God in the Details

Roy Abraham Varghese has a God equation. It is self-evident. He sees it in a grain of sand. He sees it in bees, especially bees. By rights, bees shouldn't fly. The haphazard way in which they beat their wings simply shouldn't haul their pot-bellied bodies aloft. But they fly, hovering and reversing over bluebonnets and bachelor buttons. Bees flout the laws of physics and aerodynamics, a puzzle that perplexed scientists for 70 years. "How is it that they can do that?" he asked in a 2005 interview at Perry's Restaurant while smacking on bites of filet mignon. "The fact that these insects can do this..." Varghese trailed off.

To Varghese bees are a wonder, and wonder is what fascinates him. In his 2003 book The Wonder of the World: A Journey From Modern Science to the Mind of God, Varghese laments the loss of wonder. "[T]he modern world knows little of wonder," he writes. "Some Grinch has stolen the magic that makes us wonder and turned the paradise we call the world into a desolate wilderness."

Varghese blames modern science but not in the way you might think. Varghese isn't in the grip of science phobia, sounding a call to have it stripped from schools and cut off from federal funding. Varghese revels in science, from the weirdness of astrophysics, to the radiating blooms of life embedded in the fossil record, to the mind-blowing implications of quantum mechanics. He is entranced by the effectiveness of mathematics in the natural world. Eerily, everything before our eyes—and far more beyond—follows exacting laws and has attributes that can be expressed through numbers and exotic equations. This effectiveness presupposes profound thought, he believes. Profound thought presupposes infinite mind. Infinite mind presupposes...

Varghese blames "a band of intellectuals trapped in vacuous abstractions and irrational ideologies" for stripping away wonder. They can't see the lush forest of the universe for the trees of scientific theory, experimentation and discovery. We must be saved from these bandits who have blinded us to the glory and mystery of the world.

The universe teems with intelligence at all levels, he says. This intelligence, expressed in the laws of nature, was implanted in the universe by an infinite mind. "I mean the humblest bacterium is an absolutely unbelievable miracle. How can that come to be in a universe of undifferentiated matter?"

To explore such questions, Varghese founded The Institute for Metascientific Research in Garland in 2003. He calls the institute a forum to deliberate the debates raging in science, philosophy and religion. Its mission is to refute the arguments of atheists and those who perceive the world strictly in material terms. He spreads this gospel via books, documentaries and symposiums.

But well before the birth of the institute, Varghese was organizing and funding conferences featuring some of the world's greatest thinkers, beginning in 1983 at the Plaza of the Americas in Dallas. His collaborators have ranged from noted atheists Sir Alfred Ayer of Oxford University and Marvin Minsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to prominent theists Richard Swinburne of Oxford and Alvin Plantinga of the University of Notre Dame. "Science cannot proceed without the basic assumptions that imply the existence of God," Varghese insists. Not surprisingly, many prominent scientists and atheists vehemently disagree.

A computer systems and high-tech business consultant by trade, Varghese, 49, calls the institute and these conferences his hobby. He funds them largely out of his own pocket, the way other men might indulge a golf habit or a poker fetish.

"When he puts his mind to something, he does it," says former MIT physicist Gerald Schroeder from his home in Jerusalem. "What he says, he accomplishes." Schroeder's first brush with Varghese was via e-mail some four years ago. Varghese sent comments on Schroeder's controversial books The Science of God and The Hidden Face of God, in which, among other things, Schroeder attempts to square the six-day account of creation in Genesis with a 12- to 15-billion-year-old universe by using Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. Schroeder told Varghese he was preparing a trip to the States for a series of lectures. He was startled when Varghese invited him to lunch. "On a very windy, rainy day, he flew from Dallas to Los Angeles," Schroeder says. "We had lunch...spent a half-hour talking at the airport. He got on another plane and flew back to Dallas. That was my introduction to Roy."

His meeting with Schroeder would lay the groundwork for a pivotal New York University summit in May 2004 featuring a handful of some the world's most renowned philosophical thinkers. There, British philosopher Antony Flew, who set the agenda for modern atheism with his 1950 treatise "Theology and Falsification," made a stunning announcement: He had renounced atheism and had come to accept the existence of God, thanks largely to the arguments of Varghese and Schroeder.

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Mark Stuertz
Contact: Mark Stuertz