Proving the Existence of God, Part 3

The first post in this series introduced the theme and possible positions regarding the existence of God. The second post then determined what would be considered as acceptable scientific evidence. Through that process we discovered that to scientifically prove God’s existence one cannot necessarily give positive evidence because there must always exist the possibility of being proved incorrect. In other words, scientific proof is actually never 100% sure. Rather than fall into the trap of giving an endless list of evidence in support of the existence of God, it is more prudent to take up the task of looking at those things which would demonstrate that God could not exist. The first of these is the universe.

Turning to the universe, the first question to answer is whether or not the universe has always existed or if it had a beginning? There is no middle ground because the universe exists, so it either had a beginning or it does not have a beginning. The atheists does not typically view the universe as coming from nothing but that it is self-evident and eternally exists. The theists argues this is not possible, as it would create an infinite regress of causalities. Dawkins argues in his book, The God Delusion, that invoking God to terminate an infinite regress is “at best unhelpful and at worst perniciously misleading.” The problem is not Dawkins’ statement but his explanation of why it is the case that it is unhelpful or misleading. He explains if one were to cut gold into its smallest possible pieces, then one could only slice it to the atomic level. Anything smaller than this and it ceases to be gold. The atom, therefore, acts as a “natural terminator to the Crumboblious Cutlets type of regress.” Dawkins’ argument is flawed however, because the regress that he cites does not explain an infinite regress. Furthermore, it deals with division of matter and not causal events so his explanation is not sufficient to do away with the need for a first cause, and he offers no explanation of how it is possible to have an infinite regress of causalities.

Infinities are not a problem when one speaks of them as possibilities or potentials only. The problem arises from following an actual infinity to its logical conclusion. Without a beginning, then there must necessarily exist an actual infinite number of events in the past. Problems abound when one begins to apply this with reason to reality.

One popular example is known as Hilbert’s Hotel. Suppose that there exists a hotel with an infinite number of rooms and all of the rooms are full. Whenever a new guest arrives and requests a room, the desk clerk happily supplies a room because there are an infinite number of rooms. Now after the guest checks in, there are no more people in the rooms than before he checked in the hotel—there are still an infinite number. Assume that all of the guests in the odd numbered rooms decide to check out and leave the hotel. After they all leave, there will still be an infinite number of rooms people in those rooms. One asks, “How can that be when half of them checked out?” Because there still exists the same number of rooms and people—that is an infinite number of people and rooms.

Another example is that of the eternal counter. Imagine there is a person who counts from infinity past to infinity future, starting in the past. He counts each individual day as a single integer. Now if one were to go to him today and he reached zero, the most likely question that person would ask is “Why did the counter reach zero today? Why not yesterday? Why not tomorrow?” The answer is because for an actual infinite number of past events to exist there has to equally be an infinite number of possible future events, so the counter always reaches zero.

Therefore, at any given point in time, the counter will reach zero. Even if one goes tomorrow, the next day, or in a hundred years, the counter will reach zero. Why is this? It is because of the nature of infinity and not because of the amount of time given to the counter. These absurdities demonstrate the problems associated with an eternal universe.

Science provides evidence that the universe had a beginning and it is, therefore, not eternal. The first source of evidence that the universe had a beginning was in 1929 when Hubble discovered redshifting in the light from other galaxies, which indicated that the universe is expanding. The natural inference was then made that if the universe is expanding, it was together at some point. This gave way to the theory commonly known as the Big Bang, which is the theory that the universe exploded from an extremely dense volume.

Another popular alternative is that the universe is eternally oscillating, that it goes through a cyclical series of explosion, expansion, contraction, explosion, etc. The second law of thermodynamics makes this alternative unreasonable because it explains things in a system move toward disorder or entropy rather than order. Some will counter that the second law does not apply to the universe, as it is not a closed system. However, this is not the case because the universe consists of all energy and so it is not receiving energy from any external source and energy cannot be created. An external source or the creation of energy would be necessary for an oscillating universe. Another problem arises if by chance the universe did collapse, it would not expand once again due to the extreme gravitational forces that it would have to overcome.

The beginning of the universe has posed somewhat of a problem to the atheist stance. Carl Sagan expressed it so succinctly it deserves quoting in full.

Now, what happened before that? There are two views. One is “Don’t ask that question,” which is very close to saying that God did it. And the other is that we live in an oscillating universe in which there is an infinite number of expansions and contractions.

Sagan believed that the singularity of the Big Bang necessitates the question “What happened before that?” He explained that the answer to the question is the universe oscillates and so the same thing happened before that. What is interesting about this statement is at the end there is a footnote to explain there is now evidence demonstrating the universe is actually accelerating in its expansion and so it will continue to expand indefinitely. This footnoted reference is confirmed in an article by James Glanz entitled “Accelerating the Cosmos” and was published in Astronomy in October of 1999. If the universe began and it is not oscillating, then the evidence supports, and does not contradict, the hypothesis that God exists.

Without an eternal universe, then the universe had a beginning. This means that the universe can no longer be a source of discrediting the existence of God. Now I know some of you will read this and say to yourself, “Mr. Hyde, you are forgetting that just because the universe had a beginning doesn’t mean that God brought it about.” I would agree with that statement. Just because the universe had a beginning doesn’t mean God exists, but it also could mean that God exists. Because the universe had a beginning, it simply is no longer a source of falsifying the existence of God. This leads right into the next point of falsification—evolution. Because the universe had a beginning, only two things are possible: (1) It brought itself about and developed into what we see today, which is evolution or (2) it was created, which is intelligent design. To this topic we turn to next.

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Noah's Ark???

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”...“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:1-3, 36-39,NIV)

This is a prophecy that has left Christians wondering exactly what Jesus meant. There are some who interpret that Jesus means Christians will be “raptured” out before the great tribulation and God’s wrath are poured out upon the earth. This is because Noah was raptured out in a sense. On the other hand, there are others who believe that Jesus is speaking to the suddenness of the events of the last days because the flood was sudden. But the point of this post is not to get into the theology of the end times; the point of this post is to point to perhaps a more literal interpretation of this passage than anyone may have ever dreamed.

There is a Norwegian gentleman who has in part rebuilt a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark. It’s height, width, and length is not completely to scale. The length is roughly half the size of the actual Ark and the width is about a third of the actual size. The “Ark Van Noach” is open to the public for tours and has life-size polyester replicas of many animals that would have been aboard the original Ark. For more in-depth information about the Ark Van Noach, you can visit their website here.

The same gentleman is also in the process of building a full replica (to scale) of Noah’s Ark that he plans to take around the world. For a little more information about the new Ark during its current construction, watch the video below.

So could it be that what Jesus was referring to could have been a little more literal than any of us would ever have imagined? Who would have thought that a guy over in Europe would rebuild Noah’s Ark?
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Proving the Existence of God, Part 2

In the previous post, I discussed the possible stances regarding belief about the existence of God. The three possibilities were agnosticism, atheism, and theism. Agnosticism was ruled out as a truly viable option leaving only atheism (there is no God) and theism (there is a God) as tenable positions on the existence of God. That led us to the next obvious question, is the evidence in favor of God’s existence or is it the opposite?

Before one can answer whether there is sufficient supporting evidence or not, some details must be determined. For starters, who has the burden of proof concerning God’s existence, is it the atheist or the theist? In discussing this, it is important to first understand the nature of scientific proof. In order for evidence to be submitted as scientific proof, the one making the hypothesis moves forward under the assumption that the hypothesis is correct. Before a theory or hypothesis is deemed reasonably proven, a succession of tests or evidence that agrees with the hypothesis must be present. There must always exist, however, the possible falsification of the hypothesis by a subsequent test or evidence. Without the ability to disprove the hypothesis, it does not meet the criterion to be truly scientific, according to Karl Popper. When there is an absence of contradictory evidence or evidence that proves the hypothesis false, this validates the hypothesis as true since one could theoretically run an infinite number of confirming tests.

The theists argue there is much evidence to support the case for God’s existence. In court proceedings after the one making the claim has provided sufficient evidence in support of that claim, it is then left to the opposition to disprove the evidence and subsequently the claim. The theists have brought forth evidence to support the claim that God exists, and the burden of proof has, therefore, been shifted to the atheists.

I will now take up the case of the atheist rather than simply state or provide an endless supply of evidence that proves God’s existence; it is more convincing if the only available sources of falsification are shown to be without substance. Three sources of falsification of God’s existence are: the universe, evolution, and the resurrection of Jesus.

Concerning the universe, Victor Stenger wrote:

So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end; it would simply be. What place then, for a creator?
Stenger also requires that before a Creator can be postulated, it must be demonstrated the universe had to have happened supernaturally. However, Stephen Hawking acknowledged that the laws of physics that governed the beginning of the universe have no bearing on the existence of God other than to demonstrate he was not arbitrary when he created the universe.

Evolution also suggests that God is not the creator by attempting to demonstrate that all living things evolved by purely naturalistic means. Evidence that everything seen today arrived by natural processes contradicts the claim God created everything.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is another source of falsification because Jesus claimed to be God. To substantiate his claim he predicted his death, burial, and resurrection. If he failed to be resurrected, then he was not God.

If the universe is eternal or is self-existent, if evolution is true, or if Jesus was not truly resurrected, then the existence of God is effectively falsified. If you think that I am out in left field on this, then just ask yourself why there is so much debate in our culture about these three topics? It is not because people just enjoy the conversation, it is because people’s worldviews are at stake with the outcome of these things—particularly the first two. The next few posts will examine the evidence concerning these three areas.

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Proving the Existence of God, Part 1

Many undertake the immense task of attempting to prove the existence of God. It has been a topic of much debate among religious and non-religious scholars for centuries. The current trend for proving the existence of God is to require “scientific proof” of God’s existence. This is popular because it is widely held that it is a task that cannot be accomplished, which is simply not the case. God’s existence can be proven, and can be done scientifically. That will be the purpose of this series of posts. In this post I will outline the three possible stances one can take on the existence of God. The following posts will outline the criterion for what will be considered scientific evidence, the giving of the evidence, and most likely a summary post. Enjoy this series and feel free to comment in support of my points or in opposition to them. I will also be adding link to the other posts at the bottom of each post as I continue the series.

There are three stances regarding the existence of God. The first of these three stances is commonly known as Agnosticism. This stance holds the view that one cannot know if God does or does not exist. In summary, God is unknowable. The view becomes self-defeating because it boils down to the assertion one knows enough about God to affirm that God cannot be known. The statement is contradictory and leads to a view that is likewise contradictory and cannot, therefore, be held to be a viable option. With this in mind, agnosticism is ruled out as a possible stance on the existence of God.

The second view is termed Atheism. Generally, this view holds that the non-existence of God is a certainty and, therefore, critiques belief in God or spiritual beings. Dawkins wrote, “God almost certainly does not exist.” If one takes this position, however, they become dogmatic in their belief and do not leave open the possibility that God exists. This openness is essential since according to the majority of atheists there are no “proofs” of God’s existence. With this openness it becomes possible for the atheist to assume that if God exists, then there would be evidence to demonstrate his existence.

This is where the “burden-of-proof” argument enters into the discussion. The atheist asserts that it is the responsibility of the one who claims that God exists to produce the evidence to show that it is such. This further leads to the claim that it is by empirical evidence and empirical evidence alone that God’s existence is demonstrated. One method, which is more successful at discrediting the claim, is to find something that is contradictory in the claim itself thus proving that the claim is irrational by its very nature. Since a negative cannot be proven, that is the non-existence of God, the atheist undertakes the task of invalidating any positive arguments or proofs for the existence of God. J.L. Mackie expressed this well when he wrote:

In the end, therefore, we can agree with what Laplace said about God: we have no need of that hypothesis. This conclusion can be reached by an examination precisely of the arguments advanced in favour of theism, without even bringing into play what have been regarded as the strongest considerations on the other side, the problem of evil and the various natural histories of religion.

The final view on the existence of God is known as theism. There are two possible stances among theists. One stance claims, “God exists but cannot be demonstrated as such.” The other stance states, “God exists and can be demonstrated as such.” Since the former view does not apply to the discussion at hand, it will be ignored. The latter view makes the bold claim that God’s existence can be proven, and this is where the contention lies. Is there sufficient evidence to lead to the conclusion that God, in fact, does exist? It is to this point I will turn in the next post.

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Book Review: Sunday School in HD

I was given the great honor of reviewing another book for the folks over at sbcIMPACT! The book I reviewed this time is entitled Sunday School in HD by Allan Taylor. It was an excellent book. I encourage everyone to look at my full review by clicking here or the image on the left.
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I have known for some time that there was discussion and hope to bring in a branch of the Bethany Christian Services into Pensacola, Florida. Bethany is touted to be one of the largest adoption agencies, if not the largest, in the United States. The services that Bethany provides truly are amazing. Not only does Bethany deal extensively with adoptions, but they also provide post-adoptive services only to families as well as churches and birth families. They also offer free counseling to pregnant women needing answers about parenting, adoption, and abortion.

There is something that makes Bethany stand out to me though—they are not afraid to tackle the tough topics. They also deal in embryo adoption and even have an infertility ministry to assist couples in working through their options. I wrote a post back in March entitled “Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Where will this road lead us?” In that I post I addressed a question I was asked. It was one of the questions that Bethany is talking about and doing their best to come to a biblical conclusion about. I know this because the man who asked me serves on the panel/board/committee (not exactly sure what he serves on, but I know he was brought on for his expertise) dealing with those tough questions.

I am excited to see this ministry coming into Pensacola. I am even more excited that they are not afraid to deal with the “hot-button” issues in our culture in order to continue carrying out their mission of “manifest[ing] the love and compassion of Jesus Christ by protecting and enhancing the lives of children and families through quality social services.”
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