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Series: John Polkinghorne on Natural Theology
Polkinghorne discusses the origins and aims of natural theology in this series. It does not offer truth, but rather a “best explanation” for the world, answering primarily meta-questions. Two such questions asked by Polkinghorne are, “Why is science possible at all?” and “What makes the universe so special?” To explore the answers, he looks at the ability of human minds to penetrate mysteries of the natural world as well as the fine-tuning of the universe necessary to produce the fruitfulness of life.
How are the ages of the Earth and universe calculated?
Many independent measurements have established that the Earth and the universe are billions of years old. Geologists have found annual layers in glaciers that can be counted back 740,000 years. Using the known rate of change in radio-active elements (radiometric dating), some Earth rocks have been shown to be billions of years old, while the oldest solar system rocks are dated at 4.6 billion years. Astronomers use the distance to galaxies and the speed of light to calculate that the light has been traveling for billions of years. The expansion of the universe gives an age for the universe as a whole: 13.7 billion years old. (Updated April 16, 2012)
Is there room in evolutionary creation to believe in miracles?
God acts in more than one way in the natural world. God sustains the regular patterns of the physical world, but sometimes chooses to act outside of those patterns. God’s regular patterns are what scientists describe as natural laws (like gravity or photosynthesis). God’s actions outside those patterns are usually called supernatural actions or miracles (like raising someone from the dead). Evolutionary creationists believe in the miracles of the Bible and that God can do miracles today. Evolutionary creationists also believe that God is just as involved in the regular patterns of the universe as in miracles. (Updated on March 10, 2012)
Creator of the Stars at Night
The God who created the cosmos is the God who came to us as a child in Bethlehem.
Fine-tuning and the “Fruitful Universe”
I ask the question, “Why is the universe so special?” Now scientists don’t like things to be special; we like things to be general, and our natural anticipation would have been that the universe is just a common specimen of what a universe might be like.
What is the "fine-tuning" of the universe, and how does it serve as a "pointer to God"?
Fine-tuning refers to the surprising precision of nature’s physical constants, and the beginning state of the Universe. To explain the present state of the universe, even the best scientific theories require that the physical constants of nature and the beginning state of the Universe have extremely precise values.