The Case for Christianity Part 2: A Divine Mind

As we have seen, reductionist thinking is essential when investigating complex issues.  For this reason, the first question that we are going to address in examining the evidence for the truth of Christianity is as simple as we can make it.  “Is there evidence that a Cosmic or Divine Mind is at work in the universe?”  We are not asking whether or not this mind is malevolent or benevolent.  We are not asking if Muhammad is this Mind’s primary emissary to mankind or if Jesus was born of a virgin.  We are asking only if there is any evidence of a divine mind in the world we see around us.

Once we have asked this question, the next question asks itself.  “Where would we expect to find evidence for the existence of divine mind, if there was one?”  I submit that if there was a cosmic intelligence at work in the universe we might expect to find evidence for it in the following phenomena:

  1. The origin of the universe as we know it.
  2. The initial conditions of the universe.
  3. The suitability of our planet, solar system, galaxy and universe for complex life.
  4. The origin of simple forms of life.
  5. The origin and history of complex forms of life.
  6. The fundamental characteristics of natural phenomena.

So if we are going to find evidence for divine or cosmic mind in the universe, we must investigate the above phenomena.  This brings us to our next question.  “How do we investigate these phenomena?”  As modern human beings in a scientifically advanced society, there is only one way to answer this last question.  We must look at what science tells us about the five phenomena above to determine if there is evidence for a cosmic mind at work in the universe.

The Origin of the Universe

When scientists investigate origins of the universe, they find overwhelming evidence for what they call the Big Bang.  According to the proof of Hawking and Penrose, this means that time and space as we know it had a beginning about 13 billion years ago.  What does this tell us about the possibility of divine mind?

The most important thing that this discovery tells us is that the matter that makes up everything around us is not eternal.   While materialists in the old days used to be able to claim that they didn’t believe in anything that was inaccessible to the five senses, such a belief is no longer tenable for a serious thinker.  Our discoveries about the origin of the universe have demolished old-fashioned “I only believe in what I can see, taste, touch, smell or hear” materialism.  Something preceded the material universe we see around us.  What could that something be?

The Initial Conditions of the Universe

Albert Einstein once said of thermodynamics that it was the only theory that he was convinced “would never be overthrown”.  Studying the thermodynamics of the early universe, Roger Penrose made a fascinating and deeply significant discovery concerning the initial conditions of the universe.  Specifically, he found that the early universe was in what some scientists would describe as a “highly ordered state” and had a very low starting entropy.  What does this mean?

In an article entitled, “Booting-Up The Universe: Divine Feat Or Random Act?”. Dr. Johannes Koelman considers the ramifications of this discovery when he asks the question “Was an almighty God required to boot up the universe, or would a blindfolded monkey have sufficed?”  While the conclusion of the article is that we don’t even need a blindfolded monkey, the substance of the article demonstrates what a powerful argument for the existence of divine mind the low starting entropy of the universe is.  This may seem counter-intuitive, but allow me to explain.

Dr. Koelman’s argument is the first atheist response to the Penrose argument that you will find if you Google,  “penrose starting entropy universe”.  It is the only response to this argument by an atheist with a doctorate in theoretical physics that I have ever seen.  Let us, therefore, note a few things about the content of Dr. Koelman’s response:

  1. He does not even try to refute the finding of Penrose concerning the low entropy starting state of the universe or its fantastically unlikely probability.
  2. His counter-argument uses no facts or experiments, he merely proposes an unknown and unprovable mechanism to account for the “low entropy state”.
  3. Dr. Koelman’s proposed mechanism requires a “reversible” law of thermodynamics which can never be confirmed by any conceivable experiment and would constitute an overthrow of the laws of thermodynamics as we know them.  These are the same laws that Albert Einstein said would never be overthrown.

Given these facts, I would argue that far from demonstrating that we “don’t even need a blindfolded monkey”, Dr. Koelman’s anemic response to the extremely powerful Penrose argument confirms that the low starting entropy of the universe is powerful evidence of a divine mind.

The Fine Tuning Necessary for Life

When we use science to look at the universe around us, we find evidence that advanced life as we know it is only possible through a very large number of fortuitous circumstances.  In order to explain these fortuitous circumstances, atheistic scientists routinely turn to the Anthropic Principle and the multiverse idea.  The Anthropic Principle explains why we could only ever see a “fine tuned” universe while the multiverse idea postulates an infinite number of universes where ours just happens to have an appropriate set of physical constants.

While I normally prefer to use atheist sources when I discuss scientific evidence to avoid the accusation of bias, atheists do not often summarize the evidence for fine-tuning.  The closest I have been able to find is atheist Paul Davies discussing the topic here.  Note that as an atheist Dr. Davies does not want to use the words “fine tuning” so he replaces them with the words “bio-friendly”.  

Another atheist attempting to deal with the argument from design based on the “fine-tuning” of the constants of the universe and the properties of the earth is Victor Stenger.  He has an essay which I have linked here that discusses the fine-tuning arguments.  While Dr. Stenger agrees that the “multiverse” hypothesis is a sufficient refutation of the fine-tuning argument, the faith required to believe in an infinite number of universes  compels him to argue that there is no fine-tuning necessary for advanced life on other grounds.  While I will not deal with Dr. Stenger’s assertions at great length, it is worth noting the assumptions that he makes in order to demonstrate that there is no “fine-tuning” in the universe.

First, I assume that the models of physics are human inventions, and so it follows that the quantities, parameters, and “laws” that appear in these models are likewise. These elements must agree with observations, and so they must have something to do with whatever objective reality is out there. They are not arbitrary. But we have no way of knowing if the ingredients of the models, such as space, time, mass, and elementary particles exist in close correspondence to that reality.

And so, the parameters that are supposedly fine-tuned by a deity are just those physicists use in their models and need not have any specific ontological significance.

When you assume at the outset that the laws of physics do not represent objective reality but are only a “human invention” that represent a best fit of  experimental observations, you deny the elegance, beauty and mathematical simplicity of the equations that govern our universe and the spectacular precision of the experimental evidence that confirms their universal applicability.   This is probably why most members of the scientific community rely on the Anthropic Principle/multiverse hypothesis to explain “fine-tuning” and do not argue in the same way as Dr. Stenger.

A reasonable treatment of the case for “fine tuning” is too large to even be meaningfully summarized here, but Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe does go through the major arguments in an article that I have linked here.

Abiogenesis and the Origin of the Simplest Forms of Life

The simplest known organism that does not require other living organisms is the Pelagibacter ubique with a genome of  1,308,759 base pairs of DNA.  Despite the fact that this is the simplest bacteria known in nature, any knowledgeable atheist would certainly admit that it is vastly beyond the ability of our universe to create by random chance.  Where did such marvels of nano-technology come from?  The scientific consensus is that there is no scientific consensus.  Given what science has revealed about the complexity of the simplest forms of life, therefore, it would be hard to deny that the notion that such life could have come about by random chance alone has been thoroughly discredited.  In the absence of persuasive evidence of a materialistic mechanism, one would have to say that the evidence from this area of science is highly suggestive of divine mind using the classic Paley watchmaker argument.

Evolution and the Origin and History of Complex forms of Life

Evolution is an extremely advanced and complex topic.  All I am going to say about it here is:

  1. There are theological reasons for believing that a divine power might use an evolutionary process to create human beings.  
  2. There is powerful evidence for divine guidance of the evolutionary process in the conserved sequences we find abundant in nature.

The Mathematical Nature of the Physical Laws

In 1960, Nobel Prize winner Eugene Wigner wrote a paper entitled, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences”.  He was not a Christian and did not believe in a personal God.  Nevertheless, he was powerfully impacted by the evidence that he saw as a scientist for the fundamental relationship between mathematics and physical law.  Dr. Wigner’s sentiment echoed a sentiment of one Dr. Einstein who famously said, “the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”  What are these men talking about?  

What these eminent scientists are talking about is the ability of simple, beautiful and abstract mathematical expressions to predict how real things in the real world will behave to a spectacular degree of precision.  Some examples of this astonishing phenomena include:

  1. The Standard Model of Quantum Mechanics that was just validated by the discovery of the Higg’s Boson
  2. The theory of General Relativity which has been validated to twenty places of the decimal.
  3. The Maxwell equations that describe electricity and magnetism.
  4. The equations of thermodynamics.

So a scientist can write a series of equations on an index card and these equations can accurately describe the fundamental particles of the universe, the behavior of starlight during an eclipse and the motion of bodies millions of light years from earth to an astonishing degree of accuracy.  With even an atheist like Carl Sagan arguing that any alien intelligence would have to contact us in the universal language of mathematics, it is clear that the mathematical nature of the laws that govern physical reality is powerful evidence of cosmic intelligence.

Summing up the Evidence

So if an atheist wants to believe that there is no cosmic mind, that atheist has to believe all of the following:

  1. That there is some unknown and unprovable mechanistic way of  constraining the entropy at the very beginning of the universe.
  2. That there is some unknown mechanistic way of creating the simplest forms of life.
  3. That there are an infinite number of lifeless universes out there that have different constants of the universe to explain the fine-tuning of the universe we see around us.
  4. That there is an unknown mechanism that generates conserved information sequences in the advanced forms of life.
  5. That there is some unknown explanation for the mathematical nature of the physical laws of the universe.

If you don’t believe in all five of these things with only your faith in materialism to support you, then you believe in some form of a cosmic mind.  As a person who believes in a cosmic mind, however, I can say that my beliefs are strongly supported by the evidence.

  1. The origin and initial conditions of the universe strongly support a cosmic mind.  Time and space had a beginning and that beginning had the property of being, as the scientists would say, “very low entropy” or “very highly ordered”.
  2. The simplest forms of life are so vastly complicated that they appear to have required the intervention of some form of intelligence.
  3. The physical constants of the laws of the universe and the properties of our planet and solar system exhibit “fine-tuning” to allow for advanced life.
  4. The advanced forms of life contain conserved information sequences that suggest divine guidance.
  5. The mathematical nature of the physical laws that govern the world around us strongly suggest a cosmic mind.

All five of the “divine mind” conclusions have mountains of experimental support and solid reasoning behind them.  All five of the atheistic conclusions require a complete and total leap of faith.  But if you’re going to have faith, why not go for the whole schmeer?  The hope of love, joy, peace and eternal life?  Why have faith in death, despair and purposelessness?

Conclusion

It is annoying to me when atheists take a scientist like Albert Einstein and say, “He agreed with us.  He was a pantheist or deist who did not believe in a personal god.”  Einstein knew what the word atheist meant and he wasn’t trying to score “brownie points” with religious people when he refused to use it concerning himself.  He meant what he said and what he said indicated that he believed in some kind of a divine mind.  As we can see above, he avoided the term “atheist” with good reason and many other brilliant philosophers and scientists like Eugene Wigner and Spinoza agree.  When these men considered the evidence that we have examined above, they concluded that it pointed to some kind of cosmic intelligence.  They were not Christians, nor creationists.  They were thinkers of the highest order and they wrote powerfully of what the evidence told them.  From the mathematical nature of the laws that govern the universe, to the complexity of the simplest living life form, to the fact that the earth, our solar system and our galaxy are “fine-tuned” for the existence of life, the scientific evidence is overwhelming and clear.  There is some form of intelligence at work in the universe.  You can deny this if you want to, but let us be clear that you are doing it on the basis of faith and not on the basis of evidence.

About Robert V

Former atheist currently living in Toronto.
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4 Responses to The Case for Christianity Part 2: A Divine Mind

  1. Pingback: Victor Stenger and Bad Faith | A Thoughtful Christian

  2. Pingback: Free Will Arguments | A Thoughtful Christian

  3. Pingback: The Trial of Atherton the Atheist Day 4: Creation/Evolution | A Thoughtful Christian

  4. Pingback: A Case for Christianity Part 1: The Outline | A Thoughtful Christian

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