Monday, June 29, 2009

Complexity and God

Anyone with an interest in science soon begins to appreciate the amazing complexity of our Universe. Even a superficial attempt to understand the natural world leads to an overwhelming spectrum of physical forces, chemical reactions and biological systems; and those who spend their life focusing on a narrow field of science are even more aware of nature's complexity. In medicine, for example, every biochemical process is modified by a vast array of agents which enhance or inhibit that process; in turn, the production, expression or destruction of these modifying agents is dependent upon another layer of genetic and/or environmental factors (not to mention forces and particles at the atomic level).

Religious persons point to this complexity as evidence of a Supreme Being who created and apparently micromanages our Universe. At the same time, they accept simplistic biblical stories (such as Noah's Ark) and imagine that God responds to our individual prayers, interceding in life events from major illness to little league games. Of course, most devout believers have little or no science education and their Churches have a long history of attempting to derail scientific progress.

On the other hand, most academic scientists, having a deep appreciation for the complexity of this Universe, do not accept the presence of God, at least not the simplified, humanized Deity of Western Religions. For them, and for me, it is difficult to attribute the presence of this vast yet intricate Universe to a meddling and vindictive God. Any Power great enough to have even imagined such complexity would insist on intellectual honesty.