you get the prediction of the Big Bang, uh, that there actually was a beginning, and then you get experimental confirmation of the Big Bang, uh, through the background radiation and so forth. And you realize, now we have to explain why there's something rather than nothing, and that is not a sci— there is no scientific answer to that. There's a scientific answer to, "Why is the sky blue? or "Why is there thunder?" but there is no, there— you can't form a scientific question, uh, about why there's something rather than nothing. Science can't get there. Uh, another one is consciousness. Human beings are aware of ourselves, and other creatures even seem to have a little bit of this aware— awareness, and we're ask— we're in the world asking questions of the meaning of the world, and we do things like mathematics, right? We start, uh, doing math, and we find out that the math that somebody cooked up on a blackboard or on a, in a notebook somewhere connects to the, the way the universe actually works. Why in the world does math work? Why, why do we have the kinds of brains that can come up with math that actually describes the universe? Uh, that is not a scientific question, but it's a question that we only have now because we see how well math works for explaining the world. Uh, so in that sense, I think it's, uh, there are some questions that have been answered, and that we don't need religion to sort of answer at a, at a physical level, but then there are other questions raised by science that now there's no way to answer them as scientists. We have to have a philosophical or a theological answer to them. And so in a way, it's, um, it's just the questions that have changed, and, and, and in many ways it's gotten harder not to believe that there's some kind of rationality, some kind of purpose, some, some kind of consciousness cosmically that corresponds to what we see around us in human beings and, and in the world that we've been given.