I just finished reading a fascinating article at the Council for Secular Humanism web site titled "Can Science Prove that God Does Not Exist?" The argument that the article puts forth is that a scientific proof does not need to be absolute to be accepted as true. Instead it is the best explanation of the facts. The article give a few examples, but one that comes to mind for me is the the question of the earth orbiting the sun or the sun going around the earth. At one point in history it seemed that the earth-centric theory fit the facts the best. As people learned more facts about the universe, that theory no longer fit. Today we don't have all the facts about how gravity works to keep planets in orbit around the sun. But the sun-centric theory fits the best with the facts we do have. So, now the question is, do we have enough facts to discard the theory of a god for a better explanation?
The theory of god existing is inseparably linked to the origin of the universe. If a god existed, like most religions teach, then he or she would have been in the position to create the universe. If there is no god, the universe must exist on its own (at some basic level at least). So at the most basic level we find that something or someone must have an inherent and necessary existence. Either matter must have always existed and always will exist or a god must have always existed and always will. The question is which provides a better explanation for the existence of the universe.
Lets start with the "Theory of Matter." Key elements to this theory are chance (or random events) and the mechanics of the universe (laws). The elements of matter at this level react with each other in both predictable and unpredictable ways. This continues today, but at some point in time the unpredictable events occurred in such a spectacular fashion that a chain of events were set in motion that resulted in the way the universe looks today. Obviously this is a incomplete summary of a lot of scientific study, but I think it is sufficient for an example.
Before we judge the merits of either theory, we should examine the "Theory of God." What is important to this theory is intelligence and design. Everything was put into existence by an intelligence that understood how and had the power to do so. The planets that orbit stars were engineered that way on purpose. The distance between the earth and sun was calculated for maximum benefit to the living creatures there.
Most people who follow science seem to prefer the first explanation. They are comfortable with the idea of laws and random events. But I propose that the first theory doesn't fit the facts as well as the second and therefore the second should be considered true.
Suppose we tried an experiment. We want to make something, anything really, so how about an electric motor. So to start with, we'll take a mixture of elements, bits of rock, trees, water, or anything you can scrape out of your back yard, and put it all in a box. Now just let the matter in that box interact randomly. What happens? Nothing? That seems to be the obvious answer. The only other explanation is that the chance for a random event is too small for us opportunity to see it occur. Remember matter is eternal an was probably randomly interacting for a long, long time before the random event knocked us into existence. Or at least that's what I've been told.
Now, lets try again. This time we'll make a plan for constructing the electric motor. Gathering wood, wire, nails, magnets, etc. Then we'll wrap the wire around a nail, mount it between some magnets, etc. (it has been a while...). What happened? An intelligence designed something.
According to these two examples, we could conclude that the existence of anything requires a designer. I'm not sure if we should limit it to the existence of complex things or not. Either way, we know that things, and complex things exist in this universe. Which theory explains their existence better? Maybe we don't know enough facts to say, but it sure appears that the "Theory of God" fits the facts the best for now.
Jakim Friant - February 20, 2003
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