RFG 8: The Clues of God

Discuss in ILovePhilosophy.com: RFG EIGHT: The Clues of God

Tim Keller’s The Reason for God Book Discussion – Part 2: The Reasons for Faith

EIGHT: The Clues of God

Though Keller agrees it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God, he asserts it is possible to weigh the accumulated weight of the clues (though they are each rationally avoidable). There are five clues presented in this chapter:

Clue 1: The Mysterious Bang — We discussed this clue at the beginning of chapter 6’s discussion questions. Either God created the universe, or it “just happened” – and both require faith. I had thought the cyclic cosmological model was a way out of this clue, though I do not necessarily subscribe to it, however, “The cyclic model has its own share of shortcomings…consideration of entropy buildup (and also of quantum mechanics) ensures that the cyclic model’s cycles could not have gone on forever. Instead, the cycles began at some definite time in the past, and so, as with inflation, we need an explanation of how the first cycle got started.” — Brian Greene. For some, the question “Why something rather than nothing?” is made more unfathomable by the existence of God. Rather than (or, perhaps ‘after’) answering the question for them, God’s existence triggers more questions, like “What was God’s motivation, and doesn’t having motivation imply He was lacking something and therefore not ‘complete’?” Divine impassibility was covered at the end of chapter 3’s discussion questions, and I will again provide the link here: http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/impassib.htm  It is also discussed in chapter 14.

Clue 2: The Cosmic Welcome Mat — This clue is also called the anthropic principle (or fine-tuning argument), which recognizes that humans could not exist in any other universe than this one. If any of this universe’s constants were different, we would not be around to observe them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_constant These constants seem fine-tuned by God to support us. There have been several rebuttals, all requiring faith.

Clue 3: The Regularity of Nature — At first this clue didn’t seem very convincing to me, because I had never wondered about the regularity of nature. But (as Hume and Russell pointed out), continued regularity is a matter of faith. There is nothing guaranteeing the universe will be here tomorrow, or that it will operate according to all the cycles we’ve been observing throughout the years, with all its laws. That the universe and all its cycles and laws do keep happening is a clue to a Sustainer of all that regularity.

Clue 4: The Clue of Beauty — “We may, therefore, be secular materialists who believe truth and justice, good and evil, are complete illusions. But in the presence of art or even great natural beauty, our hearts tell us another story. … regardless of the beliefs of our mind about the random meaninglessness of life, before the face of beauty we know better. … Isn’t it true that innate desires correspond to real objects that can satisfy them? … Doesn’t the unfulfillable longing evoked by beauty qualify as an innate desire? We have a longing for joy, love, and beauty that no amount or quality of food, sex, friendship, or success can satisfy. We want something that nothing in this world can fulfill,” (134-135). Perhaps this desire is a type of sense, like sight, a type of sense built for sensing God, and so cannot be satisfied by anything in the natural universe? Have you ever felt “there must be more” when in the presence of beauty (not a mere wish)?

Clue 5: We Trust Our Belief-Forming Faculties — First Keller talks about the clue-killer that all of our beliefs and values are naturally selected and not to be trusted – then he lets it die by its own knife: the belief that all of our beliefs and values are naturally selected and not to be trusted—is not to be trusted. Then he says that the fact that we do trust our belief-forming faculties (here we are weighing clues) is a clue to God.

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After reading Brian Greene’s “The Fabric of the Cosmos” — I have become more aware of inflationary theory, and the cyclic model of Steinhardt and Turok, of quantum uncertainty, superstring theory (of five string theories unified in M-theory), joining quantum mechanics and general relativity, the Higgs ocean, M-theory, branes, spacetime may not be fundamental in the sub-Planckian realm, Calabi Yau shape, dark matter/energy, higher dimensions, etc., and can tell you there are many unanswered questions, and many assumptions taken on faith as place-holders until there is rational justification to assume them. Scientists usually (at least tentatively) favor, or have confidence in (based on evidence) a theory and do research to find evidence that will confirm or conflict with it. Scientists aren’t satisified with “I don’t know”–that would be waving the white flag of defeat… the unforgiveable leap of faith away from discovery. All their work speaks “I can know, and I’m going to find out.” Excerpts from Greene’s book: “Probabilistically speaking, it is mind-bogglingly more likely that everything we now see in the universe arose from a rare but every-so-often expectable statistical aberration away from total disorder, rather than having slowly evolved from the even more likely, the incredibly more ordered, the astoundingly low-entropy starting point required by the big bang. / Yet, when we went with the odds and imagined that everything popped into existence by a statistical fluke, we found ourselves in a quagmire: that route called into question the laws of physics themselves. And so we are inclined to buck the bookies and go with a low-entropy big bang as the explanation for the arrow of time. The puzzle then is to explain how the universe began in such an unlikely, highly ordered configuration. That is the question to which the arrow of time points. It all comes down to cosmology,” (176) The theories (still incomplete) mentioned above attempt to explain the answer. “…the highly successful laws of physics developed in the twentieth century break down under such intense conditions [I: in the early universe], leaving us rudderless in our quest to understand the beginning of time. We will see shortly that recent developments are providing a hopeful beacon, but for now we acknowledge our incomplete understanding of what happened at the beginning,” (248). “…if inflationary cosmology is right, our ignorance [I: remains] of why there is an inflaton field, why its potential energy bowl has the right shape for inflation to have occurred, why there are space and time within which the whole discussion takes place, and, in Leibniz’s more grandiose phrasing, why there is something rather than nothing,” (286). “The vision is that string/M-theory will unfuzz…our ignorance of the universe’s earliest moments, and after that, the cosmological drama will unfold according to inflationary theory’s remarkably successful script…But, as of now…it’s anybody’s guess when clarity will be achieved. … The proposal…called the cyclic model…suggest(s) that we are living within a three-brane that violently collides every few trillion years with another nearby, parallel three-brane. And the ‘bang’ from the collision initiates each new cosmological cycle…also known tenderly as the big splat… The cyclic model has its own share of shortcomings…consideration of entropy buildup (and also of quantum mechanics) ensures that the cyclic model’s cycles could not have gone on forever. Instead, the cycles began at some definite time in the past, and so, as with inflation, we need an explanation of how the first cycle got started.” (404, 406, 407). Science can only study physical somethings (which science acknowledges as necessarily having a beginning)–not their nonphysical origins. God is a nonphysical something and so is not subject to entropy and all that–has no origin (is the origin).

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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
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