When looking for proof for the existence of God, people will usually turn to science and philosophy. The two are very different disciplines. Science is not the search for truth. It is, rather, the search for evidence, facts, data and explanation. It is, by nature, an evolving discipline. Scientific theories change. They’re supposed to. Because a scientific theory is the best explanation we have for the data, until a better one comes along. Catholics generally don’t have a problem with science, as we don’t interpret the creation stories of the Bible literally. So we have no problem with modern scientific theories on the origin of the universe.
Philosophy, on the other hand, is the search for truth. It’s based on human reason. Science can back philosophic claims with evidence and theories, but that’s about all. Philosophy tells us certain things about the universe, which lead us to the conclusion that there is a God. Granted, philosophy doesn’t prove the existence of God conclusively, but it does logically lead one in that direction.
The first philosophic evidence of God comes from motion. All things in this universe are in motion, but motion doesn’t originate from itself. Everything in this universe derives its motion from something else, an outside force. This includes the motion of heavenly bodies. The moon orbits the earth in motion. That motion came from somewhere else, an outside force. The earth orbits the sun in motion. That motion came from somewhere else, an outside force. The sun orbits the galaxy in motion, that motion came from somewhere else, an outside force. The galaxy is moving through space-time, which is expanding from the center of the universe in motion. That motion came from somewhere else, an outside force. The universe is expanding from a central point, in what is commonly called the “big bang” or what I call “cosmic inflation.” This expansion is a form of motion, which came from somewhere else, an outside force. There must exist some other source of motion which itself is not moved by another. This original source of motion, we must call the First Mover, and this First Mover we call God.
The second philosophic evidence comes from change. Motion is a form of change, and so we must address change. Experience tells us that change is an event that can only be observed in relation to things that have not changed in relation to it. Change in the moon’s position is observed by the relative unchanging position of the earth in relation to it. Change in the earth’s position is observed by the relative unchanging position of the sun in relation to it. Change in the sun’s position is observed by the relative unchanging position of the galaxy’s relation to it. Change in the galaxy’s position is observed (or calculated) by the relative position it has to the expanding universe in relation to it. However, the universe itself is changing insofar as its expansion in all directions in relation to it’s center which cannot be observed. But change is not related to motion alone. It’s related to all things, such as temperature, gravity, magnetism, charge, etc. All things change. Therefore, we can surmise that that which does not change, but remains absolutely the same at all times, is in a state of perfect being — unchangeable. This Unchangeable Being we call God.
The third philosophic evidence comes from cause. Motion and change are effects that originate from cause. When we observe something come into existence, it is always brought into existence by something else. We call the thing brought into existence the “effect,” and that which brought it into existence we call the “cause.” Nothing brings itself into existence. In other words, no effect is its own cause. For example; astronomers speculate that the moon was brought into existence by the effect of a collision between the earth and another large celestial body. The ejection of matter from this collision is what eventually formed the moon. Thus the moon is the effect, and the cause was a collision between the earth and another celestial body. Astronomers also believe the earth (and other planets) was brought into existence by the gravitational tidal forces of matter in the accretion disk around our primordial sun. Thus the earth (and planets) is the effect, and the cause was gravity tides in the sun’s accretion disk. Then there is the sun, which astronomers tell us was formed within a primordial nebula. Thus, the sun is the effect and the nebula was the cause. These astronomers also tell us the nebula was formed by gravitational activity within our galaxy. Thus the nebula was the effect and the cause was the galaxy. The galaxy, these astronomers tell us, was created by the accretion disk of a super-massive black hole at its center. Thus the effect is the galaxy and the cause is the black hole. The black hole, along with billions of others, was ejected into space-time by the cosmic inflation of the big-bang. Thus the effect was all the black holes and galaxies of the universe, and the cause was the cosmic inflation of the big bang. But what is the big bang the effect of? What is the cause of cosmic inflation? In other words, what is the cause of the universe? When we encounter an effect, such as the cosmic inflation of the universe, we must ask ourselves is there anything before that which is without cause. Obviously, cosmic inflation was caused by something. Yet we do not know what that something was, or if it has a cause. Even if it does have a cause, we must eventually reach a source that is without cause. That is what we consider the First Cause, and this First Cause we call God.
So philosophy points us in the direction that God is…
- First Mover
- Unchangeable Being, and..
- First Cause.
Whatever the First Mover is, that is God. Whatever Unchangeable Being is, that is God, Whatever First Cause is, that is God. Whatever these things are, that is God. This is about as far as philosophy can take us.
While science and philosophy cannot prove the existence of God, they cannot disprove it either. Scientific theories on origins, that do not include the possibility of God, leave the scientist with significant mathematical improbabilities. A good number of scientists today believe in some kind of Creator or “First Cause” to grapple with these mathematical improbabilities, even if they are neither religious people outwardly nor members of religious organizations. One scientist explained it this way…
The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way [random chance] is comparable to the chance that a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein… Life as we know it is, among other things, dependent on at least 2000 different enzymes. How could the blind forces of the primal sea manage to put together the correct chemical elements to build enzymes?Sir Fred Hoyle (1915 – 2001), British astronomer who formulated the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis
The problem with random chance producing life in this universe is that it violates the first law of thermodynamics, which is entropy. All matter, when left to its own development, unless acted upon by an outside force, will gradually move from a state of order to disorder and not vice versa. In the case of the order and symmetry that exists in complex life, one must ask, what is the outside Force that acted upon this universe to bring about that order and symmetry. For without it, entropy dictates disorder and chaos.
Still, one doesn’t need to be a scientist or a philosopher to determine that God exists. All one really needs, on a personal level, is good gambling skills. All of life is a gamble anyway, and this is the same when it comes to the existence of God. While modern science, philosophy and mathematics strongly stack the deck in favor of theism, the hardcore Atheist will cling to the smaller odds of a universe created by random chance. So this argument needs to be taken seriously as well. If there is a 90% chance that God does exist, and only a 10% chance that he doesn’t, then we need to consider our own personal odds in all this. However, just to give the Atheist the benefit of the doubt, let’s dismiss modern science for a moment and give the Atheist a 50/50 chance that he’s right.
A 17th-century philosopher, mathematician and physicist by the name of Blaise Pascal postulated that human beings bet with their lives that God either exists or does not. This is because human beings, unlike animals, are rational creatures that are able to think outside of their immediate carnal and emotional needs. Thus their entire lives are a gamble on whether or not God exists. Under “Pascal’s Wager,” as it came to be called, theology and doctrine are unimportant. What is important is the result of the wager.
Whether or not God exists cannot be changed. The only thing that can change is whether or not you believe God exists. Therefore…
If you believe and you’re right, hopefully you’ll act on it, and therefore you’ll stand the greatest chance toward infinite gain in the afterlife. If you believe and you’re wrong, nothing happens in the afterlife, because if there is no God then there is no afterlife. When you die, nothing happens, and you have no consciousness. So if you have no consciousness, then you’ll never know you were wrong, and you lived a relatively happy life and a less frightening death because you believed that something better comes after you die. But you’ll never know you were wrong because you can’t know if you have no consciousness. So believing in God gives you a chance of infinite gain if you’re right, and nothing happens if you’re wrong. It’s a smart wager you place with your life, in which you could win but can’t lose.
If you don’t believe in God and you’re right, nothing happens. You win the bet but you literally gain nothing. You’ve lived your life in fear of death because you believe that this life is all there is, and when you die you just cease to exist. Your consciousness is gone. Congratulations! You were right, and now you have nothing to show for it. You can’t even gloat about it, because you have no consciousness to gloat with. You’ll never even know that you were right because after you die, you won’t “know” anything. However, if you’re wrong and God does exist, then you’ve got a real problem. Your life’s wager has now placed you in a position of potential infinite loss. Regardless of what God it is, whether the Christian God, or the Muslim God, or the Hindu gods, or maybe some other “God” unknown to religion, the prospect of being conscious after death and confronting a God who you denied your entire life, probably won’t end well for you. Thus by refusing to believe in God, you’ve just placed a wager with your life that you cannot win. You will either gain nothing if you’re right, or you’ll potentially lose everything if you’re wrong. It’s a stupid wager.
Smart people don’t place dumb bets. Yes, I’ve been to Las Vegas. I’ve played the lottery, and I’ve invested in the stock market. Every one of these things is a gamble — a wager with money. I’m pretty careful with my money. When I visit a casino or play the lottery I only use the money I would have spent on entertainment anyway. That way, if I lose everything I’ve budgeted, I’ve lost no less than I would have spent on dinner, a movie and a few drinks. That’s how smart people gamble. I play the stock market in a similar way. Some money I set aside for fixed interest accounts to ensure that I’ll never lose what I’m unwilling to, then I’ll gamble in the market with what I’m willing to risk. If this is how a smart person handles his money, how should a smart person handle his life — indeed his very soul! The smart person places his life (soul) on the wager that God does exist. It’s a wager he can’t lose and just might win. Only the stupid man places his life (soul) on the wager that God doesn’t exist. It’s a wager he can’t win and just might tragically lose.
So is there a God? Science can’t prove it, but believing that God exists does solve some mathematical improbabilities. Philosophy doesn’t dictate that God must exist, but it tends to lean strongly in that direction, especially in light of 20th-century scientific discoveries about the universe having a definite beginning and verifying the “First Cause” hypothesis. Logic doesn’t demand that there be a God, but it does demand that smart people should place their bets on his existence.
If we accept that there is a God, then the most natural thing to do is ask how we can know Him? I answer this question in my next essay entitled: Jesus Christ is God.
Shane Schaetzel is an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism and was trained as a catechist through the University of Dayton – a Catholic Marianist Institution. Shane’s articles have been featured on LifeSiteNews, ChurchMilitant, The Remnant Newspaper, Forward in Christ, and Catholic Online. Shane is an author of Catholic books, which can be read here.