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.