People often have the impression that it is difficult to know whether God exists. We have to take the natural world as it is, and desperately look for clues of God under every rock, peeking into the deep crevices of the earth, hoping that there might be some evidence of God’s existence. With such an untenable plight, many are left to appeal only to their own personal emotions with regard to God’s existence. Hence, people have a tendency to just assume that the natural world could look exactly as it does today, even if God did not exist. Atheistic naturalism could produce a world precisely like this one, and so if we want to believe in God, we are forced to recede to blind faith. Is this the case? What would a universe without God look like?
Atheists usually contest that if we were to predict what the universe without God would look like, we have precisely what we would expect. As Richard Dawkins so eloquently philosophized, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” Is Dawkins right? Is the universe that we observe, the universe that we would predict if there were no cosmic mind behind it?
There would be no intelligent life. In the last few generations, scientists have discovered that the universes’ capacity for the existence of intelligent life is breathtakingly narrow. Intelligent life is contingent upon a range of anthropic constants. An anthropic constant is an element of the cosmos which, if altered, then life would not exist. Just imagine that there were giant dials in the outer echelons of the universe, and for life to exist, they all have to point to the correct number on each respective dial. There are 122 of these dials. If every single dial were pointing to the right number, that would be very compelling evidence that somebody pointed them to the right number. In this way, this argument is not centered exclusively on complexity. There are many elements of the universe the are complex but do not show traces of design. But if there is complexity with a corresponding pattern, that is a sign of design. If I were to go to the DMV and get a license plate, and when they issue it to me, it has my full name written on it, I would be justified in thinking that a friend of mine was working at the DMV. Indeed, it would be unthinkable for me to assume that it was just the product of chance. The corresponding pattern excludes that interpretation. Thus as the astronomer Doctor Fred Hoyle put it, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces at work.” What would the universe look like if God did not exist? Well, it is highly unlikely that there would be any sign of intelligent life.
There are two common responses to this. Many atheists will indicate that we adapted to the dials, and intelligent life would come to be, independent of what the dials were. The problem with this is that the dials are not exclusively anthropocentric. Consider the force of gravity. Imagine that there were a tape measure stretching across the entire known universe. Gravity rests on a particular inch mark (note: gravity is not measured in inches, it is just an illustration). If gravity were moved to any other inch mark, then planets would not be able to form. The face of these constants is not the allowance of human life, but rather, the allowance of any intelligent life.
Secondly, many atheists think that this is just an appeal to ignorance. We do not know the explanation of this remarkable fine-tuning, and therefore, it must be God. Well, this is not an argument about ignorance, as much as it is an argument regarding data. It is an argument from what we do know, not from what we do not know. We recognize patterns corresponding to complexity all of the time, and it is not an appeal to ignorance. It is an appeal to knowledge.
Human evolution would not be possible. There are certain levels of design and engineering that we find increasingly impressive. If an engineer is about to construct a robot that builds other robots, that would be quite impressive. However, if an engineer would be able to construct a robot that assembles itself, from scattered parts throughout the world, that would be immeasurably impressive. Such a man would be championed as a genius and would win the Nobel Prize. He would be hailed as a hero and would be the face of nanotechnology. This level of design is beyond what human knowledge has achieved to this point. Yet this is what we see in the case of abiogenesis and human evolution. That is theistic evolution, and it seems like it is a much more sophisticated interpretation of the facts than atheistic naturalism.
But that is just a word about the origins of evolution with abiogenesis. From the process of human evolution, there erupts a mathematical model that is just not consistent with what we see in the natural world. The amount of time that evolution demands is much greater than the history of the earth. This problem has manifested among scientists to the extent that the number of scientific papers containing the words “accelerated evolution,” has precipitously increased in the last few decades. As the RNA biochemist Doctor Patricia Fanning said in her article, Becoming Human – Fast!, “By definition, there’s enough time because the evolutionary rate is calculated by determining the number of changes between the common ancestor of humans and chimps and then dividing that number by 6 million years—the amount of time that has elapsed since the divergence of humans and chimps. To put it another way, “the deck is rigged.” So, of course, there’s enough time (from the evolutionary perspective) for humans to have evolved from chimps. Or is there? Perhaps not always, even when using a rigged deck.”
What would a universe without God look like? It would make for a much less plausible interpretation of the fact of evolution. It would also demand that the earth was much older than a merely 4.54 billion years. Notice also that this is not an argument against science. It is not contesting that evolution and abiogenesis did not occur. Rather, it assumes that they did occur, and that atheistic naturalism offers us an implausible interpretation of them.
Human cognitive faculties would probably not be functional. Human evolution is not contingent upon knowing what the truth is. Rather, it is contingent upon our survival as a species. Human beings evolved to survive the Sahara Desert, but not to do quantum mechanics. We evolved to know how to eat and reproduce, and there is really no reason for us to know what accurately reflects reality. If I think I am eating something just because it tastes good, that is because throughout the course of my evolution, my body has told me that lie so that I would enjoy the process of eating. But in truth, I am eating because it keeps me alive. However, there is no reason for me to know the truth of why I am eating. I eat because it tastes good, and that keeps me alive. Likewise, a man may pursue a woman, not because he wants to reproduce, but because of sexual lust. Sexual lust is the incentive that the course of human evolution has given him, and he believes that lie even though the true purpose is reproduction. There is no reason for him to actually know what the truth is. In this way, truth and survivability do not need to correspond. So, why should we think that they do?
Now, you might be inclined to say, “they just do! End of story!” Well, that would be to assume your conclusion and interpret the fact in light of it. The problem is that there truly is no reason for you to think that your cognitive faculties are functional on atheistic naturalism. What would a universe without God look like? It would be unlikely that our cognitive faculties would be functional.
So, are they functional? It is true that we commonly make logical errors and scientific blunders and are forced into a system of checks and balances. But, the flourishing of scientific naturalism is indicative that the cognitive faculties of human beings are functional. We have overcome our evolutionary survivability and indulged in truth. Therefore, our cognitive faculties are functional in the very sense in which that would be unlikely in a universe without God.
The universe would not exist. Often, when people want to expound upon why they believe in God’s existence, they will appeal to the abundance of the natural world. Whether a lay theist or a sophisticated philosopher, we know that God exists because the evidence is all around us. We can see plainly that God exists because creation requires a Creator. The natural world must have had an explanation. Everything that exists requires an explanation, whether in the necessity of its’ own nature, or in an external cause. In response to this, you might be keen to say that the universe is necessary in its’ existence, that is, it cannot be otherwise. It must exist.
But in contrast with what the atheist blogosphere will put out, that is contradicted by the general consensus of contemporary cosmologists. Most scientists agree with Doctor PCW Davies, who said, “The universe can’t have existed forever. We know that there must have been an absolute beginning a finite time ago.” Or Doctor Alexander Vilenkin, who said, “It is said that an argument is what is takes to convince reasonable men, and a proof is what it takes to convince unreasonable men. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the idea of a past-eternal universe. They have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” Or Doctor Stephen Hawking, who said, “Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, has an absolute beginning.” Or Doctor Laurence Krauss, who said, “If I had to guess, I would say that the universe is not eternal.” Thus, modern cosmologists agree that the universe is not eternal.
This means that the universe is not necessary in its’ existence, since it has not always existed. Therefore, the universe must have an explanation beyond itself. By the very nature of the case, the explanation of the universe must be beyond time, as it is, itself, the explanation of time. Thus, it is eternal, and uncaused. It is beyond space, matter, energy, and all physical material, as it is, itself, the explanation of these things. It must also be supernatural, as it is, itself, the explanation of nature.
What would a universe without God look like? Well, there is literally no universe worth speaking of.
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