- kewal sethi
a case for existence of god
a case for existence of god
this statement in india looks strange. the intention here is not to raise controversy but to examine how far the modern science, which started as an adversary of religion, has worked towards this solution. as albert einstein says, "the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible". the explanation is simple and this is what we are stating here.
let us start with soul. no one doubts that it exists. the discussion about the soul raises a few interesting questions. plato regards soul as a separate entity imprisoned in the body. but there is another view gaining currency. it is well known that there are few atoms in the body which were there five years earlier. the real person is the information bearing pattern that provides the continuity in the changing matter of every individual, (an interesting parallel from indian philosophy is shoonyavaad which holds that all phenomena are ephemeral and each moment is born and dies passing on information to the next moment.)
scientists are working on a theory of everything (TOE), which will unify diverse areas of knowledge about the physical world. But it will only be an equation. you may have a recipe (equation) for cake but unless there are ingredients for the cake., it means nothing. the TOE may explain the world but not why it is there. a physical theory can have self consistency but not self sufficiency. TOE will be merely be set of rules. it would not explain why the rules are there. the question whether the world had a beginning may not be the fundamental question. the real question will be why does it exist. where did the laws which govern the universe come from? why is the world inherently mathematical?
allport in his book 'the individual and his religion' sets forth three aspects of a mature personality:
1. mental process that concern ideal objects and values beyond mere infantile physical desires;
2. an ability to reflect insightfully concerning one's life and to see one's self in cosmic perspective;
3. a coherent, but not necessarily complete, unifying philosophy for one's life that serves to integrate one's personality.
richard smelley, winner of 1996 nobel prize for chemistry, wrote "the purpose of this universe is something that god alone knows for sure, but it is increasingly clear to modern science that the universe was exquisitely fine-tuned to enable human life. we are somehow critically involved in his purpose".
how do we know god? but before we should ask what are the valid ways of knowing? the science of knowledge called epistemology has attracted many. (this had led our rishis to develop elaborate theories about how knowledge is acquired). the conclusion reached is that the reason is important but not sufficient. by insisting on pure reason (and ignoring other aspects of knowledge like inference and experience), the western scholars, by confining themselves to mere observation in the middle ages, laid the groundwork for modern atheism. if god is a person, he can be known in reality only as a person and not by inference.. .
many people held that science and religion are adversaries. the scientists discover the mathematical characteristics that are inherently present in the world. based on these findings they are able to predict events. some persons like kant hold that "there is nothing of whose existence we may form an idea of whose non existence we can equally form the idea without any internal incoherence". on the basis of this, the existence of god is denied since it is not a logical necessity. kant believed that mind is not a passive receiver of knowledge from the outside world but an active participant in knowledge but he gives too much emphasis on the role the mind plays. in fact, he almost declares the mind as the generator of knowledge. for kant the two sources of knowledge were sensibility and understanding. experience is the product of our senses and he refused to go beyond the senses. the existence, or otherwise, of god was outside the scope of human reason. he admitted the existence of external reality but denied access to it.
on the other hand, descartes, spinoza, liebnitz averred that reason is a more reliable path to knowledge with particular emphasis on mathematical logic. locke and hume were of the view that all knowledge comes from direct observation of the phenomena. for them perception was dominant characteristic of dependable knowledge. all religious knowledge could not be verified by the senses and hence was meaningless.
no one has seen a quark and perhaps no one ever will. they are so tightly bound to each other inside the protons and neutrons that nothing can make them break out on their own. why do we believe in quarks? because doing so makes a sense in a lot of direct physical evidence. same is true of many of the sub atomic particles. study of quantum physics, black holes, particle astrophysics, cosmology allows us to know about things that are beyond our senses. by the same logical extension, can we learn about god in a similar way. it must be understood that no one approaches the question with a completely disinterested, objective interpretation of the evidence. as stephen evans said, "human beings think as a whole person. it is the human beings who reflect, not brains or minds detached from human persons", our language and finite minds are all we have, and reflection upon an infinite god can expand our awareness of reality. one cannot be completely objective in discussing about god or the reason for creation of the universe.
we have to distinguish between a 'logical necessity' and a 'conditional necessity'. it is not possible for a thing to create itself or be the cause of its existence. conditional necessity follows from the premises and the conditions of the argument, not from the supposition of logical necessity. the logical necessity deals with the prepositions, whereas the conditional necessity deals with a real predicate i.e. something with characteristics and properties.
it is stipulated in the second law of thermodynamics that entropy (or disorder) tends to maximize itself. in the universe, it was observed in 1929 that the galaxies are moving away from each other and, therefore, the space is expanding. if we work backwards, there should have been a situation in which the universe was small. this has led to the big bang theory. but something existed before there was a big bang and the universe started to expand. what was that 'something'? was that something physical or non physical? we cannot argue that something came out of nothing. that would be contradiction of the law that energy is neither generated nor destroyed, it only changes form. if the beginning is regarded as physical, again the question of its evolvement comes up. so the conclusion is that it came for non physical.
an atheist may argue that it came from nothing. it means that there were no laws, no quantum fields, no wave functions, no observers, no energy, no particles and no motion. and then there were suddenly everything. this explanation would satisfy no one. the main thing about nature is that it is intelligible and its laws are intelligible. we did not invent those laws but mathematics helps us in discovering these laws. the unreasonable effectiveness of abstract mathematics in describing the physical world is an example of intelligibility that would require an explanation.
the striking thing about the universe is that everything is fine tuned. let us examine the formation of carbon without which life would be impossible. the carbon atom is formed by a rare phenomenon called triple alpha collision. two helium atoms collide to form a beryllium atom which is unstable and exists for a very short duration - hundred millionth of a billionth of a second. during this period it should collide with another helium atom to form carbon item. and yet carbon atoms are found in abundance. the explosive power of the big bang was just enough to produce such a condition. had it been more, we would have only gas and no solid. if it were less, the products would have collapsed again.
this fine tuning is also observed in the balance of the electromagnetic force and the ratio of the mass of electron to the mass of the proton. proton is 1836 times heavier than electron. if the electromagnetic force were weaker , the atom could not have existed. only hydrogen would exist. the life, as we know it, would have been nonexistent.
the conflict actually is not belief in god and the belief in science. but between belief in science and belief in naturalism. naturalism considers only the matter and energy as the basic realities. it cannot produce true beliefs because it would not be able to decide whether a belief, (being the result of neurophysiology) is true or false. it would be self defeating in logical thought.
what is information? it is neither material nor energy. the chemicals used in printing are not information. these chemicals, by themselves, mean nothing. similarly in DNA, the carbon and the nitrogen and other elements do not constitute information. information is stored in the peculiar arrangement of the compounds. quantum theory, with its uncertainty principle, has been able to explain many of the previously unsolved problems and has proved successful in various gadgets and led to other theories which explain the universe. the wave function associated with it is not something physical. it is only mathematical. it can be classified as information. but it leads to definite outcome. it is the observer's measurement or observation that changes the abstract, non physical probability into a definite outcome. the observer has to be outside the physical system. the observations i.e. the measurements, themselves, do not create reality. it is the information of the observer, which leads to collapse of the wave function and leads to information. the mind of the observer cannot be reduced to strict material explanation. mental processes transcend the purely physical.
if the universe had a beginning and came out of nothing, then it had a cause for coming to be. there is no earlier space-time. it has been observed by hubble that the universe is expanding which means space is being created. going back, the space would be smaller and smaller. it would be smaller than a planc's length (16.162 x 10-36 metres).. (this is the smallest length imaginable. similarly we have planc's time which is time taken by light to travel one planc's length i.e. roughly 10-43 seconds. but before that what existed must be a supernatural cause. (in indian philosophy, this is known as 'mahat') it is said that "an argument is what convinces reasonable men; a proof is what convinces even an unreasonable man". that proof is now available because there is no escape from the fact that universe had a beginning and the beginning was from non physical cause.
max planc's paper presented in 1900 averred that light was not a continuous stream but small energy packets which he called quanta. the quantum theory was further developed and the electrons 'clouds' were envisaged which gives only a description of statistical probabilities. this is called wave function. in other words this is information. but this yields a definite outcome. one of the main characteristics of this theory is that the observer has to be outside the system – sakshi - otherwise the observations are faulty.
in the newtonian physics, the world consisted of a set up governed by certain rules in which the man had no part to play. it influenced the concept of religion also. there were immutable rules by which the man had to live and they were listed either as ten commandments or in old and the new testaments. quantum theory changed this concept. the observer became the focal point. and with this the concept of religion is also bound to change. quantum theory urges that wave function is not a physical reality in itself but collection of information about probabilities. it is the information which would govern the religion also and such information may come from any source depending upon the position of the observer.
all religions are based on the notions of distinction between good and evil. atheist deny the existence of god on the basis of the existence of evil. their argument is if god is omnipotent, why does he allow evil to exist. if he was to abolish all evil, will good not cease to exist since it is only by comparison that we know what is good and what is bad. this dilemma has been nicely solved by the indian philosophers who maintain that it is for the man to try to balance the three forces i.e. sat, rajas and tamas. the imbalance is what creates shortcomings which have to be removed before a perfect harmony is achieved. even otherwise, we. with our limited faculties, cannot understand the work and purpose of god.
british philosopher antony flew writes, "universe was brought into existence by an infinite intelligence. this universe's intricate laws manifest what scientists should have called 'the mind of god'. the life and reproduction originate in a divine source. this world picture has emerged from modern science. science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to god. the first is that nature obeys laws. the second is that the dimensions of life, of intelligently organized and purpose driven beings. which arose from matter. the third is the very existence of nature."
in short the case of existence of god explains more than the arguments for atheism. the existence of god explains why there is something rather than nothing. it explains the origin of universe; of its continuous