2nd June 2023
“БОГА НЕТ!” (There is no God!) proudly proclaims a Soviet poster from 1975. Above, a cosmonaut looks out on the heavens, across which are countless galaxies, towering over the backward churches. It is a sentiment that now forms a dominant part of public discourse across the West, where religious belief is ridiculed and presented as incompatible with reason. But for the Russian scientist Igor Sikorsky, science had far from disapproved existence of God.
Born in 1889, Sikorsky took inspiration from the Wright brothers’ first flight to enter the infant aviation industry. He established a successful manufacturing business in Russia, before fleeing to the US in the aftermath of the 1917 Revolution. He spent the rest of his life in America developing what is now a multi-billion dollar company.
Throughout his life, Sikorsky was awestruck by the scientific accomplishments made during the 20th century . “Aeronautics”, he argued, “was neither a science nor an industry. It was a miracle”. The aviation industry was still in its infancy when he began manufacturing planes: it required a true leap of faith to make his dreams possible. When asked by a journalist if he had seen God whilst ascending to the sky, Sikorsky replied that he had not seen Him, but he had felt God’s presence. Today, such comments might seem backwards. But as a pioneering aeronautical engineer, he could hardly be described as such.
Science can illustrate the great wonders of the universe. However, Sikorsky was acutely aware that some of the accomplishments done in the name of science were deeply troubling. This did not come from science, but it was a symptom of a culture that was jettisoning Christianity. The consequences, Sikorsky warned, would prove fatal, arguing that a man without faith was like the unconscious pilot of a plane. Although technically flying, he would be hurtling towards destruction.
This comment was made against the backdrop of the Second World War and under the cloud of the Atomic Age, a time where mass destruction loomed large. However, these comments ring true today in our postmodern age. Despite all the scientific accomplishments of the West, a moral crisis of being and purpose runs through the nerves of our society. Human reason is capable of great triumphs, but it becomes distorted when society has no place for faith.
Remedying this is not easy. However, the scientist warned against entirely ditching scientific enquiry and reason. Instead, he proposed that humanity must rediscover the power of “spiritual wisdom”, putting reason not as the end of human existence, but as a means to even greater truth. “The very first men to find and accept Christ were wealthy alien scientist astronomers,” wrote Sikorsky. The point is clear: science can point us towards God.
This brings us back to the beginning. Both the Atheist and the Christian look into space and see stars, planets, and galaxies; but arrive at opposite conclusions. The Atheist sees the stars and the earth, but that is all. They are the end of all existence. Sikorsky looked upon the same sky but saw something different. Reason led him to see that the universe was created by God, full of wonder and beauty. Just like the three astronomers visiting the infant Christ, he found that reason is no barrier to faith.
If you are interested in learning more about the place of faith in contemporary society, please visit our Faith & Reason course page.
Note, this post draws on the following article: A Scientist’s Orthodox Faith’, The British Association of Iconographers Review, Issue 71, 2023