(Investigator 137, 2010 September)
A chair with four legs and a back provides comfortable sitting. But we would not recognize this if we examined only the components such as one, two or three legs.
The five evidences below for God are components. Each alone is valid and helpful, but together they're decisive.
When atheists look at evidences individually, it's like examining bits of the chair and finding each bit useless. Sometimes we need to stand back to see a bigger picture.
1 ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE
The Anthropic Principle "asserts that our existence restricts the possible values of any physical constants, because simply to be observed, the Universe must allow life to exist." (New Scientist, June 10, 2000, p. 33)
The "Big Bang" occurred with many finely-tuned events, and the Universe that resulted has many finely-tuned "constants of physics".
Gribbin & Rees (1991) write:
the Universe has expanded away from the Big Bang at just the right speed to allow galaxies, stars and planets to form, and for carbon-based life forms to exist… The crucial factor that prevented all the primordial matter from turning into iron, but allowed stars like our Sun to form, and to build up a variety of elements starting from hydrogen and helium, was the rate at which the early Universe expanded… the relevant number, the so-called "density parameter," was set in the beginning, with an accuracy of 1 part in 1060. (pp 14, 16 18)
1060 is a big number! The age of the Universe in seconds is only 1018; and the total words spoken by all people who ever lived only 1019. The "density parameter" for the Universe to produce observers such as humans was fine-tuned almost beyond imagining!
…the strength of the weak force that decides how much hydrogen is processed into helium…requires rather precise fine-tuning…slightly stronger and no helium would have been produced…slightly weaker and nearly all the baryons [protons & neutrons] would have been converted into helium in the Big Bang. (Gribbin & Rees p. 254)
Most of the Universe is made of "dark matter". The proportion of dark to normal matter is just right to produce stars and planets, and just right for "a life bearing universe" and "looks like a tremendous coincidence". (Ananthaswamy 2008)
The inverse square law of gravity is just right to give planets stable orbits. An inverse cube law would see planets easily dislodged toward the Sun or into deep Space.
The strength of the electrical force that holds protons inside atoms together is 1038 times stronger than gravity. If the value were 1030, stars would be only 2 kilometres wide and burn out after one year. (Gribbin & Rees pp 263-269
The Big Bang produced only light elements — hydrogen, helium and traces of lithium. All other elements are created inside stars. Fred Hoyle found that the nuclear reaction which fuses helium-4 nuclei first into beryllium-8 (an unstable product that lasts only 1/1017 seconds) then into carbon-12, requires such unlikely "resonance" or matching of energy levels that:
A common-sense interpretation of the facts suggest a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. (Hoyle 1981)
We're not dealing with Earth having the right gases for life, or Jupiter deflecting asteroids from hitting Earth. These are merely consequences, billions of years down the track, of the initial conditions of the Big Bang and the physical constants it came with.
Rather, we're dealing with finely-tuned conditions of the Big Bang itself and finely-turned physical constants that emerged at the beginning. About thirty are known. These are not explained by prior laws or any process of development, since if time began with the Big Bang, there were no prior laws or processes.
Professor Paul Davies said:
How can one accept a scheme of things so cleverly arranged, so subtle and felicitous, simply as a brute fact, as a package of properties that just happens to be? To me, the contrived nature of physical existence is just too fantastic to take on board as simply ‘given'. It points forcefully to a deeper underlying meaning to existence. Some call it purpose, some design. (Herd, 1995)
Physicist Steven Weinberg says that fine-tuning leaves "only two explanations: a benevolent designer or a multiverse." (New Scientist, 6 December, 2008, p. 48)
Folger (2008) writes: "Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation… Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse."
Stephen Hawkins (2010) believes in 10500 universes each governed by different laws. Comparison is made with a lottery where the odds of a particular person winning are remote, but someone has to win because the setup assures a winner.
Problems with this notion include:
1. No other universes are known — there is no "lottery".
2. To imagine numbers big enough until we feel anything is possible is subjective and arbitrary.
3. All "why" questions — e.g. "Why did WWII start?" "Why did hurricane Katrina form" "Why did Tom murder Barry?" — would all have the same useless answer which is, "The number of universes is so great that some universes have to have this event."
4. Any super-universe would also have to be finely tuned to spawn child universes. Who or what finely-tuned it?
Point 4 suggests a regress in which ever bigger finely-tuned systems have to be imagined to explain lower-level finely-tuned systems.
If, however, a Designer/God is invoked, atheists ask: "Who designed the designer?" One answer is: "No one, since if every explanation required an explanation then every question would lead to an infinite regress."
Another answer is that only non-intelligence requires an infinite regress. For example, supposed a rock hits someone. We would ask "What made the rock to fly toward him?" Answer "A landslide". Question "What caused the landslide?" Answer "Dynamite". Question "Who or what set the dynamite to explode?" Answer: "Bob Williams." Question "What caused Bob Williams?"
The last question we recognize as silly because it's no longer relevant to the causal chain. When a chain of events has been traced back to an intelligent agent, further inquiry accepts his existence and switches to his motives and intentions. Similarly, if we trace the Universe to "God", further questions accept His existence and ask about his reasons and motives. It's only while non-conscious events are part of the "chain" that we ask "What caused that"?" and then "What caused that?"
People often ask How the Designer created, Why he took so long, Why the Universe is so big. These questions are not refutations. We could ask similar questions about a house without these questions refuting the house-owner's existence.
It's often claimed that invoking a Designer would put a stop to science. However, it was the Judeo-Christian belief in a law-giver God, who created consistent laws permitting prediction, that got modern science started! (Harrison 2006; Hooykaas 1972)
2 — THE BIBLE
If the Big Bang and physical constants that maintain the Universe imply a Creator, is there anywhere additional information, beyond what physics tells us, about Him?
About 40 years ago I observed that criticisms of the Bible often ended up mistaken and science was confirming Bible statements one after another. I even used the Bible to predict what science will accept in the future, for example:
• Asteroids are a threat to Earth. (#62)
• Rising sea levels will distress many nations. (#68)
• Snakes can hear. (#94)
• Lions kill prey by "strangling". (#87)
These ideas from the Bible subsequently became part of science.
Dr Potter in Seeking Truth The Two Approaches (#134) claims "A scientist is never certain" and this differs to Christianity where believers claim to "know" what's true "apart from the evidence."
Scientists being never certain, is theoretical. In practice scientists treat discoveries that have been retested and checked as certain. Many articles in Investigator refute the paranormal by referring to scientific research. This only works if science gives certainty. Otherwise science and the paranormal stand equal.
Besides regarding science as giving certainty we also have to extrapolate — i.e. we have to reason inductively. For example, we know that things fall according to the law of gravity, and we generalize this knowledge and expect gravity to operate tomorrow. None of us will argue "scientists are never certain" and then try to fly like Superman rather than board an airplane.
Even when dealing with regularities or trends as distinct from physical laws we need to extrapolate. When employers hire employees they assume that past performance indicates future performance. Some applicants may change and not fulfill expectations, but to know the applicant's past and project it into the future is still the most objective way for employers to decide. If employers required applicants to "Show me the future now including your future performance" then no one could ever get hired.
If hundreds of biblical points were confirmed over several centuries and critics repeatedly proved wrong, this gives data which by inductive reasoning informs us that many current critics of the Bible are also wrong.
Christians and non-believers have in common the need to rely on science and induction. What I do is show that this common aspect leads to conclusions the unbeliever has not realized i.e. to God and to the Bible. This is "knowledge" from evidence, not "apart from". It's one approach for all, not "Two Approaches".
3 — THE SUPERNATURAL
Atheists set up a barrier between science and the supernatural so that one is empirical, the other "faith".
In Investigator 125-126 I equated the supernatural with other dimensions beyond the three we're familiar with — up/down, left/right and forwards/backwards.
I analyzed how hypothetical two-dimensional "flatlanders" would experience interference from our three-dimensional world and found that the flatlander's experience resembles the Bible's presentation of the supernatural. In other words the supernatural may lie in extra dimensions.
Musser (2010) writes: "From the relative weakness of gravity to the deep affinity among seemingly distinct particles and forces, various mysteries of the world around us give the impression that the known universe is but a shadow of a higher-dimensional reality."
Another possibility is: "Could it be that what we see as dark matter is really evidence for a hidden world that mirrors ours?" (Feng & Trodden 2010)
The dichotomy of science OR the supernatural is therefore invalid, since science may be pointing to the supernatural — to the realm of angels, demons and God.
4 — MIRACLES
Sydney oncologist David Bell wrote a book about spontaneous remission, where cancer disappears without treatment. He knows of 400 confirmed cases in 150 years, but is skeptical of supernatural explanations. (Cresswell 2010)
The atheist's explanation of "miracles" is that they're either coincidence or unknown natural phenomena.
Often, however, miracles are defined in advance when, for example, doctors say "There's nothing more we can do", or whenever a person tells others about an impossible outcome he's praying for.
When a miracle is defined in advance and takes place and atheists then deny it's a miracle, they have merely "shifted the goal posts".
Suppose I ask an atheist to kick a goal with a football, but after he does so I shift the posts and say, "You failed." That's the error atheists make whenever a "miracle" is defined in advance (like goal-posts in place) but re-defined (similar to moving the posts) after success occurs.
Hoped-for miracles from God don't occur every time — but that's no objection since humans also don't do everything everyone asks. The study of why God doesn't always help is called "theodicy". (See #104)
5 — EXPERIENCE
Suppose a blind man denies the President exists. He learns that the President is necessary for proper functioning of government, hears testimony from people of proven integrity who know the President, and learns about the President's accomplishments.
But the blind man argues that everything attributed to the President occurred in other ways. He says "Show me the evidence" but is handicapped by being blind.
What's left is to arrange a meeting if both agree.
Since God can't be seen, everyone is in a sense blind. The fifth evidence therefore is personal experience.
With training humans can orientate themselves using Earth's magnetism like birds, and avoid objects like bats by echolocation. Contact with God also may require practice — plus willingness to renounce whatever evils kept God away:
The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous. (Proverbs 15:29)
To rely on experience alone without evidences "1" to "4" is risky because of possible delusion, and psychological mechanisms for self-deception. But in conjunction with "1" to "4" experience is powerful.
Perhaps some people deny God's existence because they fear that belief implies church-membership.
This commits the "naturalistic fallacy", also called Poincare's Rule, which states, "No imperative conclusion can be validly drawn from a set of premises which does not contain at least one imperative."
David Hume wrote:
"In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with…the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning…when…instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not... For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ‘tis necessary that it shou'd be observ'd and explain'd; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it." (A Treatise of Human Nature, Book 3, 1740)
Students simplify this to, "You cannot derive an ought from an is."
If we see a tree there is no particular act we "ought" to do! One person may kick it, another ignore it, another lop branches off. No particular "ought" follows from seeing a tree. Even with extra context such as "It is raining", the imperative "You ought to shelter under the tree" does not follow. I might be content to get wet, or open my umbrella.
Perhaps some deny God's existence because they imagine that if they acknowledge intelligence behind the Universe, it imposes an "ought" they don't want. Rather than deny only the "ought" they mistakenly deny the "is".
The laws that describe how the Universe works also permit the existence of creatures intelligent enough to discover those laws. That is amazing and makes humans somehow central. What if the laws are also such as to permit human domination of the Universe? By extrapolating technological progress to the indefinite future we can actually make that prediction! It's also what the Bible teaches — Nothing will be impossible (Genesis 11:6) and humans will rule everything (Hebrews 2:5-8). Wouldn't such a Universe have to be pre-planned?
Atheists demand "empirical evidence of a direct nature" but can't show us 10500 universes. They are like the blind man who dismisses the President's accomplishments as originating elsewhere, despises direct personal encounter, and won't even reason inductively, and so can't accept the President's existence although he exists.
If each of my five arguments is insufficient for you by itself then view them together so they complement one another — like seeing a whole chair rather than its components.
Ananthaswamy, A. New Scientist, 6 December, 2008, p. 12
Cresswell, A. The Weekend Australian, 2010, p. 7
Feng, J. & Trodden, M. Scientific American, November 2010
Folger, T. Discover, November 2008
Gribbin, J. & Rees, M. 1991 Cosmic Coincidences
Harrison, P. 2006 Science & Christian Belief, Volume 18, No. 2
Hawking, S. & Mlodinow, L. 2010 The Grand Design
Herd, J. The Weekend Australian, May 6-7, 1995, p. 10
Hooykaas, R. 1972 Religion and the Rise of Modern Science
Hoyle, F. Wikipedia quoting Engineering and Science, November 1981, pp 8-12
Musser, G. Scientific American, June 2010, p. 23.
To find GOD EXISTS Part 2 go to the home page and click on The Bible —