Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is There a God?

Today I'm taking on again (the last one was "Why Pick the God of the Bible?") Today we have "Does God Exist? Six straight-forward reasons to believe that God is really there" written by Marilyn Adamson.
Just once wouldn't you love for someone to simply show you the evidence for God's existence? No arm-twisting. No statements of, "You just have to believe." Well, here is an attempt to candidly offer some of the reasons which suggest that God exists.
Honestly, I don't know of a single atheist who wouldn't love to see the evidence, if it really existed. I can hardly think of a more important question than whether or not a deity is out there (though of course, if it did exist, then numerous questions about its nature and character would follow.) And Marilyn, did you think I wouldn't notice that you immediately substituted "evidence" with "reasons which suggest"? I recognize word shystery when I see it.
But first consider this. If a person opposes even the possibility of there being a God, then any evidence can be rationalized or explained away. It is like if someone refuses to believe that people have walked on the moon, then no amount of information is going to change their thinking. Photographs of astronauts walking on the moon, interviews with the astronauts, moon rocks...all the evidence would be worthless, because the person has already concluded that people cannot go to the moon.
I'll concede that point. Of course, I do allow for the possibility of a god or gods existing, in equal measure to allowing for the possibility of fairies, unicorns, centaurs, and pod people. As soon as there is good evidence, evidence up to the scale and depth of the evidence for the moon landing at a bare minimum, I'll no longer be a nonbeliever. So, don't worry that I'm prejudging the data. I looked at the data, then drew my conclusion.
When it comes to the possibility of God's existence, the Bible says that there are people who have seen sufficient evidence, but they have suppressed the truth about God.1 On the other hand, for those who want to know God if he is there, he says, "You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you."2 Before you look at the facts surrounding God's existence, ask yourself, If God does exist, would I want to know him? Here then, are some reasons to consider...
The Bible is a ridiculous book. You cannot start a conversation with a nonbeliever with the Bible as your support: the nonbeliever does not accept the truth claims of the Bible. That's why they're not a Christian. I know of several loud and outspoken atheists, Matt Dilahunty of Atheist Experience, Pat Condell of YouTube infamy (he rocks), and myself who all searched far and wide and desperately for God to reveal himself. He didn't (probably because there was no "He" there to begin with.) As for whether or not I would want to know a god, I certainly want to know if one (or several) exists. Knowledge of a god's existence would not, however, necessarily lead to worship. For example, the Christian God is a prick.
1. Does God exist? The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.
Oh, no. We're going the faux science route, aren't we? Tsk, Marilyn, this is disappointing. Because of course, if all this scientific data really did point to a god, you would think that the vast majority of biologists, physicists, and other scientists would be believers. They're not. The complexity of our planet points to the complexity of our planet; it doesn't suggest a god. In fact, the (in)famous "blind watchmaker" ID/creationist analogy has been nicely debunked here by the eminent and very cool cdk007. (If you're not already a subscriber, do yourself a favor and become one now. I promise, you won't regret it.)

Alright, let's go ahead and see what Marilyn has to say on the subject of complexity.
Many examples showing God's design could be given (*cough* invented *cough), possibly with no end. But here are a few: The Earth...its size is perfect. The Earth's size and corresponding gravity holds a thin layer of mostly nitrogen and oxygen gases, only extending about 50 miles above the Earth's surface. If Earth were smaller, an atmosphere would be impossible, like the planet Mercury. If Earth were larger, its atmosphere would contain free hydrogen, like Jupiter.3 Earth is the only known planet equipped with an atmosphere of the right mixture of gases to sustain plant, animal and human life.
Gee, the life that formed (and survived) on this planet is well suited to the environment. Wow, who'd have thought? Oh wait, everybody, that's who.
The Earth is located the right distance from the sun. Consider the temperature swings we encounter, roughly -30 degrees to +120 degrees. If the Earth were any further away from the sun, we would all freeze. Any closer and we would burn up. Even a fractional variance in the Earth's position to the sun would make life on Earth impossible. The Earth remains this perfect distance from the sun while it rotates around the sun at a speed of nearly 67,000 mph. It is also rotating on its axis, allowing the entire surface of the Earth to be properly warmed and cooled every day.
All of this "our planet works out well for us" stuff is supposed to indicate that the earth was clearly designed for us. The way the evidence is presented begs the question. The Earth isn't the "right" distance from the sun; it's the distance it happens to be. Calling it "right" suggests purpose or intention. Likewise saying the earth is "properly warmed and cooled" is begging the question, planting in the sentence the idea that there is a "proper" way for the Earth to behave.
And our moon is the perfect size and distance from the Earth for its gravitational pull. The moon creates important ocean tides and movement so ocean waters do not stagnate, and yet our massive oceans are restrained from spilling over across the continents.
Again, the moon isn't the "perfect size and distance"; it happens to be this way. If it were some other way, this planet would be different. So what? If you don't believe that the sun, Earth, and moon were created for mankind, it really doesn't make a difference. I mean, I like the moon. I'm glad our planet does sustain life and I'm glad to be alive, but I don't imagine that the entire cosmos is here for my benefit or so that my life might exist in a barren sky. I'm not that egotistical.
Water...colorless, odorless and without taste, and yet no living thing can survive without it. Plants, animals and human beings consist mostly of water (about two-thirds of the human body is water)... It has an unusually high boiling point and freezing point. Water allows us to live in an environment of fluctuating temperature changes, while keeping our bodies a steady 98.6 degrees. Water is a universal solvent. This property of water means that thousands of chemicals, minerals and nutrients can be carried throughout our bodies and into the smallest blood vessels. Water is also chemically neutral. Without affecting the makeup of the substances it carries, water enables food, medicines and minerals to be absorbed and used by the body. Water has a unique surface tension. Water in plants can therefore flow upward against gravity, bringing life-giving water and nutrients to the top of even the tallest trees. Water freezes from the top down and floats, so fish can live in the winter.
*facepalm* Sigh, water freezes from the top down and floats. Fish can live in the winter. Two correct statements. The problem lies in the "so". There is absolutely no reason based on evidence to suppose that water freezes the way it does for the express purpose of letting fish live through winter. Our planet is extremely hostile! Most of it does not support life without technology, and the vast reaches of space don't support either. What kind of measly god can only create sentient life on one planet, out of all the planets we're aware of, and only one a fraction of that planet?*
Ninety-seven percent of the Earth's water is in the oceans. But on our Earth, there is a system designed which removes salt from the water and then distributes that water throughout the globe. Evaporation takes the ocean waters, leaving the salt, and forms clouds which are easily moved by the wind to disperse water over the land, for vegetation, animals and people. It is a system of purification and supply that sustains life on this planet, a system of recycled and reused water.
The hydrological cycle is cool. I think probably everyone of us enjoyed that graphic in our science textbooks, whether we thought a god was behind it or not. It's just a cool process, and one that's fairly easy to illustrate and understand. However, it doesn't point to an intentional design for human life. After all, only 30% of the planet is dry land; the rest is under water. Why would God give us such a tiny fraction of a planet, if all this is for us?
The human brain...simultaneously processes an amazing amount of information. Your brain takes in all the colors and objects you see, the temperature around you, the pressure of your feet against the floor, the sounds around you, the dryness of your mouth, even the texture of your keyboard. Your brain holds and processes all your emotions, thoughts and memories. At the same time your brain keeps track of the ongoing functions of your body like your breathing pattern, eyelid movement, hunger and movement of the muscles in your hands.
I love neurology. Seeing pictures of brain scans of other people with OCD really helped me to recognize that so much of what I thought was the "soul" really resides in our brains. For me, it was incredibly healing information: I have a sick brain, and treating it will improve my life, my decision making skills, my impulse control, and my ability to relate constructively with other members of my species. The activity in my brain will change. The insides of our skulls are sharp, and any concussion or serious blow to the head can result in a permanent loss of personality, intelligence and capability, or motor functions. The very fact that brains are so easily damaged suggests to me that we aren't designed by some all-knowing all-perfect god. Surely such a god could create brains with better protection.
The human brain processes more than a million messages a second. Your brain weighs the importance of all this data, filtering out the relatively unimportant. This screening function is what allows you to focus and operate effectively in your world. The brain functions differently than other organs. There is an intelligence to it, the ability to reason, to produce feelings, to dream and plan, to take action, and relate to other people.
I worked for awhile as a typist in a psychiatrist's office. He tested and met with people of the lowest precentiles of intelligence, and with the highest incidents of comorbid mental illnesses. None of them were focusing and operating effectively in their worlds, which is why they came to see him. He determined how severely they were disabled, and his recommendation would determine whether or not they got government assistance, because their inability to function was so great. The brain is very cool when working well, but it is just not true that all brains (or even most) are healthy and working well.
The eye...can distinguish among seven million colors. It has automatic focusing and handles an astounding 1.5 million messages -- simultaneously.8 Evolution focuses on mutations and changes from and within existing organisms. Yet evolution alone does not fully explain the initial source of the eye or the brain -- the start of living organisms from nonliving matter.
The eye is really poorly made, if it's designed. It's backwards and upside down. And evolution is not supposed to answer the question of where the first life came from. There are a couple possibilities being considered by learned men and women of science right now. One of these is abiogenesis, which seems very cool to me.

Part 2 is for tomorrow, kiddies. But don't worry, I'll write another post today. It's great to be back in town and back at my (boyfriend's) laptop :)

*I'm not saying there's no alien life, just saying we haven't found it yet. I'm way too ignorant on this stuff to have formed an opinion yet. Except on Area 51, there I have formed an opinion.