Modern atheists like to paint a picture of Christianity as inherently anti-intellectual. It’s a powerful way to dissuade people from faith, particularly young people, and I’m sorry to say it worked on me when I was a young atheist. However, once I started to emerge from the intellectual fog of atheism, all it took was a little research to discover that this view of Christianity simply isn’t true. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
The list of Christian intellectuals throughout history is impressively long and populated by people who were giants in their respective fields. For instance, it was Isaac Newton, and his predecessor Galileo, who transformed the field of physics from a quasi-scientific undertaking into a powerful evidence-based enterprise that depends on observation and experiment.
Another revolutionary in science, German physicist, Max Planck, is widely regarded as the father of quantum mechanics. Planck was also a committed and passionate Christian who commented on his faith in the context of his scientific work. Some of his better known quotes have graced the pages of this blog, but some of the lesser known quotes remain obscured from the English-speaking world. The following quote, from a lecture delivered to his fellow scientists, is inexplicably one of the latter.
Gentlemen, as a physicist, the whole of whose life is one of sober science, the dedicated research of matter, surely I am free from any suspicion of holding any illusions.
And so I say this after my explorations of the atom: there is no matter as such.
All matter evolves and there is only one force, which causes everything from the oscillation of atoms, up to the smallest solar system of the universe [the atom] to hold together. Since there exists in the whole universe neither an intelligent force nor an eternal force, and humanity has not succeeded in discovering any long-awaited cause of perpetual motion—so we must hypothesize a deliberate intelligent spirit behind this force. This spirit is the foundation of all matter. A visible but not corruptible matter is real, true, authentic, because matter without the spirit cannot be—but the invisible, immortal Spirit is the reality! Also since a spirit cannot exist by itself, but every spirit belongs to an entity, we are forced to assume that there exist spiritual beings. However, since spirit beings cannot come into being by themselves, but must be created, so I am not shy to designate this mysterious creator, as him, whom all civilizations of the earth have called in earlier millennia: God! In this, the physicist, in dealing with the subject matter of the will, must travel from the kingdom of the substance to the realm of the Spirit. And so that is our task in the end, and we must place our research in the hands of philosophy.
Planck methodically deduced from his work on the nature of matter that God exists. Decades later, scientists realized that the logical inference from the big bang is that the realm of the supernatural must exist. It is not the Christian who believes, but the atheist who denies this, who is anti-intellectual.
The original quote can be found in the journal, Lebendige Erde, No 3/84 p 133. I gratefully acknowledge G.P. Orris, who translated this passage by request.
Image credit: Jonas Schmöle, Vienna Quantum Group.