== Love God == Delight in Light ==

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Yes, But...

So far in this series of posts on why I believe in God, I have really only looked at some arguments that seem to me to indicate that God does exist. In this post I want to (very briefly) talk about some potential arguments against that conclusion (beyond those that I haven't already dealt with directly or indirectly in some of the other posts in this series).

Yes, But... Don't things like radiation dating, etc. prove that the earth is millions old?

Firstly, this isn't actually relevant to the question of whether God exists or not - rather it is relevant to the question of whether the Biblical account of creation is relevant.

That aside, however, the question of how old the earth (or universe) is depends on how you interpret the evidence that is available now. And how people interpret the evidence depends to a large extent on that their belief system is. So, people who believe in evolution tend to interpret the evidence in a way that indicates long time scales (billions of years) whereas creationists interpret the same evidence in ways that indicate far shorter time scales (around 6000 years). And sometimes accepting a short time scale makes it far easier to explain some of the things we see. Here are 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe from CMi

Yes, But... Religion is bad

Again, this isn't really, in my opinion, really relevant to the question of whether or not God exists. However, again, it is worth looking at briefly. The short answer to this is that it isn't - "religion is a bad thing" is not something you can easily conclude from the evidence. For example, the report "Helping Out - A national survey of volunteering and charitable giving" (which was prepared for the UK Government Cabinet office) reports the following:
As Table 3.4 also shows, there is a clear link between those who actively practised their religion compared with those who were not active, or did not profess to have any religion. Sixty-seven per cent of those actively practising their religion gave some level of formal help (compared with 55% in other groups), and over half were regular formal volunteers (compared with a third or less in other groups).
Statistics aside - it is very likely that your experience is the same - think about the people you know who are active Christians - there's a good chance that (even if you find them a bit odd sometimes) you find that they are generally of comparatively high moral standing - not perfect - they make mistakes - but they are likely to be generally "good" people.

Of course you can always find examples of people who have done "bad" things in the name of religion. But then you can easily find vast numbers of examples of particularly "good" things that have been done in the name of religion - as well as countless "bad" things that have been done for all manner of other reasons. In fact, as I mentioned in a previous post, if you take evolution to its logical conclusion then you can easily justify behaviour that everyone recognises as "bad" - if evolution is correct then why was Hitler considered evil rather than being celebrated as a hero of mankind?

The fact that "bad" things have been done in the name of religion doesn't prove anything about the existence of God - it only goes to show that there are people who do bad things.

Yes, But... We Can See Evolution Happening - For Example in Dogs

Breeding of dogs is actually not a good example of evolution. Rather it is primarily an example of adaptation within a "kind" (as the creationists call it). The difference (briefly) is that selective breeding draws out particular, pre-existing characteristics. It does this by favouring certain characteristics over others. In dog breeding this is done by human selection; in nature it happens by natural selection (yes - even creationists believe in adaptation and natural selection).

However, if you look at the genetics behind it, what is actually happening is primarily that existing information (within the DNA) is being lost - no new information is being gained. So, for example, if you could get a pair of the original "dogs" you may be able to again breed them into (say) poodles by repeated selection. However, you could never take a pair of poodles and breed them into that original dog - or into great danes, for that matter - because the necessary information has been lost. You would have to re-introduce that information by breeding them with some other kind of dog or by adjusting their DNA in some other way.

Maybe rather than telling us about evolution, the breeding of dogs actually tells us more about how the original dog was "programmed" with information that would allow it to adapt to an amazing variety of different environments and situations?

Actually this is a slight simplification because some of the characteristics of some types of dogs do come from mutations - but ones that would have been disadvantageous to a dog in the wild. Again, CMI can provide more information about these points than I can here - here are some examples:

Yes, But... If God exists, why does (or doesn't) He ... [fill in the blank]

If God exists, why does He allow bad things to happen?
If He exists, why doesn't He always overtly answer the prayers of His followers?
If God exists, why doesn't He make Himself more obvious or visible to people?
And so on.

Now don't get me wrong here - I don't mean to trivialise these kinds of questions. I think that a lot of them are very important and worthy of serious investigation. However, I think that they are off the topic when thinking about whether or not such a thing as "God" exists. Rather, these are questions about what God is like if He does, in fact, exist. An important study, I agree, but one that is distinct from the issue of whether or not He actually exists in the first place.

If God doesn't exist, then there is little value in studying what He is like. More to the point, though, just because we may happen to disagree with, or dislike, the way He is or the things He does, doesn't mean that we can conclude that He doesn't exist. If God exists, then He is the way He is whether we like it or not. If He does exist, and He does things that don't fit in with what we would expect, it simply means that our understanding of Him is incorrect in some way - it doesn't constitute any kind of proof that He doesn't exist. If I happened to believe that all roses should be red, it wouldn't mean that yellow roses suddenly ceased to exist. It would just mean that my understanding of roses was wrong (or at least, incomplete).

To be honest, I would be a lot more surprised if we could fully understand God and how He behaves. I wouldn't expect someone who could create the universe to be fully comprehensible to me with my far more limited capabilities and intelligence. It would be a little like expecting an ant to be able to fully understand the behaviour of a human.

Yes, But... It feels silly to believe in God

Actually, this isn't really a position that is often stated "out loud" (as it were) as a reason for not believing in God. However, I thought I'd mention it because I think that it is actually (consciously or not) one of the core reasons that many people don't believe in God - along, possibly, with not wanting to believe in God because of concerns about the implications of that conclusion.

Of course, just because something "feels silly" (or odd or uncomfortable or scary) is not a scientific reason for rejecting it. People once thought that the concept of large chunks of ice floating around the oceans was crazy and unbelievable. However, that didn't change the fact of the existence of icebergs. Similarly, it feels a bit odd to think that the air around us is packed with all sorts of sounds and pictures that are invisible to us as humans - however, that feeling doesn't stop TVs, radios, etc. from working.

This goes back to the point that I make in the post about whether one should even allow for the existence of God as a possible conclusion to the "evidence" we see around us. Many people don't, and I suspect that the reason is this feeling that it is somehow silly, unscientific or just plain too scary to even consider such a possibility.

Note: This is part of a series of posts about why I believe in God. See my post "You Believe that Stuff???" for more info and links to the other related posts.

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