Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents
Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon
“So vast, without any question, is the divine handiwork of the Almighty Creator!” —Nicolaus Copernicus
LISTS OF THE GREAT IDEAS of modern science typically contain a major omission. On such lists we are sure to find Copernicus’s heliocentric theory, Kepler’s laws, Newton’s laws, and Einstein’s theory of relativity yet the greatest idea of modern science is almost never included. It is such a big idea that it makes possible all the other ideas. And it is invisible to us because it is an assumption taken for granted rather than a theory that has been formulated. Oddly enough, the greatest idea of modern science is based not on reason but on faith.
Faith is not a highly acclaimed word in the scientific community “I do not believe that the scientist can have that same certainty of faith that very deeply religious people have,” writes physicist Richard Feynman in The Meaning of It All. Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson complains that “the claims of religions rely on faith” and boasts that “the claims of science rely on experimental verification.”3 Feynman and Tyson seem quite unaware that at the heart of their cherished scientific enterprise is a faith-based proposition no less mysterious than any religious dogma. This is the presumption, quite impossible to prove, that the universe is rational.
Scientists today take for granted the idea that the universe operates according to laws, and that these laws are comprehensible to the human mind. Science is based on what author James Trefil calls the principle of universality: “It says that the laws of nature we discover here and now in our laboratories are true everywhere in the universe and have been in force for all time.” Physicist Steven Weinberg writes, “All my experience as a physicist leads me to believe that there is order in the universe…. As we have been going to higher and higher energies and as we have studied structures that are smaller and smaller, we have found that the laws, the physical principles, that describe what we learn become simpler and simpler…. The rules we have discovered become increasingly coherent and universal…. There is a simplicity, a beauty, that we are finding in the rules that govern matter that mirrors something that is built into the logical structure of the universe at a very deep level.”
The laws that govern the universe seem to be written in the language of mathematics. The greatest scientists have been struck by how strange this is. In his essay “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,” physicist Eugene Wigner confesses that the mathematical underpinning of nature “is something bordering on the mysterious and there is no rational explanation for it.” Feynman confesses, “Why nature is mathematical is a mystery…. The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle.”‘
This astonishment springs from the recognition that the universe doesn’t have to be this way. There is no special reason why the laws of nature we find on earth should also govern a star billions of light years away. It is easy to imagine a universe in which conditions change unpredictably from instant to instant, or even a universe in which things pop in and out of existence. There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules, let alone one that abides by the rules of mathematics.
Yet the universe seems to be ordered. I say “seems” because there is no way to prove this is so. There are peculiar things going on in quantum physics that call into question the premise that the universe follows stable rules. Even so, scientists cling to their long-held faith in the fundamental rationality of the cosmos. Convinced in advance that rules exist, and that human reason is up to the task of uncovering those rules, scientists continue to try to find them. These articles of faith are essential for science to function. Without the “irrational” belief that we live in an ordered universe, modern science is impossible. Science also relies on the equally unsupported belief that the rationality of the universe is mirrored in the rationality of our human minds.