Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Hath God Wrought?

In my last post I talked about Paul’s famous statement in Romans that unbelievers are “without excuse” because God’s eternal power and divine nature can be clearly seen from looking at his Creation. The evidence for God is right before our eyes, so that he is justified in condemning us for rejecting him.

But some will object that we simply see what we want to see. You and I are watching a beautiful sunset. I believe in God; I see God’s glory in the sunset. You don’t believe in God; you see Nature’s glory. So how does nature prove God exists?

The short answer is, it doesn’t. If you’re looking for an airtight mathematical proof you will be disappointed, because we’re not dealing with mathematical concepts here. Very few things are actually provable in a formal, mathematical sense. Yet, there are still good reasons to believe in God.

The first reason is simply the fact that the universe exists at all. There is no reason to believe that the universe has to exist, but it obviously does. It makes sense that there would be a being whose existence is necessary, eternal and unchanging to explain the existence of a universe that is contingent, temporal and mutable.

An entire discipline of science, called cosmology, is devoted to studying the origins of the universe. It is fascinating that despite the triumph of secularism in academia, modern cosmologists came to the uncomfortable conclusion that the universe has not always existed and is in the process of “winding down” over the eons. This very inconvenient truth has caused many scientists to work hard at finding a new theory to avoid this conclusion. But to date there is absolutely no evidence for any of these new theories. The motivation for many of these scientists is pretty transparently to avoid the theistic implications of the current theory.

Another good reason to believe in God is the existence of life. There is currently no good scientific theory of abiogenesis, or how life formed from non-living matter by purely natural processes. You will no doubt caution me to avoid a “God of the gaps” mistake. Just because no good theory exists today doesn’t mean we won’t find one in the future. While that’s certainly true, in this case the gap appears to be pretty formidable.

The problem is that random processes would take essentially forever to produce something as complex as a single living cell. The simplest bacterium has about 500 genes. This is far less than humans or fruit flies, but it’s still a dern sight more than the goo at the bottom of Stanley Miller’s Erlenmeyer flask. Evolution doesn’t help you bridge this gap because mutation and natural selection can’t happen until a self-replicating organism exists on which they can operate.

Just as some scientists are busy looking for a new cosmology that avoids the need for a Creator, others are energetically seeking to prove that life will form spontaneously wherever the appropriate conditions exist. It may surprise you to learn that this is one of the main motivations and justifications for the U.S. space program. NASA spends billions of dollars looking for evidence of life, or even complex organic chemicals, in our solar system and beyond. That is the main goal of all the recent robotic probes and landers we have sent to Mars.

The irony is that, even if we find evidence of life on another world, it really doesn’t prove anything about whether God created life or it developed by natural processes. We would still be lacking a good theory to explain how you can get from a prebiotic soup of amino acids to a living organism without the intervention of deity.

There is yet another reason to believe in God that I find even more compelling than these two, but I will save that discussion for my next post.

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