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10 Brilliant Scientists and Their Views of God

I served in the U.S. Coast Guard and then went to college. My interests are music, nature, biology, rural life, animals, and cars.

Science and Theology

Why are we interested in the views that ten scientists had about God? The answer is that, unintentionally or not, these scientists had a greater impact on theology than most theologians. Their work conflicted with the viewpoints of religious conservatives, but it's less clear whether their discoveries really supported atheism or actually provided evidence for the existence of a supreme intelligence.

Edwin Hubble's work with red light shift resulted in the "expanding universe" theory and the "Big Bang" theory. These ideas flew in the face of both biblical creationism and atheism because there now was a beginning location and a beginning time for the start of our universe. This conflicted first with the atheistic idea that the universe had always existed: no beginning and no end. But, secondly, it also conflicted with the story of biblical creation.

Most scientists today accept these theories as fact. Hubble probably had a greater impact on mankind's viewpoints about a supreme being than any other scientist, but he scrupulously avoided giving any hint of his personal ideas about a supreme intelligence.

Most of these men were scientists first and foremost, and oftentimes, they gave little thought to anything that might interfere with their work, including theology. But as we'll see, these great intellects were hardly in agreement about science, to say nothing of theology.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

1. The Darwin Tempest

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution set off a firestorm of controversy that continues even today. The concept of one species directly descending from another contradicted biblical creationism and was considered a godless explanation for life and man.

The onetime ministerial student wrote in a letter to John Fordyce in 1879, "I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that...an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” So Darwin, by his own words, was an agnostic.

Max Planck

Max Planck

2. Max Planck — Quantum Mechanics

Max Planck, a German physicist, founded quantum theory. Simply put, this theory provided a tool for understanding atomic level activity and the influence of surrounding fields. Some claim this theory is where science and theology intersect. He was a Christian but did not condemn those who thought differently. He once said, "Religion is the link that binds man to God." Therefore, we can conclude that Max Plank is a believer.

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

3. Albert Einstein — Energy and Matter

Albert Einstein’s philosophy about the supernatural is complicated and perhaps brilliant, much like his theories in physics. His most telling statement was, “I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.”

Einstein seems to have rejected traditional religious views in favor of a force that gives order to the universe. We might call Einstein a deist since he believed in some organizing power but completely rejected the idea of a personal God.

4. Edwin Hubble — the Expanding Universe

Edwin Hubble's work laid the foundation for the expanding universe theory and the resulting "Big Bang" theory of the creation of the universe. His other accomplishments in astronomy are also amazing. Galaxies existing beyond our own and redshift-distance relationship were also his contributions.

Hubble was raised Christian, and in some early letters alluded to the idea that he believed he had some sort of “destiny” which wasn’t explained. Hubble’s thoughts about God, if he had any, are unknown.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

J. Robert Oppenheimer

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5. J. Robert Oppenheimer — Fan of Eastern Literature

J. Robert Oppenheimer, a physicist and scientific director of the Manhattan Project, was known to be interested in Eastern religions, and he sometimes quoted from Eastern philosophy. He read the Bhagavad Gita while in college and was greatly impressed with it. But, aside from an intellectual interest, there is no evidence that Oppenheimer believed in or practiced any religion. Whether Oppenheimer believed in a higher power of any form is unknown.

Edward Teller

Edward Teller

6. Edward Teller — the Ultimate Deterrent

Edward Teller, know as the “Father of the H-Bomb” was an avowed agnostic with faith in technology, not a supreme being. Like many of his contemporaries, he was driven by his work and gave little or no thought to God or philosophy. His Jewish background was virtually missing from his later life. Edward Teller was an agnostic.

James Watson

James Watson

7. James Watson — DNA Co-Discoverer

James Watson was half of the famed research team of Watson and Crick that unraveled the secrets of DNA. The results of his work have evolved into the advanced genetic research of today.

Watson once told his students that he was "a total believer in evolution," and feels the Bible is "just not right" in the face of science. He also confessed that he does not believe in a soul or anything divine. James Watson is an atheist.

Francis Crick

Francis Crick

8. Francis Crick — DNA Co-Discoverer

Francis Crick , the other half of the Watson and Crick team, was speaking to a reporter for The Telegraph and said, "The god hypothesis is rather discredited." He also once stated that his distaste for religion was a primary driving factor in his research, which he felt would debunk the God theory for good. Francis Crick, obviously, was an atheist.

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan

9. Carl Sagan — a Modern View

Carl Sagan, “The People’s Astronomer," made many interesting statements about God. He once said, “The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by 'God' one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying ... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.”

Sagan, however, denied that he was an atheist saying, "An atheist has to know a lot more than I know." In reply to a question in 1996 about his religious beliefs, Sagan answered, "I'm agnostic."

10-brilliant-scientists-and-their-view-of-god

10. Stephen Hawking — the Genius With ALS

Stephen Hawking, the most famed physicist alive today, once wrote that "the actual point of creation lies outside the scope of presently known laws of physics…" Is this a puzzling statement coming from someone who grew up in an atheist household?

In a perhaps more telling statement from Hawking, he stated that, “An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!” It is well known by Hawking followers that he doesn’t believe in God — at least not in any conventional sense. We’ll call it as being “reasonably certain” that Stephen Hawking is an atheist.

10 Scientists and 4 Different Beliefs

The final score:

  • Conventional believer in God: 1
  • Deists: 1
  • Agnostics: 3
  • Atheists: 3
  • Unknown Views: 2

No doubt we can argue over the classification of some of their beliefs and we can pick other brilliant men of science and come up with different numerical results, but the real surprise here is that such a disparity of personal philosophies is reached. They all follow their intellects to new and astounding discoveries, but the process seems to yield no insight into a first cause or lack of one. The main point of agreement is that the universe is so amazing and incredible that people will gladly spend their lives studying the "what" and "when" of it, and for some, that mitigates any need to ask "why."

So where does that leave the rest of us with relatively normal brainpower? We can study and observe until we reach our own conclusions about God, religion, and ourselves. It seems that in the end, it really does come down to belief — a belief that we hopefully reach by using our reasoning and not by blindly accepting a personal philosophy. Maybe this is where science and God actually do meet.

Comments

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on May 08, 2015:

I don't think there are any brilliant scientists who believe in God (or gods) as defined by the major religions of the world. When you look at their statements, you have to realize that it has always been very unpopular to be an atheist, even more so in the past than now. So many prominent people tiptoed around it with words like "agnostic."

Ammon Beardmore on February 13, 2015:

I read somewhere that most scientist believe in God or a high power of some sort just like the majority of the population. I found the article inspiring.

Rod Martin Jr from Cebu, Philippines on July 27, 2014:

Fascinating article. A lot of good points. I disagree with the idea that Big Bang went against creation. If there really was a bang, then it might have been the method of creation -- issuing forth points to view and intentions-counterintentions as the basis of energy, with "resting" as the foundation of persistence or time.

Spirit is superior to physical reality, just as cause is superior to effect. As a spiritual being, I have seen this.

Scientists do a good job studying the products of God's creation.

So-called "conservative" Christians (not all of them, mind you) have big egos -- the very thing Christ wanted us to do away with. For he said that the first (egoist) shall be last, and the last (humble) shall be first.

We all have much more to learn.

I think Einstein had it right. He had the attitude of a child in a toy store. Awe and an open humility to learn more. Regrettably, he let his ego get in the way with quantum mechanics. But we can learn from his mistakes.

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on May 27, 2014:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on May 27, 2014:

Thanks for reading & commenting.

Jessy Katz from Boston on May 20, 2014:

It is no secret that most brilliant man ever lived had had problems with religion. religions keeps man thoughts on hold, and emasculating man's free spirit to create and share new ideas, only because the fear of heresy.

Andrew Petrou from Brisbane on April 13, 2014:

This Hub has forgotten to mention Kurt Godel, Einstein's successor.

The Hub also forgets that most of the famous scientists up until the 20th Century were devout believers; many were monks.

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on February 13, 2014:

I enjoyed this hub. I find it interesting to read people's views on this topic.

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on January 27, 2014:

Agreed. Thanks for the feedback.

William from America on January 22, 2014:

Thank you for this hub. Although many learned individuals do not profess strong religious beliefs, I do not think that it is frequently the case. You find agnostics, atheists and religious individuals in all walks of life.

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on January 05, 2014:

Thanks for your comment.

manatita44 from london on January 03, 2014:

Well thought out and reasoned well, my Brother.

Interesting piece.

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on December 20, 2013:

I think it's difficult to make our way through life without "beliefs" of some sort. They may change but aren't we defined by our beliefs in the end?

Thanks for reading & commenting.

Kukata Kali on December 02, 2013:

Loved this expression and the information presented. Way to go on the short description of each scientist. That could've gotten tricky. To pose a question...who ever told humans they must "believe" anything anyway? We are here to express and learn. To believe one thing or another doesn't change that. It only gets in the way of our forward movement. Regardless of what one "believes" I think a more important question, even to assess character would be, "What are you doing with it?"

Voted up~

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on September 18, 2013:

Thanks for reading & commenting.

Zachary from USA on August 19, 2013:

Great article, well worth the time put in. I find it a bit obvious how religious beliefs among scientists dwindled significantly since Darwin. I also read a book by Francis Collins, the founder of the human genome project (Christian), and found that by him keeping his "God" separate from science, it hasn't hindered him the way it may have for Einstein and Planck. Either way I'm glad to see 85% of reputable scientists in the aitheist category, and project that number to grow significantly in the next 100 years. I appreciate your work, and look forward to seeing more!

Spikology on January 25, 2013:

Great article, very insightful. I once read a paper about a scientist that was a believer, turned atheist, turned believer again (sounds like a rollercoaster!). He brought up a good point, stating that he and his peers, in the beginning of their careers, felt pressure in the scientific community to be atheist, but as he got older and more confident in himself, he realized that religion is a personal decision, no matter what profession you are. Thanks.

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on January 04, 2013:

Good thoughts. Thanks for reading & commenting.

Tara Tufford from Columbus, Ohio on January 04, 2013:

Great Hub Hugh! The existence of God, will continue to be a long-never-ending argument for as long as anyone will live. Personally, I believe that searching for the existence of God, should be traced back a little bit further, possibly even to philosophical beginnings, such as the work of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, and so forth. That, to me, is where most of the true searching and noble opinions should begin. But, that is my opinion. Everyone finds their own meaning of God, within their means, and within their own comfort zone. Spirituality is individual, as are religious beliefs, and finding the truth as to whether or not God does exist, or finding the true meaning "in" God should be individual as well. Everyone should be allowed to complete their own research and add up their own findings without being humiliated or criticized. I am still in search of my own spiritual guidance, which I am realizing may not end up with the simple answer of whether or not I believe if God exists or does not exist, it may turn out to be much deeper than that. Surprisingly enough, what is spiritually cleansing for me is knowing that I may never know the "truth". I will keep on searching!!

Thanks Hugh for the great hub!

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on December 16, 2012:

I suppose that could be. Good point.

eekamouz from Oregon on December 15, 2012:

Peer pressure exists in virtually everything. Just as corporations have a certain culture they expect people to assimilate to, I'm sure there's the same in science. Here is what I wonder... if maybe there is a pressure in the scientific community to be a non-believer and they may use 'office politics' of sorts and hostility to push religious people out of the field?

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on June 19, 2012:

Hi DF -

I believe we know about a billionth of what we would need to know to make any sort of authoritative statement on the issue.

That doesn't seem to stop many people though.

Thanks for reading & commenting.

DFiduccia from Las Vegas on June 19, 2012:

You've covered all of my idols in one Hub (no pun intended). This article is a well-organized and well thought out presentation. A person could lose their mind trying to contemplate a beginning to the existence of the universe. For instance, where did the matter that came together for the Bang Bang originate. Another collapsing universe?

I've walked the fence on these issues all my life, despite having been raised Catholic. It is and always will be, at least in my lifetime— an enigma.

...voted up—DF

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on January 28, 2012:

Glad you found this useful. I've found that people seem to like it when information is presented without a dose of personal opinion.

Thanks for your comment.

Pikachusif from Castelia City, Unova on January 27, 2012:

I say that this was a fantastic Hub. I must agree with Mr. Bowman, as the more educated you are, then the less likely you are to believe in any sort of ludicrous religion. Magnificent, simply magnificent.

-The Yellow Blur, Pikachusif

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on January 17, 2012:

Thanks for reading Rah. I appreciate the feedback.

Rah128 from Southampton on January 17, 2012:

Hi Hugh,

By far a great hub and it's interesting to see the greatist minds of all times, take a logical and rational view of religion and God/s.

Rah :)

DK from London on December 28, 2011:

I agree Hugh, and just so as you know, it's in the book "The Grand Design" :)

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on December 27, 2011:

Hi Philanthropy2012 and thanks for the update.

Hawking is an amazing scientist and I believe whatever he states merits consideration. I haven't read much lately about him but I'd be interested in hearing whether he believes he has offered proof or merely evidence.

DK from London on December 27, 2011:

Hey @Hugh, very interesting and balanced, though I've read that Stephen Hawking has recently claimed that he has satisfactorily proven that the Universe was created without a God, satisfactorily in his opinion, the basis of his proof most likely being incomprehensible to the average mind :S

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on October 04, 2011:

Stephen - thanks for reading and for commenting.

StephenSMcmillan on October 03, 2011:

WOW!Awesome article.

It seems that most scientists didn't recognize God's Existence.

Hugh Williamson (author) from Northeast USA on September 18, 2011:

It is what it is.

newday98033 on September 17, 2011:

One could say that dark energy is the relationship between everything in this universe with everything else in this universe. It can't be discovered as an actuality unless one is willing to accept that one has such a relationship with everything. Then it becomes pretty apparent. Hawking wants to believe something to explain something. Not a good idea if you want to understand. What is, is.

Nathan Jonfield on September 01, 2011:

Pertaining to Charles Darwin, the following are the extracted words from the Bible that have nothing to do with evolution:

Genesis 2:21-22, "And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."

From the verses above, would anybody still come to the conclusion that human beings were evolved from apes?

Jason Tannery on August 27, 2011:

The following are the evidence to prove that Stephen Hawking has abused science to support his Big Bang theory in which gravity could exist prior to the formation of the universe to create something out of nothing since his theory has contradicted not only Isaac Newton’s principle, but also Eistein’s theory:

The following is the extract of the second paragraph under the sub-title of “Negative Pressure” for the main subject of the ‘Nature Of Dark Energy’ as shown in the website address http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy:

According to General Relativity, the pressure within a substance contributes to its gravitational attraction for other things just as its mass density does. This happens because the physical quantity that causes matter to generate gravitational effects is the Stress-energy tensor, which contains both the energy (or matter) density of a substance and its pressure and viscosity.

As the phrase, the physical quantity that causes matter to generate gravitational effects is mentioned in the extracted paragraph, it gives the implication that physical quantity of matter has to exist prior to the generation of gravitational effects. Or in other words, it opposes the principality that gravitational effects could occur at the absence of matter. As it is described pertaining to Dark Energy, it implies that Dark Energy could only be derived from the existence of the physical quantity of matter. This certainly rejects Stephen Hawking’s theory in which dark energy could exist prior to the formation of the universe as if that dark energy could exist the support or influence from the physical quantity of matter.

The following is the extract of the third paragraph under the sub-title of ‘Cosmological Constant’ for the main subject of the ‘Nature of Dark Energy’ that has been extracted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy:

The simplest explanation for dark energy is that it is simply the “cost of having space”: that is, a volume of space has some intrinsic, fundamental energy. This is the cosmological constant, sometimes called Lambda (hence Lambda-CDM model) after the Greek letter ?, the symbol used to mathematically represent this quantity. Since energy and mass are related by E = mc2, Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicts that it will have a gravitational effect..

E = mc2 has been used to be related to Dark Energy. As energy and mass are related in according to General Relativity and if m = 0, no matter how big the number that c could be, E (the dark energy) would turn up to be 0 since no matter how big the number c is E is always equal to 0 when 0 (that is the mass) is multiplied by c2. Or in other words, E (the dark energy) should be equal to 0 at the absence of substance (the mass). Stephen Hawking’s theory certainly contradicts Eistein’s theory in the sense that he supports that dark energy ( E > 0) could exist even though there could not be any matter (that is m = 0) existed prior to the formation of the universe.

Every object in the universe attracts every other object with a force directed along the time of centers for the two objects that is proportional to the product of their masses and inversely separation between the two objects. Fg = G(m1 m2)/r2. (Fg is the gravitational force; m1 & m2 are the masses of the two objects; r is the separation between the objects and G is the universal gravitational constant. From the formula, we note that Fg (the gravitational force or in replacement of dark energy) has a direct influence from two masses (m1 & m2). If either of the m is equal to 0, Fg would turn up to be 0. Isaac Newton’s theory certainly opposes Stephen Hawking in which gravity or the so-called, dark energy, could exist at the absence of matter prior to the formation of this universe in this energy or gravity could create something out of nothing.

Stephen Hawking might comment that Eistein’s and Isaac Newton’s principles are wrong. However, Stephen Hawking was not born at the time prior to the formation of this universe to visualize how the universe could be formed initially. To jump into the conclusion that the universe could be created from something out of nothing is simply out of his own imagination. Not only that, his theory contradicts both Eistein’s and Isaac Newton’s principles pertaining to gravity.

Jason Tannery on August 26, 2011:

Refer to the website address below for the evidence of dark energy: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/08/08...

The following is the extract from the above websites under the fourth paragraph:

The new image reveals the spectral fingerprints created by dark energy as it stretches huge supervoids and superclusters, structures that are roughly half a billion light-years across.

Dark energy is being defined in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_energy as a hypothical form of energy that permeates all of space and tends to increase the rate of expansion of the universe. Despite there was an image to reveal the existence of something, or the so-called, dark energy, that it could stretch huge supervoids and superclusters even up to half a billion light-years across, it might not provide the truth that the universe could be expanding due to the following possibilities:

a)The universe itself could be created initially in infinity and there might be no space limit or boundary. If that could be our universe to be since nobody in this earth did ever see any boundary of this universe, the thing that stretches huge supervoids and superclusters, structures to move would not lead to the conclusion that this universe could be expanding. Instead, it simply gives information that something has been causing the huge supervoids and superclusters to move forward.

b)There could be also the possibility that this universe could be so huge that it could take a few trillion light years for galaxies to travel from one end to another in order to have their return facing us in a few trillion light years later.

There are a few likeliness that would not give the conclusion that the universe could be expanding by seeing that thing that stretches huge supervoids and superclusters across and there are:

1)The so-called, dark energy, might simply perform its routine function to cause the huge supervoids and superclusters to be stretched across and yet it is either within the huge boundary of the universe in which it would take a trillion years for the galaxies to travel from one end to another until its final return in advancing to us in a few trillion years later or in the universe that could have been created to be lasted until infinity.

Let’s refer to another website pertaining to the velocities of the galaxies in advancement: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn7109-evidenc...

The following is the extract for the analysis:

In 1972, Allan Sandage of the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, US, reasoned that in the nearby universe - where the expansion is at its slowest - the gravitational attraction between groups and clusters of galaxies should produce significant deviations in their velocities from the otherwise largely smooth speed of expansion. These deviations are called "peculiar velocities", but Sandage pointed out that galaxies in our vicinity - those lying just beyond our "Local Group" of the Milky Way and its immediate neighbours - showed abnormally low peculiar velocities.

Let’s assume that you would blow a balloon. The air would go from one end and to move in one direction to cause the balloon to expand. However, consideration has to be taken in is the moving speed for all particles in the balloon should be the same regardless whether those particles that are nearby each other or big or small to the ultimate reach of the boundary of the balloon so as to cause it to expand further. There should not be any reason for all particles within the balloon to travel with various speeds despite the particles could be big or small.

As discovered by Allan Sandage of the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California, in 1972 that there is a significant deviations in their velocities among galaxies, it does not provide a good source to prove the galaxies might be expanding. If there could be a constant force that could cause the universe to be expanded, the moving speed for all the galaxies should be the same in advancing further away from us instead of with irregular velocities that some are advancing faster than another.

The deviation of velocities of galaxies in advancement is mentioned the same in the website as follows: http://www.universetoday.com/16170/astronomers-fin...

The following is the extract:

When the team compared galaxies against the CMB, they found that the microwaves were a bit stronger if they had passed through a supercluster, and a bit weaker if they had passed through a supervoid.

As the velocities of all the galaxies have been deviated from each other, it is irrational to be quick to jump into the conclusion that our universe could be expanding so as to use it to support Big Bang theory.