In theological discussion with religious leaders, I often ask what their response would be if a central tenet of their faith were disproved by science. When I put this question to the current, Fourteenth, Dalai Lama, he unhesitatingly replied as no conservative or fundamentalist religious leaders do: In such a case, he said, Tibetan Buddhism would have to change.
Even, I asked, if it’s a really central tenet, like (I searched for an example) reincarnation?
Even then, he answered. However – he added with a twinkle – it’s going to be hard to disprove reincarnation.
Plainly, the Dalai Lama is right. Religious doctrine that is insulated from disproof has little reason to worry about the advance of science. The grand idea, common to many faiths, of a Creator of the Universe is one such doctrine – difficult alike to demonstrate or dismiss.
Moses Maimonides, in his Guide for the Perplexed, held that God could be truly known only if there were free and open study of both physics and theology. What would happen if science demonstrated an infinitely old Universe? Then theology would have to be seriously revamped. Indeed, this is the one conceivable finding of science that could disprove a Creator – because an infinitely old Universe would never have been created. It would have always been here.
-Carl Sagain, The Demon Haunted World
Being, of course, entirely too smug in my little corner of the theological world, I point out that an infinitely old Universe wouldn’t pose a huge problem for those of us who’ve eshewed the idea of Creator to begin with.