The Proof of God’s Existence: our own behavior

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.

8 thoughts on “The Proof of God’s Existence: our own behavior

  1. Chris

    Your essay is a wonderful and appropriate philosophical and theological musing. I am a theistic non-scientist with a science degree and welcome such conversations in the context of theology and philosophy. Your discussion of distinctions between faith and the empirical is important in order to understand why scientists have reacted so strongly against the Intelligent Design movement.

    The National Academy of Science defines science as “the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process.” Thus empirical knowledge is the realm of science. But as you elloquently point out, emirical knowledge is not the only valid intellectual discipline.

    The asserstions of the the Intelligent Design movement are decidedly not scientific. The Intelligent Design movement has offered no testable explanations or predictions. They wish to apply faith to science. Many in the Intelligent Design movement continue to knowingly spread false information in order to create the illusion of science.

    Few scientists are antagonistic towards Faith. Despite what many Intelligent Design proponents would have us believe, atheists are probably a small minority among scientists. In their personal lives many scientists actively practice their faiths. But defending the boundries of science is important, because scientific progress depends on it. Let me be clear, that that empirical approach does not have to be void of ethics or moral considerations, but it must be void of the supernatural (which in science refers to that which can not be measured and tested).

    I mean no disrespect to people of Faith. It is simply that, by its nature, religion is not science. The tools through which scientists view and measure the universe are powerful and useful, but not without their limitations. That does not make all of religion wrong, but it does make it a subject for venues outside the science classroom. The overwhelming majority of scientists understand this distinction, because the scientific method which is fundamental to the practice of science draws the line quite clearly. Lay people often do not understand the distinction and see therefore may view the scientific communities reaction as an overreaction or even an attack on religion.

    Tensions have arisen when the evidence of science runs counter to long held religious beliefs. If you believe the world is only 5-10,000 years old, the scientific evidence runs entirely against you. But I can’t see where such evidence undermines the fundemental teachings of any major religion. It seems to me that any message from God intended to teach important lessons to mankind across thousands of years and countless cultures would need to have elements of parable to be understood. I imagine God came to the same conclusion.

    There are many who see God in all things and maybe they are right, but science will not, cannot and does not try to answer that question.

  2. “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.”


    “This DVD was produced by the MAGIC Discovery Project, a group promoting the ideas of Intelligent MAGIC. It is a good presentation of the anthropic principle from the point of view of Intelligent MAGIC. It also is as persuasive of an argument as Intelligent MAGIC proponents can make using scientific knowledge to bolster their claims that everything is MAGIC.”

    That’s what intelligent design creationism is, a childish idiotic belief in magic.

    Creation Discovery Project? What has anyone stupid enough to believe in magical creation ever discover?

    People who invoke the intelligent design magical sky fairy are too lazy to study science and too stupid to understand science.

  3. Fr. Ted

    Thanks for your reply. I agree with what you wrote. In my book QUESTIONTING GOD, I point out that when God created the world, God called into existence that which is “not God.” Science by definition studies precisely that which is “not God.” So there is no inherent reason that science and Christianity need to be in opposition. Science looks through a particular lens at the “not God” universe. Christians can also look at the world through the science lens, but also have another way of looking at the world which is not limited by the interests and methods of science.

  4. Antibob

    @ Bob
    Your response has convinced me that intelligent design doesn’t exist! Boy, here I was thinking God would never willing create someone so hypocritically ignorant until you came along and changed my opinion!

    As a person that isn’t all that interested in religion or its merits, I should come to your aid and help you in your argument, but I don’t see a good reason to do that. Your argument doesn’t follow the scientific method, an established set of procedures that uses facts, examples and research to come to a conclusion. How about putting that grade school education to good use (seeing as this is taught in about 6th grade in most school systems, including private religious schools) and provide a well-thought out reason for your disbelief. A person of your scientific understanding should be able to provide a logical, well thought-out thesis as to why there is no god. Or you could at least provide examples of why you don’t believe.
    Without examples, your statement “Creation Discovery Project? What has anyone stupid enough to believe in magical creation ever discover?” hinges on being a logical fallacy, something a scientist would never let sit.

  5. Ohbob


    “What has anyone stupid enough to believe in magical creation ever discover?”

    I believe monastical societies were the ONLY group of people to discover much of what you believe in today. Monks invented most all types of alcohol, kept detailed records of history, invented the concept of time using candles as clocks, etc. The popes of old had a vast group of scientific advisers that created all sorts of things. Check it out, ye of little faith.

  6. Fr. Ted

    I am not in the ID camp, but did at least watch the video to see what they had to say. I would suggest Bob watch the video and then give his scientific analysis of it. Otherwise he is reacting to his own thoughts about the video not to what the video actually presents. The video bases its arguments in science – it is using scientific knowledge and theories to bolster an argument that science can be interpreted to suggest design in the universe. The video doesn’t prove design, but does take scientific knowledge of the universe to show how design can be interpreted from the facts. The video doesn’t harp on the Bible, it talks about what we know about the universe, our galaxy, our solar system and our planet. At least watch it before you react to it.

  7. Fr. Ted

    The assumption of your comment and blog is that the only life forms are carbon based life forms. Obviously those who believe in gods, angels, spirits, demons, souls, or a God are willing to accept and acknowledge the existence of beings that are not carbon based and therefore not part of that empirical world which is the limit of the study of science which is based in scientific materialism. Believers do accept that intelligence or the mind is not co-terminus with the brain, and that intelligent beings can and do exist in within the empirical universe. One might think of planes of existence or different dimensions if you want. Humans however always still encounter these other types of beings, planes or dimensions within the empirical universe and in and through our bodies, minds, souls and senses. God as such a non-carbon based being doesn’t have the physical attributes which you assume a carbon based being must have – nervous system or a digestive system. In any case since you acknowledge his invisibility anyway, we would never see any of these things including any waste he might excrete. It seems to me that quantum mechanics and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle surely have shown that the universe is far more mysterious than was once imagined under the mechanized theories of the universe. That mechanized view could get a man to the moon but cannot adequately account for how the universe functions nor even what constitutes the universe as the knowledge of dark matter and dark energy have shown. Finally, at least as far as believers are concerned, God did not pop into existence. God is existence and has chosen to share that existence with others which includes us. Our being is in His existence. It is not unlike the first law of thermodynamics which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. The Big Bang has redistributed that energy, but science which is limited in its knowledge to both space and time, cannot tell us anything about the nanosecond before the Big Bang, since from the point of view of empirical science time does not exist before the Big Bang.

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