Human beings are curious creatures, and most of us think about ‘big’ questions, such as “What is life all about?”, or “How did everything get here?” or “Could there be a God?”.
How can a human being possibly answer these questions with any assurance?
But how can we ignore these questions either?
So what is the best way to try to answer them?
Can we use the scientific method?
The scientific method consists of observing the world, coming up with ideas or a hypothesis about why certain things happen the way they do, making a prediction of what we would find if that hypothesis is true, and then watching to see if the predictions come true. In most cases, the observations are made in a rigorous and repeatable way.
Of course we cannot expect to answer the ‘big’ questions with the same rigour as strictly scientific questions, but there is no reason why we cannot use a similar method.
So what would we expect to find if there is a God who created us, and what would we expect to find if there is no God?
If there was no God, I would expect ….
I wonder what you would expect?
I would expect, most likely, that a godless universe would look like this:
- I think I’d expect that nothing at all would exist, for what could cause anything? Of course I know that it does exist, but I think this is surprising.
- Likewise, I’d expect that without God, the universe would be random and possibly chaotic, for what would make it orderly?
- Granted we have a universe, I think we can see that life could begin and evolve in some suitable places, so it isn’t entirely unexpected that there would be intelligent life.
- If life evolved, I’d expect there to be competition for limited resources, exploitive and competitive behaviour by human beings, leading to war, violence and suffering.
- In a totally physical universe, there could be no genuinely free will, because everything would be determined by physical laws and by randomness.
- I would expect humans would likely evolve in societies where there are sanctions against antisocial behaviours, expressed in the form of ethical standards, but these standards would simply be a convenience, and could vary depending on the circumstances.
- I’m not sure if we would expect that these behavioural sanctions would be expressed in most cultures in the form of a religion, which explains a culture’s place in the world and the rules which each member should live by. But each religion would be different, and none would be factually true.
- People might have apparent experiences of their god interacting with them, but these experiences would be hallucinatory and most likely to be experienced by the more imaginative and less stable members of the group.
I wonder if you would add anything to that list, or change anything?
If there was a creator God, I would expect ….
- I think it might be reasonable to expect this God might have characteristics similar to humans, only in much larger measure.
- If there was a creator God, I would think a universe would be quite likely to exist as one of God’s creations.
- And I would think it much more likely that a created universe would be more orderly and less random than if there was no God.
- I would expect that there would quite likely be a purpose to the universe and life, an end which a creator God had in mind.
- I would think it far more likely that humans might be created with free will and a moral sense that can recognise objectively true ethical standards, for that could easily be the purpose of a creator God.
- If a creator God created humans, I would expect he or she might ensure that their physical and social environment would be safe and pleasant, and evil would be eliminated or curtailed.
- I would expect that all people would have opportunity to “know” this God, or at least know enough about her to follow her ethical teachings. Thus I would expect people to have discernible experiences of God, via healing, messages, visions, etc, maybe even by God appearing bodily.
- I would expect it would be clear what religion was truly from this God, and what ones are human-made.
Again, I wonder how much of that list you would agree with.
Which hypothesis fits our observations of the actual universe?
I think it is clear that each hypothesis fits some aspects of the real world.
For example, the atheistic hypothesis seems to correctly predict Nos 3 and 4, while not doing very well on Nos 1, 2 and 5. Some aspects of predictions 6, 7 & 8 seem to fit, but other aspects don’t – e.g. religious experiences are not, as you might expect, more likely with those who are less stable, but in fact tend to enhance human behaviour.
The theistic universe seems to do well on its predictions 2, 3 and 5, and partly with Nos 7 & 8 (many people do have discernible experiences of God, and there are only a few major religions, but there are many who don’t experience God and find any religion believable), but not predicting No 6 at all.
You might like to make your own assessments. I’d be interested to hear them. You are probably not surprised to note that I think the theistic universe predictions are fulfilled better than the atheistic universe predictions.
I have looked at some of these questions in a little more detail in:
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