- By David Robertson
- Atheism: Proving The Negative: Reasons to Believe that God Does Not Exist
- What to say when someone asks for proof of God’s existence
- The Atheist Bible
They assume they have the neutrality, intelligence and ability to assess whether there is a God or not. They have, in effect, positioned themselves as the judge of The Judge. So the first question I simply ask anyone who demands evidence, is why they think they have the capacity to judge any such evidence?
You cannot see God without humility. It is only when we kneel at the cross, rather than flying over it at drone height, that we are able to see where love and mercy meet. That is why Bertrand Russell will not be standing on the Day of Judgement accusing God; he will be kneeling at the name of Jesus, astounded and ashamed that he was so blind.
Very often, the person who demands evidence has already made a pre-judgement that there can be no such evidence. No matter what you say, it is automatically dismissed, because it is perceived as being part of the conspiracy! I have often found that if you answer a particular problem, or provide a particular piece of evidence, the person you are answering immediately turns to something else and just avoids the issue. In order to overcome this prejudice and to avoid wasting a vast amount of time arguing about such vital issues as whether Noah walked to Australia to get kangaroos, I would simply suggest the following: ask anyone who demands evidence, what evidence is it that they would accept for God?
Honest atheists like Richard Dawkins admit that there is almost nothing that would convince them of God. Anything other than believing in an almighty personal Creator. When the Big Bang was proven and it became clear that the universe did indeed have a beginning, as the Bible stated, some atheists were so desperate to avoid the obvious implications that they refused at first to accept it and afterwards quickly ran off to place their faith in the unproven multiverse theory. It is not so much that they believe there is no evidence for God, but they are emotionally driven by their desire that there should be no evidence for God.
In reality the situation is even worse than that. When you ask people to believe and trust in God, it is like asking a blind person to admire the intricacies of the Mona Lisa. You are talking to dead stones and asking these stones to dance. You are calling out to those who are dead in sins and trespasses, to come to life.
Except for those who know their God and his Bible! Because the Bible itself tells us that the word of God will not return to him empty, and that the Holy Spirit takes the word and enables the blind to see and the dead to live. The word preached and lived in the Dunamis power of the Spirit is dynamite!
So what brought the universe into being? We must therefore posit a transcendent cause that is beyond space and time and is therefore non-physical in nature. First, we should distinguish between moral values and duties. Values have to do with whether something is good or bad. Duties have to do with whether something is right or wrong. Duty has to do with moral obligation, what you ought or ought not to do. Similarly, to say that we have objective moral duties is to say that certain actions are right or wrong for us regardless of what people think about it.
So, for example, to say that the Holocaust was objectively wrong is to say that it was wrong even though the Nazis who carried it out thought that it was right, and it would still have been wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them so that everyone believed the Holocaust was right. What makes this argument so compelling is not only that it is logically airtight but also that people generally believe both premises.
In a pluralistic age, people are afraid of imposing their values on someone else. So premise 1 seems correct to them. Moral values and duties are not objective realities that is, valid and binding independent of human opinion but are merely subjective opinions ingrained into us by biological evolution and social conditioning. At the same time, however, people do believe deeply that certain moral values and duties such as tolerance, open-mindedness, and love are objectively valid and binding.
In fact, Dawkins himself seems to be committed to both premises! We are machines for propagating DNA. He even goes so far as to offer his own amended Ten Commandments for guiding moral behavior, all the while marvelously oblivious to the contradiction with his ethical subjectivism! It basically goes like this: Is something good because God wills it? Or does God will something because it is good?
By David Robertson
If you say that something is good because God wills it, then what is good becomes arbitrary. God could have willed that hatred is good, and then we would have been morally obligated to hate one another.
That seems crazy. Some moral values, at least, seem to be necessary. But if you say that God wills something because it is good, then what is good or bad is independent of God. In that case, moral values and duties exist independently of God, which contradicts premise 1. In short, our moral duties are determined by the commands of a just and loving God.
God is essentially compassionate, fair, kind, impartial, and so on. His nature is the moral standard determining good and bad. His commands necessarily reflect in turn his moral nature.
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Therefore, they are not arbitrary. God wills something because he is good, and something is right because God wills it. This view of morality has been eloquently defended in our day by such well-known philosophers as Robert Adams, William Alston, and Philip Quinn. Yet atheists continue to attack the straw men erected by the Euthyphro Dilemma. In the recent Cambridge Companion to Atheism , for example, the article on God and morality, written by a prominent ethicist, presents and criticizes only the view that God arbitrarily made up moral values—a straw man that virtually nobody defends.
We now come to the teleological argument, or the argument for design. Although advocates of the so-called Intelligent Design movement have continued the tradition of focusing on examples of design in biological systems, the cutting edge of the contemporary discussion concerns the remarkable fine-tuning of the cosmos for life.
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Rather during the last forty years or so, scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon a complex and delicate balance of initial conditions given in the Big Bang itself. This is known as the fine-tuning of the universe. This fine-tuning is of two sorts. First, when the laws of nature are expressed as mathematical equations, you find appearing in them certain constants, like the constant that represents the force of gravity.
These constants are not determined by the laws of nature. The laws of nature are consistent with a wide range of values for these constants. Second, in addition to these constants, there are certain arbitrary quantities that are put in just as initial conditions on which the laws of nature operate, for example, the amount of entropy or the balance between matter and anti-matter in the universe.click here
Atheism: Proving The Negative: Reasons to Believe that God Does Not Exist
Now all of these constants and quantities fall into an extraordinarily narrow range of life-permitting values. For example, a change in the strength of the atomic weak force by only one part in 10 would have prevented a life-permitting universe. So improbability is multiplied by improbability by improbability until our minds are reeling in incomprehensible numbers. Dawkins himself, citing the work of the Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, acknowledges that the universe does exhibit this extraordinary fine-tuning. Premise 1 simply lists the three possibilities for explaining the presence of this amazing fine-tuning of the universe: physical necessity, chance, or design.
By contrast, the second alternative states that the fine-tuning is due entirely to chance. The third alternative rejects both of these accounts in favor of an intelligent Mind behind the cosmos, who designed the universe to permit life. The question is this: Which of these alternatives is the best explanation? Premise 2 of the argument addresses that question. Consider the three alternatives.
So, for example, the most promising candidate for a TOE to date, super-string theory or M-Theory, fails to predict uniquely our universe. So what about the second alternative, that the fine-tuning of the universe is due to chance? Even though there will be a huge number of life-permitting universes lying within the cosmic landscape, nevertheless the number of life-permitting worlds will be unfathomably tiny compared to the entire landscape, so that the existence of a life-permitting universe is fantastically improbable.
They would never embrace such a hypothesis in any other area of their lives—for example, in order to explain how there came to be overnight a car in their driveway. In order to rescue the alternative of chance, its proponents have therefore been forced to adopt the hypothesis that there exists an infinite number of randomly ordered universes composing a sort of World Ensemble or multiverse of which our universe is but a part.
Somewhere in this infinite World Ensemble finely-tuned universes will appear by chance alone, and we happen to be in one such world. This is the explanation that Dawkins finds most plausible. But if each one of those universes is simple in its fundamental laws, we are still not postulating anything highly improbable.
This response is multiply confused. First, each universe in the ensemble is not simple but is characterized by a multiplicity of independent constants and quantities. If each universe were simple, then why did Dawkins feel the need to recur to the hypothesis of a World Ensemble in the first place? Besides, the issue is not the simplicity of the fundamental laws , for all the universes in the ensemble are characterized by the same laws—where they differ is in the values of the constants and quantities. Second, Dawkins assumes that the simplicity of the whole is a function of the simplicity of the parts.
This is an obvious mistake. A complex mosaic of a Roman face, for example, is made up of a great number of individually simple, monochromatic parts. In the same way, an ensemble of simple universes will still be complex if those universes vary in the values of their fundamental constants and quantities, rather than all sharing the same values. Appealing to a World Ensemble to explain the appearance of design is like using a sledge hammer to crack a peanut!
Fourth, Dawkins tries to minimize the extravagance of the postulate of a World Ensemble by claiming that despite its extravagant number of entities, still such a postulate is not highly improbable. For the objection under consideration is not that the postulate of a World Ensemble is improbable but that it is extravagant and unparsimonious. He seems to mean the intrinsic probability of the postulate of a World Ensemble, considered apart from the evidence of fine-tuning. But how is such a probability to be determined? By simplicity? What Dawkins needs to say, it seems to me, is that the postulate of a World Ensemble may still be simple if there is a simple mechanism that through a repetitive process generates the many worlds.
So what mechanisms does Dawkins suggest for generating such an infinite, randomly ordered World Ensemble? First, he suggests an oscillating model of the universe, according to which. Nobody understands what goes on in singularities such as the big bang, so it is conceivable that the laws and constants are reset to new values, each time. If bang-expansion-contraction-crunch cycles have been going on forever like a cosmic accordion, we have a serial, rather than parallel, version of the multiverse.
Dawkins is apparently unaware of the many difficulties of oscillatory models of the universe that have made contemporary cosmologists skeptical of them. Back in the s and s, some theorists proposed oscillating models of the universe in an attempt to avert the initial singularity predicted by the Standard Model. The theorems disclosed that under very generalized conditions an initial cosmological singularity is inevitable. Instead almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang. Moreover, the evidence of observational astronomy has been consistently against the hypothesis that the universe will someday recontract into a Big Crunch.
Attempts to discover the mass density sufficient to generate the gravitational attraction required to halt and reverse the expansion continually came up short. In fact, recent observations of distant supernovae indicate that—far from slowing down—the cosmic expansion is actually accelerating!
If the dark energy does indicate the existence of a positive cosmological constant as the evidence increasingly suggests , then the universe will expand forever. Furthermore, wholly apart from the physical and observational difficulties confronting oscillatory models, the thermodynamic properties of such models imply the very beginning of the universe that their proponents sought to avoid.
For entropy is conserved from cycle to cycle in such models, which has the effect of generating larger and longer oscillations with each successive cycle. Thus, looking back in time, each cycle generated less entropy, had a smaller cycle time, and had a smaller cycle expansion factor then [ sic ] the cycle that followed it.
Finally, even if the universe could oscillate from eternity past, such a universe would require an infinitely precise fine-tuning of initial conditions in order to persist through an infinite number of successive bounces. Thus, the mechanism Dawkins envisions for generating his many worlds is not simple but just the opposite.
Moreover, such a universe involves a fine-tuning of a very bizarre sort since the initial conditions have to be set at minus infinity in the past. But how could that be done if there was no beginning? Looking back on the discussion of oscillating models of the universe, quantum cosmologist Christopher Isham muses,. Perhaps the best argument in favor of the thesis that the Big Bang supports theism is the obvious unease with which it is greeted by some atheist physicists. Smolin imagines a scenario, Dawkins explains, according to which. This ability entails various other properties. For example, the tendency of matter to condense into clouds and then stars is a prerequisite for making black holes.
Stars also. So, Smolin suggests, there has been a Darwinian natural selection of universes in the multiverse, directly favouring the evolution of black hole fecundity and indirectly favouring the production of life. Talk about an understatement! The conjecture that black holes may be portals of wormholes through which bubbles of false vacuum energy can tunnel to spawn new expanding baby universes was the subject of a bet between Stephen Hawking and John Preskill, which Hawking in finally admitted, in an event much publicized in the press, that he had lost.
One of the last holdouts, Hawking finally came to agree that quantum theory requires that information is preserved in black hole formation and evaporation. The implications? The information remains firmly in our universe. These are the only mechanisms Dawkins suggests for generating a World Ensemble of randomly ordered universes. Neither of them is even tenable, much less simple.
Dawkins has therefore failed to turn back the objection that his postulation of a randomly ordered World Ensemble is an unparsimonious extravagance. But there are even more formidable objections to the postulate of a World Ensemble of which Dawkins is apparently unaware. Recall that Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin proved that any universe in a state of overall cosmic expansion cannot be infinite in the past.
Their theorem applies to the multiverse, too. Thus, theism is, all else being equal, the better explanation. Roger Penrose has pressed this objection forcefully. So if our universe were just a random member of a World Ensemble, it is incalculably more probable that we should be observing an orderly universe no larger than our solar system.
Observable universes like those are simply much more plenteous in the World Ensemble than worlds like ours and, therefore, ought to be observed by us. We do not have such observations, which strongly disconfirms the multiverse hypothesis.
What to say when someone asks for proof of God’s existence
On atheism, at least, it is therefore highly probable that there is no World Ensemble. The fine-tuning of the universe is therefore plausibly due neither to physical necessity nor to chance. It follows that the fine-tuning is therefore due to design unless the design hypothesis can be shown to be even more implausible than its competitors. Dawkins contends the alternative of design is, indeed, inferior to the Many Worlds hypothesis. One of the greatest challenges to the human intellect has been to explain how the complex, improbable appearance of design in the universe arises.
The temptation is a false one because the designer hypothesis immediately raises the larger problem of who designed the designer. We should not give up the hope of a better explanation arising in physics, something as powerful as Darwinism is for biology. Step 5 alludes to the cosmic fine-tuning that has been the focus of our discussion. Therefore, the hope expressed in step 6 represents nothing more than the faith of a naturalist.
What is this powerful objection to the design hypothesis that renders it self-evidently inferior to the admittedly weak Many Worlds hypothesis? The answer is contained in step 3. This is an elementary point in the philosophy of science. If archaeologists digging in the earth were to discover things looking like arrowheads and pottery shards, they would be justified in inferring that these artifacts are not the chance result of sedimentation and metamorphosis, but products of some unknown group of people, even though they had no explanation of who these people were or where they came from.
Similarly, if astronauts were to come upon a pile of machinery on the back side of the moon, they would be justified in inferring that it was the product of intelligent agents, even if they had no idea whatsoever who these agents were or how they got there. In fact, such a requirement would lead to an infinite regress of explanations so that nothing could ever be explained and science would be destroyed!
Nothing could ever be explained. Whether the Designer has an explanation can simply be left an open question for future inquiry. Second, Dawkins thinks that in the case of a divine Designer of the universe, the Designer is just as complex as the thing to be explained, so that no explanatory advance is made.
This objection raises all sorts of questions about the role played by simplicity in assessing competing explanations. First, Dawkins seems to confuse the simplicity of a hypothesis with the simplicity of the entity described in the hypothesis. A human being is a vastly more complex entity than an arrowhead, but the hypothesis of a human designer is a very simple explanation. It is certainly more simple than the hypothesis that the artifacts were the unintended result of, say, a stampede of buffalo that chipped a rock to look like an arrowhead.
The point is that it is rival hypotheses are assessed by the criterion of simplicity, not the entities they postulate. Second, there are many other factors besides simplicity that scientists weigh in determining which hypothesis is the best, such as explanatory power, explanatory scope, and so forth.
The Atheist Bible
A hypothesis that has, for example, broader explanatory scope may be less simple than a rival hypothesis but still be preferred because it explains more things. Simplicity is not the only, or even most important, criterion for assessing theories! But leave all those problems aside. Saved by Grace. Artificial Intelligence. Or, explore… Blogs. Ann's Journey. Joshua's Journey. First Time here?