John Nassivera, in his commentary “Science vs religion? takes stock “in some strains of fundamentalist Protestantism, the anti-science position is…strong…rejection of the role of evolution in life forms; rejection of vaccines; holding on to young earth creationism that the earth is between 6,000 and 10,000 years old, etc., etc. He calls them “absurd positions”.
However, a literal reading of the Bible clearly supports these Protestants. So why are they absurd positions? Answer: Modern science has conclusively proven that the order of creation in Genesis 1 is incorrect. The fossil record has shown that life forms evolved over billions of years, from extremely simple to extremely complex. I totally agree with him that fundamentalist positions are absolutely wrong. As a devout Catholic, he should believe what Genesis 1 says about creation, as well as everything in the Bible, because it’s supposed to be the Word of God.
To say that God created the universe and its life forms raises a major problem. Who or what created God? How could such an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent being emerge from nothingness? Based on mathematical equations, theoretical physicists and cosmologists have explained how a universe could have formed from essentially nothing, even if it wasn’t quite nothing. Elementary particles, even today, appear and disappear. Current physicists are convinced that at time zero there were energy fluctuations in essentially empty space which can be explained by what they call Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. This instability resulted in a huge explosion and inflation, a “rapid expansion”, creating the universe we see today. I am convinced that one day scientists will be able to tell us exactly what happened at time zero.
Matter and energy are two forms of the same thing. Physicists have verified that the total energy of our universe is, and always has been, zero. During the inflationary period of the formation of our universe, there was only energy in the form of high-energy gamma rays (photons). Eventually, as the universe cooled and expanded, most of those photons turned into matter.
Nassivera states that “the laws of physics at the cosmic and subatomic level must have existed before the Big Bang of 13.7 billion years ago”. Not true. The laws of physics were created by the Big Bang. There are a handful of physical constants that determine whether there will even be a universe and what it would look like. It turns out that our universe has the right constants. In a multiverse, which many theoretical physicists believe exists, there are many universes with nothing or only hydrogen gas while others have constants that will allow some kind of life.
According to Mr. Nassivera, “chance and accidents can end up building a human being, it’s like pretending that a tornado could make a Boeing 747 from a junkyard. It won’t happen no matter how many millions of years you allow it to happen. Biological scientists have presented various scenarios of how life could have evolved from non-life. There had to be a source and supply of organic molecules, like amino acids, because they are the building blocks of life. They can form from completely inorganic sources through natural processes. Those that make up the DNA and RNA of life on Earth have been found in meteorites, as well as in the gaseous dust clouds of galaxies. Then, they had to be organized into long organic chains called polymers. Energy sources, such as volcanic vents in the deep sea, provided heat so that the necessary chemical reactions could allow the polymers to reproduce faithfully. When replication happened, life began.
Some scientists believe that these chains of organic molecules attached to clay minerals are polarized, with one part of the mineral having a slightly positive charge and another a slightly negative charge. Others postulate that the waves created foam in the oceans or even in freshwater lakes. The amino acids could end up inside these protective bubbles where they could come together. As biologist Richard Dawkins has pointed out, despite the fact that the first form of life had a low probability of forming, there are billions and billions of planets orbiting the stars in our galaxy alone and there are hundreds of billions of galaxies in the known universe. The overall probability is high enough to form life somewhere in the universe. Fossils tell us that life formed on Earth about 3.8 billion years ago.
A principle of “emergence” is when something emerges from simpler forms that have been used for other purposes. An example is the eye which has evolved in animals many times in different ways over hundreds of millions of years. About 550 million years ago, in unicellular animals, there were proteins that were not only able to photosynthesize, but also to distinguish light from dark. A specialized cell, called a photoreceptor cell, evolved into an “eye point” that allowed the animal to sense the intensity of light and the direction of its source. It gradually sank into an imprint. As the indentation deepened, this allowed the animal to have a better ability to detect direction because different cells in the indentation would be impacted depending on the direction of the light source. These “pit eyes” developed in ancient snails during the Cambrian Period, around 500 million years ago. Planaria today has the same structure. At that time, “pit eyes” were no longer used for photosynthesis.
Pinholes developed in the eyespots resulting in better imaging, allowing better directional sensing and primitive shape sensing as seen in the nautilus today. Being able to detect light and its source is definitely a survival advantage. Over time, transparent cells grew over the “pits” and prevented contamination and infestation by parasites. Eventually, a transparent humor formed, resulting in a primitive cornea that could refract light and block ultraviolet light. As more and more photoreceptors surrounded this water-filled chamber, they produced a primitive retina. Because early organisms lived in water that filtered out electromagnetic radiation except for a narrow band of wavelengths between red and violet, this led to the onset of color vision. Until now, ‘eyes’ had no lenses, but the protective cells on a ‘pinhole’ eye eventually split into two layers. The liquid in the layers originally served as a circulating fluid for oxygen, nutrients, and wastes, and resulted in a thicker area that allowed for better protection. It also created better image resolution. Later development created the cornea and iris seen today in most vertebrates, including humans.
Nassivera asserts that “not only is Christianity compatible with science, but Christianity gave birth to modern science” and that “the most recent advances in molecular genetics, physics, and cosmology all point to…the Word” ( God). These are fallacious assertions.
For nearly 2,000 years, Catholic popes have used the Bible to “refute” various scientific claims. It was only relatively recently that the popes finally acknowledged the real and ancient age of the universe and the veracity of evolution. According to the current Catholic Church, all life forms evolved from earlier ancestors, but under the direction of God. A look at the fossil record confirms that humans evolved from earlier ancestors. It would be very difficult for anyone to distinguish a 100,000 year old human from a human living today. The position of the church is that God produced souls that exist only in humans. But when did humans acquire any souls – 100,000 years ago with early man or just 6,000 years ago? The problem is that there is essentially no scientific evidence for souls.
The bottom line here is that religion is incompatible with science because it is able to demonstrate how the universe and life in it could have been realized without the necessity of any god.
John Klimenok Jr. lives in Plainfield.