As an experimental physicist, I require hard evidence, reproducible experiments, and rigorous logic to support any scientific hypothesis. How can such a person base belief on faith? In fact there are two questions: “How can I believe in God?” and “Why do I believe in God?”
On the first question: a scientist can believe in God because such belief is not a scientific matter. Scientific statements must be “falsifiable.” That is, there must be some outcome that at least in principle could show that the statement is false. I might say, “Einstein’s theory of relativity correctly describes the behavior of visible objects in our solar system.” So far, extremely careful measurements have failed to prove that statement false, but they could (and some people have invested careers in trying to see if they will). By contrast, religious statements are not necessarily falsifiable. I might say, “God loves us and wants us to love one another.” I cannot think of anything that could prove that statement false. Some might argue that if I were more explicit about what I mean by God and the other concepts in my statement, it would become falsifiable. But such an argument misses the point. It is an attempt to turn a religious statement into a scientific one. There is no requirement that every statement be a scientific statement. Nor are non-scientific statements worthless or irrational simply because they are not scientific. “She sings beautifully.” “He is a good man.” “I love you.” These are all non-scientific statements that can be of great value. Science is not the only useful way of looking at life.
What about the second question: why do I believe in God? As a physicist, I look at nature from a particular perspective. I see an orderly, beautiful universe in which nearly all physical phenomena can be understood from a few simple mathematical equations. I see a universe that, had it been constructed slightly differently, would never have given birth to stars and planets, let alone bacteria and people. And there is no good scientific reason for why the universe should not have been different. Many good scientists have concluded from these observations that an intelligent God must have chosen to create the universe with such beautiful, simple, and life-giving properties. Many other equally good scientists are nevertheless atheists. Both conclusions are positions of faith. Recently, the philosopher and long-time atheist Anthony Flew changed his mind and decided that, based on such evidence, he should believe in God. I find these arguments suggestive and supportive of belief in God, but not conclusive. I believe in God because I can feel God’s presence in my life, because I can see the evidence of God’s goodness in the world, because I believe in Love and because I believe that God is Love.
Source: William D. Phillips, a Nobel Laureate in physics, is a fellow of the Joint Quantum Institute of the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.