God is... creator
Howard Taylor has lectured in Philosophy of Science and Religion and in Moral and Social Philosophy.
The argument from design contends that the natural world is so complex and suited to our survival that it needed a Designer. Therefore there is a God who designed it.
David Hume and Bertrand Russell.
Although many believe that David Hume in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, attacks the argument from Design, actually he doesn't really. Most people regard the sceptical Philo as David Hume’s mouthpiece but Philo only criticises the use to which the Argument From Design is put, not the argument itself. He actually thinks that the universe exhibits design. His main point is that the kind of design that the designer uses is perhaps remote from the kind of design we find among human beings for example when we design a bridge. According to Hume (in the words of Philo) we cannot deduce anything about the character of God, or his method of design, from the natural world but that does not mean we cannot deduce there was/is a Designer. In fact in another place David Hume actually says the following:
The whole frame of nature bespeaks an intelligent author; and no rational enquirer can, after serious reflection, suspend his belief a
moment with regard to the primary principles of genuine Theism and Religion.
Bertrand Russell, sceptic though he was, greatly respected the argument from design especially as expounded by Leibniz. (He regarded Leibniz, in whom he specialised, as "one of the supreme intellects of all time".) Russell writes:
"This argument contends that, on a survey of the known world, we find things which cannot plausibly be explained as the product of blind natural forces, but are much more reasonably to be regarded as evidences of a beneficent purpose."
He regards this familiar argument as having no "formal logical defect". He rightly points out that it does not prove the infinite or good God of normal religious belief but nevertheless he says that if true, (and Russell does not give any argument against it) it demonstrates that God is "vastly wiser and more powerful than we are".
Before going any further I want to say two things:
1. All of humanity intuitively recognises what we can show; namely that human beings are constituted by a non-physical reality.
Physical science has been very successful in explaining the physical world. It does not follow that the non-physical does not exist or that it does not interact with the physical world.
2. Faith believes in things without evidence. Or does it? Rather faith is entrusting one’s life to Something, which although It is unseen (by us), there is ample evidence that It exists.
We consider a few verses from Psalm 19:
1-2 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
Great Scientists and the Universe.
The guiding principle behind many of the great scientists was the belief that they were exploring creation for the glory of God.
Here is an excerpt from a letter to the Times from Prof Hugh McGavock published 9th September 2000:
Like many scientists, my limited knowledge of a tiny fraction of the observable Universe leads me to a sense of its awesome complexity, perfection and beauty, especially in the revelations of molecular biology. I am reduced to humble admiration in contemplating the Creator's mind. .. .
Isaac Newton reasoned like this:
There are laws of nature (the Universe is rationally intelligible). This implies a law giver. The laws are uniform throughout the known universe and therefore there is one law giver not many. If there were many the ‘laws’ governing the universe would be diverse and if there were none there would be no ‘laws’ of nature at all.
Paraphrased by CS Lewis’ Sir Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947). English mathematician and philosopher. Lecturer on mathematics) said that it was no accident that men/women became scientific:
Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver.
James Clerk Maxwell.
Over the famous Cambridge Cavendish laboratories he had written a Bible verse:
Psalm 111:2 Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. (NIV)
Einstein believed there could be no explanation in nature as to why nature is open to rational investigation: The Only thing incomprehensible about the Universe is that it is comprehensible.
Speaking of this `miracle' that the universe is ordered and therefore comprehensible Einstein says:
"And here is the weak point of positivists and professional atheists, who feel happy because they think they have pre-empted not only the world of the divine but also of the miraculous. Curiously we have to be resigned to the miracle without any legitimate way of getting any further.
Night after night.
We need the night in order to appreciate the vastness of the universe.
But is its size a problem? What does orthodox cosmology say about the size of the universe? Our sun (a million times bigger than the earth) is just one of hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy and our galaxy one of hundreds of billion galaxies in universe. Is not the sheer size of everything a problem for Christian belief? Not necessarily. If the universe were not so large – it would all have collapsed in on itself long ago – there would never have been any stars and therefore no sun and no earth, because there would not have been enough time for stars to form.
Assuming orthodox science is right the universe began the size of an atom - not thousands of billions times bigger than us but thousands of billions times smaller than us.
When I was researching this subject in Cambridge I was provided with a shower room the use of which was very delicate, if I turned the taps one way the shower was too cold and then if I altered the shower just a tiny bit it was too hot! It had to be very finely tuned to get the right temperature,
The whole universe is finely tuned! If any of the fundamental forces of nature (eg. gravity, the atom’s weak force or strong force, and others) were altered so that they were slightly stronger or weaker by one part in a billion the universe would have no stars, no sun and no earth. The universe would have either consisted of black holes or gas. Getting it right would be like firing a gun and accidentally hitting a postage stamp positioned on the other side of the observable universe.
`You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a religious feeling of his own... His religious feeling takes the form of rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that compared with it, all the scientific thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.
The language of life and the language below life.
But “Pour Forth Speech” has another meaning already alluded to. If we want to delve deeper into nature we must use information technology because nature is full of language. Messages, languages, and coded information ONLY come from minds. (Minds are conscious.) - Minds that have agreed on an alphabet and a meaning of words and sentences and that express both desire and intent.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
Languages etc can be carried by matter or energy (eg sounds, ink, electronic and radio signals) but they are none of these things. Indeed they are not matter or energy at all. They are not ‘physical’.
The physical universe can create fascinating patterns - snowflakes, crystals, stalactites, tornados, turbulence and cloud formations etc. But non-living and non-conscious things cannot create language. They cannot create codes.
Information is transmitted throughout the world. But the information itself is generated by Intelligent beings - humans.
We first dicuss that code which is found in nature below the level of biology.
Bertrand Russell wrote, in The Study of Mathematics:
Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty – a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, … is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.
And we should consider this from Paul Dirac (Nobel Prize: Quantum Theory):
.. fundamental physical laws are described in terms of a mathematical theory of great beauty and power … One could perhaps describe the situation by saying that God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used very advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.
Most people know that the DNA molecule is a form of code or language.
The atheist Richard Dawkins writes:
What lies at the heart of every living thing is not a fire, warm breath, nor a 'spark of life'. It is information, words, instructions . . . Think of a billion discrete digital characters . . . If you want to understand life, think about information technology.
If we analyze language with advanced mathematics and engineering communication theory, we can say:
Messages, languages and coded information never come from anything else besides a mind. No-one has ever produced a single example of a message that did not come from a mind.
Drusilla Scott tells us of Michael Polanyi's reaction to the claim that the discovery of the DNA double helix is the final proof that living things are physically and chemically determined.
No said Polanyi it proves the opposite. No arrangement of physical units can be a code and convey information unless the order of its units is not fixed by its physical chemical make-up. His example is a railway station on the Welsh border where an arrangement of pebbles on a bank spelled the message - "Welcome to Wales by British Rail". This information content of pebbles clearly showed that their arrangement was not due to their physical chemical interaction but to a purpose on the part of the stationmaster ... The arrangement of the DNA could have come about chance, just as the pebbles on that station could have rolled down a hillside and arranged themselves in the worlds of the message, but it would be bizarre to maintain that this was so...
Edward Wilson (famous non-religious Harvard biologist) tells us
Cells use very modern technology involving digital logic, analogue-digital conversion and signal integration and this complexity exceeds that of super-computers and space vehicles.
Imagine a factory for making computers that is run from the beginning by computers that it alone can make. That is one of the mysteries of life in its simplest form.
Douglas Hofstadter is a non-religious world famous expert on artificial intelligence. He wrote:
A natural and fundamental question to ask, on learning of these incredibly, intricately interlocking pieces of software and hardware is: 'How did they ever get started in the first place?' . . . from simple molecules to entire cells is almost beyond one's power to imagine. There are various theories on the origin of life. They all run aground on this most central of central questions: 'How did the Genetic Code, along with the mechanisms for it translation originate?
Mind, Language and the Word of God.
Does the foregoing correspond with this:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and
the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth?
According to David Hume and Bertrand Russell we can only know there is a Designer. We cannot learn anything more about Him from nature. For that we need to turn to the Bible which is the subject of the second half of the Psalm.
Second part of Psalm 19
7 T he law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring for ever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
We can contemplate, ponder, think, wonder at beauty, and then we must decide.
The Psalm ends with these words:
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Unlike computers we are conscious beings, who meditate in our hearts. If we could examine a brain we would not find any thoughts. If you were thinking about your mother I could never see her by examining your brain although the brain is involved in thinking. I can understand a computer by looking inside it but I could not know your thoughts unless you told me, and I trusted your word. Similarly we must trust God in order to know Him. Although I could not know your thoughts by examining you, God knows what it is to think with a human brain. Christ became human. So God can know our thoughts.
Because He created the world He loves it too. I must love it too because the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. (Psalm 24:1). I must care about the future of the world because it is His world. So I pray in the last words of Psalm 19: let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
© Howard Taylor 2008
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