A friend asked me to watch the The Privileged Planet. This DVD was produced by the Creation Discovery Project, a group promoting the ideas of Intelligent Design. It is a good presentation of the anthropic principle from the point of view of Intelligent Design. It also is as persuasive of an argument as Intelligent Design proponents can make using scientific knowledge to bolster their claims. Whether it can shake the beliefs of atheistic scientists remains to be seen, but so far these non-believing scientists have not seemed impressed by the arguments of scientists who have embraced Intelligent Design. The inability and unwillingness of scientists to consider other points of view surprises me to a degree, since the very basis of the scientific method is skepticism and scientists make names for themselves by challenging existing theories. But it seems when it comes to the questions of the origins of the universe (and even all atheistic scientists who accept the theory of the Big Bang accept a notion of the origin of the universe) the positions are hardened and polarized and not much happens in terms of really considering the possibilities which others are promoting.
Originally the anthropic principle was not a God/Creator principle but as the name implies a principle regarding humanity’s existence (Greek:anthropo = human) and suggesting we are here to observe the universe whose precise characteristics are observable only by creatures like us. Some came to understand this principle to mean it is as if the universe had called us into existence in order to introduce conscious awareness of itself. Which of course is a non-sequitur since that would imply the universe had some conscious ability to determine what it wanted to come into existence, which thus suggests intelligence in the universe both before and beyond human intelligence. Atheistic science which has basically rejected all sense of purpose or teleology in the universe has rejected the implications of the anthropic principle that there is purpose in the universe. For believers in God on the other hand, purpose in the universe suggests intelligent design.
The proponents of Intelligent Design take a much more scientific approach to the universe than do pure biblical literalists and creation scientists. But what is interesting in all of their approaches is the emphasis on “proof” which implies that empirical knowledge is considered superior to revelation. Since the 18th Century Age of Reason, the human approach to God has been increasingly founded in evidence and proof rather than in revelation; humans need or want to establish the existence of God from their own rationality. And since rationalism is based in the individual rather than in some “objective” source such as the Bible or the Church, each individual must establish the truth for himself or herself. Believing in God is apparently not very satisfying for some, they need to be able to prove their beliefs to others. This no doubt results from the tension caused between embracing radical individualism and the absoluteness of empirical objectivity. Revelation and faith cannot satisfy both ends of the individualistic versus empirically objective polar opposite continuum.
Interestingly enough, saints and monks (of just about any religious persuasion) traditionally argued that we prove our faith by the way we live. Christian monks would say we have given up everything to follow Christ, because we believe in Him. The proof of our faith is in our willingness to surrender everything in our lives in order to follow Him. Martyrs give witness to their sincerity by their willingness to sacrifice their own lives rather than give up their faith. By their sacrifice they “prove” that they believe in the teachings of Christ. Such martyrs, saints and monks would have been astounded that people would try to prove the existence of God by scientific proofs. They would have said the proof is in our willingness to sacrifice, to deny the self, to love even one’s enemies, to forgive all by the resurrection, to be willing to serve everyone, to be willing to give everything away and to possess nothing. This certainly represents a totally different kind of proof, but one they felt would be more convincing to the non-believer: my willingness to live by the teachings of Christ and to die for Him is the only proof I can offer that I believe in His existence. In this sense they don’t prove the existence of God, but they show by their lives, priorities, and their sacrifices, their own conviction and certainty as to the existence of God and His love. In their discourse with others they would show that they are rational and totally sane, but are guided by a faith that comes from the heart, mind and soul, that is based in experience but not in empiricism.
Empiricists might conclude they are simply crazy or deluded. But the serious skeptic would have to consider the unwavering sincerity of such disciples of Christ. Is it possible that they know something which is somehow hidden from those who rely totally on empiricism as a way to know the universe. Are there other ways of knowing than empirical knowledge? Is there truth in the universe which is revealed only in ways which aren’t scientifically verifiable? The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle or the Theory of Relativity or Quantum Physics suggest that empiricism has its limits. We need other ways of knowing to totally understand the universe. Mystery is thus not the enemy of science but has also been discovered by it. Mystery forces us to keep searching not just for a better truth/theory, but for additional ways of knowing, and for a more full concept of what truth consists.
While the Creation Discovery Project’s findings are comforting to believers who want proof from science for their biblcial beliefs, the skeptic will still say, none of that proves the existence of God. It only proves that the chance of human life existing in the universe is incredibly remote, yet here it is. The Christian should say, all I can prove to you is that I believe in God, in His love and in His promises, and by my sacrifices and way of life I am witnessing to everyone how seriously I take my convictions. The proof we have to offer is the example of our own lives. Being human is far more than being the result of random events in physics, or the creative development of genes. Being human also entails both discovering meaning in the universe – in the events of physics and genetics – and also being capable of giving meaning to all of these events. Even atheistic scientists are involved not just in discovering the truths of nature, but also of giving meaning to these events and then using that meaning for further discovery and invention. They are in fact testifying to the truth that the most random and unguided collisions in the subatomic world can be “understood”, interpreted, used and harnessed for purpose. The scientists are thus giving meaning and purpose to a world which they say is purely random. So they are doing on their level exactly what Christians do who interpret history as being useful for understanding the universe.