Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part Two

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June 6, 2013 Tags: Earth, Universe & Time

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

Belief in God in an Age of Science: John Polkinghorne, Part Two
Colorized version of a black and white engraving by an unknown artist (possibly Flammarion himself), originally published in Camille Flamarrion, L'atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888). Flammarion did not intend this image to refer to multiple universes, but it reminds me of that concept nonetheless.

Note: My last column presented the opening section of the title chapter from John Polkinghorne’s book, Belief in God in an Age of Science, where he presents some evidence for a divine mind behind the universe. This second excerpt presents some evidence for divine purpose in the universe. As you read this, keep in mind that it was originally published in 1998. If he were writing today, Polkinghorne would surely give 13.8 billion years for the age of the universe rather than 15, and he would probably say something about string theory and recent efforts to test it with precise measurements of the microwave background.

My editorial policy for these excerpts is explained at the bottom of this post.

Belief in God in an Age of Science (part 2)

So much for signs of Mind. Where are we to look for signs of Purpose? Before 1859, the answer would have been obvious: in the marvelous adaptation of life to its environment. Charles Darwin, by the publication of The Origin of Species, presented us with natural selection as a patient process by which such marvels of “design” could come about, without the intervening purpose of a Designer being at work to bring them into being. At a stroke, one of the most powerful and seemingly convincing arguments for belief in God had been found to be fatally flawed. Darwin had done what Hume and Kant with their philosophical arguments had failed to achieve, abolishing the time-honored form of the argument from design by exhibiting an apparently adequate alternative explanation.

Since then, two important developments have taken place. One is the realization in the late 1920s that the universe itself has had a history and that notions of evolving complexity apply not only to life on Earth, but to the whole physical cosmos. The other is the acknowledgement that when we take this cosmic history into our reckoning, evolution by itself is not sufficient to account for the fruitfulness of the world. Let me explain.

A convenient slogan-encapsulation of the idea of evolution is to speak of it as resulting from the interplay of chance and necessity. “Chance” stands for the particular contingencies of historical happening. This particular cosmic ripple led to the subsequent condensation of this particular group of galaxies; this particular genetic mutation turned the stream of life in this particular direction rather than another. “Necessity” stands for the lawfully regular environment in which evolution takes place. Without a law of gravity, galaxies would not condense; without reasonably reliable genetic transmission, species would not be established. What we have come to understand is that if this process is to be fruitful on a cosmic scale, then necessity has to take a very specific, carefully prescribed form. Any old world will not do. Most universes that we can imagine would prove boring and sterile in their development, however long their history were to be subjected to the interplay of chance with their specific form of lawful necessity. It is a particular kind of universe which alone is capable of producing systems of the complexity sufficient to sustain conscious life.

This insight, called the Anthropic Principle, has given rise to much discussion. [Polkinghorne cites John D. Barrow and Frank  J. Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle; John Leslie, Universes and his own Polkinghorne, Reason and Reality, chap. 6, and Beyond Science, chap. 6.] Is it no more than a simple tautology, saying that this universe which contains ourselves must be compatible with our having appeared within its history? For sure that must be so, but it is surprising—and many of us think significant—that this requirement places so tight a constraint on the physical fabric of our world. Although we know by direct experience this universe alone, there are many other possible worlds that we can visit with our scientific imaginations, and almost all of them, we believe, would be infertile.


Sometimes the Anthropic Principle is also called the Goldilocks Principle: if all of the physical conditions were not “just right,” there could be no life whatsoever in the universe (source: http://home.netcom.com/~swansont_2/goldilocks.jpg)

John Leslie, who has given a detailed account of the many processes that depend on the precise character of physical law for their ultimately life-generating effects, has also given a careful discussion of what conclusions we might draw from the Anthropic Principle. [Leslie summarizes his position at here.] We are in a realm of discourse where such conclusions depend on the judgment that we have attained a deeper and more comprehensive understanding, rather than that we have deduced a logically unassailable consequence. Leslie believes that it is no more rational to think that no explanation is required of fine anthropic coincidences than it would be to say that my fishing apparatus can accept a fish only exactly 23.2576 inches long and, on casting the rod into the lake, I find that immediately I have a catch, which is simply my good luck— and that’s all there is to say about it. The end of the matter for Leslie is: “My argument has been that the fine tuning is evidence, genuine evidence, of the following fact: that God is real, and/or there are many and varied universes. And it could be tempting to call the fact an observed one. Observed indirectly, but observed none the less.” [Quoting Leslie, Universes, p. 198. The fishing example is on pp. 9-13 in the same book.] Either there is one world whose fruitful potential is the expression of divine purpose or there are many worlds, one of which just happens to be right for the evolution of life.

Those who wish to avoid any suggestion of a divine purpose manifested in the fruitful fine tuning of physical law will have to opt for the second of Leslie’s alternative explanations. [Here Polkinghorne has a note: “A theist could, of course, combine the two options, but personally I find that unappealing.”] There are a variety of ways in which one might conceive of the existence of such a portfolio of different universes, understood as domains in which different laws of nature are operating. The more plausible accounts will seek to make some appeal to scientific knowledge and will not just rely on the ad hoc assumption that there are a lot of separate worlds that just happen to exist.

Many-worlds quantum theory will not do the trick (even if one believed in it, which I do not), for its parallel worlds are simply ones in which quantum events have different specific outcomes and the basic laws of nature are common to them all. [Polkinghorne cites The Quantum World, pp. 67-68, and Alastair. Rae, Quantum Physics: Illusion or Reality?, chap. 6.] Modern ideas about symmetry breaking offer a little more scope. If there is a Grand Unified Theory of the fundamental forces of the universe, then the particular forces that we actually observe, and which are the concern of the Anthropic Principle, will have crystallized out from this highly symmetric ur-state very early in cosmic history, as expansion cooled the world below the relevant transition temperature. The precise details of this symmetry breaking, and the consequent precise force ratios resulting from it, are spontaneously generated through the amplification of tiny random fluctuations. This process need not be literally universal, and the cosmos may be split into vast domains in which different consequences have been realized. The universe observable by us might be a part of one such huge domain, and, of course, in our particular neck of the woods, the force ratios are “by chance” compatible with our evolution. This account is speculative, but motivated, and I am inclined to consider its possibility as far as it goes. That, however, is not very far. One still needs the right sort of Grand Unified Theory for all this to be feasible, and in that respect our universe is still very special compared to the totality of universes that we can imagine.

Moving up on the scale of bold speculation, one might evoke notions of quantum cosmology which suggest that universes of various kinds are continually appearing as a physical process called inflation blows up microworlds, which have bubbled up as quantum fluctuations in some universal substrate. [Here Polkinghorne has a note: “The quantum vacuum is an active medium owing to fluctuation effects.”] Proponents of this point of view are sometimes moved to describe our anthropic universe as being “a free lunch.” The phrase itself should trigger a cautious evaluation of the offer being made. The cost of this particular cosmic meal is the provision of quantum mechanics itself (a classical Newtonian world would be a perfectly coherent possibility, but a sterile one), and just the right quantum fields to fluctuate in order to produce first inflation and then all the necessary observed forces of nature. This idea is less well established scientifically than the domain option and, in any case, it does not really remove anthropic particularity, for the basic physical laws still have to take certain specific forms which are the necessary foundation of the proposed quantum cosmology.

Beyond this point, speculation becomes rapidly more rash and more desperate. Maybe, the laws of nature themselves fluctuate, so that a vast portfolio of conceivable, or (to us) inconceivable, worlds rise and fall in the relentless exploration of random possibility—occasional patches of transient and varied order in a sea of seething chaos. We have moved far beyond anything that could be called scientific in this exercise of prodigal conjecture. It is time to consider Leslie’s other alternative: that there is a divine purpose behind this fruitful universe, whose fifteen-billion-year history has turned a ball of energy into the home of saints and scientists, and that this purpose has been at work in just one world of consistent physical law (though maybe with domains of different expressions of that law).

Once again the theistic conclusion is not logically coercive, but it can claim serious consideration as an intellectually satisfying understanding of what would otherwise be unintelligible good fortune. It has certainly struck a number of authors in this way, including some who are innocent of any influence from a conventional religious agenda. [Polkinghorne cites two books by Paul Davies, God and the New Physics, and The Mind of God; Hugh Montefiore, The Probability of God; and his own Science and Creation, chaps. 1, 2; and 4.] Such a reading of the physical world as containing rumors of divine purpose, constitutes a new form of natural theology, to which the insight about intelligibility can also be added. This new natural theology differs from the old-style natural theology of Anselm and Aquinas by refraining from talking about “proofs” of God’s existence and by being content with the more modest role of offering theistic belief as an insightful account of what is going on. It differs from the old-style natural theology of William Paley and others by basing its arguments not upon particular occurrences (the coming-to-be of the eye or of life itself), but on the character of the physical fabric of the world, which is the necessary ground for the possibility of any occurrence (it appeals to cosmic rationality and the anthropic form of the laws of nature). [For some historical comments on this approach to natural theology, see here.]

This shift of focus has two important consequences. The first is that the new-style natural theology in no way seeks to be a rival to scientific explanation but rather it aims to complement that explanation by setting it within a wider and more profound context of understanding. Science rejoices in the rational accessibility of the physical world and uses the laws of nature to explain particular occurrences in cosmic and terrestrial history, but it is unable of itself to offer any reason why these laws take the particular (anthropically fruitful) form that they do, or why we can discover them through mathematical insight. The second consequence of this shift from design through making to design built into the rational potentiality of the universe is that it answers a criticism of the old-style natural theology made so trenchantly by David Hume. He had asserted the unsatisfactoriness of treating God’s creative activity as the unseen analogue of visible human craft. The new natural theology is invulnerable to this charge of naive anthropomorphism, for the endowment of matter with anthropic potentiality has no human analogy. It is a creative act of a specially divine character.


“Création ex nihilo,” from Charles de Bouelles, Libellus de nihilo (1510). God “inspires” (breathes or blows into) the universe, creating it out of nothing (ex nihilo).

Looking Ahead

In the next excerpt, Polkinghorne turns his attention from physics and teleology to biology and theodicy. Look for it in a couple of weeks.

References and Credits

Excerpts from John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science (1998), copyright Yale University Press, are reproduced by permission of Yale University Press. We gratefully acknowledge their cooperation in bringing this material to our readers.

For further reading on the scientific, philosophical, and theological aspects of modern cosmology, see Hans Halvorson and Helge Kragh, “Cosmology and Theology,” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta (Winter 2011 Edition).

Editorial Policy

Most of the editing for these excerpts involves breaking longer paragraphs into multiple parts, altering the spelling and punctuation from British to American, removing the odd sentence or two—which I indicate by putting [SNIP] at the appropriate point(s)—and sometimes inserting annotations where warranted [also enclosed in square brackets] to provide background information. Polkinghorne uses footnotes a bit sparingly, and I usually find another way to include that information if it’s important for our readers.

 


Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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Tim - #80820

June 7th 2013

It contralto frustrates me to see articles like this highlight God & the Multiverse + Anthropic Principle as the only two options worth consideration in explaining the “fine tuning” of this universe for life.  What is often lost from discussions like these is whether these constants are in fact even arbitrary at all.  They’re arbitrary certainly in the sense of our existing theories, but we know that there is a deeper aspect to the universe that unifies our theories, and when we get there, we may indeed find that these constants are not arbitrary at all…“fine tuned” to some necessary level, but rather that the fabric of our universe requires them to be at that level.  No more arbitrary than the length of a hypotenuse of a triangle given the other sides.


Lou Jost - #80838

June 8th 2013

Tim, I agree, though the Christians answer that we can imagine self-consistent universes where the laws are such that life could not evolve. I think the response to that is that we really do not know enough to say what kinds of universes are self-consistent.

I’d like to add a different argument against religious people’s use of the fine-tuning argument to infer god must have made the universe just so it would evolve us (or something like us). I think their argument is self-contradictory. Most religions, including Christianity, posit the existence of disembodied consciousnesses or souls, and gods, and sometimes other kinds of spirits.  The fine-tuning argument requires some kinds of contraints on the kind of universe that can produce consciousness, so that we can say “out of the whole vast range of possible universes, only a very narrow set is capable of evolving life.”  But the non-materialist view of consciousness allows consciousness to exist without any matter at all; i.e. for religious people, consciousness is not reducible  to a particular physical array of particles and their lawful relationships. If someone believes that, then they cannot turn around and say that only certain kinds of universes can produce consciousnesses. Indeed, their belief in a disembodied creator(s) that would exist regardless of the physical laws of any particular universe shows that they do not think consciousness is limited to certain kinds of universes. Therefore, the fine-tuning argument cannot even get off the ground, for them.

Finally, even if we accept that some creator made the universe so life would evolve, the target wouldn’t have to be us. We occupy a tiny blip in evolutionary time and space. Other planets, or our own planet at a different time or place than ours, might hold the real targets. Maybe the creator wanted to see dinosaurs and is now bored. Or maybe those octopus were the real targets and will provide endless entertainment for the creator in ten million years. Earth still has hunderds of millions of years of evolution left before the sun turns it into toast, and that is more time than the time between the dinosaurs and humans. Lots to look forward to in this cosmic show. Only a really egocentric species would imagine that its brief moment was the reason for the existence of the entire universe through all its billions of years, past and future.


Lou Jost - #80840

June 8th 2013

Oops, should have said “out of the whole vast range of possible universes, only a very narrow set is capable of evolving consciousness.”


Lou Jost - #80848

June 8th 2013

Looks like life will continue to evolve on earth for several billion more years before the sun kills it. Think of all the neat creatures to come!! How silly to think we are some kind of paragon of creation.


beaglelady - #80858

June 9th 2013

There could even be really neat creatures elsewhere in the universe right now. 


Ted Davis - #80903

June 11th 2013

I agree with you, Lou, that “the target didn’t have to be us,” although I suspect we might come to that point differently. I’ve given numerous clues on other threads that I generally opt for a “voluntarist,” not a “rationalist,” theology—that is, my theological instincts tell me that we humans must be very cautious not to place “rational” strictures on God’s freedom and creative power. Although we share in the divine reason as creatures made in God’s image, we cannot presume to tell God what to do. That was Boyle’s attitude, and it’s mine.

God made the universe for purposes known to God. Some of these may become evident to us by examining the creation, but only “a saucy rashness” (to borrow a phrase from Boyle) would presume to say that God made this world only and solely for us. Aristotle thought everything was here for us (without having a creator god), and so did Francis Bacon (with a creator God), but I certainly don’t.

The question relevant to this thread (based on P) is whether the universe looks like it was simply the result of a random explosion in a junk yard (a phrase often used by creationists to disparage the big bang), or the result of an exquisitely planned explosion, designed to produce a universe capable of serving as a home to living things. The fact that this idea is sometimes called the (Strong) Anthropic Principle is a bit mis-leading: it’s life, especially complex life but not necessarily human life, that really matters—whether it’s only here on Earth or anywhere else in the universe. Only a universe of a very special character can bring that about. As P says with characteristic understatement, “Any old world will not do.”


GJDS - #80908

June 11th 2013

Ted, The ‘saucy rashness’ by you and atheists is to presume you can know one way or the other. The specificity of the known universe argues against some ‘junk yard’ creation. Our understanding regarding matters divine and of God are taught to us by the Christian faith. You presume to discuss matters with Aristotle and Boyle, but these chaps did not refer to revelation and faith (Aristotle) nor deny revelation (Boyle). Atheists deny both faith and reason and yet you agree with them! Just what does placing rational structures on God’s freedom mean? It is surely the most self-contradictory statement I have yet heard on this site.


Ted Davis - #80976

June 12th 2013

GJDS,

Let me reply by offering (by way of example) one rational stricture on God’s freedom that has often been maintained: Leibniz’s famous dictum that God is bound to make the best of all possible worlds. Boyle didn’t accept that one, and neither do I.

As for agreeing (sometimes) with atheists, that shouldn’t shock or surprise you. Most atheists I know accept the same principles of reasoning that I accept—and (I assume) that you also accept. The relevant consideration is the grand old question, what is truth?

As for me “presuming to discuss matters with Boyle,” I obviously can’t discuss anything with him prior to the eschaton (when I do hope to have very many discussions with him). However, what I say about his views has nothing of presumption in it; I am simply relating what he thought on this particular topic. If you wish to explore that further, we could do that, but in that case please pose a specific question or two for me to answer (if I can).


Lou Jost - #80999

June 13th 2013

Ted, I am saying it is self-contradictory to use fine-tuning as an argument for the existence of god.

I am still trying to formulate this argument cogently, and it isn’t easy to put into words…..

Here it is in abbreviated form: The fine-tuning argument claims that a universe has to have very special properties in order to produce an intelligent being. Therefore it must have been made by a god that exists outside of space and time. But a god is an intelligent being, and one whose existence does not depend on any special properties of a universe. Therefore special properties of the universe are not required for the existence of intelligent beings, contradicting the premise of the argument.

Also, many of your Christian beliefs seem to contradict the premise. We know the earth will burn up in a few billion years, and eventually perhaps the whole universe will become unsuitable for life You however expect to continue to exist for all eternity, no matter what happens to the universe, no matter if all the laws of physics change. Clearly this belief also contradicts the premise of the fine-tuning argument.

I agree that from a materialist point of view, the universe does seem to be far from a “random sample” of possible universes, and one which favors life, though Collins and some others  exaggerate the amount of fine tuning, as I discussed in your earlier post when you introduced Collins. The materialist asnwer to the argument, selection from a multiverse, although distasteful in many ways, may be the only coherent, non-contradictory explanation.


Ted Davis - #80977

June 12th 2013

I will reply to this of yours, Lou:

” But the non-materialist view of consciousness allows consciousness to exist without any matter at all; i.e. for religious people, consciousness is not reducible  to a particular physical array of particles and their lawful relationships. If someone believes that, then they cannot turn around and say that only certain kinds of universes can produce consciousnesses. Indeed, their belief in a disembodied creator(s) that would exist regardless of the physical laws of any particular universe shows that they do not think consciousness is limited to certain kinds of universes. Therefore, the fine-tuning argument cannot even get off the ground, for them.”

I don’t agree at all.

The point making a design argument from fine tuning is to critique, either implicitly or explicitly, the materialist view of life—according to which there is not any immaterial Mind behind the universe (let alone any immaterial minds within it, but I’ll skip over that part here). On such a view, it’s simply extraordinary that embodied consciousness could have evolved by accident (i.e., without any superintending or supervening Mind underneath it all), because (among other things) it’s simply extraordinarily unlikely that the conditions making conscious embodied life possible at all would exist at all.

Your point in the quoted passage, Lou, is about unembodied consciousness. But, within a materialist perspective, that’s just not a reality to be considered. Thus, the fine tuning argument properly ignores unembodied consciousness, except to show the great likelihood of at least one unembodied conscious agent, because the assumption that such an agent does not exist leads to a near absurdity: matter on its own cannot reasonably explain the finely tuned universe in which we live—the only universe we will ever observe.


Lou Jost - #81000

June 13th 2013

No, the assumption that such an agent does not exist is required by the premise of the argument! It doesn’t work if there can be disembodied spirits.  Thus the materialist answer, multiverses, may be the only self-consistent answer.


Peter Hickman - #80854

June 9th 2013

Lou,

Theocentric, not egocentric.

And silly only if wrong.


Lou Jost - #80855

June 9th 2013

Anthropocentric, really…..


Merv - #80863

June 10th 2013

Lou wrote:

Indeed, their belief in a disembodied creator(s) that would exist regardless of the physical laws of any particular universe shows that they do not think consciousness is limited to certain kinds of universes. Therefore, the fine-tuning argument cannot even get off the ground, for them.

This is a confusion of categories again.  Human/animal/cosmos development is all part of the created order and so can be illumined by the methods of science.  God is not part of the created order, and cannot be so illumined.  Therefore the processes bearing on our formation as a species do fall within the scope of fine tuning arguments (whatever their merits may be).  God does not.  Regarding the spirit-world (also part of the created order) this challenge is a bit more interesting, though still not without answer.  One answer would be that such a spirit world is also by definition not part of the natural order accessible to science, though it certainly interfaces with it in the Christian view of things.   This maintains at least two categories of reality, but with God (even though God is spirit) as still being above and distinct from both.  It wouldn’t really be proper to think of God as a third category, but more as the underlying substrate, ‘superstrate’?, below, above, and throughout any and all categories that may be.

Maybe the creator wanted to see dinosaurs and is now bored. Or maybe those octopus were the real targets and will provide endless entertainment for the creator in ten million years.

A perusal of Job or many Psalms shows that there is some truth to this, Lou.  Creation wasn’t just to arrive at one particular thing (unless that be God’s pleasure generally).    God obviously takes pleasure in the whole diverse host, living and non-living. 


Lou Jost - #80864

June 10th 2013

Thanks for the response, Merv. I’d like to pursue my claim that there really is a conflict between Christians claiming (a) that the physical conditions for the evolution of consciousness are highly specific, while also claiming (b) that consciousnesses can exist as disembodies entities, or as entities with no relation at all to phyical substrates or laws. I don’t see this has anything to do with one’s definition of science. You presumably attribute some kind of consciousness to god, and you also attribute knowledge to god. This god was not produced by the physical universe. Therefore a Christian must conclude that neither consciousness nor knowledge depend on a fine-tuned universe; they can exist apart from any possible universe.

When it comes to souls or spirits, this again has nothing to do with the reach of science. It is a belief in a class of entities that are not tied to the structure of the actual physical world. If such things existed, then the fine-tuning argument cannot get started, because again, certain forms of consciousness are not material and could exist regardless of the laws of physics in a particular universe.

From my perspective, of course, the notion of nonphysical spirits or consciousnesses is simply incoherent. But it would be interesting to try to get Christians to think harder about the relation between the physical universe and their soul concept.  What kind of universe can produce a Christian soul? Why?

 

 

 

I don’t think calling this a category mistake really addresses the problem. Grant that God is a different category than a soul.


Ted Davis - #80978

June 12th 2013

Lou,

You said, “From my perspective, of course, the notion of nonphysical spirits or consciousnesses is simply incoherent.”

Do you accept the reality of other non-physical entities, such as the axioms of logic or mathematical theorems? Another way to put this: if there were no physical universe(s) at all, would it still be true that 2 + 2 = 4?


Lou Jost - #80996

June 13th 2013

Hi Ted, thanks for the response. There is nothing incoherent about the statement “2+2=4”, so that is one big difference (among others) between such a statement and a statement about disembodied consciousnesses.Also, I would not say that a mathematical theorem exists as an actual dynamic thing in any kind of spacetime, whereas Christians do seem to speak that way about souls.


Merv - #80927

June 12th 2013

Quick response for this morning before I’m off to work…

This [talk of ‘consciousness’] is getting more specific than what Polkinghorne seems to be discussing in the essay above.  His modifier: “fruitful” regards scientifically accessible biological life along with any concsciousness that comes with it.  You may with to lump this all together with a  transcendant consciousness, but to do so is to fail to have any Christian understanding of this.  To think that the anthropic principle should apply to God just as if He were any other created creature is not close to any Christian domain of thought.

Additional categories of consiousness may also exist in animals other than humans.  Christians may disagree over the extent of these things, or about what may qualify as self-consciousness.  But such questions are in philosophical domains probably more than scientific ones. 

I think P’s claims on what constitutes a fruitful universe are more scientific (and therefore more modest in their theological scope.)


Lou Jost - #81001

June 13th 2013

Merv, I admit that treating god as another conscious being is odd under Christianity. The fine-tuning argument is non-denominational, though. It is still true that god is a conscious being, in some sense, and if such a being can exist regardless of the physical properties of the universe, it undercuts the premise of the fine-tuning argument.


GJDS - #80983

June 12th 2013

Reply to Ted Davis - #80976

Ted,

My remark was more or less directed towards the notion that God either voluntarily limits His ‘freedom’ (a term that is poorly used theologically), or that something may be imposed on Him (i.e. structures of freedom). I do not agree with any such statement and instead argue for a singular meaning of freedom when we discuss any attributes of God that have been revealed to us through scripture. I trust my remarks are clear.

On the broader notion of the ‘best of all possible worlds’, my remark is to point out that the physical data we have of the Universe (and note we may account for a mere 4% of the cosmos), shows the Universe is to an extraordinary extent specifically THIS universe – the constants I have mentioned before are required for any mathematical treatment, and also any sound theory that may be developed (at least a testable theory). Thus, instead of thinking it is the best or worst, my comment is that based on what we know so far, it is the ONLY universe that can be contemplated scientifically (not speculated, as fanciful notions can go anywhere).

I will not add more detail unless you wish to discuss something more specific – yes it could be interesting to discuss many things with people such as Boyle and Aristotle someday – I recommend we agree with atheists on matters that pertain to the world/nature – my atheist friends and I have generally agreed that belief and non-belief is sufficient discussion on God.


GJDS - #81013

June 13th 2013

I have now realised that some may infer a ‘proof’ of God’s existence from the ‘fine tuned’ argument. Such a conclusion is theologically absurd, as knowledge of God can only be through revelation. The coherent argument either is centred on the unique nature of nature, or for the theists, we begin with the premise that God exists and it follows from this that the cosmos is uniquely created by God. If we remove the premise (or belief in God) than we are left with the obvious question, “Why does this Universe exist as a unique thing?” The alternate views of endless universes is not a result of logic or science, but a (desperate) attempt by militant atheists to get around what science has unambiguously shown -  those atheists who simply start from their premise of absence of belief in God are left with a question of why the Universe exists as it is.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #81087

June 15th 2013

GJDS,

While i agree with you that our basic knowledge of God comes from revelation, I also think that we can see God’s fingerprints on God’s Creation.  Furthermore we need science and nature as a check on our human understanding of the Bible.  Sadly I thionk that we can see how some Christians distort the meaning of Genesis to confirm a distorted theology.

There are at least three very important Biblical concepts which play important roles in how we understand Life and how it works.  God in the Bible is defined as the Source of all that is. The Bible, science, and philosophy say that the universe is a cosmos, not a chaos. The New Atheism backs up its belief that God does not exist with the claim that the universe is a chaos.

Two is that God created humans in God’s own Image.  This goes along with the understanding that God made us stewards of God’s universe.  Now this is either true or false.  The evidence as far as I can see is that it is true. 

 (Rom 8:28 NIV)  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

This is the basis for the Christian claim that God is in charge of the universe, it has a purpose and it is good. 

We do not limit God or deny the freedom of God when we find that God fulfills the divine Word (Logos) through nature and history. 

 

        


GJDS - #81099

June 15th 2013

Roger,

As general statements your three points are taken and I think all Christians will agree with such statements. My point has been to try and show that a sharp distinction can be made (and I have shown exists in reality amongst the people I have worked) between Christians who base there understanding of the creation on the premise that God is the creator and sustains the entire creation, from the benign atheists who simply say they lack that outlook, but constinue to view science as a search for knowledge (not religion). These very broad catagories of people are most likely to agree on scientific matters - they are also most likely to have a scientific basis (and this also is healthy for science) on any differences in understanding data and scientific tenets - thus they respect each others beleifs or absence of beleifs, while showing an honesty for scientific matters (and do not make an ideology or belief system out of the sciences).

The agressive atheists, on the other hand, are keen to show the Gospels are made up myths and lies, and project themselves as the measure of what is science, what is true, and insist that Darwin has shown all sorts of nonsense, and in short, conscript the Sciences for their ideology and frankly, hatred of Christianity, and in some cases decide that all religion(s) are the source of their misguided aggression/hatred.

All of us will have our particular outlooks and cultural settings - Christians are no exception to this - this does not excuse the bizzar position and activities of aggresive atheists. The biosciences will progress in spite their veneration of Darwin, not because of it.


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