?GOD?

Does God exist? It’s a fair question. I am not a betting man but I can do the arithmetic of chance versus reward. And this is quite straightforward. I can decide that God exists and, if I’m right, I have the prospect of eternal happiness. If he does not exist then I will return to the same nothingness that I had before my conception.

You will of course have recognised my version of Pascal’s Wager. Philosophers have argued its validity but there was an occasion, 20 years ago, when it was useful to me. I was lying in my bed, somewhat sedated, waiting for open heart surgery. Although the risk of mortality was small I had made my general Confession and written a farewell letter to my wife, with messages for the children. Would I still exist by the end of the morning? Then Pascal came to my aid. If he was wrong, it didn’t matter for I would never know. If he was right, then I was prepared. My mind was now at ease, and I dozed off.

Of course there are specific ways of demonstrating the existence of God; we are in debt to Aquinas for the most traditional. The concept of the first cause seems the simplest to me: everything comes about as a result of causes. It follows that nothing would exist if there were not an uncaused first cause. That first cause is what we call God. Neat, but few are convinced. A different approach is the argument from design. Were we to find a pocket watch we would not suppose that its precise mechanism has come about by chance; it has obviously been designed by some intelligence. But the whole of our world, from the overall to the detail, is a mechanism. We must surely accept a designer, whom we call God. Again, there are sceptics; they suggest evolution as the impersonal agent of design – and perhaps point out natural disasters as evidence of, at least, a poor job.

I am attracted by the ‘ontological argument’ which seems to have first been formulated by St Anselm in the 11th century. He said that our concept of God was that of the greatest being. But since existing was greater than not existing, God must therefore exist. This is a tricky one: Bertrand Russell said, in his History of Western Philosophy, that although it seems to us to be fallacious it is hard to detect where the fallacy lies. It implies that the human mind, by its nature, has a grasp of the existence of God. Ontology was further developed but in the 19th century the Holy Office demurred. Fallacious or not it does point to our recognition that there is something over and above our material experience, and toward which we are drawn.

We are concerned to find meaning. But a world limited to the material can display no overall meaning. We have a concept of infinity but we have no way of grasping or even visualising it. We explore the spiritual in many manifestations, and we experience it as both other and higher than the material world. We recognise the unique qualities of love and we have an imperative sense of right and wrong which transcends the utilitarian. While none of these can be described as concepts of God we are left wondering why human beings should be drawn to elevate such internal phenomena unless they point in God’s direction.

Our own answer may be that proofs of God are not significant: after all we have faith. But even that requires investigation. The word itself is a general one. To say that we believe such and such a thing to be true is not to say that we know it to be true, but rather that, despite the gap between the evidence and the conclusion, we have chosen to accept the conclusion. Even to use a word like perception does not, on analysis, get us any further. We simply trust the conclusion to be true.

As a born Catholic the evidence for my religious faith came from my faith in my parents, although I had to re-work it as an adult to give it a rational basis. Others will have come to this through experience, reflection or the influence of a respected person. But the gap remains and, in the end, a choice has to be made. But here we consider the effect of grace, because our decision to relate to God requires it. But grace is not of course an extra push towards our belief. We know, though we cannot understand, that our engraced personalities remain wholly us, while wholly the work of God. I rely on Paul’s dictum: “I live, now not I, Christ lives in me.”

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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56 Responses to ?GOD?

  1. John Leonard says:

    Surely, the first and foremost reason for believing in the existence of God is the miracles and goodness of Jesus. They provide the empirical evidence for the existence of God.

    The first mover or first cause is a valid argument, but it does not tell us much about what this mover or cause might be. Instead, I would prefer to point out the mathematical nature of the Universe in which everything known to the physical sciences can be expressed as a mathematical equation. Mathematics is inseparable from intelligence in human experience, so that the mathematical nature of the Universe implies an intelligence force directing and maintaining everything and the miracles of Jesus provide the empirical evidence of what this intelligencent force is.

    God bless

    • Vincent says:

      I think one can derive characteristics from the uncaused cause. It must always have existed and so is infinite. As your description shows, it is the ultimate cause of intelligence, and so on. I agree that empirical evidence (say, miracles) is helpful but can never be ultimate proof.

    • G.D. says:

      I don’t even have maths ‘O’ level but ask out of interest …. Does not mathematics use ‘infinity’ (an unknowable quantity?) to reach satisfactory conclusions to equations?
      Seems like a bit of a cheat.

      • Alan says:

        G.D.

        From what I’ve heard infinity in a scientific or mathematical equation is far from satisfactory. It more often seems like an unwelcome result/inclusion that suggests something either not understood or even wrong. Mind you, we didn’t really cover this in any depth when I was a student. It’s just the impression I get from popular magazines.

      • John Leonard says:

        I do not understand your point. Can you give an example of a scientific equation which might be invalidated by the use of infinity?

      • Alan says:

        John,

        Not invalidated exactly I don’t think. But not resolved such that they yield satisfactory or meaningful conclusions. At least not most of the time from what I’ve read.

        I don’t know the specifics but, as I understand it, one such example is the prediction of the Higgs boson and where we would expect to find it. Equations included several infinites. It was a solution of those without infinities that told us what we were missing.

        Thermodynamic equations that originally gave infinite results for radiation emissions also required “tweaking” apparently. As they stood they didn’t match observations. A good thing too really!

        I’m wondering if there are equations out there that do use infinity to develop uncontroversial or uncontested theories. Nothing springs to mind, but that doesn’t mean much.

  2. Brendan says:

    O.k. – In the language of my ‘ best bet ‘ and leaving aside ‘ grace ‘ for a moment ; since the animal kingdom does not appear to attest to god’s existence and humans do – then God likely exists !

  3. Alasdair says:

    The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands – Psalm 19:1

  4. G.D. says:

    No, God doesn’t exist. God is Being/existence.
    Everything else exists;
    with in & through God.

    • Brendan says:

      G.D. – Sounds very ‘ bhuddist ‘ – but still holds a nugget of ‘ truth ‘. To the extant that God is ‘ other ‘ , he doesn’t ‘ exist ‘ in a way that we perceive reality ; and yet the way we detect that he ‘ operates ‘ ..” within and through ” us must mean that he does exit. Without that and in common with communist socialism ; we are left with belief in God as ‘ phantasmagorical ‘ in the human perception. Religion seems very real in the way it is put into practice ( properly ) .
      Following on from Alasdair ; it would appear that belief comes naturally to us humans. It seems the vast majority of us have some kind of attachment/ belief in God. Could it be that we are ‘ hot-wired ‘ whether we like it or not ! ..” You have made us for yourself”…
      If one sees this as ‘ natural ‘ for the whole human species to believe in God and this disposition is likely to be ‘ healthy ‘ by force of numbers, the fact that religion has created on balance more good than bad ( a force for good in life ) , and atheistic regimes have in the past incarcerated believers in mental hospitals to ‘ cure ‘ them of their ‘ insidious ‘ beliefs ; could it be that the human race – particularly the non-believers and/or those beset by ‘ invincible ignorance ‘ , are in fact the ‘ sick ‘ ones ?
      ” It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick . I came to call not the upright, but sinners”
      Mark 2:17 (NJB)

      • Brendan says:

        Sorry ! – of course replace ‘ exit ‘ with ‘ exist ‘…… one letter can mke all the difference……ugggrh!

  5. G.D. says:

    Brendan, hope that slip was not Fraudian – ‘that he does exit’ (lol).
    (Below are my meandering thoughts, that seem to connect for some unfathomable reason, with the Genisis creation story for me) …. ….

    You said “To the extant that God is ‘ other ‘ , he doesn’t ‘ exist ‘ in a way that we perceive reality ; and yet the way we detect that he ‘ operates ‘ ..” within and through ” us must mean that he does exi(s)t.” and yes i agree to the extent that i PERCEIVE REALITY. But does that mean …. ?

    As ‘other’ God is an ‘Objective thing’ that exists; that is indeed our (dualistic) perception of reality. And so the question ‘Does God (that thing) exist?’ can be debated and the ‘gap’ between proof and disproof will never be bridged.
    And, what is/isn’t God’s attributes & nature can be debated too, and the gap is widened.
    (We have eaten of the Tree!)

    But …. As the ‘infinite First Cause’ of all that is (created) and of all that is sustained in Being, does that not make God, somehow, the Subjective Substance of all beings (all creation, even?)?
    Yet (by, forgive me, the same un-logic) because WE are Finite (created) an ‘Infinite First Cause’ must remain ONLY an objective ‘Other thing’ for us. And so the gap is created.
    By our perception of reality.
    (Who told you you were naked?)

    Maybe …. In God’s Own Reality, as God created it, we are subjectively ‘known’ as part of God?
    (Walking with God in the garden).

    If we perceive the reality of creation, including our own, ‘as God’ (heretic that i try to be!) AS WELL AS God being the Other (‘Infinite First Cause’) would proofs and debates become less ‘gap ridden’, null and void, even?

    God can be ‘known’ subjectively by each individual only as ‘my’ mystery of being, and that mystery can be the subjective reasons for meaning, living. Without needing definitive names or proofs to ‘own’ God; and so creating the gaps.

    Then God’s Subjective Presence in us & shared amongst us united in love (Holy Spirit) can be allowed to guide and govern.
    Be revealed through God’s creating. (Parent – ‘Father’)
    Existing together in the Union of Love as was meant. (Progeny – ‘Son’ )
    (Walking with God in the garden).

    Trinity plus 1. (Not Buddhist, truly catholic).
    We lose nothing of our ‘truths’ – ‘pet theories’ ‘themes’ ‘practices’ – although many may become obsolete! They just become subservient to The Truth as our perceptions change.

    I realise the above is paradoxical, worse it’s a Joycean meandering paradox!
    But no more than the mystery of the union of man & god in Jesus, and Trinity.
    (No I’m not claiming we are Jesus or God!).

  6. Brendan says:

    G.D. – If I underStand your train of thought correctly ; I would not say that the ”gap ” is not necessarily ” widened ” because I do no agree with your definition of philosophical dualism. For me dualism suggest opposing two principles – a contradiction. For the Christian, because God is finally ‘ unreachable ‘ by our intellectual standards he is not in opposition but is to us ‘ all-in-all ‘ ( not in contradiction with himself and us ) if not ‘ reachable ‘ in our understanding…at least in this life; his ‘ attributes ‘ can be debated – after all He became Incarnate ….” he who sees me see the Father… ” John14:9. Because we perceive these things by ‘ faith ‘ alone this of course raises more questions than answers… absolute ‘proof ‘ of God’s existence is forever evasive, in our experience. God is truly ineffable , but His influence on us ( and Creation ) is infinite. Some paradox !
    Indeed we ‘ suffer ‘ the results of ‘ eating of The Tree ‘ in this world. Of course God himself ( because he cannot deny us through perfect love ) rectified that situation by atoning for our fault ( humanities fall from grace ) by his Passion and Resurrection – eternal life for all beyond death.
    Without that very ‘ fact ‘ this discussion, all of history and our impossible human urge to try and ‘ understand ‘ would be utterly fruitless.
    As for Bhuddism and any other of the worlds religious beliefs ; I quote CCC. 848. ” Although in ways known to himself, God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelise all men.” There are of course ‘ elements ‘ of truth in all religions ( due to our common Salvation in Christ ) which can be found within the Catholic Faith.

  7. G.D. says:

    What’s philosophical dualism? …..

    I don’t think you get my meaning, I am attempting to say the opposites don’t exist in reality, only in our perception. ……………. i repost …

    “Maybe …. In God’s Own Reality, as God created it, we are subjectively ‘known’ as part of God?”

    “God can be ‘known’ subjectively by each individual only as ‘my’ mystery of being, and that mystery can be the subjective reasons for meaning, living. Without needing definitive names or proofs to ‘own’ God; and so creating the gaps.”

    …. we create the gaps …
    …. that in Reality God has filled already …..

    “Then God’s Subjective Presence in us & shared amongst us united in love (Holy Spirit) can be allowed to guide and govern.
    Be revealed through God’s creating. (Parent – ‘Father’)
    Existing together in the Union of Love as was meant. (Progeny – ‘Son’ )
    (Walking with God in the garden).”

    • St.Joseph says:

      G.D.
      Your post is very Mystical and thoughtful.
      God the Father is a Spirit-He gave Himself to Adam, and Adam gave himself to Eve, Spirits in the form of a body, created by God, as we are now,
      We needed a Saviour, Jesus Christ to fill the gap, to prove that Man can become like God in the Spirit.
      Adam being the one chosen to fulfil that promise, he failed, continuing to fail,
      So God decided to send His only Son, born of a Woman to save us, a new Spiritual Life on Earth via the Sacrifice of The Cross and the Resurrection which we share as Christians. The Love that was given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which I see as a connection with the Garden where Jesus suffered for our sins, True Love, God gave His Son. His Son gave His Life, but His life is not over, nor is ours.
      Of course we know all this and we believe it all. That is what our faith teaches us
      and we are the most fortunate people on earth ,
      Is that what you are saying?
      This is not new news to Christians .

    • Brendan says:

      Yes G.D., I am having difficulty following you. For me ,the part I can pick out that seems to resonate with me ; is the notion that God although a different expression of the same mystery to humanity in different ways , was made ‘ known ‘ to all .. ” irrespective of definitive names or proofs to ‘ own’ God “…in the Lord Jesus.
      I have in mind St. Paul’s sermon at the council of the Areopagus in Athens , with their empty shrine ….” to an Unknown God .” Acts 17:23-34.
      There we have the profound meaning for Christianity ( and the rest of the world ,for we are but the name of people who proclaim the Incarnate God of all time ) of our Salvation-in God… no other than Jesus Christ. It is of no insignificance to the known world than the ‘ elite ‘ of Athens could intuit this . It needed Gods messenger, St.Paul , to make clear what was but an inaudible whisper on the wind of time up to then , throughout human history. From then on , even though man could not ‘ reach ‘ God , in faith he ‘ knew ‘ He was with -and -in him .

      • Brendan says:

        Well done St,Joseph ;you’ve beaten me to it …again!

      • Brendan says:

        Sorry ….correction – ” he was with-and-in Him.”

      • St.Joseph says:

        Thank you Brendan, only yours is always a bit more intellectual than mine, like G.D’s

      • St.Joseph says:

        Brendan it is true, you can use your thinking to fit in with those who believe that to speak like speaking to a child is childish thinking.
        I can’t do that big words are not my way to express things, I have to keep the Dictionary beside me, I cant even look them up on Google as I would lose the post on the computer.
        You probably had a better education than me. But it got me through life as a mother.

      • G.D. says:

        Yes, Brendan, and St Augustine agrees too ……

        “The very thing which is now called the Christian religion was not wanting among the ancients from the beginning of the human race until Christ came in the flesh. After that time,the TRUE RELIGION, which had ALWAYS EXISTED, began to be called Christian.” (Augustine of Hippo, Retractions, 1,13,3). …. and still it always exists is ‘not wanting’ under whatever ‘name’ it is named by us throughout time …..

        It’s not our ‘name'(ing) that counts it’s (Alpha) God’s working (doing) with/through/in all creation eternally/infinitely to bring it to ‘awareness’ of it’s completion in God (Omega).
        Our ‘sin’ against the Spirit is our (often hidden) ego need to ‘own’ God in our OWN image. And that is because we try to rationally justify ourselves, in an attempt to overcome our imagined condemnation & judgement from God.
        (We creatures have all eaten of the Tree – except Mary!).

        Our perception does not ‘know/see’ God ‘uniting’ (‘birthing’?) all creation in God; as God knows it is so in reality/truth.
        We (and everyone else) need to learn to let go of our perception(s), to learn to see ‘as God sees’.
        ……………………………………….

        To allow the Spirit to blow where it will – in all the differing ways of creation.
        To be united with one another, WITH The Spirit of God in Love, in those differing ways.
        We lose nothing of our own ‘truths’ (means, way’s practices) of true religion.
        That unity can only be manifest IN God who is Truth.
        The truth is in all, THROUGH God who is the Beauty in all creation.

        And the way i, myself, have been shown to ‘perceive’ it.
        [The Trinity for a Christian ‘naming’ of it. Am sure there are others who will have a different ‘take’ on it, but with just as much sincere seeking].

        Of course i only conjecture …….. my perception is just as egotistically incomplete a anyone’s …

      • G.D. says:

        After (I swear!) i’d written that i read todays post from CAC https://cac.org/category/daily-meditations/

        As he says it much clearer than me ……. i post the link.

  8. Brendan says:

    Well, that’s a first for me St.Joseph… someone comparing me to an intellectual. I’m not sure I can live up to that ! (HA.HA!)

  9. Brendan says:

    Quentin calls us occasionally to humility in presenting our ‘ pieces ‘ for consideration ; and that’s the way simply in presenting my contribution – no more, no better than the next persons. While I am prone to inordinate passion like everyone else ; that I believe has been tempered over time by the fact that no one , least of all myself , has all the answers , and we are all equal players in this drama of … just trying to understand each other in equal dignity before Our Maker. I am often startled by the sheer simplicity and truth in others contributions…… Now that’s enough of me !

  10. G.D. says:

    Umm …
    I’m realising i have attempted to ‘explain’
    a recently ‘felt & intuitive’ experience
    during meditation before ‘knowing’ it clearly.

    Like a child given a wondrous toy
    and playing with it before letting
    the giver show how it works.
    And (almost!) breaking it.
    Mae Culpa.

    It would seem i have a lot more
    ‘listening’ to do before it can
    be ‘grounded’ properly.

    Do know it is ‘right and good’ …
    believe it is ‘of the Spirit of God’ …
    but can’t put it into words.

  11. Alasdair says:

    — God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know Him through human wisdom —- St Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:23
    That has never stopped us from trying though!

  12. Geordie says:

    There are no real proofs for the existence of God. The use of the word “proofs” is incorrect. We should use the word “evidence”, because there is a vast range of evidence for God’s existence. Atheists are not convinced by miracles because they don’t believe they actually happened. Maths doesn’t prove God’s existence; it just accepts that it is possible that an infinite being could exist.
    Atheistic scientists claim that science proves that God does not exist. They claim that science answers, or will answer, all the questions about existence. However they ask only those questions which will produce the conclusions at which they wish to arrive.
    Here are a few questions they do not consider:
    Why are human beings the only creatures who cover their genitals? Even the most primitive people are inhibited by nakedness. The first things that the natives of the Amazon jungle desire when they come into contact with white men, are clothes.
    Almost all liquids contract when their temperature is lowered and when they solidify they sink. Why does water float when it solidifies? How does nature know that liquid water is needed for life and therefore must remain liquid in order that life can evolve?
    Which mathematician came up with the idea of three persons in one God, where all are equal and completely distinct from one another? It is a mathematically ridiculous idea and no human mind would arrive at such a conclusion. It had to be revealed. By whom?
    Just a few thoughts.

  13. Hock says:

    The existence of a creator God is neither capable of proof or disproof. For every piece of believed evidence there is a level of contrary evidence. And so it must be.
    Not all scientists are atheists, and not all Bishops are believers.
    But perhaps we are looking in the wrong place, or perhaps the evidence is all around us to touch and to see.
    There is no concrete evidence that Jesus ever existed as a real person. We only have the scriptures, and they do not prove themselves.
    On this blog no-one ever questions the existence of Jesus but many other people think of him as a fiction.
    For Christians Jesus is the son of God so no further proof is needed.

  14. Geordie says:

    Hock you are right to point out that not all scientists are atheists. I get the impression that biologists make up the majority atheistic scientists. They try to give the impression that most scientists do not believe in God and that it is science or God. Most scientists that I’ve encountered are theists but not necessarily Christians.

    • Alasdair says:

      The notion that it is “either science or God” is the “conflict model” as opposed to other models – Dialogue, Integration and Independence. In Tomothy Keller’s book The Reason For God, he paraphrases Christian Smith as follows:-
      “It is the conflict model that gets the most publicity. This model was a deliberate exaggeration used by scientists and education leaders at the end of the nineteenth century to undermine the church’s control of their institutions and increase their own cultural power. The absolute warfare model of science and reason vs religion was the product not so much of intellectual necessity but rather of a particular cultural strategy”. Most scientists are intelligent enough not to have bought-in wholesale to this construct, and among those, many do not see an incompatibility between faith in God and their work.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Alastair.
        Christmas is nearly here and it will bring to mind the simplicity of our beliefs, although a miracle difficult to believe by some how God can come down to us born of a Virgin and sacrifice Himself for our weakness and sins. as we also remember the sacrifice that soldiers,firemen and all those who put themselves in danger of their lives to save others obviously not in the scale that Jesus did, martyrs for the faith .
        It is sad that there are some who try to pale down the realty of Christmas, where Cribs are refused to be placed in shop windows. and Santa is the reality for some bringing gifts where the real Gift is from Our Father in Heaven and The Holy Spirit.

      • Alasdair says:

        St J
        Paling down Christmas – that’s a whole other big topic. Maybe Quentin might introduce it as such. It seems as if there’s a plan to eradicate Christmas in all forms other than the purely commercial.

  15. St.Joseph says:

    John 11.26.Jesus said ‘Anyone who believes in me will never die’
    Does that mean that those who don’t believe in God or Jesus will not have everlasting Life.
    Maybe as Jesus is God, all will be saved. who believe in God. I wonder how that is to be interpreted.?
    We are all in The Lords hands.

    • Brendan says:

      Objectively ,only God can decide who ‘ lives ‘ or ‘ dies ‘. Subjectively ; we live in the hope and knowledge as Catholic Christians that the ‘ promise ‘ ( from Jesus himself ) will be fulfilled in ourselves. For those who do not believe , or who fall short of Gods ‘ standard ‘ , whether they be Christian , non-Christian or even non-believer…….well there is still time !
      It is a common fallacy/misunderstanding among’st all Christians that , through no fault of ones own ( either through one believing in a non- Christian faith , or for some Catholics even for anyone believing other than the Catholic Faith – or having no knowledge/faith in Jesus Christ ) one is instantly ‘ damned ‘….” Do not judge, and you will not be judged ” Matthew 7:1-2 …. Vatican ii has cleared that one up .( see Cat.Cath.Ch.)
      Surely ,it is most gratifying and reassuring to us Catholics ( The Church Militant ) that a small number of our fellow supplicants over times past have been recognised as reaching that ‘standard ‘ and have been proclaimed as such by The Church , following their demise in this life to seek their eternal reward. There’s is always hope for us all !
      As a Catholic I believe then that we have the full means , the sure and certain Way ( Christ ) to receive the reward of everlasting life with God in Heaven ( the ‘promise ‘.) …..but not to the total exclusion of any other fellow traveler . How rich our lives become and then in living the ‘ truth ‘ , when we descend ( as we must at times , eventually ) from ultimately fruitless/barren debate about whether God exists or not. Thank you for bringing this up St.Joseph.

  16. Brendan says:

    It certainly does St.Joseph . If we can attest to anything in our own lives a Christians….. we can to that ! We have three Iraqi families in our parish ( Gosh ! Its like the ‘League of Nations ‘): I was so overjoyed to read in ‘ The Catholic Herald ‘ that …” the bells were ringing out in Iraqi Churches “…after two years ; I just had too share with them our obvious ‘ thanks ‘ at this profound liberation!

  17. Martha says:

    I know God, our Creator and Redeemer, is “infinite in all perfections,” and this was brought home to me very forcefully when I once had occasion to look up the number of people who have ever been born. I read that the estimate is about 108 billion, the number given was 108,225,272,791 !!!!!! Nothing like an exact figure, however impossible! There is no way I can imagine how He can count every hair on the heads of so many, though I do trust and believe that He does.

  18. tim says:

    How do you prove something? You start with premises, and make deductions from them. Then somebody challenges the premises.

    Thus, Quentin says that everything must be caused, so there must be a First Cause, i.e., God. But physicists seem to be perfectly happy to accept events that are uncaused – like the Big Bang at the beginning of the Universe, perhaps, or radioactive decay of individual atoms. And the Argument from Design has taken a beating over the last 150 years or so – Newman was unhappy about it from the beginning (I believe). So, while accepting that there are proofs of God, starting from reasonable premises, I am more sceptical as to which we should put our faith in. Maybe we should just consider the odds – Pascal’s Wager?

  19. Brendan says:

    If you have been watching ” Planet Earth ii ” ; if you are viewing also , like me you will have been mesmerised . No one does it quite like David Attenborough ! In the rain-forests of Madagascar or Brazil , certain fungi/mushrooms nondescript in the day , light up ( glow brightly ) at night. This has puzzled scientists for some time until coming up with an answer. Beetles that inhabit the floor of the rain-forest are attracted ( male and female ) by the light , slowly travel along the surface of the fungus collecting its spores on the way of advancing towards each other , to spread them far and wide in propagation.
    Assuming science has the answer ; it begs the question , what guiding hand ,what intelligence has brought this about – I imagine they have eliminated the possibility for example that some chemical within the mushroom /or natural phenomenon making it react with the night ( lack of sunlight ) could be behind this observably empirical transformation..
    To me as Christian , this is ‘ proof ‘ in favour of ‘ intelligent design ‘ in our natural world – among’st I understand , other examples . It also show Gods ‘ love ‘ of Creation for all his creatures arising from this process.
    There is a parallel in human experience – as we appear paramount in the ‘ mind’ of our Creator. How often has individual evidence given testimony to the fact that someone /something has suddenly ‘ intervened ‘ to save that person from dire consequences of their /other peoples actions which would otherwise be unexplained ( mystery ) ? Holy Scripture is of course replete with these kind of examples.
    Surely in both cases there is an ‘ unseen- grace-in -action ‘ , orchestrated by an ‘ intelligence ‘ which can only be designated as a work of a supreme ‘ being ‘ – God.

    • Martha says:

      Brendan, yes, these things happen sometimes, a tragedy is miraculously averted, but more often it is not, and inexorably the dire event takes its dreadful course. We read about it or see it on television daily, and I find it very hard to come to any conclusion apart from thinking it completely random, and that we must trust in God whatever happens.

  20. Hock says:

    There are two types of tragic events. The first type is natural tragedies such as earthquakes. The second ones are all man-made in that they involve human choice at some point along the line that leads to tragedy. There can be the possibility of some cross over. For example where humans build their homes in flood risk areas.
    Of the first (natural,) we have no control over but they would not be classed as natural disasters were it not for the loss of life. For example a tsunami that swept over a deserted island but did not result in the loss of life would just be regarded as an event of nature and may even go unnoticed.
    Were it not though for earthquakes and other forces of nature, also natural phenomenon,that re-generate planet earth then earth would not have lasted as long as it has. It would long since have been reduced to some kind of soup-like swamp and unable to support life.
    So one could argue that there is some spiritual and unseen power that has created a world that is sustainable by cause and effect.

    • Martha says:

      Hock, have you got any way of explaining or thinking about God, revealed to us as so full of love for His human creation, that He shared our humanity, and suffered, to redeem us from evil, rebellion and ingratitude, but who designed and created a world so dependant on destructive natural events for its own sustaining?

  21. G.D. says:

    (R. Rohr says Meditations23/11/2016). ……..

    “God is never an object to be found or possessed as we find other objects, but the One who shares our own deepest subjectivity—or our “self.” Merely physical things can be known subject to object; spiritual knowing is to know things subject to subject, center to center (see 1 Corinthians 2:10-13). This is how the soul knows. “

  22. Alasdair says:

    Apparently for human life to have evolved a benevolent environment had to have existed for billions of years. Among other things this required a planet of a certain mass, with certain atmospheric properties, a certain distance away from a certain type of star, a certain distance from the inhospitable centre of a galaxy of a certain mass and type, within a universe with a certain mass, where the speed of light, the gravitational constant, the charge of an electron, and several other “constants” all had to have certain values. In addition to all that, a certain very complex molecule had to have occurred by chance which was capable of storing and replicating all the data necessary for complex life to form and evolve.
    By some estimates the chance of all that occurring without a helping hand is one in 10 to the power 23, which is one in a hundred thousand million million million which is a very big number even if I haven’t exactly got my maths right.
    At somewhere around a 1 in 10 improbability, even cynical old me would probably be reluctantly conceding that there is probably a god and at 1 in 100 He would be a near certainty but 1 in 100 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 ——?

    • Brendan says:

      Short of your explanation Alasdair ; one could only revert to Quentin’s ‘ wonkey brain ‘ syndrome in us for an ‘ explanation ‘ – and this is the age for it ! …..Q.E.D ? Nice one ! …as the colloquialism goes.

    • Alan says:

      I’ve a feeling those estimates of probability make some assumptions that might not be justified which I would guess is why relatively few biologists or physicists read much into them. As a one time chemistry student it’s difficult to hear the idea of molecules coming together “by chance”. If that is meant to suggest that the process is entirely random then this is far from the case. If that is not what is meant then I don’t know what it is telling us at all. What are the chances of a molecule of water forming? Purely by random chance might one not get HO2 or H3O instead of H2O? It turns out not to be the case of course. A very simple reaction, in particular conditions, gives you a 100% chance of forming water. And, as we discover more and more about the possibilities, we learn of specific conditions that encourage the formation of quite complex organic molecules from simpler components. In those conditions they come together naturally and without apparent intervention in that small but significant element of creation. And they do so by chance … every single time.

      This is just a small part of the overall story of course, but I feel it tells us something more general about judging how likely something is. Beyond the biochemistry I’ve other concerns. Why are we the goal/target of the calculation? Far outside what we would usually imagine to be the Goldilocks zone are what look to be stable environments that could support the sort of complex life that we have on this planet. Not nearly as dependant on distance from our star as we are. And what if the complex life weren’t like our own and were instead even more tolerant? How much higher might the odds get? And that’s only based on what we’ve learned very recently … how much more might we learn that could challenge the assumptions?

      Everything from impossible through to inevitable still seems to be on the table to me. There are well known mechanical processes that create order and complexity. It is hard to imagine that some things (organic molecules, pollination, the Venus fly trap, the bombardier beetle, the human eye, the bacterial flagellum, the next difficult example) could have developed without an intelligent hand at work somewhere behind the scenes. But that might only tell us that we lack the imagination.

    • tim says:

      Yes – plausible figures. Somewhat similar figures are proposed for the odds against life emerging spontaneously – it’s been compared with the chances that a Boeing 747 would self-assemble from its components. But with evolution you have a mechanism – descent with modifications, combined with survival of the fittest modifications. That means you can make changes one at a time, and slowly advance to great complexity.
      The speculative argument is that there are many possible universes in the multiverse – successively or simultaneously – unobservable to us. If there are enough, in one (or more) of them, the conditions that make life (or us) possible exist, perhaps inevitably. Unlike evolution, there seems to be no way of selecting universes. But the theory gets round this by having really large numbers of universes – ten to the power 500. In so many universes, almost anything can happen in at least one of them.
      .
      Is this plausible? Is there any evidence for any other universes – let alone so many? I’m not clear – I can’t even offer any weblinks where you can read more about this remarkable theory. But you might well prefer to believe in an uncreated Creator.

      • G.D. says:

        What differentiates one universe from another? Knowing it exists?
        If there are ‘universes’ are they part of one existence?
        Mars exists as another planet … in the same ‘existence’.
        You should check out ‘collective evolution’ web. You will find plenty of scientific speculations there about multiverses.

  23. John Leonard says:

    Hi Alan,
    Thank you for your reply Nov 19 at 12:29 am. I apologise for delay in responding.

    Your comments appear to refer to the OUTPUTS of scientific equations (which I understand) while the original ‘cheat’ comment appeared to refer to the INPUTS of these equations (which I do not understand).

    If scientists ‘cheat’ (and I believe they do not), then how is it that their maths so often forecast previously unkown physical realities long before those realities can be established by actual measurement. Higgs boson and gravity waves are two recent cases in point but there are many other examples. The norm appears to be abstract maths first with physical experiment following later.

    It would be a shame if atheists were able to claim that religious people believed that scientific equations were a ‘cheat’.

    Maths is an abstract objective reality which exists independently of our minds and independently of the physical universe, otherwise it could not provide science with the certainty which it does. Human minds discover mathematical facts, we do not create them. When correct, they are true before we discover them The physical universe tells us nothing about maths but mathe explains everything about the physical universe.

    God bless

    • Alasdair says:

      John L says “maths explains everything about the physical universe”. I agree that it is an indespensable tool in helping us to understand the universe just as it is the indespensable tool in a whole range of activities.
      For that reason therefore, I was horrified to read a recent article in the magazine Teaching Scotland written by John Macbeath – Professor Emeritus at Cambridge. The article was entitled “Why Learn Maths – Arguements for the enforced continuation of a subject long past its use-by date just don’t add up”.
      Thank the Lord I am not prone to blood-pressure-related medical issues!

    • G.D. says:

      ‘but mathe explains everything about the physical universe.’
      Are you aware of the ‘double slit experiment’ – repeated time after time with the same scientific conclusion – that proves our observations affect the action of matter?
      Would that point to our manipulation of maths, using an undefinable ‘quality'(?) of ‘infinity’ as an INPUT is an affect of the OUTPUT of the physical universe?
      (I only ask out of interest, as was my ‘cheat’ comment).

    • Alan says:

      G.D. – “Are you aware of the ‘double slit experiment’ – repeated time after time with the same scientific conclusion – that proves our observations affect the action of matter?”

      Even more curious is a related experiment which suggests that our observations affect what happened in the past. It’s a strange world.

  24. John Leonard says:

    Hi G.D. Thanks for your comment Dec 2 at 7:06.

    Yes, I am aware of the ‘double slit experiment’. It does not prove that “observation affects the action of matter”. Wikipedia explains the error under the heading – Observer effect (physics).

    Heisenberg & Bohr suggested it might be the case, but maths has since explained the science. The ‘uncertainty principle’ is now known to be inherent in the properties of all wave-like systems.

    In quantum mechanics, the position takes the form of a matter wave, and the momentum is its Fourier conjugate. Mathematically, in wave mechanics, position and momentum are Fourier transforms of each other (conjugate variables). Check the maths in Wikipedia under – Uncertainty principle. Observing does not change the physics.

    In open Western societies, rigorous peer review of math and science papers prevents any of the ‘manipulation’ and ‘cheating’ which you fear. Hugh sums have been spent in confirming the extrordinary forcasting ability of modern mathematical physics, eg Higgs field and boson.

    Science is still progressing and many interesting questions remain but cheating is not one of them.

    Surely, the extraordinary successes of abstract maths point to an intelligent abstract force directing the Universe?
    God bless

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