Quotes relating science and faith


This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.
-- Isaac Newton (1642-1727), Principia (1687)

There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all... It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe... The impression of design is overwhelming.
-- Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint

I belong to the group of scientists who do not subscribe to a conventional religion but nevertheless deny that the universe is a purposeless accident. Through my scientific work I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact. There must, it seems to me, be a deeper level of explanation. Whether one wishes to call that deeper level 'God' is a matter of taste and definition.
-- Paul Davies, The Mind of God

I hope the foregoing discussion will have convinced the reader that the natural world is not just any old concoction of entities and forces, but a marvelously ingenious and unified mathematical scheme. ...these rules look as if they are the product of intelligent design. I do not see how that can be denied.
-- Paul Davies

The really amazing thing is not that life on Earth is balanced on a knife-edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife-edge, and would be total chaos if any of the natural constants were off even slightly. You see, even if you dismiss man as a chance happening, the fact remains that the universe seems unreasonably suited to the existence of life - almost contrived - you might say a put-up job.
Paul Davies

Yet who seeing the snowflake, who seeing simple limpid molecules cast adrift in water forming themselves into cell-like hollow lipid vesicles, who seeing the potential for the crystallization of life in swarms of reacting molecules, who seeing the stunning order for free in networks linking tens upon tens of thousands of variables, can fail to entertain a central thought: if ever we are to attain a final theory in biology, we will surely... have to see that we are the natural expressions of a deeper order. Ultimately, we will discover in our creation myth that we are expected after all.
-- Stuart Kauffman, At Home in the Universe

As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency--or rather, Agency--must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?
-- George Greenstein, The Symbiotic Universe

Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say "supernatural") plan.
-- Arno Penzias, Nobel prizewinner in physics

We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent being toward God. We see a universe marvellously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand those laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.
-- Einstein, in a 1929 interview, in Denis Brian, Einstein: A Life (NY: J. Wiley, 1996), p. 186

For myself, faith begins with the realization that a supreme intelligence brought the universe into being and created man. It is not difficult for me to have this faith, for it is incontrovertible that where there is a plan there is intelligence-- an orderly, unfolding universe that testifies to the truth of the most majestic statement ever uttered--'In the beginning God.'
-- Arthur Compton (1936), Chicago Daily News

...Every common biological organism is more intricately articulated, more astoundingly put together, than the most sublime literary composition... Despite all evasions, the ultimate agency of intelligence stares one in the face.
-- Frederick Ferre, Basic Modern Philosophy of Religion

It is easy to see that only a very restricted range of laws of nature are consistent with galaxies and stars, planets, life and intelligence.
-- Carl Sagan

Life as we know it would be impossible if any one of several physical quantities had slightly different values.
-- Steven Weinberg

If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.
-- John O'Keefe

In fact a universe like ours with galaxies and stars is actually quite unlikely. If one considers the possible constants and laws that could have emerged, the odds against a universe that has produced life like ours are immense.
Stephen Hawking

The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.
Stephen Hawking

Nevertheless, it seems clear that there are relatively few ranges of values for the numbers that would allow the development of any form of intelligent life. Most sets of values would give rise to universes that, although they might be very beautiful, would contain no one able to wonder at that beauty.
Stephen Hawking

The really intriguing question may very well be not, 'Is there other intelligent life in the universe?' but rather, 'Why is the universe so hospitable to life in the first place?'
Richard Morris

How is it that common elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen happened to have just the kind of atomic structure that they needed to combine to make the molecules upon which life depends? It is almost as though the universe had been consciously designed...
Richard Morris

A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.

...monstrous series of accidents... the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside the stars.

Once we see, however, that the probability of life originating at random is so utterly minuscule as to make it absurd, it becomes sensible to think that the favorable properties of physics on which life depends are in every respect deliberate... It is therefore almost inevitable that our own measure of intelligence must reflect... higher intelligences... even to the limit of God...
-- Sir Fred Hoyle

The fact that our own universe is unexpectedly hospitable to life is certainly not an inevitable evolutionary effect. The fact that the laws of nature barely, but only barely, allow stable stars to exist with planetary systems today is not a circumstance subject to evolutionary variation. The world either posses such invariant properties or it does not. A number of independent properties of the universe are so advantageous to the evolution of life that it almost appears designed with our emergence predestined. Could these remarkable "coincidences" be the camouflage of a Grand Designer?
J. Silk

Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God - the design argument of Paley - updated and refurbished. The fine-tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one... Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.
Ed Harrison (cosmologist)

If anyone claims not to be surprised by the special features that the universe has, he is hiding his head in the sand. These special features ARE surprising and unlikely.
David D. Deutch

The precision [of the fine tuning] is as if one could throw a dart across the entire universe and hit a bullseye one millimeter in diameter on the other side.
Michael Turner (astrophysicist at University of Chicago and Fermilab)

The universe would have to be just as large as it is to support even one lonely outpost of life.
Barrow and Silk

The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming.
Freeman Dyson (Princeton physicist)

To postulate an infinity of unseen and unseeable universes just to explain the one we do see seems like a case of excess baggage carried to the extreme. It is simpler to postulate one unseen God.
Paul Davies

I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.
Alan Sandage (winner of the Crawford prize in astronomy)

(In response to the question: Can a person be a scientist and also a Christian?)
"Yes. The world is too complicated in all its parts and interconnections to be due to chance alone. I am convinced that the existence of life with all its order in each of its organisms is simply too well put together."
-- Allan R. Sandage 1926-

The harmony of natural laws, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.

As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency - or, rather, Agency - must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?
-- George Greenstein

The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.
-- Vera Kistiakowsky (MIT physicist)

We discover that the universe shows evidence of a designing or controlling power that has something in common with our own individual minds.
-- James Jeans

An honest man, armed with all knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.
-- Francis Crick (Nobel prize for his co-discovery of DNA)

When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it's very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.
-- Tony Rothman

I don't think you can be up here and look out the window as I did the first day and see the Earth from this vantage point, to look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God. To me, it's impossible--it just strengthens my faith. I wish there were words to describe what it's like. ...truly awesome.
-- John Glenn, broadcast from the Discovery Space Shuttle on Nov. 1, 1998

Instead of an intellectual search, there was suddenly a very deep gut feeling that something was different... seeing that Sun... set in the background of the very deep black and velvety cosmos, seeing--rather, knowing for sure--that there was a purposefulness of flow, of energy, of time, of space in the cosmos--that it was beyond man's rational ability to understand, that suddenly there was a nonrational way of understanding that had been beyond my previous experience... On the return trip home, gazing through 240,000 miles of space toward the stars and the planet from which I had come, I suddenly experienced the universe as intelligent, loving, harmonious.
-- Edgar Mitchell, U.S. Astronaut

The Earth reminded us of a Christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space. As we got farther and farther away it diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful marble you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man, has to make a man appreciate the creation of God and the love of God.
-- James Irwin, U.S. astronaut

" [Physics] filled me with awe, put me in touch with a sense of original causes. Physics brought me closer to God. That feeling stayed with me throughout my years in science. Whenever one of my students came to me with a scientific project, I asked one question, "Will it bring you closer to God?"
-- Isidor Isaac Rabi

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
-- Albert Einstein

Deep sky is, of all visual impressions, the nearest akin to a feeling.
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Notebooks

It is the sense of mystery that, in my opinion, drives the true scientist; the same blind force, blindly seeing, deafly hearing, unconsciously remembering, that drives the larva into the butterfly. If [the scientist] has not experienced, at least a few times in his life, this cold shudder down his spine, this confrontation with an immense invisible face whose breath moves him to tears, he is not a scientist.
-- Erwin Chargaff, biologist

Watching satellites and staring at the stars, I seemed to lose contact with my earth and body and to spread out through the cosmos by means of an awareness that permeates both space and life -- as though I were expanding from a condensation of awareness previously selected and restricted to the biological matter that was myself.
-- Charles Lindbergh, Autobiography of Value

This new knowledge of the galaxies is exhilarating and terrifying, beautiful and dreadful... The Hubble Deep Field photo opens us to a cosmos of capacious grandeur--a universe of 50 billion galaxies blowing like snowflakes in a cosmic storm... The fourteenth-century mystic Julian of Norwich asked, 'What is the use of praying if God does not answer?' In that wonderful image of more than 1,000 galaxies caught by a magnificent instrument lofted into space by a questioning creature, God answers.
-- Chet Raymo, Skeptics and True Believers

They awe us, these strange stars, so cold, so clear. We are as children whose small feet have strayed into some dim-lit temple of the god they have been taught to worship but know not; and, standing where the echoing dome spans the long vista of the shadowy night, glance up, half hoping, half afraid to see some awful vision hovering there. And yet it seems so full of comfort and of strength, the night. In its great presence, our small sorrows creep away, ashamed...
-- Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men In a Boat

The increase in our knowledge has not brought with it an understanding of the nature or the purpose (if there is a purpose) of life and consciousness themselves.
-- Toynbee

We know so little about our tiny portion of the universe and have observed it for such a minute period of time, relative to cosmic time, that extrapolating this meager knowledge to the entire universe seems highly speculative and perhaps somewhat arrogant.
-- G. Tyler Miller, Energetics, Kinetics and Life: An Ecological Approach (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub. Co., 1971), p. 233.

It was my science that drove me to the conclusion that the world is much more complicated than can be explained by science. It is only through the supernatural that I can understand the mystery of existence.
-- Allen Sandage, in Newsweek, 20 July 1998

... Every branch of human knowledge if traced up to its source and final principles vanishes into mystery.
-- Arthur Machen, The Novel of the White Powder

Knowing the plumbing of the universe, intricate and awe-inspiring though that plumbing might be, is a far cry from discovering its purpose.
-- Gerald L. Schroeder, The Science of God

The trend is to look for God in dramatic discontinuities in physics or biology, and if none are found, to declare religion vanquished. But God may act in subtle ways that are hidden from physical science.
-- John Polkinghorne, President of Queens College at Cambridge University

The final mystery is oneself. When one has weighed the sun in the balance, and measured the steps of the moon, and mapped out the seven heavens star by star, there still remains oneself. Who can calculate the orbit of his own soul?
-- Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.
-- Arthur Schopenhauer

With all your science can you tell how it is, and whence it is, that light comes into the soul?
-- Henry David Thoreau

Science wants to know the mechanism of the universe, religion the meaning. The two cannot be separated. Many scientists feel there is no place in research for discussion of anything that sounds mystical. But it is unreasonable to think we already know enough about the natural world to be confident about the totality of forces.
-- Charles Townes, 1964 Nobel physics laureate

It seems to me that when confronted with the marvels of life and the universe, one must ask why and not just how. The only possible answers are religious. ... I find a need for God in the universe and in my own life.
-- Arthur L. Schawlow (Professor of Physics at Stanford University, 1981 Nobel Prize in physics)

Modern physics has taught us that the nature of any system cannot be discovered by dividing it into its component parts and studying each part by itself, since such a method often implies the loss of important properties of the system. We must keep out attention fixed on the whole and on the inter-connection between the parts. The same is true of our intellectual life. It is impossible to make a clear cut between science, religion, and art. The whole is never equal simply to the sum of its various parts.
-- Max Planck (1858-1947)

It is truly exatravagant to define God, angels, and minds, and to know precisely why God defined the world, when we do not even know why we move our arms at will. Doubt is not a very agreeable state, but certainty is a ridiculous one.
- Voltaire

I believe in God--sole, eternal--He who, motionless, moves all the heavens with his love and his desire... This is the origin, this is the spark that then extends into a vivid flame and, like a star in heaven, glows in me.
-- Dante Alighieri, Paradiso XXIV

Whether heaven move or earth
Imports not, if thou reckon right; the rest
From man and angel the great Architect
Did wisely to conceal and not divulge
His secrets to be scanned by them who ought
Rather admire.

-- John Milton, Paradise Lost

Now, as God the maker played, He taught the game to Nature, Whome He created in His Image.
-- Johann Kepler (1621), The Mystery of the Universe

God did not create the planets and stars with the intention that they should dominate man, but that they, like other creatures, should obey and serve him.
-- Aureolus Paracelsus (1541), Concerning the Nature of Things

We believe that God hath made all things out of nothing: because, even though the world hath been made of some material, that very same material hath been made out of nothing.
-- St. Augustine (A.D. 393), Of the Faith and of the Creed

The heavens speak of the Creator's glory and the sky proclaims God's handiwork.
-- Psalms 19:2

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
-- Hebrews 11:3

"potens in terra erit semen eius generatio rectorum benedicetur"(?) "Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them" (Psalm 111:2)
-- quote over doors of Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, authorised by James Clerk Maxwell

Glorious God, I give thanks unto thee for the benefits and improvements of the sciences granted by thee unto these our latter ages.
-- Cotton Mather, 1721

I would say the universe has a purpose. It's not there just somehow by chance.
-- Roger Penrose

...all of creation was made so that we, men and women, could see and testify to God's glory in it. It says that all of this, the entire universe, was created for us, for us to see and to observe and to appreciate, for alone in all creation, man his this capacity to see and observe and appreciate. This means that all of the laws of physics, of chemistry, of motion, of mathematics, of thermodynamics, all natural laws, were authored by a God who delights in man's discovery of them when that discovery is accompanied by an appreciation of the God who created them.
-- Robert W. Faid, A Scientific Approach to Christianity, 1990

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