Is there Evidence for God’s Existence?
Atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on judgment day and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in me?” Russell retorted, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!'”
One wonders what kind of evidence Russell was referring to when he made this statement. Did he expect God to appear to him in the flesh? Write him a personal message in the clouds? Give him the ability to fly?
From my perspective, God has given us evidence — a lot of it for that matter. From my perspective, so much evidence for God exists, that it seems unreasonable to doubt his existence. Let me give you two quick arguments to show you what I mean.
The argument goes like this:
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause
- The universe began to exist
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
This is a logically valid argument. That is, if premises 1 and 2 are true, the conclusion (3) necessarily follows. Let’s look at the premises in turn:
1. Everything that Begins to Exist has a Cause
The fundamental principle in science is the law of causality. That is, every effect comes with an underlying cause. We know of no single effect in the universe that came about uncaused. The computer I’m using exists because programmers, engineers, and technicians all worked to create it. The desk I’m using was made by a craftsman. The tree used to make my desk grew because a seed was put in the ground and the sun and rain helped it grow. And I could go on. The point is that cause and effect is the way things work. We don’t know of any exceptions.
For centuries, skeptics never denied this premise, because they asserted that the universe itself was eternal (it didn’t begin to exist). Prominent eighteenth century skeptic David Hume even declared, “I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that something could arise without a cause.”1
Recently, however, skeptics have changed their tune because it’s virtually undeniable that the universe began to exist a finite time ago. Therefore, they sometimes respond by saying the cause and effect structure is true of everything in the universe, but not for the universe itself. This, however, commits the taxi-cab fallacy. It’s the idea that I can use certain principles to support my claims, but then hop off those same principles (like you would a taxi) when they’re inconvenient.
2. The Universe Began to Exist
The evidence for a universe that began a finite time ago is overwhelming to say the least. Let me give a few pieces of evidence. First, in 1929, Edwin Hubble discovered a “red shift” in the light from distant galaxies, which meant they were flying apart from us at rapid speeds. In other words, Hubble discovered, through observation, that our universe is expanding.
If our universe is expanding (picture a cone shape), all one needs to do is subtract our universe back in time to discover that it eventually comes to a point — the time of its inception. Hubble’s discovery by itself is enough to demonstrate a definite beginning of our universe. But there’s more.
Albert Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, which others have confirmed down to the fifth decimal point, demands that all space, time, and matter came into existence simultaneously, and they’re all co-relative. Furthermore, his calculations predicted an expanding universe — much like the one Hubble discovered through his telescope.
Einstein, not a theist himself, was troubled by his findings because of the theological implications. He even tried to fudge his numbers to avoid a definite beginning of the universe, but later corrected them and admitted it was the biggest blunder of his career.
Finally, the Second Law of Thermodynamics proves the universe isn’t eternal, but rather began a finite time ago. The Second Law states that the universe is running out of usable energy. Much like a car driving down the highway that will eventually run out of gas, the universe will eventually run out of usable energy. Thus, if the universe has existed for all eternity, it would have already run out of energy, pointing to the fact that it began a finite time ago.
3. Therefore, the Universe has a Cause
Since space, time, and matter all came into existence simultaneously, whatever caused it must be beyond space, time, and matter. In other words, the cause must be spaceless, timeless, and immaterial. Furthermore, it must be personal to choose to create, and all-powerful to create a universe as massive as ours.
The argument goes like this:
- All designs have a designer
- The universe has a complex design
- Therefore, the universe has a designer
Let’s look at the premises in turn:
1. All Designs have a Designer
Imagine one day you were walking through the woods and stumbled across a pocket watch. You pick it up, take it apart, see all the different moving parts, and ponder its existence. What would you conclude about the cause of the watch? Did it come about from the rain and mud? Did a combination of natural forces produce the watch? No, of course not. You immediately recognize that it was designed for a specific purpose. This illustration, made famous by eighteenth century philosopher William Paley argues that all complex designs require a designer.
After all, specific, complex designs don’t happen by chance through natural causes. The computer I’m using, with all its different parts, was obviously designed by intelligent beings. Same is true for the computer or phone you’re using to read this article. The car you drive or the house you live in are all examples of design. Imagine if I said my car was the result of a tornado going through a junk yard filled with different parts. That claim would be absurd, because we all know that designs require an intelligent designer and don’t arise by chance through natural causes.
2. The Universe has a Complex Design
The truth is that our universe is far more complex than any computer, car, phone, or any other human design for that matter — something William Paley was hinting at in his watch illustration. For example, all the seemingly arbitrary laws of physics, which could be completely different, are all the precise values you need if you want to have a universe capable of sustaining life.
Take the law of gravity. If the gravitational force were altered by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001% we would all die.2 To illustrate how precise this law is, imagine stretching a tape measure across the entire universe. The tape would be billions upon billions upon billions of inches long, and this tape measure represents the possible range of the force of gravity. The force of gravity as we know it is set on one of the inch marks along the tape. Now, imagine that we move the force of gravity one inch in either direction, the impact would be catastrophic. We would all die.
The law of gravity doesn’t have to be what it is. It could be a little stronger or a little weaker, but it’s set precisely where it needs to be for life to exist.
Let me give you another example. The so-called cosmological constant — the energy density of empty space — is fine tuned to one part in a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion. That’s a ten with fifty-three zeroes behind it.3 In essence, this constant impacts the expansion rate of the universe. If the constant was altered in the slightest bit, causing the universe to expand a little faster, the result would be that galaxies, stars, and planets could not have formed. If it caused the universe to expand slightly slower, the universe would have collapsed back in on itself. Either way, we wouldn’t exist.
One scientist suggests there are at least thirty of these different physical laws that require such precision in order for life to exist.4 That’s pretty incredible when you consider that none of those parameters had to be what they are. It seems that a designer knew we were coming.
3. Therefore, the Universe has a Designer
British philosopher Alister McGrath states, “Is it pure coincidence that the laws of nature are such that life is possible? Might this not be an important clue to the nature and destiny of humanity?”5 Based on the evidence from design, we can conclude that the cause of the universe must also be supremely intelligent and purposeful.
Based on these two arguments alone (and there are more), we learn that whatever caused our universe to come into existence must be spaceless, timeless, immaterial, personal, all-powerful, supremely intelligent, and purposeful. That sounds an awful lot like God, wouldn’t you say?
So why do skeptics, like Bertrand Russell, say there isn’t enough evidence? I submit to you that they’re looking in the wrong places. They’re looking for God to do something inside the creation — like do a miracle, appear to them, or give them a special message — when all they need to do is consider the origin and design of the universe.
This would be equivalent to me denying D. R. Horton’s existence (my home builder) because I don’t see him anywhere in my house. I’ve checked all the rooms, the garage, and even the attic, but I can’t find him. Therefore, I conclude, he must not exist.
But that’s absurd. Of course he exists! How do you suppose my house got there? And what about all the evidence for design on in the inside and outside of the house? It’s evident, based on the house itself, that D.R. Horton exists. In the same way, when we consider the origin and design of our universe, it’s evident that God exists too.