Why I Believe God Exists – Part 1: Anthropic Principle

After a long blogging hiatus I had planned to get back into regular writing by posting a series that kind of follows the path that I have been through over the last several years to get to where I am today. The political season brought some significant changes that I found myself working on, however, and that took a great deal of time and energy. But I am ready to get back to my plan. I posted a few weeks back on “…that strange same of place again…” and mentioned that I find myself cycling around through stronger faith and then doubt and then back. As I have followed the cycle a few times now I find that each time I come from doubt and back around that the steps are very much similar and because of that repeated trial and testing have found them to be relatively stable and solid. Each time through I find a new little piece of evidence that supports my reasons for faith. It is those steps that I want to share, mainly for my benefit as much as for anyone else. I am honored that you have decided to share my story with me. Thanks.

I read a quote in Triathlete Magazine today by David Grayson. It is the December 2008 issue on page 115. “Happines, I have discovered, is nearly always a rebound from hard work.” I love that quote because it speaks to a principle in life which I believe to be very true. We don’t get better without struggling for it. You don’t become a better athlete by thinking about it. You have to work hard, extremely hard if you want to be great. You can’t change a bad habit with a New Year’s Resolution. You have to do the work. You don’t have a better relationship with your wife by watching TV. You have to engage her and talk to her and nuture her and that is work. You don’t learn something at school by sitting there. You have to put out the effort to read and understand and grab concepts. You can’t rid of the crap in your life by ignoring it. You have to work, acknowledging that it is there and then facing it. All improvement involves some sort of struggle. Ridding your life of struggle invites deterioration and death. Now don’t take that to extreme and claim that I am saying it is all about work. That is not what I have said nor is it what I mean. Rest is just as important and necessary. But I think you can understand what I am saying.

I have been doing at least some of that work spiritually for some time now, really trying to find the truth behind what I believe, claiming that truth, and then getting rid of the junk. And it has been hard. I think some of my friends and family think I have gone out on some whacked out crazy tangent. I’m OK with that because I am in a much more solid place than I have ever been with God in my entire existence.

It always seemed strange to me that growing up I never really heard anyone talk at all about how we even know the Bible is the right collection of books. Some dudes got together 1700 or so years ago and decided on what the canon of scripture was going to be, and we just trust it to be true because those behind us did it. Even at a Christian college in bible classes was this not explained to me. I find that amazing that so many people are just willing to accept this fact and base their lives on it without questioning if the very thing they claim is so trustworthy is really that trustworthy of a thing at all. Shouldn’t you be sure of that before you base everything you do on it? I say yes, but that is for another post because my questions and doubts go back farther than the Bible.

I need to know if God actually exists. At times I find myself wondering if this is all real, this spiritual stuff, or is it just a bunch of mind games that humans came up with over eons of time to deal with certain issues that were not easily explained. And you really can’t use the Bible to speak to the question of God’s existence, at least not in a purely reasoned sense. So I have repeatedly, on my cycle, gone over evidence for God’s existence that lies outside the Bible. If I get that question answered for myself then I can move on to whether or not the Bible is what it claims to be. So I start outside the Bible looking for evidence in the world that God exists. I will go at them one per post, and this time I chose to briefly look at the anthropic principle.

Before we get to the specifics of this let me say something else. It is not possible to absolutely prove that God exists. The best for which we can hope is to find evidence that points to God’s existence. And much as in a court of law, the more evidence the greater the possibility. So don’t expect to find absolute proof that God exists. It doesn’t exist. All of these arguments for God’s existence can be reasonably argued in a different direction. If there is a creator God who is responsible for all that exists, then he is bigger than his creation, therefore, making it impossible to use the products of his creation to prove that he exists. But his creation can point to his existence. On the flipside, it is also not possible to prove that God does not exist. Even Richard Dawkins, an outspoken proponent of atheism, uses the language, “Why There Almost Certainly Is No God,” to title one of the chapters in his most recent book, The God Delusion, which I have read. I just find that wording interesting. He even states on page 51, “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.” So it can’t really reasonably be proven either way. It is up to how one interprets the evidence.

So, the anthropic principle….This principle is the idea that the universe is so finely tuned for life that it could not have come about by chance. There are certain physical constants such as the speed of light, the gravitational constant, the strength of weak and strong nuclear forces, and a host of others (15 total) that have very precise values which fall into a vary narrow range. A change in one of those constant values by one part in a million would have resulted in a dramatically different universe than the one that we currently  inhabit. Matter would not have been able to gather, and there would be no galaxies, stars, planets, etc. Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project who himself converted from Christianity to atheism largely based on his reading of the scientific evidence for God, states in The Language of God, that, “The existence of the universe as we know it rests upon a knife edge of improbability.” Other scientists such as Stephen Hawking, Freeman Dyson, and Paul Davies have all made similar remarks in reference to the anthropic principle. However, these same scientists also see the other side of the principle which I will get to in a bit.

Alsiter McGrath, a counterpart of Richard Dawkins at Oxford, is a Christian theologian with a PhD in molecular biophysics and has just published a work called, The Open Secret, which is a vision for natural theology, in essence an explanation of how science and Christianity support each other. I am in the process of reading it now and will likely use it as a source in subsequent posts. He discusses the anthropic principle and points out, as I have above, that it is not proof of God’s existence. But rather it can be reasonably interpreted as evidence for God’s existence and is perhaps best understood within the perspective of Christianity.

Now it is true that this anthropic principle as evidence for God is rationally avoidable. The leading rebuttal is something known as multiverse theory which states that we are one of any number of universes and that ours is obviously tuned for life because we are here to observe it. In fact the argument could be taken a bit further. It can be argued that if a universe is not tuned for life, such a universe cannot exist because there is no life there to observe it. I might point out thought that there is not a shred of evidence for the existence of alternate universes. Is it, though, a reasonable theory. Yes.

There are also different aspects of the anthropic principle such as the weak anthropic principle and the strong anthropic principle which really go beyond the depth that I care to go in this post. However, if anyone would like to bring them up for discussion in the comments I will be happy to engage. Some of the guys from the de-conversion site, if they end up checking on me here, may want to discuss these aspects. At this point I will let it be sufficient to say that I believe that the anthropic principle as evidence for God’s existence is a reasonable interpretation of that evidence.

So there is part 1. Feel free to say whatever you want. Feel free to step on my toes. Feel free to challenge me however you see fit. I welcome it.

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17 responses to “Why I Believe God Exists – Part 1: Anthropic Principle

  1. Well Doug

    I think the first thing I would address is that it seems that youre not trying to find proof of a God(creator)………youre trying to find proof for your idea of God(Jesus). Those my friend are 2 very different things. If you stayed with just the premise that there is some sort of Creator, I could go with you. The problem is when people try to quantify just what that could be. Based on History from what I can see, that seems to be impossible.

  2. John. OK. This is what I need you to challenge me on. As is probably obvious from my involvement on de-conversion, I am a bit new to this game. How do you see that I am trying to find proof for Jesus? And if I am. So what? What is the problem there?

  3. John. Re-reading my post, it is obvious to me that the tone is that of trying to justify a belief in the Christian God. I give you that. And I agree that getting to a Christian God is a completely different thing entirely than just getting to a Creator God. There is a completely different set of evidence with which to deal on that one. So let me take the Christian part out of the equation and just say that the anthropic principle at best can point to a Creator. You have said that you could go with me on that. Would you explain how you go with me on that? And what path would you then take to quantify, as you say, just what that could be? Great to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

  4. Good Morning Doug

    One thing I find interesting is that even though you and I come from completely different backgrounds, we both seem to have similar questions. Mind you, dont most of us want to know, why/how/who created everything. I grew up in a completely Non religious, Non spiritual enviroment. That is to say, we didnt talk about or practice any specific belief. As I look back at my life though, I see that several key family members are just naturally spiritual. They are joyous, loving and connected to others. I have been bantering on De Con for a little while now and I laugh sometimes because most of them come from very religious backgrounds and were fervent believers and now they are fervent Non believers. I have tried to point out that just because you dont believe in Jesus as God doesnt mean you have to reject the idea of a Creator. Because many of them have been burned so badly, even that idea is repulsive to them. There are several though that are extremly open to discussion and are very flexible in there dealings. One thing you will find out(if you havnt already), many of the De Cons know the Bible, they know it better than most conservative Christians. There are several that are trained in Christian Theology, so remember they all have done there research. Now back to my idea on a creator. I will start with what I normally tell my wife(she usually laughs at this one), I think there is a format to what we see in the Universe. In others words there seems to be action and reaction both on a Physical level and on a Intellectual/emotional level. Now all the great spiritual traditions seem to agree on this idea. Like, you reap what you sow, what goes around comes around, and so on. Isnt it interesting how there are very different traditions yet they seem to have the same format. Maybe thats because it is, and it seems to be hardwired into us. Now having a format is a far cry from having Jesus, Buddha, Allah or some other deity doing it to us. Well Im going for some breakie, I will return a little later to try and explain a little more. see ya.

  5. John. It is very interesting that we could start at opposite ends of the spectrum and end up at the same place. I find that comforting. I am very aware of how well the de-con crowd knows the Bible. In fact, it almost makes me nervous to get into anything with them. And I definitely don’t want them to think I am trying to convert them back. I don’t believe that it is really all that constructive to try and covert people. Just establishing a relationship is what I am after. I am trying to answer my own questions. I agree with you on the format idea and in fact have read very similar propositions and plan to make it one of my posts in my series. Thanks for chiming in. Hope you are having a good weekend. Just spent several hours talking with friends about our questions about God, etc. Good stuff.

  6. TfT – “I think there is a format to what we see in the Universe. In others words there seems to be action and reaction both on a Physical level and on a Intellectual/emotional level.”

    I’d be very careful with that. Humans are pattern-seeking creatures, prone to finding narrative and connection where none exist. We fall prey to confirmation bias and selective memory. For example:

    “Now all the great spiritual traditions seem to agree on this idea. Like, you reap what you sow, what goes around comes around, and so on”

    Really? I find that the tradition of Stoicism, Epicureanism, the Jewish world-weariness in Ecclesiastes and even the book of Job disagree with the notion that you “reap what you sew.”

    “All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.” [Ecc 7:15]

    There I see the notion that God/the Universe will do as it wills, regardless of our notions of justice and fairness. Can we really say that “all the great spiritual traditions seem to agree”? I’d suggest that this is confirmation bias, and that same bias could lead one to see patterns in the universe that really exist only in our heads.

  7. Can we really say that “all the great spiritual traditions seem to agree”? I’d suggest that this is confirmation bias, and that same bias could lead one to see patterns in the universe that really exist only in our heads.(Joshua)

    Well Joshua

    If were all Humans and it seems we are, I’d say we pretty much think similar thoughts. Now how we word them will be different depending on the culture and the individual, but I believe the essence of the thought remains the same.

    Humans are pattern-seeking creatures, prone to finding narrative and connection where none exist(Joshua)

    Talk about an absolute statement, what are you a “Fundy”. Tell me are you certain “All” humans are pattern seeking? Seems to me the Human brain is quite diverse. In fact many of us see the world through a very different lense. Kinesthetic, visual, auditory. People learn in a multitude of ways. Just because you dont see similar patterns to me, doesnt mean they dont exist. In fact there are different writers for different scriptures. Some are whiny asses and others arent. ;)

    You seem like a bright person, are all the views in your head correct?

  8. “All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.” [Ecc 7:15]

    Joshua

    That scripture says nothing about how the life they lived affected each of them, it just says the shithead lived longer. But remember, that just gave the shithead more time to feel the pain, lmao.

  9. i would have to depart from T4T just a little and say that you’re struggle isn’t exactly with the ” proof of a God(creator) vs. proof for your idea of God(Jesus)” although T4T provides an excellent framework here, i’d say you’re problem is with God in experience vs. God in writing (Bible).

    I struggle with this everyday and the Bible is a SUPER HARD collection of books and there is seemingly no reasoning for putting these books together as they disagree with one another as Joshua points out. However, i’d say Joshua is wrong on his critique of T4T with Job… Job does sort of go against “you reap what you sow” in words but notice how God backs it up in action and awards Job double. contradiction in terms that Book of Job.

    anywho… if we read the bible seriously and really pay attention and ask questions about it, we will be shocked and awed and transported and challenged. but sometimes it’s hard to see how these writers got their conclusions. Karl Barth put it best when he said “when we read the bible we’re NOT reading the word of God but instead reading FOR the word of God.”

    I like freestyle’s quote “Just establishing a relationship is what I am after..” heck yeah! that’s the whole point! worship is a planned human/divine encounter in my book. that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter the divine elsewhere.. and it’s good to understand you’re viewing the world through a Christian (Xn)conception of God. the real question comes down to is what version of the Xn concept?

    when we distill it all down i think there are two Xn concepts that are mostly prevelant in US soceity (more if you’re in India with the Thomas Xns). Those are the Jesus-Xn and the Paul Xn. Two very different methodologies and interpretations.

    Good times, good conversation, and i’m glad to count y’all as friends. let me know whatcha think!

  10. Luke. I think you are spot on. I like “when we read the bible we’re NOT reading the word of God but instead reading FOR the word of God.” We are looking for the message instead of for the extreme accuracy of the words. The message can remain intact even if the words are not.

    Two items. How do you deal with the innerant issue? And please expand what you mean by the Jesus-Xn as opposed to the Paul-Xn. I have just recently delved into NTW who deals with the Pauline side of things but still hold just an introductory knowledge I am afraid.

  11. i think inerrancy is a need for ‘the spiritually weak’. if you read the bible at all you soon see there’s contradictions. the whole series starts off with a contradiction between Genesis Chap. 1. and Gen 2-3! There are TWO creation stories on the onset. so i think inerrancy of the bible is a claim one can’t support. the adherents to this lie will continue in this matter with caveats such as “in it’s original form.” that’s fine well and good, but there are no originals of the bible left, so that claim can never be determined one way or another.

    trackback post: http://toothface.blogspot.com/2008/07/grammar.html

    I LOVE the bible and have devoted my life to the study of it, but I have to see it for what it is and it is very errant simply due to the fact that language is symbol and we have to interpret that. language is not a perfect medium.

    as for Jesus Xn vs. Paul Xn, i find this more in church tradition and doctrine and it’s not something ppl will say “We’re a Pauline Church” or some such, but more on which do they emphasize, the gospels or the epistles? it’s the theology behind the surface.

    A Jesus church, in my experience and opinion, emphasizes action, social justice, and radical acceptance. a Pauline church is one that focuses on grace, falleness of humanity, and a “do this to get that” mentality. now they take on different manifestations based on context, all of which too complicated to get into on here. but this is the basics. do you here Paul quoted more than Jesus? If Jesus is quoted, does he sound like Paul with a focus on grace and condemnation? usually i find people who say the scriptures are inerrant to mean that just the NT are and by NT they mean Paul. they read everything through a Paul filter missing the fact that Jesus was rather subversive against the temple and the Roman Empire.

    I think Paul is the greatest blessing and curse of Xnity. His writings to the churches are brilliant but made into doctrine and taken for more than what they are (i.e. a flawless road map of faith) are dangerous. Paul is a wonderful read but is subject to some dangerous interpretations. a great book to check out is Bassler’s ‘Navigating Paul’. RAWK!

  12. “The message can remain intact even if the words are not.” freestyle

    i would like to unpack this a little more… what exactly do you mean here?

    i ask because ppl tend to miss the transforming parts of the gospel through a method similar to this.. namely apologetics. for example, let’s consider the mustard seed parable.

    that one is about faith right? when ask about the Kingdom of God, traditional church teaching states that Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is in us and starts small and then grows really big and protects us and gives us blessings like birds and such.

    well in context, that interpretation makes no sense and misses the entire meaning of the parable by simply ignoring the words and going with the meaning. after getting the context in which Jesus was speaking in (Judea occupied by the Empire of Rome, 1st century) and what that would mean, i’ve come to realize that the mustard seed is really, really subversive.

    check out this sermon to see how: http://toothface.blogspot.com/2008/09/jesus-is-punk-rock.html

    but knowing a little where you’re coming from, that one could say that God is love, despite all the things in the bible where God is a jerk, thrashing and raping Israel (Jeremiah and Amos). The message is of grace and love and forgiveness… not shame, sin, and condemnation. is that closer to what you were getting at? or neither and i’m a complete idiot ;-) ?

  13. Luke. Yes, I mean in the broader sense for sure, and even the broadest sense of the entire bible being a story of God’s love for his entire creation and the process by which he is redeeming his entire creation to himself. I think we have to keep that in mind when reading. Cherry picking individual stories is almost a misuse of power much of the time, the very Empire style world view on which most of the world operates. Does that unpack it a bit more for you?

  14. yuppers! thanks!

  15. Doug, I love the conversation you’re generating here. Very good stuff. Keep it up.

  16. Hey, there. I came over here from d-C. Will be watching. I’m especially interested to hear why you still believe in Jesus Christ, because that’s what I’m trying to figure out for myself now.

  17. Kat. Thanks for checking me out. Comment any time you want even if it is oppositional. I hope this conversation can be of help to you. It may take me a bit to get to why I believe in Christ because I want to follow a certain progression in my head. But hang in there because I will get there eventually. Thanks and have an awesome day.

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