Why is there something rather than nothing?
This question was first posed by the German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz. Leibniz believed that the universe was created specifically by God as the best possible representation of His creation. “God has chosen to make actual the best of all possible worlds.” Leibniz was also noted for discovering the ideas of differential and integral calculus, along the same time but, independently of Sir Isaac Newton.
There are some scientists even today who claim that modern science has displaced religious faith. This is demonstrated by the writings of those scientists who self-identify as atheists or agnostics. Richard Dawkins, a critic of faith and a vocal member of the New Atheists, argues that science proves things by appealing to evidence, whereas religion runs away from the evidence. “Faith,” he tells us, “means blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence.” It may be true that some of the tenants of faith cannot be quantified by scientific methods. However, that does not negate the truths justifying the object of that faith in Christ.
For example, hundreds of millions of people believe in the Resurrection account found in the Bible. Yet, it is not scientifically possible to repeat that event of history. We cannot presently observe it to verify its objectivity. This is true with all events of history. From Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to the march of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Selma, Alabama, there are historical events that must be taken by faith, based on the evidence of written or oral testimony from others who were present at the event. Most secular scientist never question the authenticity of those events of history! They accept them as fact! Why, because they don’t have the same moral or metaphysical implications like the historical facts of Jesus’ resurrection.
While religious faith may not be testable in a laboratory, every scientist alive has also demonstrated faith in things he or she cannot prove or quantify empirically. The real question we should be asking is, who authorized science to set the naturalistic parameters thus dictating what validates objective truth or not? Even Dawkins himself believes in things he cannot objectively verify in a lab. In this regard, the hubris from the scientific community can be nauseating and self-serving. This is done in order to protect scientific naturalism (evolution) from any counter argument like supernaturalism. Secular scientists don’t want a divine foot in the door. According to evolutionist Dr. Theodore Roszak, “The main purpose of Darwinism was to drive every last trace of an incredible God from biology. But the theory replaces God with and even more incredible deity: omnipotent chance.”
Getting back to our initial question. Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are there galaxies, stars, planets and natural laws that govern the known universe making life on earth physically possible? Why is our world inhabited by conscious beings who are able to rationally comprehend the universe around them? Leibniz, along with many other philosophers, was convinced that God had designed it and put it here. In part one of my Blog Does God Exist, we discussed the Cosmological argument as logical evidence for God’s existence.
Let’s begin our discussion by looking at some more classical arguments for God’s existence.
The Teleological Argument: The Design Inference
Teleo means beginning or design, so the teleological argument has to do with design and a necessary designer. The most famous example used to illustrate this argument is the watchmaker argument. Because there is a watch, we know there had to be a watchmaker. We know that you cannot get design from probability, chance or chaos. There must be an intelligent agent to create things that have order and purpose. A watch not only has design, but it has a specific function and purpose. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato is credited with saying, “an effect cannot be greater than the underlying cause.” When you go home and see a wonderful dinner prepared. sitting on the table with candles and flowers you realize that your thoughtful wife prepared it. The dinner (the effect), though delicious and nourishing, is not nearly as complex or intricately designed as your wife (the cause). She was the one who shopped, organized, set the table and cooked the wonderful dinner. Why do we always conclude this when we eat a meal? Because dinners do not prepare themselves! There must be an intelligent agent outside the dinner to actually cook the food and to bring the dinner into existence.
In the same way, logically speaking, we have no reason to believe that non-rational dead matter can give rise to rational, conscious beings like human beings. Because people are not just biochemical machines. People possess emotions of all kinds. We can experience joy, fear, love, loneliness, kindness. People can create beautiful music and inspiring art. People can feel a sense of purpose. People also possess consciousness (we are self-aware beings) which is a metaphysical feature which cannot be explained by naturalists or evolutionists.
Computers and Smartphones are designed and programmed by intelligent specialists and computer engineers. We don’t, however, expect to see an engineer running around inside the computer pushing the buttons or manipulating the numbers on the screen. The engineers have specifically designed the computers to perform their unique functions without the designer being present. Remember the effect cannot be greater than the cause. If inanimate objects such as Smartphones, office buildings or airplanes can point to human designers, how much more do living things like a newborn baby or a beating heart point to a supernatural designer? Self-causation is a contradiction and is logically absurd. Physical reality can either exist or not exist and therefore cannot exist of itself. The cause may not be present (evident) when we encounter an effect but that does not eliminate the necessity for the cause.
The Moral Argument: A Moral Sense is Ubiquitous Among People.
I have had the privilege of living in three different nations and traveling to 36 different countries during my lifetime. I am always struck by the sense of civility and morality that are shared by all these different nations and cultures. No matter what country, the common denominator is that all people seem to know what is good behavior and what is bad. There is a moral sense that people share everywhere, at all times, places, and cultures. There exists universal and basic knowledge written on every human heart. It points back to the God who put it there. Augustine in his writing of “Concerning Freedom of the Will”, successfully argued for the existence of God and morality. From his study to analyze and study truth claims, Augustine posited that some truths cannot be disputed, like 2+2=4. The answer to this math problem is true in every country and in every context. Truths are absolute in nature because they are universally true for everyone everywhere. In the same way that 2+2=4 everywhere, the moral statement, “it’s wrong to rape women!” is also true for everyone everywhere. It’s wrong to “torture children” is also universally true for all people. Augustine concluded that there must to an absolute mind that established those unchanging truths.
The philosopher Immanuel Kant is known for formally recognizing this argument. Our inbuilt moral sense is powerful evidence of the existence of a transcendent being who designed us to feel this way. Have you ever been cheated or lied to by another person? How about getting falsely charged with an offense you did not commit? The first words out of your mouth are, “that’s not fair!” We all intuitively know when things are unjust because we understand justice. We understand when things are crooked because we know what straight looks like. We understand wrong because we innately know there is a right.
People desire to be treated a certain way. Everyone wants to be respected. No one wants to be deceived, mistreated or misrepresented. People do not like to have things stolen from them. Christians call this moral sense the conscience and its written on every person’s heart.
For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
The Ontological Argument: The Necessity of a Perfect Being.
The fourth great argument for the existence of God is called the “ontological” argument. God is the only one capable of creating and sustaining us. This argument has to do with the “nature of being”. We could not exist unless something bigger or greater than us both existed before us and was capable of sustaining us. There must be a perfect being, or else we could not conceive of a perfect being. He alone is capable of being perfect, for He never makes mistakes. Sociologists and psychologists have clearly observed and documented a universal “design intuition” found in all developing children. Berkeley psychologist Alison Gopnik described the challenge this causes for teachers of evolution in a recent Wall Street Journal column. “By elementary-school-age,” she wrote, “children start to invoke an ultimate God-like designer to explain the complexity of the world around them-even children brought up as atheists” Why is this inbuilt God intuition so universally recognized among people?
St. Anselm (1033-1109) was the first to formulate this argument. It is also known as “the proof from prayer” because God is the greatest being that we can conceive of, and He is by definition a necessary being. He logically precedes our existence. We could not exist without Him. Man could not conceive of an absolute perfect being unless that being existed. We could not even understand our existence without Him (God). Immanuel Kant also recognized this argument and he was the first to call it the ontological argument.
I have only offered a brief introduction to some of the most famous classical arguments for God’s existence. The problem is not the lack of argumentation or apologetical resources available on the part of informed Christians, it is the apathy to access, learn and apply these arguments to one’s engagement with the post Christian world in which we live in.
The Apostle Paul exhorted the church of his day, see to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Colossians 2:8).
For More in Depth Study
Many resources are now available at your fingertips through the internet. You can easily reference these authors in your discussions with non-believers or in your gospel presentation. For more information on any of these or for more arguments, here are a few great resources that you could look into.
www.reasonablefaith.org by Dr. William Lane Craig;
www.rzim.org by Ravi Zacharias Ministries;
www.reasons.org by Intelligent Design;
www.jpmoreland.com by J. P. Moreland.