I spent this past weekend awakening my inner scientist. On Saturday I went to the grand opening of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo (see photo below.) I know, not exactly how most people would want to spend a lazy Saturday morning, but this was truly an amazing opportunity to have a look inside what is likely to become one of the leading physics research labs in the world.
I attended a lecture by Nobel Prize winner Dr. Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas on “Cosmology and the Origins of the Universe.” As a Christian, I knew that this would be a loaded topic. I fully expected to have issues with what Dr. Weinberg had to say, but I didn’t expect the verbal attack on my faith that I experienced.
Let me begin by stating that I have not done a lot of technical research into the origins of the universe. I have a passing interest in cosmology but that is where it ends. I don’t accept that the universe is 16.2 billion years old as Dr. Weinberg states, nor do I accept the concept of a 6,000-year-old earth that I have heard from some creation scientists. If you were to press me on it, I suppose I would fall somewhere in between the two extremes, but then again, the Nobel folks haven’t exactly been knocking on the door asking for my opinion! The Biblical account of God creating the earth in 6 days is good enough for me. Whether those days were 24 hours or 24 million years makes no difference. My faith doesn’t rest in cosmology or in mere intellectual arguments. As Donald Miller says in Blue Like Jazz, “Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and some other guys who do believe in God and they can prove he does exist, and the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly I don’t care.”
Dr. Weinberg’s presentation was fascinating and I managed to keep up with most of what he had to say, even if I didn’t necessarily agree. And while I am not qualified to critique the good doctor’s science, he certainly didn’t use any restraint in critiquing religion and issues of faith in general. To conclude his lecture he called for a world of more scientific heroes and fewer religious prophets because “it is because of religious prophets…the Bible…the Koran…that this world has become the dangerous place that it is.” Of course, this met with a vigorous round of applause from the audience. When asked during the Q&A period after the lecture “where does God fit into Cosmology?” by what appeared to be a Muslim student (sorry for my ‘racial profiling’) Weinberg promptly replied, “That sir, is a hypothesis I choose not to accept.” While he admitted that science doesn’t really know much about the “inflation” period prior to the Big Bang, he took the opportunity to launch several more verbal shots at those who would hold to a religious world view to even more vigorous applause.
Now, I am not completely oblivious to this sort of intellectual assault, and while I hesitate to call it persecution when I am aware that Christians all over the world are being tortured and murdered for their faith, I most definitely felt very vulnerable sitting in the auditorium not applauding Weinberg’s attacks on religion. I felt no bitterness or anger toward the man, just a deep sense of sadness.
For no matter what your background or training, whether a Nobel Prize winning cosmologist or a bookseller with a Bachelor of Religious Education, we all have an epistemology – a world view – that triumphs over and determines our choices in life. Dr. Weinberg’s theories may be grounded in hard science, but his world view spoke louder than any of his charts and diagrams on Saturday.
P.S. For an interesting article on the battle to teach Intelligent Design in the classroom in the United States, check out Wired magazine’s October edition.