Scientific Evidence- so what?

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I wrote last week about Why God Won’t Go Away. There I touched very briefly on some of the developments in science over the last few decades which have strengthened the ‘God hypothesis’. Let’s say the arguments for a divine being’s existence are sound, and that the scientific evidence really does point to God as so how many claim. So what? What existential difference does it make to you and to me that such a divine being exists? But most of all, how does it substantiate Christianity in any way?

The first angle I want to take with this is not at all existential but is still quite important. Clearly, the scientific evidence and philosophical arguments for God’s existence deal a large blow to atheism. It goes much further, though. The scientific evidence for the universe having a temporal beginning at the Big Bang is pretty convincing. Combine this evidence with some very powerful philosophical arguments against an infinite regress of temporal events and it seems to me  like the case against a past-eternal universe is insurmountable. This actually has huge implications. This would mean that Mormonism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, most forms of New Ageism and all forms of pantheism are false, since they are all completely predicated on an eternal universe. I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty significant! The only options left are one of the monotheistic religions or deism. Of course the point still stands that none of this proves Christianity to be true, but the first words of the Bible that, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” have been thoroughly vindicated.

Yet this still doesn’t necessarily seem to effect the way I should live, or the human condition in general. If this God could just as likely be a distant, detached and disinterested deity then how does this affect me? Well, to be honest it doesn’t. However, it does have some important implications for Jesus’ claims and miracles, which certainly does affect the human condition. Let me explain.
If there is no God, then no matter what the evidence might point towards, Jesus simply cannot have risen from the dead. The chances of him being ‘medically’ dead and then three days later rising again are reduced to nothing. Literally none. Zero. Zilch.  Yet if there is a God who miraculously created the universe, fine-tuned the initial conditions for intelligent life and intervened to seed the world with life, then suddenly Jesus rising again is a genuine possibility. If there is good evidence that might lead us to think that he rose from the dead, then that is most likely what happened! It’s now an imperative to investigate this Jesus and see what all the fuss is about.

Is this Creator one of those lonely, impersonal gods, or is God a tri-unity of Father, Son and Spirit, three persons who are in an eternal relationship with each other of mutual love and self-giving? Has he stayed away at a safe distance or has he been willing to come to earth, take the form a human being and live like one of us? Has he suffered excruciating pain in order to reconcile us-his enemies- to him, or has he been a selfish loner, completely uninterested in any kind of relationship?

Or think about it another way. If the evidence has established the existence of an incredibly powerful, immaterial and timeless deity, then it seems unclear at best how we would be able to know him. He would be unlike anything in the universe. C.S. Lewis made this point himself, using the analogy of Hamlet. Now the character of Hamlet has no comprehension of Shakespeare, and any philosophizing he might do still doesn’t even get him close to getting to know Shakespeare on a personal level. For that, Lewis argues, Shakespeare would have to write himself into the story and take the form of a character. So it is with Jesus. We can only know God on a personal level and to the fullest extent because he wrote himself into the human story as the man Jesus. The Bible calls Jesus the image of the invisible God in one of my all time favourite little passages. It’s worth checking out, right here.

Friends, these are the questions that must be answered in light of the evidence for God. So whilst the scientific evidence doesn’t establish Christianity, it certainly does rule out most of the other options. The evidence means that it is vital that we look deeper. And looking deeper does not come at a huge cost. With so many options ruled out by the evidence, there are only a few contenders. Of those few, only one God exists has actually made himself known to us by living like one of us, living among us and living for us.  Even Islam doesn’t claim to allow for a personal knowledge of God, only to know what his abstract Will is. It’s time to come to know the God who wants to know you, and who was willing to pay the price: even death on a cross.

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About Michael

I'm a full time follower of Jesus, who is studying for a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and loving university life. I blog about anything related to the first sentence! View all posts by Michael

8 responses to “Scientific Evidence- so what?

  • Stuart Ramsay

    I broadly agree, of course. I’ve been convinced for a while that at least one form of the cosmological argument is sound (my favoured version though is not Craig’s regress but Pruss’ PSR/aggregate contingent fact form). And absolutely, theological arguments reduce the attractiveness of ontological naturalism or certain other religions. A couple of thoughts though – I was discussing with a friend once who said that they were so convinced of ontological naturalism (so many of their beliefs were based upon it and relied upon it for consistency) that even if it were established to them that Jesus was raised from the dead, it would not be sufficient to displace ontological naturalism: they would either suspend judgement or believe that even this had a naturalistic explanation. This challenges your point that if God doesn’t exist, Jesus had no chance of rising from the dead. Of course insofar as it is logically possible, it has a metaphysical possibility of >0. Hume, for example, never claimed that miracles were metaphysically impossible; merely that one should never believe they occurred because he could not understand there being sufficient reason to do so. If you play the Humean game here, saying “without God, no miracles, because the world would be governed by inviolable laws of nature”, and you’re discussing with somebody strongly committed to ontological naturalism, either (a) you’re trapped into the laws of nature epistemological position with any Humeans, who say “violating a law of nature is always more unlikely than that all this evidence and testimony being false” or (b) you have to produce an independent argument against ontological naturalism – e.g. the cosmological argument. But that stops the scientific arguments for Christianity being ‘theological arguments + resurrection’, for the latter with rely upon the former.

    • Michael

      Thanks for dropping by, Stuart- I appreciate it!
      I think there are two issues here and Plantinga’s distinction between de jure and de facto objections will help. Your friend’s objection seems to be a de facto objection, ie that it is simply false that Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead. Hume’s objection is a de jure one, which is to say that even if the miracle happened, which he is quite open to, you would still not be justified in believing it until certain strong conditions were met.

      So I actually think that Hume would disagree with your friend. Looking back over what Hume wrote, I found that he says this, “It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country.”
      Hume is quite happy to say that it is a miracle if a man rose from the dead. And if Jesus did rise from the dead he would quite happily agree that naturalism is false; he would simply disagree that anyone would ever be justified in believing that Jesus rose again. I’m more than willing to discuss Hume’s argument against miracles more if you like.

      In this post I was basically saying why the scientific evidence and philosophical arguments for God are significant. I think what your friend says illustrates the point that without any of the philosophical arguments before hand, Jesus resurrection is probably impossible to establish. But if the arguments do work, then metaphysical naturalism is false and the resurrection is a genuine possibility. Hence to your friend I’m not sure I would argue from the resurrection so much as I would use Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, the moral arguments and the philosophical arguments for there being a God. Once they get to that point, the evidence for the resurrection has significance. What do you think?

      • Stuart Ramsay

        I think you’re right: if you play the Humean game you’re going to have to level some independent arguments against naturalism (e.g. teleological, cosmological, moral, EAAN). That was, of course, what you were arguing for.

        I’m not convinced anyway that Hume’s arguments are especially sound – I reckon you could make an ad hominem case that he is begging the question against the believer – that disputed miracles are not to be considered qua natural event (governed by natural laws) but qua alleged supernatural event. “Laws of nature” can’t be brought in as evidence against metaphysical non-naturalism (well, non-total naturalism anyway). The de jure/de facto distinction is useful: I think the ‘presumption of ontological naturalism’ is often conflated with the (epistemological) Humean principle.

        My friend’s arguments weren’t in the spirit of Hume, you;re right – partly because their position (as I understood it) was that the resurrection needn’t count as a miracle in the sense of requiring a non-natural explanation. That is, they allowed that a violation of a (putative) law of nature could take place, but that naturalism could remain undefeated, just because the evidence for the resurrection could merely be seen as evidence against laws of nature governing natural events. Hume never really argues for LoN – it’s assumed (and we think, quite reasonably). But what would you say to somebody who asserted naturalism but denied laws of nature? I guess it would require the solution you proposed – independent arguments against naturalism. It was just a bit of a surprise for me because I combat miracle objections not with arguments against naturalism, but arguments against Hume.

  • Jay Wile

    As an atheist, the argument from design convinced me strongly that there is a designer. Since this designer was the author of what I was studying as a scientist, I thought it important to find out who that author is. Biblical apologetics then led me to Christ. So for me, the scientific evidence that the world and universe are designed was crucial for coming to Christ.

  • Chris Waller

    Hi Michael. Nice Work!

    I interested in the “philosophical arguments against an infinite regress of temporal events and it seems to me like the case against a past-eternal universe is insurmountable.” section.

    Do you know any links where a relative novice such as myself could read a bit more about this stuff.

    Thanks and keep going!

  • Michael

    Hey Chris, thanks for the comments!
    Here’s a youtube clip which is the man himself, william lane craig! It’s quite a gentle introduction to the branch of arguments http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994011/william_lane_craig_the_absurdity_of_an_infinite_regress_of_things/

    If you want to go further, check this one http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5855
    That last one is a bit technical, but I’m hoping to blog through it at some point, explaining it in layman’s terms.

  • Stephen McAndrew

    Thanks for this post. I meet far too many people who mindlessly claim that that science has disproved the existence of God. Keep spreading the truth. Nice job!

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