“New Atheist” Challenge,
My friend is deeply versed in the New Atheist literature that is so in vogue among intellectuals. He states categorically: “There is no evidence -- zero evidence -- that God exists or that he created the universe.” For a moment I’m nonplussed. My mind draws a blank. I have loads of arguments, but… evidence? What does he want, footprints? Are there no clues?
Then the lawyer in me reflects: What is evidence? The Oxford English dictionary gives this definition: “evidence: 2. An indication, a sign... 3. Facts or testimony in support of a conclusion, statement, or belief… b. something serving as proof.” Evidence need not be proof. In the matters we’re examining, I see no evidence on either side that rises to the level of proof. But “facts in support of a conclusion or belief…” That we have.
A World of Evidence
To those who say there’s no evidence of a Creator-God I reply: The universe itself is evidence. Abundant and in many ways highly convincing evidence. It is a vast complex of facts that can be seen as supporting the belief that a Cosmic Mind exists. The appearance of inventive thought is everywhere in our universe, from the laws and patterns that govern the galaxies to the composition of matter.
If matter were simply a blob of undifferentiated clay, as it appears to the eye, it would be easier to suppose it just happened. But matter is composed of molecules, and molecules are composed of atoms. Even atoms are not simple -- they resemble a small solar system. The planetary model describes electrons “orbiting” a nucleus at the center, composed of positively charged particles called protons and electrically neutral particles called neutrons.
And there are subatomic particles: muons, pions, hyperons, mesons, baryons, and tachyons, to name a few. And then there are quarks. They come in six varieties, known as flavors: up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom. A proton is made of two up quarks and one down quark. Among the intrinsic properties of quarks are electric charge, color charge, spin, and mass.
The Miracle of Matter – and Mind
When I got to the level of quarks it hit me: The astoundingly complex structure of matter – which only brilliant scientists could discover and comprehend – is evidence of a Mind whose ingenuity far exceeds the human, One whose intellective fingerprints are all over the world. Maybe “a blob of glup” just happened. But the elegant architecture of the invisibly fine – of the atomic and subatomic realm -- is no accident. Natural selection does not explain it. There’s no Darwinian challenge to it. It’s simply there, and has been for fourteen billion years, since the dust settled after the Big Bang. One can’t help contemplate it with a wild surmise.
Our own species is the most prodigious and inscrutable facet of the entire cosmos. Human consciousness and its phenomenal achievements – scientific, philosophic, and cultural – are evidence (“signs, indications”) of a Cosmic Intellect whose creative exploits went beyond matter, with its micro wonders, to create the even more dazzling phenomenon of life; and beyond that to create consciousness; and beyond that to create a species of primate with peak specimens like Aristotle, Shakespeare, Newton, Michelangelo, Bach, and Einstein.
Unproven, Not Disproven
“No!” you shout. “That’s the old Argument from Design, resurrected in the lab of particle physics and dressed in the robes of genius. 200 years ago Paley argued that a watch requires a watchmaker. Now Hayes says, A genius is a Work of Genius. We’ve put all that behind us.” No, we haven’t. At most we’ve conceded that it’s not proof. It doesn’t compel belief. But we can’t deny it the status of evidence. Evidence of a highly probative kind.
The evidence is ambiguous. It may be variously interpreted. But it is evidence of something exceedingly hard to explain. We can disagree on what that something is: a cryptic force of nature, or a Cosmic Consciousness that stands apart from the awesome world it produced. A reasonable case can be made for either position. Let me sum up my take on the evidence with two questions I often ask:
Which View Is More Credible?
Did the Big Bang ultimately produce Plato, or did a cause more like Plato produce him? Did cosmic dust evolve into a great mind, or did a Great Mind produce the cosmos?
Viewed in that light I think the case for God is stronger than the case against. But since neither theist nor atheist has proof on this crucial issue, uncertainty is our fate. We can’t know. We can only believe – in God or in No God. We who choose God can legitimately cite the universe – at the macro and micro level -- as evidence.