Source: Travis Dickinson
I believe in God. Given this, I’m sometimes asked “Got any evidence?”
Uh, yes. Yes I do. In fact, I think there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the evidence for God.
Now I’m never quite sure what people have in mind by the notion of “evidence” when this concerns God. It often seems to be the case they want material evidence, like fingerprints or DNA evidence or eye witness sightings. Or they may ask for scientific evidence for God.
It is sometimes the case that what would count as evidence for God is so very restricted. The God of Christian theism is not material. We shouldn’t expect to see something like divine radioactivity, or some material fact like that, without which we will not believe in God. This is just not being intellectually honest.
When we ask whether there’s evidence for something we need to be careful with what sort of evidence would we expect to find. It would be like saying I will not believe in an electron until I see one with my own eyes. Well the problem is that no one has seen an electron with their own eyes and no one ever will. An electron is not the sort of thing than can be seen with human eyes. It is designated as an unobservable entity and only postulated because it makes sense of certain collections of data.
If there are facts that resist substantive explanation unless there is a God, then we have reason–we have evidence– to believe in God.
Again, so long as the notion of evidence is not narrowly restricted, then the world is replete with evidence of God’s existence. I will not give an extended argument for each of these here but will simply nod in the direction of each.
- The universe itself
That there is a universe is a striking fact that we take for granted. It’s hard to imagine the nonexistence of the universe. But the existence of the universe itself is not well explained on atheism. It’s really not explained at all. The multiverse (if it exists) doesn’t explain the universe. It merely makes more universes in need of explanation. However, the universe itself is no problem to explain if there is a creator God.
- The contingency of the universe.
The universe is a contingent thing, filled with contingent things. Something is contingent if it is (i.e., it exists), but it certainly seems possible that it didn’t have to be. Philosophers have thought that the contingency of the universe is not well explained by merely pointing to something else that is contingent (multiverse won’t work here either). That just pushes the need for explanation back. There must be something necessary (something that couldn’t not be), which doesn’t need something further to explain it, that underlies the contingent reality. God fits the bill. He has classically been taken (far before Leibniz) as a necessary being and this would account for the contingency of the universe.
- The finitude of the universe
The universe didn’t always exist. If there was a beginning to the universe—a big bang, then it seems there must be something that explains why it came into existence–or banged. If this was an absolute beginning, then there are not a lot of options for explaining this coming into being at the first moment. But this can be explained (with some technical work) if God brought it into being at the first moment.
- The regularity of nature
Science would be impossible if the universe did not operate in an unbendingly law-like way. If things happened chaotically, then we could formulate no predictive theories. But why does nature operate in a law like way? If there is a God, there is perfectly rational answer for this.
- The cosmic fine tuning of the universe
In the last few decades, we have come to realize how very “lucky” we are. One could say that life on our planet sits on a razor’s edge, but this would not match the radical improbability involved with our precarious state. It’s more that we sit on the edge of 50 razors perfect balanced in a stack. That’s impossible, right? If you think so, then you are getting the picture! There are a variety of factors that had to be dialed in just so and dialed in at the initial conditions of the universe (before material causal processes could take over) for there to be life. This is extraordinarily odd, unlikely, and virtually unexplained on atheism. But it is well explained if an all powerful and all knowing God exists and created with intentionality.
- The information contained in DNA
Another exciting area of scientific discovery is what we now know about DNA. We now know that DNA stores incredible amounts of digital information. The amount of information rivals the largest libraries of the world in every cell of our bodies. Rich and complex information (i.e., not just strings of chaos) in our world always comes from one place: intelligence or a mind. There is not another analogy in the entire universe of genuine information coming from a non-intelligent source. This is a striking fact that points to a transcendent and designing mind.
Humans and animals experience something extraordinary all the time. We are conscious or aware of the world around us. We don’t typically reflect about how extraordinary and odd this is since we are just so used to doing it. However, the fact that we can form thoughts about facts before us is unlike any material process. Computers don’t do this. Computers can do a lot of things. But a computer will never have a thought about the tanginess of lemonade or the colors of a great sunset. This, it seems, requires a conscious mind. But a conscious mind doesn’t seem to be well explained by the physical processes of the brain or some other material process. But if God wanted creatures that would possibly form thoughts about him and the world around them, then it makes sense why we are conscious.
We also have a conscience–a sense of morality. We sense the rightness and wrongness of certain actions. Even if we can get away with certain actions, we all (atheists and theists alike) know that we ought not do those actions. This is odd. This is also incongruent with Darwinian evolution, since self-sacrifice is often involved in acting morally. If there are genuinely objective moral facts, then this is explained by the existence of God who is the ground of these moral facts.
- Human value
A datum of civilized world is that all people have value. Every human life matters. Atheists and theists alike will give their lives to humanitarian efforts and causes. The question is whether atheism can give a robust account of why this makes sense. Why think that there is (especially, inalienable) human value? On Christian theism, every human (born or unborn) bears the image of God and, for this reason, has an inalienable right to life.
- Religious experience
Many, many people all throughout history have reported having experiences of God. I don’t mean the times that folks grabbed the closest parking spot at church on Easter Sunday morning. This is unusual and hard to come by, but it is simply a coincidence. But countless numbers of people have reported having religious experience that is not explainable by coincidence or any earthly thing. What would explain this fact? Perhaps people have “bumped into” God in a deep spiritual sense.
The Most Important Aspects of Life
What we should notice about these facts is, first, this is not an exhaustive list. We haven’t mentioned objective beauty, or existential purpose, and a variety of other things that also seem to point to the existence of God. Second, these facts that we have listed are some of the most important things of life. It doesn’t get any more profound and important than the design of the universe, human DNA, morality, intrinsic human value, etc. This is precisely what we want a worldview to explain. I would submit that naturalistic atheism (one that says the material universe is all there was, is, and ever will be) struggles to explain any of these much less all of them. This is not to say there may be some quasi-explanation for one or two. The point is that God explains them all.
I’ve blown through so many issues in such short order that I’m sure that, if you’ve made it this far, you’ve been pulling your hair out saying why some fact or other is explainable on atheism or not well explained by God. Perhaps. There is a lot more to say about each of these and I will do so in future posts.
However, given these facts, what I’m attempting to get across is that when someone asks for the evidence to believe in God, I feel like I need to ask “how much time do you have?”
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!