Horizon (1964) s00e57 Episode Script

The End of God?: A Horizon Guide to Science and Religion

Less than a year after Darwin published The Origin Of Species, and Victorian society was reeling from the new theory of evolution.
Is this the language of science? MUTTERING The Natural History museum in Oxford was packed with nearly a thousand spectators.
I implore my hearers to believe in God, rather than man.
Making the case for evolution was a young biologist called Thomas Huxley, known as "Darwin's Bulldog".
ALL: Huxley! Huxley! Huxley! He was one of a new generation who thought religion should play no part in the business of science.
Every step of the argument is securely based on irrefutable fact, detailed precisely and unequivocally.
Standing against the theory of evolution was the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce.
And the story goes that his attack turned personal.
BANGING Let me ask him this one question.
In so proudly claiming his descent from a monkey, ape or baboon, does he do so on his grandfather's side or his grandmother's? LAUGHTER I'm a historian of science and for me, the debate that was held here is fascinating.
It has become part of a popular idea that there's an inevitable clash between science and religion, that they're forever locked in a battle for supremacy.
Today, 150 years on, it would seem that science has won the war.
For nearly 50 of those years, Horizon and the BBC have witnessed scientific advances, and reported on when science has met with religion.
Looking back over five decades of science programmes, I want to ask if, in our modern scientific world, there is any room left for God.
ALL: Huxley! Huxley! Huxley! The story of science and religion isn't just one of conflict.
It's more varied and interesting than that.
But signs of trouble date all the way back to an Italian mathematician, his telescope and the Bible.
Anyone using a telescope today is following in the footsteps of a man named Galileo Galilei.
When he first pointed a telescope at the heavens, he was taking a radical step, and what he saw would challenge accepted knowledge.
In 17th-century Italy, knowledge was tightly controlled by the Catholic Church, the most powerful institution in Europe.
The accepted view was that the Earth was at the centre of the solar system.
That's what astronomers thought, and the Church also believed they were supported by the Bible.
But when Galileo started to explore the night sky with a telescope, his observations told a different story.
He saw moons moving round the planet Jupiter .
and drew a bold conclusion.
Not everything in the night sky orbited the Earth.
So perhaps our planet wasn't the centre of the solar system after all.
BELL TOLLS Galileo's conclusion directly contradicted the Church's.
When it came to knowledge of the natural world, he thought his telescope was more reliable than the Bible.
The Church was not convinced.
It found him guilty of heresy.
Behind Galileo's downfall were two questions that are central to the whole story of science and religion - who owns knowledge, and what makes one source of knowledge more reliable than another? Generations of scientists have thought hard about the best ways to investigate the world.
And over the last 50 years, many have told Horizon about the methods they use to make scientific knowledge as reliable as possible.
Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist.
The way I think of what we're doing is we're exploring, we're trying to find out as much as we can about the world.
But whatever way it comes out, nature is there, and she's going to come out the way she is.
Therefore, when we investigate, we shouldn't pre-decide what it is we're trying to do, except to find out more about it.
At the heart of scientists' knowledge are observation and logic.
They make hypotheses, and test them time and again against the evidence.
Cosmologist Carlos Frenk has been taking part in Horizon programmes for nearly 20 years.
We have a set of physical laws that we know, from laboratory experiments, work.
We use these laws to formulate a theory.
We use that theory to make predictions and then we compare these predictions with observations.
Anything that you come up with has to be corroborated.
Not just by one experiment, but by many different groups.
That is the essence of the scientific method.
Repeatability, rigour, accuracy and relevance.
This method of discovery isn't foolproof, but in the last 400 years, it's uncovered some of the fundamentals of our world.
It's revealed what makes up the air we breathe.
How fast light travels.
Even how new life is made.
But, for the many of the world's great faiths, there is an additional way of gaining knowledge.
Direct communication from God.
Every day, oh Oh, happy day Oh, happy day Oh, happy day In 1973, Horizon looked at a scientific study of religious believers.
When Jesus washed When Jesus washed All my sins away All my sins away Many of the people involved believed that God had revealed himself to them directly.
Watch and pray The study was led by Sir Alister Hardy, a celebrated biologist.
I've come from zoology and I'm looking at religion entirely as a naturalist.
But I do believe that a systematic method can be used to study the records of man's religious experience.
Darwin's theory of the origin of species was based on the painstaking collection of huge numbers of observations in natural history.
In the same way, Professor Hardy hopes these records may form the basis of theories about the spiritual nature of man's nature.
Hardy and colleagues collected hundreds of stories from people who believed they'd experienced God.
One lady in her 80s had had a vision as a child.
Suddenly, without warning, I saw right through the physical world.
Into a realm of great beauty.
I found myself saying to myself, "Well this is, I suppose, what heaven is like.
" Another volunteer believed she had been touched by a divine power.
Out of my mouth came a few words of a tongue that I didn't recognise at all, a language.
I can only describe it as something like the disciples on the day of Pentecost when they were taken for being drunk at 9am in the morning, and Peter said, "These people are not drunk, "they are filled with the Holy Spirit, because I was so happy, "supernaturally happy.
" The volunteers in this study are not alone.
The belief that God has shown himself to them directly is central to many people's faith.
But even more believe that God has revealed himself another way ALL: Lord Jesus! .
through holy texts, like the Bible.
For all religions that have sacred texts, scripture is a source of knowledge and insight.
But some believers go much further, treating scripture as literally true in every last detail.
It's this that led to the most intense clash between religion and science of the modern age, the creationist crusade against evolution.
The battleground is America.
150 years after the bitter debate in Oxford, the conflict over the origins of humankind still continues.
For America's Christian fundamentalists, the Bible is literally the word of God.
Every phrase is true.
They believe in creationism, that the world came into being just as the Bible describes.
For them, the theory of evolution cannot be right, because it contradicts what's written in Genesis.
In 2006, Horizon looked at what can happen when science and the Bible conflict.
Throughout the 20th century, religious communities in America fought to prevent the spread of Darwin's dangerous idea.
In 1925, in an infamous court case in Tennessee, high school teacher John Scopes was tried for teaching evolution.
John Scopes taught at a time when the theory of evolution had just been banned from Tennessee classrooms.
Keen to overthrow the restrictions, he agreed to challenge the law, and became a test case for the newly imposed ban.
NEWSREADER: All attention focuses now on the prospect of an epic debate, of science versus religion, reason versus faith.
This was very much a show trial.
On the one side, conservative Christians denouncing evolution as immoral.
On the other, supporters of the right to free speech.
After eight days of debate, Scopes was found guilty and fined 100.
But the impact was more than financial.
In the decades that followed, children across America grew up learning little or nothing of Darwin's theory.
Even into the 1980s, creationism persisted in many American classrooms.
It just seems that the birth of each individual child is a miracle right there, a miracle you can behold.
I believe that God created the world in seven days, exactly literally just how he said he did.
SCHOOL BELL RINGS It took 60 years for the creationists to finally lose their battle.
In 1987, the highest court in America ruled that teaching creationism was unconstitutional.
It violated the required separation of church and state.
Creationism was banned from the science curriculum.
ALL: One nation under God.
Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
But despite the ban, creationism hasn't gone away.
Since the 1980s, polls have consistently found that nearly half of all Americans believe God created humans just as it says in the Bible.
and yet they're saying it's true They're teaching us about it in school now That humans were monkeys once too Whoa, I'm no kin to the monkey, no, no, no The monkey's no kin to me I don't know much about his ancestors But mine didn't swing from a tree.
For scientists, ancient religious texts are not sources of knowledge about the natural world, and to treat them as if they are is absurd.
There's no room for the God of biblical creationism in modern science.
But creationism, like everything else, evolves.
And in America in the 1990s, a new version emerged, claiming it wasn't based on the Bible, but on science.
This movement is called Intelligent Design.
Its supporters claim there are things evolution can't explain, that the theory is riddled with gaps.
They say these gaps can only be filled by the work of an intelligent designer.
One of the theorists behind the idea is the biochemist Michael Behe.
In the 1990s he decided to take up a challenge set by Darwin.
He wrote at one point that if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not be put together by numerous successive slight modifications, he said, "My theory would absolutely break down.
" Darwin's theory relied on the step by step evolution of complex organisms from simpler ones.
Behe went in search of an organism that didn't fit the theory.
He became intrigued by a mechanism found amongst a family of microscopic bacteria .
the flagellum.
Bacterial flagellum is literally an outboard motor that bacteria use to swim.
Although on the surface the flagellum appeared to be simple, when Behe looked inside he saw a mechanism made of 50 different interacting parts.
You can see from the way the parts are situated that this is a machine.
If just one part was missing, the flagellum appeared to be useless.
Anything less than whole simply wouldn't work.
It pointed to one thing, that this machine had not evolved from a simpler organism.
It's really, really difficult to see how it could be put together gradually with the thing working and getting better each step of the way.
I thought to myself, "That's it, that's the problem, "that's what Darwin's theory has problems with.
" Behe was certain he had the evidence to challenge Darwin's theory.
If the flagellum could not have come about through gradual stages, it must have been created in its complete form, and for that to happen, Behe concluded that there must have been some form of creator.
In Behe's argument, gaps within evolutionary theory left room for a supreme being, an intelligent designer.
But there was a problem with this approach.
Few agreed the gaps proposed in the theory of evolution actually existed.
And some were willing to go to court to prove it.
In 2006, Horizon covered a legal challenge to the teaching of Intelligent Design.
Evolution has been put on trial Once again, the argument was over what was taught in American classrooms.
11 parents of Dover students are now in court suing the Dover school district over exposing their children to a controversial concept called Intelligent Design, a theory that they say promotes religion and creates false doubts about evolution.
The case was brought by the parents of some high school children in Dover, Pennsylvania, who were being told about Intelligent Design as part of their science lessons.
Like the Scopes case 80 years earlier, this was another battle over how knowledge is controlled.
This time, the argument went right to the heart of the American legal system.
The constitution of America deliberately separates church and state.
This separation effectively bans the teaching of religious theories in public schools.
Supporters of Intelligent Design thought they'd found a way to get round the constitution, by making their opposition to evolution scientific, not religious.
Their tactic was to claim that children have the right to hear both sides of the argument.
They have developed a very successful PR slogan, it's called Teach The Controversy.
That's a good little sound bite they use, and it appeals to the basic sense of fairness that's characteristic of the American public.
And it's the idea that schoolchildren should hear both sides of a genuine controversy, as they tell it, that it's not fair to deny them this opportunity to hear about an alternative scientific theory.
If Intelligent Design was valid science, it could be taught alongside evolution in science lessons.
But if it was a religious theory, it should be banned.
In essence, the lawyers were arguing about whether or not Intelligent Design is scientific.
Should the ninth grade biology students be made aware of the fact that there is a controversy in the scientific community about Darwin's theory of evolution? Intelligent design is not science, it injects a conflict between science and religion where none need exist.
The positive proposition that life could have been created by an intelligent designer is not science.
One of the scientists leading the defence of Darwin's theory was biologist Kenneth Miller.
APPLAUSE Miller is a Roman Catholic, and, like many Christians past and present, sees no conflict between his faith and evolution.
In fact, he's spent years campaigning against Intelligent Design.
These guys have had a field day, and they've captured the popular imagination.
Miller had drawn together the scientific evidence to respond to intelligent design claims.
Many bacterium have little flagella, whiplike structures that propel them through the cell and you can see them in this electron-micrograph.
Miller targeted the pillar of intelligent design - Michael Behe's argument of irreducible complexity, and it's most vivid example, the flagellum.
The notion of intelligent design or irreducible complexity makes a prediction that if intelligent design is the proper explanation, then the parts of these complex machines should be useless on their own because all the parts have to be there to have any function whatsoever.
Miller quickly discovered, amongst the scientific literature, evidence that challenged Behe.
Within other bacteria, there was a simpler, fully-functioning mechanism.
This system is missing 40 of its 50 parts, 80% and it is perfectly functioning.
So the kindest thing one can say about this claim, which is the essential claim of irreducible complexity and intelligent design is that it's wrong - it is simply wrong on the basis of the science.
Miller had shown that the flagellum was not too complex to have evolved.
It did not need an intelligent designer.
In two days of testimony, Miller addressed the arguments for intelligent design one by one.
In Miller's view, and the view of the vast majority of the scientific community, the gaps that the intelligent design theorists saw just did not exist.
And in December 2005, the judgment was handed down.
A US court has banned a school in Pennsylvania from teaching intelligent design, as an alternative to evolution in biology classes.
The federal judge said The judge ruled there was a clear religious purpose behind intelligent design.
Its supporters hadn't exposed gaps within evolution.
It was a religious view, not a scientific one, and had no place in the classroom.
Intelligent design has received some support by its claim to stand for intellectual freedom.
But that's about the only support it has received.
Virtually no scientists think it's a credible alternative to evolution.
Even most theologians are against it.
Placing God in gaps in scientific understanding is not a good strategy.
The history of science shows that those gaps have a tendency to be filled.
Society is sceptical nowadays.
Ideas of death and catastrophe from the sky belong to ancient times, before the age of science when superstition made people petrified of the heavens.
The heavens were seen as a source of wonder and potential global disaster.
Then came the Age of Enlightenment and all was to change.
As scientific knowledge has expanded, events that used to be seen as acts of God, have been explained by natural causes.
Volcanoes, named after the Roman God of fire, are the result of immense heat inside the Earth.
Floods, the ultimate sign of God's wrath in the Old Testament, are caused by fluctuations in climate.
And biblical plagues of locusts may have been the natural result of a sudden growth in numbers.
So is there any room left for God in unexpected events? The most personal of all acts of God are miracles of healing.
In 1988, the neuroscientist Colin Blakemore, visited the shrine of Lourdes on behalf of BBC Science.
A famous Roman Catholic pilgrimage site, Lourdes is the focal point of millions of people hoping for their own miracle.
Sylvia had been told by doctor eight years ago she was terminally ill.
You accepted that you had six months to live.
Nothing I could do about it.
There was something you did about it.
Yes, I came to Lourdes and whilst I was in Lourdes I was in St Bernadette's hospital.
It had only opened the week before.
or the fortnight before.
I used to always go into the little chapel, and this particular day, well, it was evening it was the night before we came away and I went in and I just sat and there's a little grotto of Our Lady and I just sat and I cried and cried.
I don't know how many people was in and I never said a prayer or anything, but something at that moment said, "Don't worry, you're going to be all right' "and I've been smashing ever since.
" When is a cure a miracle? That's a question that the authorities at Lourdes have taken very seriously.
In 1882, a panel of medical experts now called the Bureau Medicale de Lourdes was set up to investigate claims of miraculous cures.
In the 130 years since Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary, thousands of cures have been claimed and 64 have been declared miracles.
The list of diseases for which claims of miracles has been accepted has changed over the years, as medical science discovered its own cures for such illnesses as tuberculosis and polio.
For many years, the authorities here have applied every sceptical test they can to the numerous claims.
Only if no conventional treatment has been given can a miracle be declared.
The church itself uses science to identify where God may be at work.
What's more, science has begun to suggest other means by which apparently extraordinary healing might take place.
The Mind Machine programme looked at research into what's known as the "placebo effect" - a phenomenon in which people can feel the effects of medical treatment just by believing in its power.
How are you doing? OK.
It's been suspected for a long time that the effectiveness of medical treatment depends partly on the patient's faith in it.
This power of belief, the placebo effect, offers hope that the mind can heal the body, or at least reduce pain.
John Levine has been studying just how the placebo effect works and today he's going to assess its effectiveness.
John and his colleagues took young, healthy volunteers who were having their wisdom teeth removed.
After the operation, these volunteers were given a completely inert saline solution instead of pain relief.
The only difference between these two men is that one of them is being given the saline solution by a doctor in a white coat, the other by a computer they can't see.
Will the two patients experience different levels of pain? ALARM RINGS 20 minutes later, time for the patients to report on the amount of pain they feel.
How much are you having now? Let's take it here.
It's getting close.
Since the last time, has it gone up or down or stayed the same? It's gone up a bit.
No pain to worse pain ever, make one mark through that line as to how much pain you're having now.
Since the last time, has the pain gone up, gone down or stayed the same? The pain has gone down.
So why this dramatic difference between the two? The white coat represents to the patient that same image of an individual who has power to provide a healing effect on them.
In other words, the painkilling effect that this man felt wasn't down to an anaesthetic, but to believing a caring doctor was relieving his pain.
Belief, it seems, can be very powerful.
For Colin Blakemore, this power of belief was key at Lourdes.
Despite its appearance, this isn't a hospital but is an "accueil" at Lourdes - a kind of reception centre for pilgrims.
Most of the people wearing nurses' uniforms aren't nurses either, but it all adds up to an atmosphere of care and authority which may really help people to deal with their suffering.
Science suggests that the comfort and healing many have found at Lourdes may not come from God but from the power of the human mind.
So another place where many believe God operates has begun to be squeezed by science.
And new technology has allowed scientists to probe even deeper.
As technology has improved, it has created new ways of looking at the world.
and allowed researchers access to a hidden realm .
inside the human brain.
By visualising and measuring the workings of the brain, scientists have begun to investigate our thoughts and feelings.
It's led some to raise questions about the religious feelings of the faithful.
And that's partly down to this CHOIR SINGS .
a device known as .
the "God helmet".
The helmet was basically designed to generate weak magnetic fields across the hemispheres, specifically the temporal lobe.
The way it's set up is that each pair of the solenoids are connected so that at any given time a magnetic field passes through the helmet and hence through the brain.
Dr Michael Persinger claimed that, by stimulating the temporal lobes, he could artificially induce religious experience in almost anyone.
Don Hill was one of Persinger's volunteers.
It's not so much I felt like there was somebody or something in the chamber with me, because my common sense told me that this could not be.
But I could not get rid of the feeling that there was something there.
Yet, how could this be? There's nothing there.
I'm in a space that's safe.
'My palms are sweating.
I'm seeing visual dips and dots.
' Don had experienced one of the most common and bizarre effects in the chamber, a feeling that someone else was in there with him.
Dr Persinger called this feeling "the sensed presence".
The fundamental experience is the sensed presence, and our data indicate that the sensed presence, the feeling of another entity of something beyond yourself, perhaps bigger than yourself, bigger in space and bigger in time, can be stimulated by simply activating the right hemisphere, particularly the temporal lobe.
Horizon decided to set Persinger's theories and the God helmet the ultimate test - to give a religious experience to one of the world's most strident atheists.
Professor Richard Dawkins.
Can Dr Persinger succeed where the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Dalai Lama have failed? If I became a religious believer, my wife would threaten to leave me.
Feeling slightly dizzy.
Quite strange.
To increase the chances of feeling a sensed presence, Dr Persinger started to apply the magnetic field to both sides of the head.
A twitchiness in my breathing, I don't know what that is.
My left leg is sort of moving.
Right leg is twitching.
So, after 40 minutes, had Richard Dawkins been brought closer to God? Unfortunately, I didn't get the sensation of the presence.
It pretty much felt as though I was in total darkness, erm, with a helmet on my head, and, er, pleasantly relaxed.
And occasionally feeling the sensations which I described as they occurred.
But I would be hard put to it to swear that those were not things that could happen to me any time on a dark night.
Richard Dawkins may not have had a religious experience, but 80% of Persinger's volunteers did feel a presence of some kind whilst wearing the God helmet.
The findings of this study are controversial, but Horizon went on to look at research into people who have religious experiences without the help of technology.
Dr Andrew Newberg injected Buddhists with a radioactive tracer, as they reached the height of their meditation.
The tracer was then carried into the bloodstream and up to the brain, allowing an image to be captured.
The scans measured blood flow, with red showing the areas with highest blood flow and yellow the areas with lowest.
As meditation reached its peak .
an area of the brain called the parietal lobes had less and less blood flowing into them.
They seemed almost to be shutting down.
This was significant new information.
The parietal lobes help give us our sense of time and place.
This part of the brain typically takes all of our sensory information and uses that sensory information to create a sense of ourselves.
When people meditate they frequently describe a loss of that sense of self and that's exactly what we saw in the meditation subjects, that they actually decreased the activity in this parietal or this orientation part of the brain.
This strange sensation of a loss of self is central to religious feelings in all the world's faiths.
Buddhists seek a feeling of oneness with the universe, Hindus strive for the soul and God to become one and the Catholics search for the unio mystica.
Dr Newberg wondered if these very different religions might actually be describing the same thing.
To test this theory, he took scans of Franciscan nuns at prayer, to see if there was any similarity between what was going on in their brains and those of Buddhists.
Interestingly, when we look at the Franciscan nuns, we see a similar decrease in the orientation part of the brain as we saw with the Tibetan Buddhists.
Even though Buddhists and Catholics may come from very different religious traditions, how their minds react to deep meditation or prayer seems, in terms of brain chemistry, to be exactly the same process.
PRAYERS RECITED Research like this has started to demystify religious experiences.
For some, it suggests these experiences are not produced by God, but simply by the brain.
And thanks to the God helmet, it seems you may not even need God to sense his presence.
That feeling can be artificially created.
So, there's no need for God at all.
As science has filled in gaps in our knowledge, the mysterious has become more understandable, and God seems to have been pushed into smaller and smaller crevices.
But there is another way of thinking about God's role.
Perhaps He doesn't act on the small individual scale.
He's not the God of the meager flagellum, tinkering with the mechanics of each organism.
He didn't create every single species on this planet individually.
Maybe instead, He's a grand inventor, a God of the big picture, who drew the blueprints of creation.
Maybe he's behind the laws of the universe.
The author of the whole of nature.
This was the God Darwin wrote of in The Origin Of Species - a creator laying down the laws.
And even today, some scientists look at the world and see it as God's work.
So is it here that there's room for God? Not in the gaps of our understanding, but within the very laws of nature? There are no more extraordinary laws than the ones that govern the universe.
The laws of creation.
Our most famous scientists have dedicated their lives to trying to reveal them.
One of Newton's great insights was into gravity.
In a single equation, he explained not just why apples fall, but why the planets stay in orbit.
The equation was majestic in its scope.
What applied on Earth, he said, also applied in the heavens.
And it all worked like clockwork.
For Einstein, the equation was smaller, but the claims were just as big.
E = mc2.
Energy is mass.
It was simple, elegant and profound.
Both Newton and Einstein saw a divine beauty in the clarity and order of these mathematical laws.
Understanding the workings of the universe, they believed, was like looking into the mind of God.
But in the last 100 years, this beautiful simplicity has been shattered.
By an explosion of scientific discovery.
And now the divine beauty of the Newtonian clockwork universe, and even the classical physics of Einstein have been obscured by bewildering complexity.
The up quark, the down quark, the electron, the electron neutrino, the W plus and the W minus.
Physicists speak of strange, outlandish particles.
The basic building blocks of matter.
The charm quark, the strange quark, the muon, the mu-neutrino.
And they show these building blocks can, at the same time, be both waves and particles.
Top quark, bottom quark, the tao and the tao-neutrino.
The Z particle and the photon.
The new physics talks of uncertainty, of things being in two places at once.
Oh, no! The gluon.
I forget the gluon.
The universe is so strange that even cosmologists don't claim to understand what's going on.
Especially when it comes to exotic substances like dark matter, and dark energy.
We have no idea what dark energy is.
Dark energy is basically a fancy word for our ignorance of what makes up 75% of our universe.
Well, I know but I'm not going to tell you.
Actually no, I've no idea what it is.
I hope it goes away.
I don't like it.
Well, it's dark and it's expanding.
I guess a pictorial way to describe Dark Energy like any other, as good as any other, we don't know what it is, we might as well say it's this.
They say God works in mysterious ways.
These ways are really mysterious.
With so much still unknown, the drive to understand the laws of the universe is greater than ever.
In 2007, Horizon visited the Large Hadron Collider, the machine charged with finding what physicists believe is a missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle.
They call it the Higgs particle, but it's so key to understanding our universe it's been nicknamed the God particle.
The best theory we have at the moment for the origin of mass or what makes stuff "stuff" is called the Higgs mechanism.
And the Higgs mechanism works by filling the universe with with a thing.
It's almost like treacle.
So far, the Higgs has eluded physicists, but they hope the Large Hadron Collider will reveal it.
By going back to a moment that has been hidden from view.
The time just after the Big Bang.
What it does, it recreates the conditions that were presen t less than a billionth of a second after the Big Bang, but in a controlled environment, inside giant detectors.
You can repeat that over and over again, and study it in exquisite detail.
In some ways, it's almost better than going back to the start of the universe and watching, because you only get one chance to watch it.
Perhaps what's most striking about the search for the Higgs is where it may take us.
Some scientists believe its discovery could lead to an extraordinary level of insight about the universe.
If, in fact, we can get over the Higgs Particle, it may be that we can go a long way towards the horizon of a total understanding.
Total understanding.
These scientists have set their sights high.
It's not surprising some think cosmology is straying into the realm of God.
Modern science has developed ever more ingenious ways to unlock the mysteries of the physical universe.
But, no matter how many questions it answers, there are always more to ask.
And perhaps the biggest of all is why? Why is our universe the way it is? The fact that our world exists as it is is extraordinarily improbable.
Right from the beginning, the conditions for us to develop had to be just right.
Take gravity, for example.
If the force of gravity had been just slightly stronger, the universe could have collapsed before planets and stars had a chance to form.
If gravity had been only fractionally weaker, gas may never have formed into stars at all.
Only because gravity is just as it is are we here on Earth.
In 1987, Horizon looked at the apparently extraordinary coincidence that the universe enables life, us, to exist.
The existence of life on earth is very delicately balanced in the scales of chance.
The list of things that had to come out just right is enormous.
It turns out that if you change just a little bit, the laws of nature, then the way the universe develops is so changed that it's very likely that intelligent life would not be able to develop.
If we nudge one of these constants just a few percent in one direction, then stars burn out within a million years of their formation, no time for evolution.
And if we nudge it just a few percent in the other direction, then no elements heavier than helium form, so no carbon, no life, not even any chemistry.
No complexity at all.
The really amazing thing is not that life on earth is balanced on a knife edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife edge, the entire universe seems unreasonably suited to the existence of life.
Almost contrived.
We might say "a put up job".
Some have seen the sheer improbability of our existence as evidence of a higher being.
But eminent physicists, most notably Stephen Hawking, have come out firmly against the idea.
And some physicists have an extraordinary explanation for why our universe is so suited to humankind - our universe is not alone.
There may, in fact, be multiple universes.
Perhaps, even, an infinite number, each different to its neighbour.
In these other universes, the gravitational constant might be different.
Or the heavier elements might not have formed.
And so, there may be no-one there to observe these other universes, because the conditions haven't created life.
Brain-stretching as it is, there are theoretical reasons why some believe this is the case.
In fact, in a 2010 Horizon programme about infinitely, one cosmologist claimed it was the most likely answer.
What isn't appreciated by many, even in the physics community, is this model, these infinitely many, infinite universes is probably our current best bet as to what the real universe looks like.
It's baffling and mind bending, but that's where our road of cosmology has taken us.
It's easy to be sceptical about multiple universes.
After all, even if they do exist, they are impossible to see and even many physicists think they're impossible to test.
For me, this is a point where science and religion begin to look like they're not so different after all.
In this programme we've journeyed through science asking if, in this modern age, there is room for God.
We've looked for God in the gaps of scientific understanding.
And seen how new discoveries can close those gaps.
We've looked for God in the grandest laws of nature, and in the mind-bending strangeness of the universe.
Science can describe so much about our world and constantly pushes the boundaries of our knowledge.
But many still wonder why? Why does anything exist at all? Why do we humans find ourselves here? And what's it all for? As science has developed, the idea of a God who works wonders, who acts in the gaps of scientific understanding has been called into question.
And suppose that science continues to progress imagine a day when scientists have a total understanding of our universe.
Would the idea of God then go away? I don't think so.
Because belief gives something that science doesn't claim to offer - meaning and purpose.
What's more, even the findings of science hint that religion is unlikely to disappear.
For some, research insto the human brain suggests it's biology that predisposes us to believe in God.
Others may say God hard-wired us to be able to communicate with Him.
Whatever the reality, even the most hardened critics agree our brains mean God is here to stay.
The human religious impulse does seem very difficult to wipe out, which causes me a certain amount of grief.
Clearly, religion has extreme tenacity.
Whether or not God exists, it seems we find it very easy to believe in Him.
Because the brain seems to be designed the way it is, and because religion and spirituality seem to be built so well into that kind of function, the concepts of God and religion are going to be around for a very, very long time.