God and science: Is there a conflict?

By Jim Whitt

I’ve tackled politics and sports in my last two articles so I thought what the heck, why not write about religion. If you can’t start an argument with that trifecta you aren’t really trying.

What inspired me is an article in the Pueblo Chieftain entitled No proof of God by Jon M. Pompia. Mr. Pompia was reporting on a sermon by Victor Stenger at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Pueblo. Stenger is an atheist, a professor of physics at the University of Hawaii and adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado.

It’s not unusual for an atheist to claim there’s no scientific evidence for the existence of God. But this is what got my attention:  “At the core of a belief in God is the promise of eternal life, something Stenger sees as a detriment to society. To not see this life as the finite experience it is means not living a life of purpose and fulfillment and doing all one can to better the lot of others.” That is the most unusual theory on fulfilling your purpose in life I’ve ever heard.

I have never accepted the premise that there is a conflict between science and belief in God. And contrary to Professor Stenger’s theory, I think an understanding of both contributes to finding and fulfilling your purpose in life.

First, let’s start with the scientific. The human genome project revealed that we share a large percentage of the gene pool with all animals. Humans may be at the top of the taxonomical hierarchy but we share 98.4% of the same genes with a chimpanzee.

Since we are animals, we can be — and are — trained to respond to the same two stimuli — reward and punishment — used to train any animal. Unfortunately, this psychological approach of behaviorism is what passes for motivation in most organizations. We have been led to believe that to motivate people we must use the carrot and/or the stick. The carrot and the stick work great for donkeys but these methods have a limited effect on humans. Reward and punishment are manipulation not motivation and human beings naturally detest manipulation.

To get to the real issue of motivation I ask three questions in my presentations. The first is, “How many of you want to reach your full potential?” All hands go up. The second is, “How many of you believe you were put here on earth to fulfill a specific purpose in life?” Again all hands go up.

Intuitively, we humans want to reach our full potential and believe we are created to fulfill a specific purpose. Following that logic, there is a Creator. If there is no Creator and we are just a more evolved species, then Professor Stenger’s theory doesn’t stand up.  We wouldn’t be searching for meaning and purpose in our lives. We’d be like all other animals — just trying to eat and keep from being eaten.

Professor Stenger claims that only seven percent of the world’s elite scientists are religious. Call me a doubting Thomas, but I’d like to see the research to validate that claim.  I don’t know if Stenger would categorize Albert Einstein as an elite scientist but he seemed to be a proponent of intelligent design. “I shall never believe that God plays dice with the world,” said Einstein. “The idea that this universe in all its million-fold order and precision is the result of blind chance is as credible as the idea that if a print shop blew up all the type would fall down again in the finished and faultless form of the dictionary.”

We are complex creatures. In my opinion, to truly understand the human species we have to view ourselves from scientific, psychological and spiritual perspectives. Of the three, we struggle most with the spiritual. “We fear to know the fearsome and unsavory aspects of ourselves,” said Abraham Maslow. “But we fear even more to know the godlike in ourselves.”

To entertain the idea that we are supernatural beings housed in animal bodies is a little scary. To admit that means we actually have to struggle with the first two questions I ask audiences. Am I on the path of fulfilling my purpose in life and reaching my full potential? That leads to the third question I ask, “Where in your formal or informal education were you given a process to help you answer the first two questions?” No hands go up on that one.

I’ve invested 20 plus years of my life developing that process and put in a book entitled The Transformational Power of Purpose: Finding & Fulfilling Your Purpose in Life. Should you decide to engage in that process, however, don’t expect it to be easy. I can’t tell you what your purpose in life is but I’ll give you a shovel and tell you where to dig. It’s an archeological process — one any good scientist will appreciate.

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