I started Mark Smith’s The Origins of Biblical Monotheism yesterday. The part that stuck out to me was on page 3:
Although discourse about God and the notion of belief has become increasingly problematic in departments of religion and divinity schools, theists elsewhere in the university are scarcely in full retreat. For example, a survey of American scientists on one campus, the University of Georgia, conducted by the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of science Edward Larson, hardly indicates a lack of belief; if anything, the opposite is the case. Moreover, the topic of God has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in contemporary Western culture by way of the field of physics…So, at the start of a new millennium, faith is increasingly questioned in religion and divinity faculties even as it is affirmed in other quarters of American universities.
I’ve seen numerous movies and TV shows in which a character says, “I don’t believe in God—I’m a scientist,” as if the two are mutually contradictory. In high school, I looked through a book in my school library, which was a publication of responses by celebrities to a child’s question, “Do you believe in God?” In the book, you got Oral Roberts’ dramatic narration of a vision he supposedly had, along with Andy Rooney’s blunt answer of “no—sincerely, Andy Rooney.” But the responses by the scientists were largely negative. As far as they were concerned, they couldn’t see God, so they didn’t believe in his existence.
A few years later, at DePauw, I read an article somewhere on the Internet, which said that physicists were more open to the existence of God than biologists. The reason was that biologists felt that they could account for biological phenomena naturalistically, through an appeal to evolution by natural selection. Physicists, however, realized that there were so many constants that had to be “just right” for life to exist on earth. Many of them, therefore, were open to the notion that a supernatural being created the cosmos and set in place the constants that were necessary for life. Is there a thawing in the physics community to the idea that God exists?
I also think of the pilot episode to Joan of Arcadia. On it was Joan’s geeky scientist brother, Luke, who said that the existence of God was theoretically possible, since light could have consciousness. The creator of the show, Barbara Hall, said that she had read many books on physics, for she was interested in the interrelation between physics and religion. Is Luke’s idea the sort of thing that Mark Smith is talking about when he says that physicists are writing about religion?