Psalm 19 says, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” And Paul declares in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead…” But how are God’s attributes seen by the things that are made? And how do the heavens declare the glory of God?
A very common objection to God’s existence is that there is no evidence, and never has been any evidence for his existence. “I’m waiting! I’m open to the idea,” the skeptic claims, “but no one has ever presented evidence!” This objection, however, is either spawned from pure ignorance, or a terribly narrow definition of “evidence.” Most of the time it comes from people who define evidence as direct empirical measurement. In other words, something a physics lab could detect – evidence that in principle could be seen, touched, tasted, smelled, or heard. But that means to count as evidence, “God” would have to be physical, material, a force, a field, a body. Whatever else God might be, he wouldn’t count as God if he were any of those things. So, claiming that evidence must fit the criteria of physics or chemistry just begs the question.
If the objector understands that evidence can be broader than physics and less direct than a telescope, but is still waiting patiently, she just hasn’t read much [check out the links at the bottom]. There is a rich history of arguments for the existence of God. Many of the most successful examples are ones that argue from evidence. What evidence you say? The evidence from the very nature of ordinary things: the fact that the things in the world around us do not exist necessarily, but contingently (in other words, they don’t have to exist, and might someday cease to exist), or the fact that things change.
The natural world around us also acts toward ends. What do I mean? Hearts pump blood in order to distribute blood throughout a body. Trees grow roots down into the soil in order to soak up nutrients. Birds gather sticks for the purpose of building nests. Even hydrogen atoms always “seek” to have two valence electrons.
Even natural selection and the theory of evolution are processes directed towards something, namely, survival. For five hundred years or so, scientists and thinkers have tried to ignore this idea of inherent goal-directedness (what’s classically been called final causality), and they have attempted to characterize everything in terms of particles pushing or fields influencing. But final causality is making a comeback, largely due to the fact that it’s seeming more and more unlikely that we can fully get rid of goal-directedness in the philosophy of nature. This is especially true in biology. How could you ever understand a heart or a liver without reference to its function or its purpose in the larger system? Likewise, parts of ecosystems? More fundamentally, the potentials and powers in things -anything- are directed towards certain outcomes. The ability to cause something is directed at a certain and limited range of possible effects. Causes naturally cause the same effect unless some other cause gets in the way.
[But let’s say that this technical stuff is over your head. I think you’ll agree that it makes sense that things act toward goals, even unintelligent things. Now, have you ever stopped to consider what it takes to act purposefully?]
Okay, if this is true, what’s the big deal? If teleology, or goal-directedness is inherent in all things, then the evidence for God is literally all around you:
- All natural things act with purpose or toward goals. (An acorn’s potential to act in the presence of sunlight, soil, and water is pointed toward becoming an oak tree.)
- But acting with purpose requires intelligence.
The very nature of acting with purpose or toward goals requires an intellect, because the end toward which a thing acts does not yet exist, so it cannot have any influence, unless it exists in a mind. The house, as a goal, can influence the architect only because it exists in some sense in the architect’s mind (the “blueprints” of a goal exist only in minds, until the blueprints are realized in a completed effect, like a finished house).
- Unintelligent things can act with purpose if directed by an intelligence. (My car is unintelligent, but it can drive to a destination as I direct it.)
- Therefore, all natural things are directed by an Intelligence
And what would we call an Intelligence that intimately directs all things in the universe towards ends, or purposes?
This is a simple adaptation of Thomas Aquinas’s “Fifth Way.”
Saying the natural world is evidence of a created, synthetic, not natural world is a bit of an oxymoron. Saying “nature” is evidence of god is merely an opinion.
Here is evidence I would accept; Shamanistic practice around the world, one unknown from the other had core rituals and beliefs in common, developed over the millennia by their utility and universal truth. Well call it “core shamanism”. Had the missionaries gone into the world and found other worshippers of Yahweh, Jesus, your god, “core Christianity” that would be evidence I’d be forced to consider. Yet, outside a little piece of ground where your god chose a small band of reprobates to represent him, no one on earth had ever heard of him. Weird. So obvious your god created the world, but not obvious at all until you told them, then for 1400 years, forced them to believe at the point of a sword. That’s some evidence.
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Hi Jim, I have no idea what you’re referring to in your first sentence. Perhaps you misunderstood my post?
Saying nature is evidence for God is demonstrably not just an opinion, because I gave reasons and an argument for that claim. Maybe my argument fails, maybe my premises aren’t true, but it’s by definition not an opinion. Could you pick a premise you disagree with and explain why? Or state why you think the conclusion doesn’t follow?
As for the last part of your comment, it sounds like your objecting to the “hiddenness” of God. You think his existence should be more obvious, if it were true. Am I understanding you?
The first sentence is regarding the world we have here, if it is a created world, ie, not natural occurring, therefore, synthetic.
You alluded that the end-goal of the acorn requires intelligence. Does the acorn know that? These things evolve in their respective environs, as seen in various climates throughout the world. Without being overly simplistic, you did start the post with scripture, so your explanation is actually trying to prove intelligent design, not actually weighing evidence.
Before we get slogged in the mire, I think the evidence for your god, would have led indigenous peoples throughout the world to independently conclude such, at least in their explanation, but a Yahweh type, or even a shadow of his is absent from the dialogue.
If you take 10,000 years of indigenous utility that was universal, they would and do, laugh at your views of being and wholeness. People like Daniel Everett and Henry Rambow recorded such interactions as missionaries to “primitive people”. It is well documented also by people like William Penn and Bartolomé de las Casas, that the indigenous knew nothing of their god, lived more honorably and honestly than the Christian, but, they converted them anyway at the point of a sword. The fact is in Christian history, might equals right and the victors have written the narrative. The truth is also the Christian way of faith, is a sub-par way of being in the world. That is evidence.
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My post started with scripture because most of my audience are Christians, and many Christians have uncritically accepted the idea there is no evidence for God. So, they’re often confused when their own Bible seems to say there is evidence all around them.
By “nature,” I just mean the material, physical stuff of our sensory experience: rocks, trees, birds, stars, cabbage, and Cambridge Professors. You know, nature. My argument does not assume that nature is created. In fact, the argument doesn’t even conclude that nature is created. I would have to develop further arguments to show that the transcendent Intelligence is also the creator of everything.
What I’m trying to prove with my argument is irrelevant to the truth or falsity of my argument. The motivations of the arguer don’t affect the validity of the argument. To say so would be to commit the genetic fallacy or ad hominem. If an argument fails, then a premise isn’t true, or the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises.
Indigenous peoples all over the earth never understood that what keeps their feet on the ground is the same phenomenon that keeps the planets in orbit. Does that make Newton wrong?
Thanks for the dialogue! I hope we can both move closer to an understanding of truth by our conversation.
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Certainly a great topic. It feels like a bit of a back-door to achieve a presupposition, but I’ll see where this goes.
“uncritically accepted the idea there is no evidence for God. So, they’re often confused when their own Bible seems to say there is evidence all around them” This is where Nietzsche described our senses being corrected by our cultural interpretation/indoctrinations. We see things as they are, but through the expert opinions and apologetics we can (and do) twist them to fit a narrative.
Your comment is well taken though. “Does This make Newton wrong”. That is not the point. Certainly we understand the math of gravity, the rate of a falling objects, and orbits by observation and calculation. That doesn’t cancel out the fact that there are (and were) more legitimate ways of being that surpassed Christianity, which is supposed to be the ultimate way of happiness. My entire deconversion was really based on the outcomes of faith and what faith, submission, and repetition does to the neurons and hormones, so it’s a challenge for me to see any modern religion as a plus, when it is really a barrier placed in front of humanity (like a guru challenge). We have given virtue to a very common and gullible trait (belief) and that very belief is supposedly the breakthrough we need to heal the world, is actually the barrier to it. Surpassing belief mode is going to be the biggest challenge ever, I would guess.
As far as creation and consciousness it is exuding from the material world, not injected into it. I would venture out even a step further that consciousness precludes the gods, if there were any. I’ve written many observations on this though process, but I’m curious to see what you have to say.
But is we can’t surpass belief mode we are not ready to wield the power we hold when we work together.
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