Proof of God?

Proof of God? March 21, 2014

While some religious believers argue against the Big Bang, others have seen it as proof of God.

Such language is problematic. It is one thing to say that our universe seems to point beyond itself to something that came before it. It is quite another to try to use that as proof that one’s own ideas about God are somehow validated thereby.

Nevertheless, there are far worse things that people can point to as “proof of God.” While most of us can appreciate the sentiment that is expressed through talk of the “miracle of childbirth,” treating it as “proof” of something is problematic. Hemant Mehta pointed to an article in The Onion which pokes fun at this:

Meanwhile, both he and Jerry Coyne shared this cartoon from The Far Left Side:

While some definitely respond to scientific discovery in this way, others, coming from a religious perspective, find that discovery enhances their sense of awe and wonder, rather than finding it in any way threatening.

It is basically another side to the issue that I’ve been discussing in my Sunday school class recently. While some see everyday events as “proof of God,” others find that very language to actually trivialize God and to turn God into something extremely problematic. Note for instance the story about a Bible which survived a fire which killed 8 people. Treating that as “proof of God” makes God into a moral monster who prefers to save a copy of a printed volume of which there are plenty of other copies, rather than eight irreplaceable human beings.

Please think before you talk about “proof of God.” The very “proof” you offer may convince someone not to believe.

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  • histrogeek

    Right after the Nye/Ham debate there were a bunch of buzzfeed pictures of fundies saying things like “Sunsets are proof of God,” or demanding that infidels explain sunsets. It was a perfect example of this problem.
    Most people who use expressions like “miracle of birth” or “the beauty of sunsets is proof of God” mean something like “this is so overwhelming in beauty that I feel the presence of God in the experience.” It’s typical that fundies should take a spiritual or metaphorical statement and turn it into a tone-deaf statement to be used in their culture war.

  • $41348855

    The most natural interpretation of inflation is that our universe is just a bubble in a foam of spacetime. Even so, it seems that the foam itself must have had a beginning. From an atheist point of view, the best bet for explaining the beginning is the one suggested by Vilenkin – one of the architects of inflation. Vilenkin’s idea is that nothingness can defined as a universe of zero size. According to the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, nothing can have an exactly specified size, so a universe of zero size isn’t really of zero size after all. Once the universe has some size, inflation can take over, and, hey presto, you have a universe out of nothing!

    Instead of dismissing this as a sleight of hand, let’s take it seriously. The implications are intriguing. Remember that this an atheist’s version of creation. According to this account, something that is non-physical – in this case, one of the laws of quantum mechanics – has the power to bring the universe into existence. This seems to be quite a concession. Atheists are admitting that there is a non-physical aspect of reality that has dominion over the physical world. So the debate between atheists and theists is really a debate about what kind of non-physical reality this is.

    • David Evans

      That is a really good point. Though I’m not sure it is clear that the foam itself must have had a beginning. All our intuitions are formed within our version of spacetime, and may not apply outside it.

      • $41348855

        There seems to be some debate about it. Here’s one argument for a beginning:

        • David Evans

          That’s a fascinating link. I’m going to explore it. I may be some time…

      • arcseconds

        That’s basically Kant’s argument in a long section of Critique of Pure Reason devoted to this kind of stuff.

  • TomS

    People do not find it threatening that there are scientific studies of these “everyday miracles”, things touch people directly and immediately. My own birth, the development of my personal brain, the random events which led to my ancestors surviving to being adults and meeting their mates. There is no impact on our faith in our personal Creator and Redeemer from the sciences.

    But when it comes to distant and abstract things, such as the origin of the species or the vertebrate eye or primate brain – then things become worrisome.

  • David Evans

    “…eight irreplaceable human beings.”

    From an atheist perspective those human beings are indeed irreplaceable. They have ceased to exist and nothing we can do will bring them back. For at least some Christians, though (I’m thinking of my memory of C. S. Lewis), no human soul is ever destroyed. Krishna says as much to Arjuna in his great speech in the Bhagavad Gita, exhorting Arjuna to join a battle even if it means killing his kinsmen, since no-one really dies.

    It may be fortunate that few of us act as if we really believed that.

    • Soldier

      No one likes Atheist because their nut-jobs that have nothing better do then look for attention. Hell, most of the people that claim to be Atheist actually believe in God. I know this because I’ve watched many videos of Archfiend on youtube and he says the lords name all the time. Yet, he claims to be an Atheist.

      • The fact that you are unaware that you have almost certainly met atheists and didn’t even know it, and the fact that you blame them for seeking attention while posting your statement publicly, and the fact that you take one YouTuber’s swearing as proof that he secretly believes in God, makes me wonder why you care so little about this subject and about the impression you give of yourself when you comment in this way.