Before considering the evidence for or against the existence of God, we have two epistemological questions to answer.

1. What is more important: desire or truth?
Assume for the moment that God does exist. You have two choices: submit to, or reject, God’s right to rule your life. If you choose the former, when you die you will experience happiness, joy and perfect relationships beyond imagination. If you choose the latter – if you decide to choose for yourself what is good and bad, right and wrong – God will grant you your will: when you die, you will have a universe all your own, where no one and no thing will exist except you. You will be free to do whatever you want – but how will you do it, with nothing except yourself?

If you choose the latter, then your rejection of God’s existence might be based on desire, hope or fear, rather than on evidence: you just might not want God to rule your life. Every person has to choose between truth and comfort: do you follow the truth no matter where it leads, or do you hold on to what you want to be true? If your belief can only survive by special pleading, it might be that you don’t like the alternative [1].

2. What evidence would you consider sufficient to believe in God’s existence?
If you have already rejected the existence of God, then no evidence will convince you: you will hold on to whatever slim straw of your atheism there is, even to redefining the word. This retention of belief in the face of evidence is irrational, and you should consider the possibility that you are holding your beliefs through desire rather than intellect; despite evidence rather than based on it. If the probability of an event is next to impossible, then we should put it aside in favour of more likely theories, even if we don’t like them.

TYPES OF EVIDENCE.
a. Would you believe that God existed if He appeared to you [2]? But what about afterwards? Our senses can be deceived; would you be inclined to dismiss the event as an episode of schizophrenia, a short-circuit in your brain caused by oxygen starvation or thrombosis, or perhaps an illusion caused by suggestion?

b. Would you believe if there was scientific proof that God existed? This is logically impossible, akin to asking someone to draw a circular square: by definition, it can’t be done.

The scientific method attempts to find the actual cause of an event by eliminating all but one of the possible causes: it requires direct observation and direct measurement. How can you directly observe and measure anything intangible or unreachable, such as black holes, the fact you ate breakfast this morning, or the existence of ESP? James Randi will keep his prize money until the means of telepathy or psychokinesis can be measured, such as we might measure radio waves. This is about as direct a measurement as it is possible to make of an intangible entity. Even then, it would not be a measurement of the cause itself but only of its emanation or effect, much the same as we infer the existence of black holes from the distortion of light in their vicinity. Strictly, such inferences aren’t scientific “proof”, but in the absence of a more likely cause – or any other cause! – it would be unreasonable to reject the existence of black holes.

Likewise, using the scientific method to measure the rate at which you digest various foods, we could establish that the food in your stomach was likely shovelled into your gaping maw at about 7am, which is about the time most people have their breakfast. Again, in the strict sense this is not proof but evidence that leads to a rationally defensible inference. Other possible causes, such as being kidnapped by aliens who set up a digestive diorama inside you, might not be impossible but championing them would precipitate a rapid career transition.

Neither can we measure the existence of God scientifically; however, scientific proof isn’t the be-all and end-all of investigation. It is the best way to reach objective knowledge about the world, but there are other routes.

c. Although we can’t obtain scientific proof of God’s existence, we could make inferences based on examining the world using the results of scientific study. For example, Dr Michael Behe is a biochemist who wrote a book titled Darwin’s Black Box [3]: in it, he notes that many biological systems, such as blood clotting, light perception, and the construction of intracellular machinery, are irreducibly complex; that is, the whole system requires several parts to function; without each part, nothing works. Additionally, Dr Behe notes that a system must be minimally functional. He uses the example of an outboard motor that only revolves the propeller at one revolution per hour. Like a mousetrap that uses a matchstick as a holding bar and a horseshoe as a hammer, the system is irreducibly complex but insufficient for the task.

Dr Behe examines the probability of these systems being created in the gradual, trial-and-extinction manner hypothesized by classical Darwinism. His conclusion is our current understanding of biological processes cannot account for the existence of irreducibly complex systems. His conclusion is that, while some biological systems might be explained by duplication, mutation and change of function (he notes Lynn Margulis’s symbiosis and Stuart Kaufmann’s complexity theories), others can only be explained as the result of design.

(I note here that Darwin’s Black Box does not support the idea of a young earth, nor a 24-hour, 6-day creation, nor does Dr Behe seek to proselytize for any religion.)

But given enough time, like the 20-something billion years cosmologists estimate the universe has been in existence, surely it is possible for irreducibly complex systems to form, especially if there is an infinite number of possible universes? Considering this, Dr Behe does his

own quick calculation. Consider that animals with blood-clotting cascades have roughly 10,000 genes, each of which is divided into an average of three pieces. This gives a total of about 30,000 gene pieces. TPA [a protein involved in clotting] has four different types of domains. By “variously shuffling,” the odds of getting those four domains together is 30,000 to the fourth power, which is approximately one-tenth to the eighteenth power. Now, if the Irish Sweepstakes had odds of winning of one-tenth to the eighteenth power, and a million people played the lottery each year, it would take an average of about a thousand billion years before anyone (not just a particular person) won the lottery. A thousand billion years is roughly a hundred times the current estimate of the age of the universe.

Or more simply, “making a new blood-coagulation protein by shuffling is like picking a dozen sentences randomly from an encyclopedia in the hope of making a coherent paragraph.” This is just for one protein, and allows that the necessary genes already exist. What would be the probability of life as we know it evolving from nothing?

Arguing for an infinite number of universes where all possibilities occur is special pleading: where is the evidence for these universes? Secondly, as one event does occur, the probability of some subsequent events will decrease while that of other will increases. For example, if God exists, the probability of God not existing, both concurrently and subsequently, is zero (the subsequent probability assumes that God is immortal). However, if God does not exist, the the concurrent probability of God not existing is zero, while the subsequent probability of God existing depends on what conditions are necessary for God’s existence, and how we define deity. If this definition includes “eternal”, then the probability of God’s subsequent existence is zero.

Or, if gravity has the property of pulling objects together, the probability of that property naturally changing, so as now to repel objects, is low. On the other hand, the probability of objects moving together, circling and even colliding increases.

Everyone has some bias about God’s existence, but biasses can be overcome by using methods designed to minimise their affect. But if we have decided what we shall believe before the results are obtained, or in spite of the results, then no evidence will persuade us.

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Endnotes

[1] Special pleading means to appeal to extremely unlikely, although not utterly impossible, circumstances. Statistically, if something has less than a 1 in 10-raised-to-the-40th-power probability of happening, it is next to impossible.

[2] I use the third-person singular masculine pronoun because it is (a) the traditional form and (b) used in the sacred writings of the monotheistic religions, particularly the Bible. Convinced by various evidence that the Bible is God’s word, I will, in this article, refer to the deity as He refers to Himself in that collection of sixty-six documents.

[3] More recently, he has published another book titled The Edge of Evolution.

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