Category Archives: Existence of God

POOF! “Hi , I Am God. Nice To Meet You”

Many times when I ask the question, “What type of evidence would you need to believe in God?”, I get the response, “God would have to appear in front of me of some physical evidence of His existance” or something to that effect. In light of that statement, I would like to respond by talking about circumstantial evidence versus direct evidence, and the reason why that statement is not proof against the existence of God.

Jim Wallace, a cold case detective, was standing in for Greg Koukl on Stand To Reason recently. I always enjoy Jim Wallace because he comes from a perspective of a detective when speaking about religion, ethics, and the big questions. During that episode Jim Wallace spoke of a former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s new book Divinity of Doubt: The God Question, in which he argues that agnosticism is the only sensible position to hold.

Bugliosi writes in his book, “By fact I mean a truth known by actual experience or observation. And something that cannot be logically explained in any other way” (p. 4). Bugliosi’s way of approaching Christianity, proof beyond any possible doubt, causes all of history to be off the table not just Christianity. Also many or most of Bugliosi’s trials I am sure were not won with proof beyond a possible doubt. He missed something the judicial system calls proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This is why I want to cover the the difference of direct and circumstantial evidence, and why both are reliable because Bugliosi is saying that we can only trust direct evidence.

Direct Versus Circumstantial Evidence

The definition for circumstantial evidence covers the definition for both direct and circumstantial evidence: Evidence in which an inference is required to connect it to a conclusion of fact. By contrast, direct evidence supports the truth of an assertion directly–i.e., without need for any additional evidence or the intervening inference.

Jim Wallace explains it well in an article from Please Convince Me called “The  Problem of Evidential Insufficiency”:

We might determine, for example, that a suspect committed a murder on the basis of an eyewitness who saw the murder directly or a suspect’s later confession (two pieces of  direct evidence), or we might determine this on the basis of the suspect’s prior threatening remarks, his bloody appearance minutes after the crime, and his efforts to flee the scene (all examples of circumstantial evidence). Our criminal justice system draws no distinction between these two forms of evidence; both are equally viable and powerful in making a case.

Even though direct evidence may give us a conclusion quicker or with less evidence, it isn’t more valid than circumstantial. With circumstantial evidence you may need more pieces to point to the same conclusion, but with enough pieces it makes it reliable, reasonable, and factual. Knowing this Bugliosi must be careful because when making such strong statements about direct and circumstantial evidence he is discrediting more than just Christianity. To his downfall, he is also discrediting his own work. Bugliosi would have to throw out much of the evidence he most likely used in the Charles Manson case he is most famous for. And many others who claim the same belief in the necessity of direct evidence would be discrediting many of their own beliefs or ideas that hinge on circumstantial evidence.

Must God Appear?

In Christianity there are both direct and circumstantial evidence, but a more robust and comprehensive amount of circumstantial. The difficult part for many is that none of the direct evidence is related to the existence of God. Many believe if God were real then he would show Himself, but He doesn’t therefore He is not real. There are three problems with that line of thought: (1) There is plenty of circumstantial evidence, (2) there is a lot of assumptions when making that claim, and (3) there is more than one way to prove something exists.

Since I have written in previous blog posts about the evidence for God, I will leave you to read those or others work on this weighty topic. However, I would like to touch a little on the second problem. The problem with making assumptions about God is that people do it without proper knowledge of God’s actions in the past, His character, or His overall purpose. All of these are important to understanding why God does what He does. Rather than taking these into consideration people draw quick conclusions based more on their own desires. So maybe the statement above should be written more like: If I were God, then I would show myself, and the Christian God doesn’t do what I would do, so He is not real. When the statement is put in it’s true light it sounds much more ridiculous and self-centered.

We must not forget there are different ways to prove thing’s exist. If a thing is physical, then some physical test should be able to reveal it, at least in principle. But if a thing is not physical, then a person has to infer its existence by different means. There are many nonphysical things in this world such as intent, a soul, or an idea. The God of Christianity is also not physical, so it seems that the use of circumstantial evidence to prove His existence would be more than sufficient (especially because there is a lot).

Conclusion

Bugliosi, and others like him, should know that that physical things are found by physical tests, but nonphysical things will need a different test, or inference. Even within Bugliosi’s sphere of work there are nonphysical things such as intent and contracts, so if he were to hold to his way of thinking then these things would be invalid too. Also we must remember that not only is circumstantial evidence a reasonable way of knowing God exists, but we must not be arrogant enough to believe that just because God doesn’t do something our way means He is not real.

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No One Can Prove God!

“No one can prove God exists.”

“It is impossible to prove God exists.”

How often do people (or yourself) make one of these comments? During discussions or debates about God the two comments above are used as a trump for any further discussion. As Christians many times this is where the conversation stops. It seems almost worthless to keeping going, and the person saying such comments most likely has already closed their mind to the idea of the existence of God. However, I believe the conversation could be directed in a more useful and thoughtful direction.

I am currently reading through a book called Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy by Gregory Ganssle, which was recommended by Greg Koukl on Stand to Reason. I would like to share Greg Ganssle’s approach on the above statements because I see benefit in his approach.

When someone says, “No one can prove God exists” they often mean “You cannot provide reasons for thinking God exists that are so good that they will convince all thinking people” (Ganssle p. 25). In this case, Ganssle and I would agree that no one can give reasons that could convince “all thinking people.” One cannot provide an argument that convinces everyone of God’s existence without some possibility of reasonable doubt. Actually, one cannot provide a convincing argument for many philosophical ideas that would be accepted by everyone. For example, I cannot prove that the universe did not pop into existence fifteen minutes ago and that all of our memories are just illusions, that the mountains we see even exist, or that those around us have minds and are not just clever robots. It is not that there are not good arguments to support these ideas, but there are parts that are less than certain. We could say that these arguments could be rationally doubted. So far it seems that there are no philosophical ideas that can be proven beyond reasonable doubt. The fact the the arguments for God produce any reasonable doubt does not reduce the case for God’s existence (pgs. 25-26).

It is reliable to believe that the universe did not just pop into existence minutes ago, the mountains are real and our thoughts are not illusions, or other minds exist. It is reasonable to believe ideas that are not able to be “proven with unquestionable certainty” (pg. 27). In closing, even if you do not believe in God from the reasonable ideas I have given on this blog, you may at least start to see that those who believe in God are reasonable.

If you are interested in seeing the reasonable answers to the question of God’s existence then check out the articles below or search through my blog.

Articles on Existence of God
If God Were Real…
Evil as Evidence for God
What Science Can’t Prove
Is God Just an Idea?

Sources:

Gregory E. Ganssle. Thinking About God: First Steps in Philosophy. Kindle Edition.


			

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Is There Scientific Evidence for God?

Disclaimer: Before I share, I would like to establish that there is other evidence for God through science that will not be mentioned here (possibly in a later post). Many of these arguments are not conclusive to the existence of God on their own, rather together they make a reasonable and compelling argument for God’s existence. If you are eager for more information, then search Intelligent Design (ID); also on my book page I have a review of a book by Sean McDowell and William Dembski “Understanding Intelligent Design.”

I had the privilege of speaking to high schoolers and answering the question “Is there scientific evidence for God?” in a series called Hard Questions. The students spent time handing out cards at school for students to write down any question they might have about Christianity. After several weeks, the most common questions were addressed on a Wednesday night and anyone was invited.

The obstacle in answering this question is time and information. I mention time because there is so much to be said about the topic that one short session is not long enough. Also, the information that can be gathered through articles, books, podcasts, etc. are so overwhelming that it would be too much to throw upon anyone one person.

In light of the above statements, I decided to make the answer to the question succinct and memorable. I chose four arguments, simplified them, and put it into a mnemonic device.

The dictionary defines science as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” As you can see science relies upon the observation of the physical world. Many might say since God is supernatural, then He is not part of the scientific realm. However, Romans 1:18-21 declares, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” God may be “unseen”, but since He is the Creator of the world in which we do our science, then obviously His creation reflects Him. (However, I must say this does not mean I believe empirical evidence is the only means by which we can know something. I believe that there are many aspects of life that can not be known through the five sense that are equally as valid.)

The acronym is FLIC: Fine Tuning, Laws of Thermodynamics, Irreducible Complexity, and the Cosmological Argument.

Fine Tuning
As Stephen Hawking has noted, “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. […] The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” Many scientists, including Stephen Hawking, will openly admit that many aspects of our world is finely tuned (or adjusted) so that we can have life on Earth. The probability of these finely tuned aspects of our Earth occurring by chance is astronomically unlikely. This is the case for even just a couple of the finely tuned aspects of our Earth, let alone many. For example:

1. Robin Collins, in Case for a Creator, mentions that the fine-tuning of cosmological constant, the energy density of empty space (part of Einstein’s equation for General Relativity), has conservatively been estimated to be one part in a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion, or a ten with fifty-three zeroes. Collins also gives an illustration of how finely tuned it is: “Put it this way… Let’s say you were way out in space and were going to throw a dart at random toward the Earth. It would be like successfully hitting a bull’s eye that’s one trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in diameter. That’s less than the size of one solitary atom.”

2. Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds
protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5%, life would be impossible. (Leslie, 1989, pp. 4, 35; Barrow and Tipler, p. 322.)

3. Calculations by Brandon Carter show that if gravity had been stronger or weaker by 1 part in 10 to the 40th power, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible. (Davies, 1984, p. 242.)

Counter-Argument: Those who are against Intelligent Design would make the argument for the multiverse theory. The argument is that if there are many universes, then it is likely that at some point there would be a planet that would suit life from an evolutionary stand point (again probability; unlikely probability).

Rebuttal: Science is based on empirical evidence, and there is no evidence -only speculation- that there are multiple universes. Until that is proven there is not validity in the argument; the burden of proof is on the one who claims multiverse.

Laws of Thermodynamics

Cengel and Boles say, “[T]he principles of thermodynamics have been in existence since the creation of the universe.”

First Law
The First Law of Thermodynamics says energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but can only be converted from one form to another. This principle, also known as the “conservation of energy principle” can be demonstrated by the burning of a piece of wood. When the wood is burned, it is transformed into a different state. The original amount of energy present before the burning is still present. However, much of that energy was transformed into a different state, namely, heat. No energy disappeared from the Universe, and no energy was brought into the Universe through burning the wood. Knowing this law, which is accepted by scientists, for the Universe to come out of nothing (Big Bang), breaks the First Law. If this is the case, then an Outside Force must have brought it into existence, and God is the most reasonable.

Second Law
The Second Law of Thermodynamics builds on the first, stating that though there is a constant amount of energy in a given system that is merely transforming into different states, that energy is becoming less usable or the world is constantly getting more disorderly. We call it entropy. The Universe cannot exist forever. This shows that matter and energy are not eternal; rather there was a beginning. Meaning there had to be a First Cause (See Cosmological Argument).

Irreducible Complexity
Irreducible complexity can be defined as, “A single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” This an argument originated from a Biochemist professor, Michael Behe.

Michael Behe uses the bacterial flagellum as an example. It contains a molecular motor that requires each of the 40 complex protein parts. Behe says that the absence of any one of these proteins would cause the function of the flagella to fail. If the flagellum engine were to be reduced in its complexity to earlier and simpler stages of its evolutionary development, then the organism functions improperly.

On the other hand, these complex systems in biological organisms (like the motor in a bacterial flagellum) would not survive in a Darwinian evolutionary process. Darwinian natural selection preserves things that perform a function, or help the organism survive (survival of the fittest). The problem at hand is that irreducibly complex systems perform no function until all the parts are present and working together. Natural selection can only preserve these complex organisms once they’ve been built, and it is highly unlikely by mere chance that evolution could take such a huge leap as to create the whole system at once. Anyways, evolution claims gradual change over time.

It seems a logical conclusion would be these complex biological organisms point to an Intelligent Designer, and I would like to prepose that the most reasonable canidate would be the God of the Bible.

Cosmological Argument
The Cosmological Argument is connected to the discussion from the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It showed that energy is not eternal, which means the cause of the beginning of the Universe could not have occurred by energy that was eternal. The Cosmological Argument (by William Lane Craig) suggests that there must have been a cause for the Universe.

Argument:
Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
The Universe began to exist.
Therefore, the Universe had a cause.

In the case of the Universe, it must be an uncaused cause or we would have an infinite regression of causes. Many scientists agree that there had to be an uncaused cause or at least a cause for the Universe. However, many would say they do not know “yet” and often don’t see it as an essential issue (Dawkins says this in the documentary Expelled). I, on the other hand, see the beginning of all that we know as extremely important. A reasonable answer to the uncaused cause is God, who needs no cause, and also has the power and ability to create the Universe. Alongside of that, much of what we know about the world around us points toward an Intelligent Designer.

Conclusion
I hope that the information above sheds new light on a difficult topic for you. Even if this is not something you readily accept, I do hope that it is thought provoking and you will consider it with an open mind. Feel free to put your comments, but please make sure they are not rude or crude. I want intellectually stimulating conversation and not a full out “fist fight” argument. Below are some resources for anyone who wants to read more about some of the arguments from above and others.

Resources:

Lee Strobel “Case for a Creator”
Articles by Michael Behe (Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University)
Science Articles at Stand to Reason
Design Inference (William Dembski)
If God Made The World, Then Who Made God?
Intelligent Design Podcast
Apologetics and Intelligent Design

or go to my link section and anyone of the given sites will have more information about science and God, Intelligent Design, or any of the arguments I mentioned.

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