The Car-Universe Without A Motor, part 1
What is a car-universe? That’s what I’d be thinking on reading this (if I hadn’t written it myself).
Let me start off by playfully suggesting has nothing to do with the fact that if you say “car-universe” five times fast, it sounds at least a little like “carnivorous.” 🙂
No, this post is the beginning of a multi-part series in which I’m going to offer a partially original proof for the existence and work of God, a proof that I will make extensive use of an analogy to explain.
That’s where the “car-universe” comes in. I’m going to use an analogy of an automobile without a motor as a way of talking about the universe. I first thought I would call this series, “The Car Without A Motor,” because that’s what the analogy will talk about. But then, worried I would get people thinking about automobiles too much, I thought it might be better to call this, “The Universe Without A Motor.” But then that sounds weird, too. Is the universe supposed to have a motor?
Faced with a tough decision between two alternative titles, I came down squarely in the middle. I decided to adopt both of them, a la hyphen. Because doing so is a bit quirky–and I hope those of you reading this might actually appreciate that.
To get this started, let’s imagine as a theist (I imagine most readers of Speculative Faith are theists) you’re having a conversation with an atheist. The atheist says to you, “The idea of God or gods is an extraordinary idea. Extraordinary ideas require extraordinary proof. I see no extraordinary proof for the existence of God. Ergo, God does not exist.”
Note that while the conversation above is a hypothetical one, I have no intentions of making any straw man atheists here. I’ve had real atheists say to me what I just said numerous times. Perhaps ten times, though I don’t specifically recall how many–but I assure you this is something atheists in fact say. At least some of them. (Though they probably would not capitalize “god” if they put these thoughts in writing.)
I once asked a particular atheist what he would consider sufficient proof for the existence of God. “Oh, water being turned into wine right in front of me. That would do it.”
That remark rather surprised me. It seemed…too easy. That’s all?
I was 19 at the time and rather new to talking to atheists. I replied, “Then I will pray that God will make something like that happen in your presence.” He looked at me strangely when I said that.
About five years later I was having a conversation with another atheist and I asked the same question. He laughed and said, “You’re right. There’s probably no particular piece of evidence extraordinary enough to convince me God exists. Even if I saw a miracle, I would just think I was hallucinating it.”
Note I was still pretty green to this type of conversation. I was not actually questioning that he would not accept any evidence. I was merely asking, quite sincerely, what level of evidence would be enough for him. I was surprised by his honest reply and didn’t know what to say next.
Though I did re-evaluate my first conversation. The first atheist in fact was probably lying when he said turning water into wine would be enough. He probably anticipated I was aiming to argue that no level of evidence would be enough for him, so he headed off my argument before I got there by establishing a level of proof that would sound altogether reasonable.
Though I was not in fact making that argument. I was just asking, very sincerely. Which he probably realized was the case after I said I would pray he would see the evidence he was looking for–which is why he looked at me with that odd expression on his face. (Sadly, I do not now believe he was really looking for any evidence of God’s existence–he was merely trying to win the debate.)
That experience of mine is something readers of this post should keep in mind. It’s a fiction enjoyed by Christians in films like God’s Not Dead that portrays atheists collapsing before simple Christian argumentation and either giving up their position or converting. Atheists are very often, if not 100% always, experienced at this sort of debate, more than most Christians. And, even if you “get them” in the debate, they in general won’t admit it. They will claim to have won, even if they offered worse reasoning or made less sense. That’s reality.
So if a simple analogy about the nature of the universe pointing towards the existence of God is unlikely to make atheists change their minds about God, why create it? Well, first, the idea behind the analogy is essential to understanding the universe at all and so is worth understanding in its own right–I’m merely trying to make it more comprehensible with my analogy. Second, theists benefit from being reminded why the idea of a unified Creator God is actually rational (my method is just one of many ways to do this). And third, it may be that an atheist would actually read and consider this line of reasoning–consider, instead of looking for ways to dodge the implications of what I will say in this series.
So back to the first conversation I mentioned, the hypothetical one, with an atheist demanding “extraordinary evidence” for the existence of God. What I recommend is that a theist answer, “The universe itself. It’s extraordinary evidence that God created it.”
The atheist could maybe argue the universe is not extraordinary, that’s it’s the very definition of “ordinary,” since it is what every regular thing is made of. “Seriously?” I’d reply. “The universe, with all its glories–and the fact it exists at all, is not extraordinary?” I could give specific examples of why the universe is extraordinary, but in fact the atheist does not have to accept them. So the debate could end right there.
But presuming at least you could get the atheist, at least for sake of argument, to agree the universe is extraordinary, he does not have to agree the universe constitutes any kind of argument for the existence of God. By the way, the use of “he” for the hypothetical atheist does not account for female atheists and the fact some atheists don’t believe in binary gender. But atheists are more often than not male–so this series will mostly continue with the use of “he.”
Also by the way, note that using the universe as evidence for the existence of God is not at all new. It was around 3,000 years ago that Psalm 19:1 was penned, which states: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handiwork” (KJV). An idea which the Apostle Paul repeated about 1,000 years later by saying, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20, KJV). And many Christian apologists have also fashioned arguments for God’s existence based on the existence of the universe.
Yet there are some new scientific discoveries that feed into what I will say in this series, discoveries that in some cases are less than five years old. So hopefully this series will present at least some partially new information for you readers.
This post is already getting long, but I need to make clear one basic idea that supports my main analogy before I stop for this week: Do cars without motors move forward? Well, if they’re going downhill they can. But if going uphill without inertia, a motor is necessary.
So if we think of the universe as being like a car, is the universe doing the equivalent of going downhill? Doing just what you would expect it to do from a reasonable, pre-defined beginning? Showing no evidence of any supernatural intervention?
Or is it in effect going uphill? Acting in a way that’s unnatural, in away a car requires a motor to perform?
Of course the readers here are going to anticipate I’ll argue that the universe is doing the equivalent of going uphill in some important ways. Tune in for future installments to see how and why I argue that way.
In the meantime, what are your thoughts on this topic? Please share them!
Oh Travis! Travis! Travis!
Oh my gosh! I love this already and you’ve just laid the groundwork for it. I’m excited for this series. I am curious, are you going to round it to a more general consensus about the creation in that God created all things? Or are you going to be specific as to what type of creation He did it through such medium as expressed by the methodologies of Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, Progressive Creationism, or Theistic Evolution? (I’m sure there are more but I’ll keep it with the big ones)
Also, I commend you for tackling this topic because in a world that seems fixated on nihilism and depravity, this topic will, I hope, reach the masses and affected those teetering on the brink of the abyss. I’m so excited to see your thoughts!
Parker, my main focus will be simply to show the universe does not flow into what we observe from simple beginnings via evolution, the laws of nature “just doing what they do”–thereby making everything we observe. That’s not the picture at all, though the most important objections to that idea are stacked at the beginning of the time during which universe is imagined to have generated itself, they aren’t limited to the very beginning.
Such a topic will bring up questions of the age of the universe and reference different Christian ideas about how the universe came about, but I don’t intend to make a specific defense of any one Christian world view.
I think you need to talk to more atheists, because I don’t think you understand us well enough to make the judgments you’re making. It’s not that atheists don’t find the universe extraordinary, I think it’s amazing, but that saying something is extraordinary in no way proves the existence of a supernatural being. I’m not trying to be insulting here, but you might as well say that the universe is proof that fairies exist, or Gaea, or any other supernatural being that is considered fictional. The Bible isn’t a valid source of proof to an atheist. You say when atheists are “gotten,” they won’t admit they’re wrong, but I’ve yet to experience an encounter in which a Christian has attempted to convert me where the arguments are new. For example, you’re trying to use a piece of technology, something I see and use every day, as a metaphor for something that can’t be seen or otherwise sensed. You’re using a car, they use a watch. It’s basically the same argument, and it’s utterly unconvincing. Once a person said I can deny gravity but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’m sure she thinks she “got me,” even though I can prove the existence of gravity by picking something up and dropping it. By the way, the only way I’d believe in a god is if he spoke to me himself.
I’ve talked to lots of atheists. But as I explained, this series is not primarily geared to atheists. I have known too many atheists who I would say are slippery when it comes to being honest about what they would and would not find convincing (I gave only one example out of many I could have given). This series is actually primarily geared to theists, though I do hope that a rare atheist who will actually listen to a theist might find the arguments I will present worth considering.
As far as everything you have said about what you think about my argument–you haven’t even heard it yet! I’ve only begun to introduce it. Why don’t you save your scorn for later, once I’ve actually made my case? If you in fact still feel scorn, after actually listening to what I have to say.
I’m willing to predict you have not heard before at least some of the things I will say (what I will say about a car is not related to the standard intelligent design argument that uses a watch–you are entirely wrong to think the arguments are the same). But you can decide in advance if you want that you already know it all and don’t need to listen. That’s a reality about anybody, not just atheists–while it is not exactly a choice in the normal sense of the word to positively believe, refusing to believe is very definitely an act of the will. It’s something people do often, primarily by not even listening to information that contradicts what they are already sure is true.
So give the series a try, OK?
Or don’t–but if you don’t, don’t kid yourself into thinking that the reason you don’t believe is because theists don’t have anything convincing to say. If you don’t even bother to tune in to the rest of this, I’d say it’s because you don’t WANT to hear any evidence that points towards the existence of God.
With the power invested in me, a stranger on the Internet, I absolve you of any obligation to read the rest of this, because you are very much not the intended audience.
Apologetics are meant to make the faithful feel better about themselves, especially when they pelt them in the direction of backsliders so they can feel they did something about it.
Er…while I have said this is intended for theists, Christians in particular, what I meant by that is two things (which I have not previously explained): 1. To strengthen the resolve of theists when dealing with atheists, giving them something to say in reply to criticisms (as such it is necessarily for me to convince theists this approach is worthwhile, which is why I quoted the Bible). 2. Giving theists something to share with atheists, if they should happen to meet one who is open-minded enough to listen. Which I happen to think it a rare thing–not just for atheists, actually, because most people don’t listen to anyone who does not agree with them to start with.
I do not believe I’m in that category. I’ve read books by atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, Christopher Hitchens, and others, and have had long conversations in person and over the Internet with something like two dozen atheists and I think I have observed something that’s missing concerning the way the universe is presented by atheists, that once explained, will amount to a logical proof for the existence of God.
You, like Moira, don’t know what I am going to say before I say it. Perhaps you should actually read what I say first, before pontificating on what its real purpose is. Though of course maybe you are just magically right because you’re clairvoyant and have read my notes already or something like that. Sure–whatever.
I personally think Moira would get a benefit from continuing to read. But that’s something I can’t be sure of–and I don’t believe you can be certain, either.
I think there’s a high probability that she’ll just be blamed for not being impressed with whatever dazzling! new! argument you have for us.
Okay, no, I don’t have much faith in your as-yet-unknown theory. I’m okay being wrong about that, tho.
Ok. While your disdain up front is probably more than a bit insulting (since I think I know the difference between someone not being impressed and someone being flabbergasted and unable to give a sound reply), I can live with you being “okay being wrong about that” as to what I plan to share. I think that’s a rare attitude. Most people are not ok with being wrong, me included. Though I would rather be be right than wrong, so I have changed ideas I’ve had many times over my lifetime.
I hope very sincerely my decades invested in trying to understand the universe will lead to at least a few observations you have not heard before. Though perhaps they won’t. I can only do what I can do.