Category Archives: God’s Not Dead
A review of the book God’s Not Dead by Rice Broocks.
THE FINE-TUNING OF THE UNIVERSE
One of the most astonishing pieces of evidence for the existence of God is called the fine-tuning of the universe.
Only if a Designer had specifically created our universe with the intention of supporting life would we exist.
The author has made up this fact about a designer being needed. In an easy thought experiment, leaving out the idea of a creator/designer, we can imagine an infinite number of universes to have existed before ours that by simple numbers would eventually come up with the right conditions for life to exist. The only universe that would come to the conclusion that it had been designed for life to exist is the one where life emerged.
The author continues by quoting Richard Dawkins from The Blind Watchmaker, but doesn’t actually show the context of the quote. The quote is:
The physicist’s problem is the problem of ultimate origins and ultimate natural laws. The biologist’s problem is the problem of complexity.
The quote as shown above makes it seem like physicists have a “problem” explaining the natural laws of the universe and that biologists have a “problem” explaining complexity. This is completely the wrong presentation of the word ‘problem’, Dawkins may have done well to use a thesaurus but who am I to tell such a man as he what to do. When we are working on a “problem” in math we don’t explain it as that equation is hard to explain or work out (it may very well be but that isn’t the definition of the word problem in that context). The word problem can be used pertaining to something difficult or a dilemma but it can also be used for a puzzle, mystery, or question. If you read the quote in context below you are clear that Dawkins uses the word problem pertaining to an enigma not a complication.
Universe Starter Kit
You can imagine the tuning of a piano or an instrument as another example of the necessity to calibrate something to a precise position for it to function properly.
What if the piano didn’t exist? Would we then understand the necessity for a piano to be tuned? No, just as in the thought experiment above if the physical constants of the universe didn’t allow for life in another instance of the universe we wouldn’t be asking these questions. The only way for us to be able to answer these questions is in the universe where the constants are able to support life. What about another universe where some of the constants were different than ours but a different type of life emerged? Can you imagine that civilization debating the same thing as we?
Astrophysicists tell us that there were dozens of physical constants (such as gravity) and quantities (such as entropy) that had to be carefully adjusted (fine-tuned) in order for there to have been a life-producing universe.
As much as this sentence seems correct one, single word throws it to the ridiculous; adjusted. I won’t say many or most but I have great confidence that there are very few physicists that would use that word when speaking of the physical constants of the universe. It is more likely that they would say ‘there were dozens of physical constants (like gravity) and quantities (such as entropy) that had to be carefully in sync in order for there to have been a life-producing universe.
The author explains many of the physical constants using an analogy of the creator god at a table with dozens of knobs as he/she is fine-tuning the creation of the universe. The author of course states this all as fact when there is no way for him to know any of this, but he takes this moment to again point out that anyone who doesn’t believe his specific supernatural claim is wrong.
For intelligent people to dismiss such overwhelming odds proves no amount of evidence can overturn their predetermined stance that there is no God.
The anthropic principle states that the universe was designed for the emergence of conscious life. “The universe was made with humans in mind.” The author presents this with the following analogy.
Imagine you arrive at a hotel room and all your favorite things are there already: your clothes, your favorite foods, pictures of your family. It would be safe to say that someone knew you were coming to that room and prepared it for you.
It is easy to see that the anthropic principle is accurate because our houses and businesses were provided and furnished even before we had evolved into homo sapiens. It is great that the entire surface of our planet supports life, that we wouldn’t die in the void of space on our way to one of the other life supporting planets throughout the infinite universe.
Hopefully you can understand the ridiculous nature of this principle. The universe, our planet even, is not able to support life in every aspect. The only way you should believe this principle is if you believe something like ‘Last Thursday-ism’, in which the entire universe was developed last Thursday with everything we have now produced perfectly for us, memories and all.
COULD THE UNIVERSE POP INTO EXISTENCE?
The author quotes Stephen Hawking from his book The Grand Design about the possibility that the universe could have popped into existence ex nihilo. “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.” As I have mentioned already Hawking speaks of quantum mechanics that allows particles to pop in and out of existence.
This is in contrast to Newton’s laws of physics, which assert that objects were set in motion because they were influenced by other objects.
I’m not absolutely positive about this but pretty sure Newton’s laws break down and are not relevant at the quantum levels. The author surely knows this and knowingly omits the information from this book. Also, Occam’s razor comes in again.
To the average observer, it seems as if the discussion is over.
Definitely not. Theoretical physicists like Hawking are not done with their theories. They aren’t done examining and understanding. The answer may still change, the discussion is not over.
If science shows that everything could simply pop into existence without apparent cause, then God as a needed First Cause is rendered unnecessary.
Unnecessary? Yes. Completely proven false? No.
However, in their rush to eliminate the need for causality, atheist scientists fail to mention that without the laws of nature, nothing would take place at all.
A thought experiment. Imagine the theory of quantum mechanics accurately explains the creation of the universe. Imagine dozens, hundreds, even thousands of universes popping into and out of existence. The laws of nature different in each instance. Who would question the laws of nature being correct if a universe emerged that couldn’t support life?
No one. The only iteration of the universe that can question the laws of the universe’s “fine tuning” are the ones that support life. We don’t know, nor can we likely ever know how many times the universe has come into existence without the “fine tuning”.
The author fails at analogizing the laws of nature to the Wizard from OZ. ‘Pay no attention to those laws behind the curtain.’ The laws are not problematic to my position, as I explained above.
The world consists of things, which obey rules.
So where did the laws of physics come from? They must be assumed in order for particles to pop into existence.
Actually, that is a bit backwards. When thinking about the “laws of nature” you must change the way you think about some words. Gravity isn’t simply a law that must be followed. It is a scientific theory that most accurately describes the way particles in our universe attract each other. If at some point in the future we find out that some particle or other didn’t act that same way the theory (law) would be changed. The “laws” aren’t unchangeable facts about the universe. With sufficient evidence for a law breaker, the law is adapted to fit the new information. All that said it is very unlikely that the Theory of Gravity will be changed very much, only slightly adapted, but think back to Newton.
Newton may have had that apple fall on his head that gave him the idea of gravity but he had no idea of super massive black holes that could bend or even trap light. The law of gravity was formed before some information was available, it wasn’t an immutable law of nature then because since we have found things like Hawking radiation that escapes black holes. Science is adaptive, you mustn’t think of the laws as set in stone as the author is alluding. The laws don’t direct the actions of the universe, they only explain those actions in terms that we can understand.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
I must digress for a moment and acknowledge how obscure and pedantic this discussion may sound to many. In spite of this, it must be addressed because it is within this obscurity that the proof for God’s non-necessity or non-personality is asserted.
The nothing that so many spend so much time on is the nothing from before the Big Bang (or creation). What was there, or here, before the universe began? This problem of nothing isn’t just for the atheist, the author points out that this nothingness can be so defined as to eliminate god from the equation. Michael Shermer is quoted:
God, therefore, would have to exist outside of space and time, which means that as natural beings delimited by living in a finite universe, we cannot possibly know anything about such a supernatural entity. The theist’s answer is an untestable hypothesis.
I must point out that the god question isn’t actually untestable if some religious traditions are true. Miracles and divine intervention are physical, temporal, acts in our world by this supernatural being. If this being can act on our universe, physical evidence can be produced, the problem then lies in its reproduction.
Ironically, Shermer goes on to propose multiple untestable hypotheses about why there is something rather than nothing.
Correctly, the author comments that Shermer makes “hypotheses”, not claims. Shermer doesn’t live his life predicated on his hypotheses, he uses them as a basis for further action and inquiry.
However, the universe can be observed, its properties ascertained, and its theoretical implications, including the existence of a causal, personal Agent beyond space and time, be put to rigorous scientific testing. Therefore, the theory that provides the best explanation is believed to be true.
Again the author speaks well but the rest of his arguments don’t follow. With this great statement about “rigorous scientific testing” for a “causal, personal Agent” you would think the author would propose some test(s) that could be performed, but, alas, no we are left wanting yet again.
Another mistake Shermer makes is to assume that just because we as humans are limited by our finite existence, the Creator is not limited by space and time and can choose to make Himself known to His creation.
I may have understood this incorrectly or the author stated it incorrectly but what I got from this sentence is that the “Creator” can’t make himself known. ‘Another mistake Shermer makes is to assume that the creator is not limited and can choose to make himself known.’ That’s what I got out of that sentence without some extra words. If you understand it differently let me know. Obviously by the next few sentences, the author doesn’t believe god is limited so I am forced to think this is simply a misstep in the book or a misinterpretation in my head.
WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING
Recounting a story of an interaction with a student about the beginning of the universe. The author proposed two choices about the beginning of the universe, 1-it began unaided or 2-someone/something began it, the student proposes “Maybe we aren’t really here at all.” Speaking of the student the author makes a very good point.
People say anything they want, regardless of the evidence or logic, and expect the idea to be given equal consideration to other, far more reasonable voices.
I will agree with the author, that student’s point is ridiculous. But also the author’s quote is very useful for my argument and others, namely, the argument about Intelligent Design being taught to our students. Just because someone has a different view doesn’t mean it earns equal respect to reputable scientific standpoints.
The author attempts to ridicule Richard Dawkins as he ridiculed the student above by attacking Dawkins’ position on the “why” question.
In fact, in a debate with John Lennox, he stated that the why question was what lured him into his career in science. It wasn’t a silly question when he asked it.
The problem with this is that Dawkins didn’t just start his career in science, that was more than a few scientific discoveries and decades ago. When we are children we believe in Santa and when we grow up we realize that belief was silly. Dawkins was only being honest saying that the why question got him into the field, he has since come to the conclusion that asking why is fruitless. I leave you with a Bible verse
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
-1 Corinthians 13:11
THE LOGIC OF FAITH
Maybe a person can’t articulate her or his faith logically, but that doesn’t mean faith in God itself is illogical or irrational.
For that person it actually is. If you can’t articulate the basis or confidence in a belief it is by definition illogical. A person may have an experience that confirms 100% that the Christian god is true and exists, but that subjective evidence is only logical for use for that person. A systematic belief in a god based on second and third hand (or worse) stories from thousands of years ago is irrational.
The author brings up the cosmological argument, made most famous by William Lane Craig. The basic steps are as follows:
1-Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2-The universe began to exist.
3-Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Step one is undoubtedly true. The key phrase is “begins to exist.” This obviously would not include a Being with no beginning.
And I’m sure the author simply forgot to mention it wouldn’t include a universe with no beginning. As you will remember the Big Bang is a proposed theory in science the mathematics and science breakdown as we near the singularity so the hypothesis of a rebounding universe (big bang, big crunch, big bang, etc) still fits and would still be considered infinite.
Step two is as close to a physical fact that there is.
Step three is a cause that must itself be uncaused.
Dan Barker probably refutes this argument much better than I so I quote him here.
The curious clause “everything that begins to exist” implies that reality can be divided into two sets: items that begin to exist (BE), and those that do not (NBE). In order for this cosmological argument to work, NBE (if such a set is meaningful) cannot be empty, but more important, it must accommodate more than one item to avoid being simply a synonym for God. If God is the only object allowed in NBE, then BE is merely a mask for the Creator, and the premise “everything that begins to exist has a cause” is equivalent to “everything except God has a cause.” As with the earlier failures, this puts God into the definition of the premise of the argument that is supposed to prove God’s existence, and we are back to begging the question.
Beyond the logical refutation of the argument by Barker, a philosophical argument isn’t enough to prove something physical. The philosophical evidence is but the proof of the possibility of such a being. If the being can interact with matter and our universe then physical, demonstrable, evidence can be found or produced to prove its existence.
In anticipation of the disagreement to what I just said, No, if god were to produce evidence to prove his or her existence, it would not take away free will. It would not make us into automata. The devil (and Adam and Eve), supposedly, had perfect knowledge of the existence of god and chose not to follow him.
THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE BIG BANG
Many in the skeptical community would try to downplay the notion of a definite beginning because of the religious implications.
This is ridiculous, the author wants to make it seem that everyone in the skeptic/atheist community are completely against the idea of god. Ardently opposed to the slightest implication that a god could exist. This is not true. This is not the position of a skeptic. A skeptic simply holds back their confidence in a claim until it is proven beyond doubt. Remember the gumball analogy? Holding out your decision doesn’t automatically make you a contrarian.
Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington would echo this same reluctance: “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant to me…I should like to find a genuine loophole.”
Please note that Eddington didn’t say ‘Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant to me…so I refuse to believe it is true.” Also, strangely enough he begins his statement ensuring that the reader understands he is talking philosophically, not scientifically.
Trying to conceive of what could have existed before the beginning or caused the beginning is mind-bending. However, the logic of connecting the evidence for a beginning of the universe to a Creator is too challenging to ignore.
I don’t think this came out the way the author meant it to. First and foremost the author says thinking about before the beginning is “mind-bending” but continually claims that he knows what was there before and during the proposed creation event. As for the second sentence I think it was supposed to mean that connecting the evidence we have with a supernatural creator is too good to ignore.
THERE WAS A BEGINNING
Cosmologists (physicists who study the structure and origins of the universe) came to agree that there was an initial moment where everything, including space and time, came into being.
The accepted view from Aristotle to Einstein was that it had always existed.
The accepted view from Moses to Aristotle was that the Earth was flat. Ad populam arguments give no sway to the truth of a claim. No matter how many people believe something, simply them believing it doesn’t make it true, the evidence is required. The same is said of the god claim. Simply because so many people around the world believe a god created this universe doesn’t mean that god actually exists. The scientific view on the origin of the universe has changed over the years but that is expected and more favorable to claiming one thing with no backing evidence and sticking with that claim in light of new evidence.
I don’t understand it completely so I won’t go very deep but I know of some of the theories of the origins of the universe. The singularity, a singularity of all matter and energy, infinitely dense, came into existence and exploded into space-time as we know it. Quantum physics allows for some particles to pop into and out of existence and this is probably the most widely held current view of the Big Bang. Saying it is the view held right now is not to say that scientists have now decided that is how it happened and they are going to stop thinking about it or stop looking for evidence and explanation.
One more thing about this theory. To say that an explosion of a singularity that popped into existence is ludicrous because of the things that pop into existence pop out of existence as well says nothing about our universe. Time came from this explosion and Einstein explained and showed that time is relative. So to us eons have passed by but to an outside observer it could be a mere instant. I do not say this to insinuate that I believe in a god or watcher, only that from a different perspective the time would pass differently.
To provide some historical perspective, this view was supported in the nineteenth century by Charles Darwin’s release of On the Origin of Species, which proposed that all of life arose spontaneously through natural causes.
Actually, Darwin only spoke of the divergence of life after it’s arrival, he made no theory about the origin of life itself. Evolution only deals with the adaptation and change of life over time. Abiogenesis deals with the emergence of life from nonliving material.
But maybe the most earthshaking discovery came through the observations of astronomer Edwin Hubble in 1929. Like Galileo over three hundred years before him, he looked through his telescope and observed something that would change the world: he saw that the light measured from distant stars appeared to be redder as the distance of the stars from the earth increased. Light appears redder when a star is moving away from the earth and bluer when coming toward the earth. This is called the red-shift effect, and it demonstrated that all distant galaxies are moving away from Earth at velocities proportional to the distance from Earth.
Something the author doesn’t mention is that the speed of the expansion of the universe is still increasing. I think another mark up to the theory I mentioned above accounting for relative time, we are still in the explosion.
I have but one question after this subsection. Wouldn’t a static universe be more realistic if you claimed heavenly origins? It seems most likely to fit with the theories that have come from religious based science. A solar system, a universe in fact, centered around our planet (as was taught by many churches and the ignorant before the evidence was available) would needs be a static universe.
The moral law is written on every human heart. Good and evil are very real and only truly understood in light of the existence of a transcendent authority. This is because there are moral principles that are universally true, regardless of culture or context.
I am not completely sure of my position on morality being objective or subjective. The author is obviously in the objective camp and claims they come from a god. It may very well surprise you to find out that there are atheists who believe in an objective morality (see Sam Harris), but, I think, most atheists are subjective morality based.
Yes, the world is filled with evil and suffering, but humans are the only creatures to realize this and the only creatures capable of an intrinsically evil or good act.
Perhaps, but animals have been shown to behave “good”. They have been shown to have some sort of basic emotions, including empathy. Claiming that animals don’t have morals and humans do is just like saying humans have art but animals don’t. Perhaps you don’t know what they call art. Perhaps we have evolved beyond our lowly origins and one trademark of that distinction is the adaptation of morality.
Naturalism offers no help in answering the question of why evil exist…
Darwin said, “We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities… still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.” This is very clearly an attempt at answering the question of why humans do bad things, but again I say, science doesn’t claim an answer for every question we may propose an answer but it is never the final word.
The author quotes part of the debate between William Lane Craig and Sam Harris. The two were debating whether god was the source of objective morality. Not whether morals were subjective or objective, not whether god existed or not. A very good debate if you get a chance to listen to it.
This same offer for a solid moral and ethical foundation is available to every person. That is why believing God exists is so vital to our existence. As we have looked to the moral law within to see the evidence for this Creator, let’s now turn our gaze to the starry skies above as Kant suggested.
The problem with the author in this book is that he isn’t set on what he is attempting to prove, the god of the Bible or a deistic god. The problem with his arguments is that they can constantly be changed ever so slightly to be used just as effectively for the god of Islam, Hindu, Judaism, or even a made up god like the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
A TRUE PICTURE OF OURSELVES
People who are delusional think they are something they aren’t. The question is, who decides what reality is?
The problem with delusional people is that they usually don’t know they are delusional. They will fight for their delusion. How do we decide whether I am the delusional one or the author is? I can be described as a materialist, a naturalist, an atheist, an agnostic, getting down to it I reject supernatural claims until they are suitably proven. We have, as humans, gone through a list of hundreds of gods, few remain. All of these gods throughout history have been attributed powers over the natural world that have one by one been examined and explained naturalistically. No super-natural needed.
“God is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance.”
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
Claiming to know the answer for every question of our existence is not beneficial. Science is okay with saying ‘I don’t know’ but we add the caveat ‘yet’. Science doesn’t claim to know the answer to every question but it works to demonstrate the reason behind everything. The delusional person is the one who claims to know the answer to a question he can’t possibly know.
Recounting a story of a discussion on a flight, the author brings up the biblical flood.
“God could get rid of all of the evil in the world in a moment. All He would have to do is kill everybody.” Think about it. That’s exactly what happened in the biblical account of Noah and the flood. God “saw that the wickedness of man was great int he earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). He eventually destroyed the majority of living things and saved one family of eight. The virus of evil was in them as well, though not fully manifested, and it has grown into the world we have today.
So many things wrong with this argument. First, god didn’t kill everybody in the story of the flood. He saved Noah and his family. Second, why attempt to rid the world of evil by killing every living thing when he must have known that the “evil virus” wouldn’t be destroyed if he saved Noah? The death of every person, every child, every pregnant mother, every working parent, every tree, every insect, every pet, EVERYTHING was for naught, for nothing, completely and utterly useless. Third, on the last page the author spoke of a new world created by god when evil would be eradicated and everyone would live in peace, why not use the flood to do just that? He let the evil virus remain then what makes you think that this new perfectly peaceful, unadulterated by evil, world wouldn’t be just the same? Perhaps we’ll just have periodic mass extinctions in this perfect world to continually remove evil from it?
I continued, “God has a plan to get rid of all the evil in the world without having to destroy us.”
The delusion is apparent, doing the same thing expecting a different result. The author makes a point to mention that we can not know good without evil. God already attempted to remove evil from the world and in the author’s own belief system it didn’t work. What makes one think it would work next time?
Continuing on after his flight story, the author tells of his encounter with a palm reader. He asks the palm reader some questions and accepts the answers fully with no mention that the answer are likely rehearsed for backstory. The palm reader explains that he was a Christian, got into the occult and voodoo, got freaked out, and decided to only mess with palmistry. This story seems even more fictional than the one about his brother’s single conversation conversion. The author explains his position and mission.
“I preach the gospel for two primary reasons. First, the gospel is the only thing on this planet that can tell a person what is really wrong with him or her. A few years ago my wife was sick, and we couldn’t figure out the source of her pain. While in Israel a sweet little doctor at Hadassah Hospital diagnosed her condition, and that knowledge brought us great hope that she could now be properly treated. You see, the gospel tells us that the source of our pain is our separation from God because of sin. As we have broken God’s moral laws, it has resulted in our lives and our souls becoming broken.”
WHAT?! I highly, no, completely don’t believe that the doctor in Israel diagnosed her with separation from God. No, he had a diagnosis from medicine and I wouldn’t believe for a second that he referred to his Torah to figure out what was wrong. Why would the author have even taken her to a hospital? The gospel can’t be “the only thing on this planet that can tell a person what is really wrong” and then he tells a story about his wife having a physical illness, going to a real doctor, and getting a diagnosis, making zero effort to explain the gospel’s position in the story about his wife. It was clearly not the “only thing on the planet” to tell her what was wrong.
“The second reason I preach the gospel is because it is the only thing on this planet that can tell us what to do to heal our condition.”
No conclusion to the story about his wife being healed by reading the Bible? No prescription from god for her illness? Beyond the story about his wife the author concludes the story about his conversation on the flight. The author hints at, but doesn’t come out and say, that “John” had converted, because it probably didn’t happen. The delusion of the author is apparent in the contradictions ever so apparent in his own stories.
WHY DOESN’T GOD REMOVE EVIL FROM THE WORLD?
There could be no knowledge of what good is without the contrast of evil. How could you know what light is without the existence of darkness? Hot without the existence of cold? God allows us to comprehend reality through His use of contrasts.
This is all well and good to explain the ‘problem of evil’ but the author doesn’t stand by his own statement. Just a few paragraphs later, one page in fact, the author makes this claim by quoting.
God destroys evil. Just as evil had a beginning, it will have an end. Hugh Ross explained that God allowed the possibility of evil in space and time so that He could eliminate it for all eternity in a new creation that will replace the universe:
As an expression of his love for humanity, God created the universe the way he did to protect us from a future touched by evil. He made this cosmos to serve as an arena in which evil and suffering can be rooted out, finally and eternally-while simultaneously maintaining the human capacity to exercise free will and, thus, to experience and express love.
The first statement can not be upheld if you believe the second. What happens to the contrast? If evil is required to “experience and express love,” is there no love in this eternity? Do the beings of this eternity become “without the capacity or option to do evil”, sounds like that type one universe Control. “No choices, just programmed goodness.”
God defines evil. He tells us what it is. His commandments aren’t burdensome but are there to protect us. Like warning signs on the highway or warning labels on chemicals, God’s laws are acts of mercy not anger.
What about the commandments that are missing? Things we all hold as immoral/evil but aren’t defined in the laws of god? The first four of the commandments given to Moses were simply about the god, not moral commands, not definitions of evil. Murder, theft, greed, we all know those from the commandments, but what about slavery, rape, torture, etc?
God denounces evil.
God defeats evil. By His life and death on the cross, Christ came to break evil’s power over mankind. At His crucifixion, He absorbed the punishment for our evil and provided forgiveness for it and freedom from it.
By allowing evil a momentary presence in human existence, He not only defeated it on the cross but also will ultimately remove it forever. Because of this, in eternity, we will be able to exist with our free wills intact without the presence of evil.
The contradictions abound in just this page of the book. The author claims that we can’t know goodness or love without knowing evil but then claims that a human sacrifice could end evil’s power over humanity. Beyond that he claims that evil will have and end completely in some future world. You can not claim that evil is required and then claim that sometime in the future it will be abolished and that rule will be null and void. Why then must this all powerful, timeless, god wait until some uncertain future point in time? Why not at the crucifixion rid the world of evil like he will do anyways someday? Why not the day after it popped up?
If evil needed only a momentary presence in our existence why give it any more time than that? Less suffering, less evil, less regret for the god for having made humans (Gen. 6:6).