Evidence for the Existence of a Personal God
by Rob Yule
Are We Alone in the Universe?
Are there aliens or intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe? Despite the sceptical, scientific nature of our age, people have a perennial fascination with this subject:
- The Swiss hotelier, Eric von Daniken, has made millions from books like The Chariot of the Gods, claiming that the 'gods' of human history were alien visitors from outer space.
- Pioneer 10, launched 2 March 1972, the first man-made object to leave the solar system, carried a plaque for communication with intelligent beings should any be encountered on its odyssey.
- NASA has spent millions on its Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) programme - recently expanded as the High Resolution Microwave Survey (HRMS) - using the huge radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. 'It would be nice if they sent something obvious, like the digits of pi', said a woman scientist on the programme (National Geographic, January 1994, p. 39). Former United States Senator William Proxmire said the money (US $100 million p.a.) would be better spent looking for intelligent life in Washington!
Evidence from Reason
My previous paper, surveyed the three classical arguments for God's existence, demonstrating that the very structure of human reasoning points to the existence of God. The Cosmological argument moves from the fact that every effect requires a cause, to the logical implication that the universe itself has a Cause. The Teleological argument rests on the premise that orderliness presupposes a purposeful and intelligent mind. Chance or randomness can account for loss of order, but cannot explain how things come to be orderly or significant in the first place. Finally, the Ontological argument derives from our mind's ability to recognize that God is the Greatest Being who can be thought of. This also points to God's existence, since a Greatest Being who does not exist is obviously less than a Greatest Being who does! Turning from these rational or theoretical considerations, the present paper examines empirical or observational evidence for the existence of an intelligent, personal God.
Evidence from Reality
1. Evidence for a Beginning
The very nature of the universe itself points to the existence of a Creator. There have been persistent attempts to deny this since Aristotle in the 4th century BC put forward the view that the universe was eternal, in order to escape the implication that it had a beginning. If the universe has a beginning, it has an originator. If it has an originator, it is dependent, not self-sufficient, and we are accountable, not autonomous beings. This implication explains the hostility towards the concept of a beginning expressed by leading scientists like Sir Arthur Eddington, who said in 1931 after the first empirical evidence for it was observed, 'Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant to me....I should like to find a genuine loophole.' (Nature, 127 , p.450).
Throughout the 20th century scientific research about the origin of the universe has steadily accumulated evidence that the space-time universe did indeed have a beginning. This is one of the most dramatic stories in the history of science:
- Einstein's General Theory of Relativity (1915) suggested that the universe is simultaneously expanding and decelerating, as though from a giant explosion. His original equations of General Relativity imply that all matter, energy, space and time expand outwards from a single point of origin (ie. point to an expanding universe). But Einstein's dislike of the theistic implications of a beginning point was so deeply ingrained that he introduced a 'fudge factor' into his equations (the 'Cosmological Constant') to get them to yield a static, non-expanding, model of the universe.
- In 1929 the American astronomer Edwin Hubble, working on the 100 inch telescope at the Mt Wilson observatory in California (then the largest in the world) discovered a phenomenon known as 'redshifts'. Certain stars and galaxies appeared redder than they should be, showing that they were moving away from the observer. The clear implication was that the universe is indeed expanding, therefore must have come from finite point, and had a beginning and an originator. From this came the famous 'Hubble Constant', enabling scientists to calculate the age of the universe from the velocity of its recession (10-20 billion years was Hubble's calculation; now narrowed to 13-15 billion years, but still vigorously debated).
- Only in 1931, after the publication of Hubble's law of redshifts, did Einstein grudgingly accept the evidence for a beginning, acknowledging that by not trusting his original equations of relativity he had made the greatest mistake of his career; but he never accepted the existence of personal God (see Hugh Ross, The Fingerprint of God, [Orange, California, Promise, 2nd. ed., 1991], pp. 58-59).
- In 1965 two Bell Telephone Labs scientists, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, cleaning their giant microwave antenna, found a background noise that they could not eliminate. It took them some time to realise that they had accidentally discovered the residual radiation remaining from the 'Big Bang', the original 'explosion' which marked beginning of universe. Their measurements indicated a very low temperature for this microwave radiation - only about 3º Kelvin. More precise measurements in 1992 by the COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) satellite are enabling scientists to 'map' the vast extent of the universe and confirm that it came from an enormously hot big bang, out of an infinitely compressed mass smaller than this full stop.
So overwhelming is the astronomical evidence for a beginning and for the existence of a transcendent Creator that even an agnostic astrophysicist like Robert Jastrow sees clearly what it implies: 'For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.' (God and the Astronomers, [New York, Norton, 1978], p. 116).
2. Evidence for Design
Christians believe that God is not only transcendent and powerful but also personal and caring. Now that astronomers and physicists can measure many of the limits and characteristics of the universe, the indications of intelligent design which it displays are being openly acknowledged. Scientists are discovering that the characteristics of the universe, of our galaxy, and of our solar system are so finely tuned to support life that the only reasonable explanation for this is the forethought of a loving, supremely intelligent personal Creator whose concern for human beings explains the fine-tunedness. The term 'Anthropic Principle' (from the Greek anthropos, 'human being') is being widely used by scientists and philosophers to describe this 'just right' universe, which seems to have been delicately prepared and ordered to the extraordinarily narrow band of variables within which human life is possible.
The first parameter to be measured was the universe's rate of expansion. Comparing this rate to the physics of galaxy and star formation, astrophysicists found something amazing. If the universe expanded too rapidly, matter would disperse so efficiently that none of it would clump enough to form galaxies - which would mean no stars or planets would form, and there would be no habitat for life. On the other hand, if it expanded too slowly, matter would clump so effectively that the whole universe would collapse into a super-dense lump before any solar-type stars could form.
What is even more amazing is how delicately balanced that expansion rate must be for life to exist. It cannot differ more than one part in 1055 from the actual rate. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross compares the precarious nature of this balance to balancing a million pencils on their sharpened ends on a glass top desk with no external supports (The Creator and the Cosmos, [Colorado Springs, Colorado, NavPress, 1993], pp. 109-10).
The second parameter of the universe to be measured was its age. Ross explains: 'For many decades astronomers and others have wondered why, given God exists, he would wait so many billions of years to make life. Why did he not do it right away? The answer is that, given the laws and constants of physics God chose to create, it takes about twelve billion years just to fuse enough heavy elements in the nuclear furnaces of several generations of giant stars to make life chemistry possible. Life could not happen any earlier in the universe than it did on Earth.' (op. cit., p. 110).
Turning from the universe as a whole to the Galaxy-Sun-Earth-Moon System, Ross tabulates 32 basic parameters for life support. Only two of these were known as recently as 1966. Research into them has been largely carried out by atheistic scientists like Karl Sagan who were determined to calculate the favourable natural conditions for the origin of life. Without any one of these conditions life would be impossible. Hugh Ross calculates the probability for all 32 parameters occurring simultaneously is one in 1042 - less than one chance in one quintillion that even one such planet should occur anywhere in universe (op. cit, pp. 129-34).
Just two of these parameters illustrate how finely balanced life on earth is. One is what I call the freeze-fry factor: a change in distance from the sun of as little as 2% would destroy all life on earth, freezing if it was further away or evaporating if it was nearer all the liquid water without which life is physically impossible. Likewise the earth's rotation period cannot be changed by more than a few percent. If the planet took too long to rotate, temperature differences between day and night would be too great for life to survive. On the other hand, if it rotated too fast, wind velocities would rise to catastrophic levels - as on the planet Jupiter where a ten hour rotation period generates winds of one thousand m.p.h.
Faced with such overwhelming evidence of fine-tuning in the universe many contemporary cosmologists and astrophysicists are accepting that the universe must have a designer. Fred Hoyle, a well-known atheist astronomer, expressed his irritation that 'a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.' Paul Davies has been more honest in abandoning his earlier atheism, and concedes that the laws of physics 'seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design.' Astronomer George Greenstein comments, 'As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency - or, rather, Agency - must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?' Tony Rothman, a theoretical physicist, says, 'When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it's very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.' (Quotes from Ross, op. cit., pp.114-15).
Evidence from Rebellion
Paradoxically, further evidence for God's existence is provided by the persistent desire of people to deny this Being which so much rational and empirical evidence otherwise points to. Genuine non-existence needs no comparable effort of denial. 'The real proof of God is the agonised attempt to deny God', concludes philosopher Erich Frank (Philosophical Understanding and Religious Truth, [London, Oxford University Press, 1949], p. 43). Given that the evidence for God's existence is so overwhelming, its denial must be seen as an essentially irrational phenomenon, an act of folly or rebellion, just as the Bible describes it (Psalm 14:1, 53:1, Romans 1:18-23). Denial of God usually arises from other factors, as Aldous Huxley (in Ends and Means) once candidly admitted: 'I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning....For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.' Most frequently, denial of God is a rationalization for moral disobedience.
© St Albans Presbyterian Church,
339 Albert Street, Palmerston North, New Zealand,
17 September 1995