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What Would a Science-Based God Be Like?

ESO/S. Brunier
Nancy Ellen Abrams considers contemplation of our unique position in the universe a form of prayer.

Nancy Ellen Abrams' search for God has been driven by personal need, and guided by our most advanced scientific understanding of our universe. In her new book, A God That Could Be Real: Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet, Abrams reveals her theory of a God that arises from humanity's aspirations.

Abrams is something of a renaissance woman - a philosopher and historian of science, a lawyer, a singer/songwriter, a mother. Her husband is an eminent cosmologist, Joel Primack, who helped develop theories about dark matter and dark energy. Together, they have co-authored two books and given countless lectures about astrophysicists’ understanding of the nature of the universe, and what it means for each and every one of us.

In A God That Could Be Real, Abrams dives even deeper, exploring the possible nature of God. She starts with what God cannot be, given our scientific understanding of the universe.

  1. God could not have existed before the universe.
  2. God could not have created the universe.
  3. God can't know everything.
  4. God doesn't plan what happens.
  5. God cannot violate the laws of nature.

It may seem like a devastating list for traditional believers. In his foreward to the book, Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes:

I do not agree with everything that Nancy Abrams says about a scientific understanding of God. I dare say many religious believers will be deeply challenged by this book, but they will come away better for having read it, as we all do when our most cherished beliefs are explored more deeply.

A self-described lifelong atheist, Abrams was compelled to reexamine her own beliefs when she found that turning to God was the only way she was able to address a debilitating food addiction. She says she couldn't and wouldn't will herself to believe in something that violated her scientific understanding of the universe.

Instead, Abrams has developed a rich theory of God as an emergent phenomenon - an entity that spontaneously arises from and evolves with the pooled aspirations of all of humanity over all of time. It is a God that she says invites scientific inquiry, and can never be incompatible with any scientific finding. Rather, she says, when we strive to learn about our world, we improve God. In turn, God helps us improve ourselves.

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