Is Belief in God Reasonable?
HAVE you wondered why everything from atomic particles to vast galaxies is governed by precise mathematical laws? Have you reflected on life itself—its variety, its complexity, and its amazing design? Many attribute the universe and the life in it to a great cosmic accident and evolution. Others give credit to an intelligent Creator. Which viewpoint do you feel is more reasonable?
Of course, both viewpoints involve faith. Belief in God rests on faith. As the Bible says, “no man has seen God at any time.” (John 1:18) Likewise, no human saw the forming of the universe or the commencement of life. Nor has anyone ever seen one kind of life evolve into a higher kind or even into a different kind. The fossil record shows that the major groups of animals appeared suddenly and have remained virtually unchanged. * The key question, therefore, is this: Which faith sits on a firm foundation—faith in evolution or faith in a Creator?
Is Your Faith Based on Solid Evidence?
Genuine “faith,” says the Bible, is “the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” (Hebrews 11:1) The New English Bible renders the verse this way: “Faith . . . makes us certain of realities we do not see.” No doubt you can think of a number of unseen realities in which you firmly believe.
To illustrate: Many respected historians believe that Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Jesus Christ once lived. Is the faith of these historians sound? Yes, for they can point to authentic historical evidence.
Scientists too believe in unseen realities because of the “evident demonstration” that those realities exist. For example, the 19th-century Russian chemist Dmitry Mendeleyev became entranced with the relationship between the elements, the basic building blocks of the universe. He realized that they had certain things in common and could be grouped by both atomic weight and chemical properties. Because of his faith in the order of the groups, he drafted the periodic table of the elements and correctly predicted the existence of a number of elements unknown at the time.
Archaeologists draw conclusions about earlier civilizations, often from items that have lain buried for thousands of years. Imagine, for example, that an archaeologist has unearthed dozens of carefully cut stone blocks of precisely the same size neatly aligned on top of one another. They are also set out in a distinct geometric pattern that does not occur naturally. What would the archaeologist conclude? Would he attribute his find to coincidence? Most likely not. Rather, he would interpret it as evidence of past human activities, and that would be a reasonable conclusion.
To be consistent, should we not apply the same reasoning to the design manifest in the natural world? Many people have taken that view, including respected scientists.
Blind Chance or Purposeful Design?
Years ago, British mathematician, physicist, and astronomer Sir James Jeans wrote that in the light of advancing scientific knowledge, “the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine.” He also stated that “the universe appears to have been designed by a pure mathematician” and that it provides “evidence of a designing or controlling power that has something in common with our own individual minds.”
Other scientists have arrived at a similar conclusion since Jeans penned those words. “The overall organization of the universe has suggested to many a modern astronomer an element of design,” wrote physicist Paul Davies. One of the most famous physicists and mathematicians of all time, Albert Einstein, wrote: “The fact that [the natural world] is comprehensible is a miracle.” In the eyes of many, that miracle includes life itself, from its fundamental building blocks to the amazing human brain.
DNA and the Human Brain
DNA is the genetic material of all cellular organisms and the molecular basis for heredity. * This complex acid has been compared to a blueprint or a recipe, for DNA is packed with information, which is encoded in chemical form and stored in a molecular environment that is capable of interpreting that code and acting on it. How much information is stored in DNA? If the basic units, called nucleotides, were converted into letters of the alphabet, they would “occupy more than a million pages of a typical book,” says one reference.
In most organisms, DNA is bundled up into threadlike bodies called chromosomes, which are safely stored inside each cell’s nucleus. The nuclei, in turn, have an average diameter of about 0.0002 of an inch [5 micrometers]. Think about that—all the information that produced your unique body is found in tiny packages that have to be observed under a microscope! As one scientist rightly said, living organisms have “by far the most compact information storage/retrieval system known.” That’s saying something when you reflect on the memory capacity of computer chips, DVDs, and the like! What is more, DNA has by no means revealed all its secrets. “Every discovery reveals a new complexity,” says New Scientist magazine. *
Is it reasonable to attribute such perfection of design and organization to blind chance? If you were to stumble across a highly technical manual a million pages thick and written in an efficient, elegant code, would you conclude that the book somehow wrote itself? What if that book were so small that you needed a powerful microscope to read it? And what if it contained precise instructions for the manufacture of a self-repairing, self-replicating intelligent machine with billions of parts, all of which had to be fitted together at precisely the right time and in the right way? To be sure, the notion that such a book just happened would not even enter one’s mind.
After examining current research on the inner workings of the cell, British philosopher Antony Flew, once a leading champion of atheism, stated: “The almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), [show] that intelligence must have been involved.” Flew believes in “following the argument no matter where it leads.” In his case it led to a complete change in thinking, so that he now believes in God.
The human brain too leaves many scientists in awe. A product of DNA, the brain has been described as “the most complicated object in the universe.” Even the most advanced supercomputer looks positively primitive next to this approximately three-pound pinkish-gray mass of neurons and other structures. In the opinion of one neuroscientist, the more that scientists learn about the brain and the mind, “the more magnificent and unknowable it becomes.”
Consider: The brain enables us to breathe, laugh, cry, solve puzzles, build computers, ride a bicycle, write poetry, and look up at the night sky with a sense of reverential awe. Is it reasonable—indeed, consistent—to attribute these abilities and capacities to blind evolutionary forces?
Belief Based on Evidence
In order to understand ourselves, should we look down, as it were, to apes and other animals, as evolutionists do? Or should we look up to God for answers? Granted, we have certain things in common with animals. We have to eat, drink, and sleep, for example, and we are able to reproduce. Still, we are unique in many ways. Reason suggests that our distinct human traits stem from a Being higher than ourselves—that is, from God. The Bible put that thought succinctly, stating that God formed mankind “in his image” morally and spiritually speaking. (Genesis 1:27) Why not contemplate God’s qualities, some of which are recorded at Deuteronomy 32:4; James 3:17, 18; and 1 John 4:7, 8.
Our Creator has given us the “intellectual capacity” to investigate the world around us and to find satisfying answers to our questions. (1 John 5:20) In this regard, physicist and Nobel laureate William D. Phillips wrote: “When I examine the orderliness, understandability, and beauty of the universe, I am led to the conclusion that a higher intelligence designed what I see. My scientific appreciation of the coherence, and the delightful simplicity of physics strengthens my belief in God.”
Some two thousand years ago, a discerning observer of the natural world wrote: “[God’s] invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” (Romans 1:20) The writer—the Christian apostle Paul—was an intelligent man and highly educated in the Mosaic Law. His reason-based faith made God a reality to him, while his acute sense of justice moved him to give due credit to God for his creative works.
It is our sincere hope that you too will see that it is not at all unreasonable to believe in God. In fact, like Paul, may you do more than simply believe that He exists. May you also grow to appreciate—as millions already have—that Jehovah God is a spirit person with endearing qualities that resonate in the human heart and draw us to him.—Psalm 83:18; John 6:44; James 4:8.
^ par. 14 DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid.
^ par. 15 When Charles Darwin formulated his ideas on evolution, he had no idea of the complexity of the living cell.
[Box on page 24]
SHOULD RELIGIOUS EVILS JUSTIFY DISBELIEF IN GOD?
Many people do not believe in a Creator because of the well-known abuses and corruptions that blacken the history of many religions. Is that a sound reason for disbelief? No. “The excesses and atrocities of organized religion,” says Roy Abraham Varghese in his preface to Antony Flew’s book There Is a God, “have no bearing whatsoever on the existence of God, just as the threat of nuclear proliferation has no bearing on the question of whether E=mc2.” *
^ par. 31 Energy equals mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light.
[Pictures on page 23]
If ancient structural design is attributed to humans, to whom do we attribute design in nature?
[Picture on page 23]
[Pictures on page 24, 25]
DNA is like a microscopic book that contains precise instructions for intelligent life
[Pictures on page 25]
The human brain has been described as “the most complicated object in the universe”
[Picture Credit Line on page 22]
© The Print Collector/age fotostock