As the moon it will be firmly established for time indefinite, and as a faithful witness in the skies. – Psalms 89:37
The universe is a striking combination of beauty and ugliness, order and chaos. I think that anybody who does not find our world mind boggling at the scientific reality of our world has not looked hard enough. Often, theists use the argument that because there is so much order, so much careful ‘set-up’ to the way things work, there must be a God. This is interesting in contrast to the atheistic argument which generally runs, “Because science explains how X works, there is no God.” The atheist argues that because events in the universe are explainable and quantifiable, positing a being, God, which is not explainable or quantifiable goes against scientific inquiry and common sense. Interestingly, the philosopher John Locke held the view that as a scientist one must assume this perspective, though he was himself a Christian theologian.
There are two questions to ask of science: first, why should it be that the world is quantifiable? In other words, I reverse the elements of the ordinary atheistic formula, “Because science can explain how the world works, there must be no God.” However, you must wonder, how is it possible that the world could be explained at all? Theists are accused by atheists of creating something more complicated than the state of affairs as an explanation, and just making the whole question of the universe worse. But let us just remember how complicated things are. The solar systems, galaxies, gravity, lightning bolts and tornadoes; how lightning bugs light and sting rays sting, why objects are distorted when covered in water. Our universe is so consistent towards us that we have come to assume a methodic, scientific explanation for everything we perceive. It is one thing to claim that there is always “order” in the universe; that may or may not be true. But what even mythology and science have in common is the shared belief that things can be explained in the physical universe. A tribal leader in primitive times assumes a grander, universal leader who ordered the heavens: this is an explanation for how things work, and it makes sense according to his experience of things. A scientist discovers that gravity is holding the solar system together: of course, for the scientist lives in a culture which takes personhood out of the world. The chieftan of planets is simply no longer a “person;” it is now a “force.” The scientist has more careful methods, but his assumption is that he can create an account of how the world works, that it is possible, in theory, to explain every occurrence in nature.
I think this is, if not wholly proof of God, in favor of God. Why should the universe be translatable into the language of science? Even though virtually every scientific theory has been attacked by someone, most people believe, I think, that the natural world can be scientifically explained. Either this assumption is right, or it is wrong. If it is wrong and science meets natural events it is helpless to explain, not only temporarily but intrinsically inexplicable, then we must wonder what other type of rules govern the world. On the other hand, if nature is always explainable, we must ask, why? Why should it always be, or so frequently be, apparently open to human inquiry? How is it that plants, which have nothing to do with humans in their daily life (I assume they do not consciously grow in a way we can understand), can be explained by us? Why should any part of the world be possible to submit to any human explanation? We could turn one way and say, Well, perhaps it doesn’t. Science is merely a social construction of human beings and will never be anything more. But if this is the cause, how can science be a proof against God? Isn’t the edgy, tough claim of atheism that empirical reality is really explainable and that God is not a part of that empirical reality? For the atheist’s argument to work, if he is to use science, he must agree with me that the world is terribly vulnerable to the inquiry of the human mind. The human mind gets it wrong often enough to be sure, but there is enough overwhelming consistency to believe that the human mind can understand, eventually, virtually every occurrence of the natural world.
Now, again, it may be argued that humans are only projecting themselves into the world through science. But remember, this point of view destroys the atheist’s argument that because the world is explainable there need be no God. But we must reckon with this fact, that the physical universe, not designed by us or made by us, older and very strange to us, can be explained by our searching into it. Theists will argue that the probability of such a carefully designed world occurring without something consciously deciding to make it that way is simply inconceivable. Atheists will agree that the world is strikingly ordered, but will argue that positing a “someone” is more problematic than the solution to a mathematical question. What neither notes, though, is that the world is sitting there, letting them posit theories, and on both sides they are confident that their theories are somehow pointing towards something like truth about the world, in spite of their radically different opponent. Why should the world ever be discoverable to the human mind? Why does everything always have a “way it works,” and why do we think we can know it?
Let’s not to resort to human psychology in explaining this thought away, because it really only avoids the question, and doesn’t hinder the theist anymore than the atheist – or help them, for that matter. (I respond to this a bit more fully, in any case, in Chapter 4: The Power of Subjectivity.) If we agree that things in the world have a way they work, and that the human mind can discover those works, we have agreed that the universe has some sort of relationship to thought. Thoughts consider the way things are put together, thoughts make explanations. There is no scientific evidence of a thinker (though I hear there are arguments for a low level, consciousness principle in the universe), but how else shall we explain the persistent nature of nature, that however mysterious it may be to us presently, it still guides us to believing that there will be an explanation? How could the world be so subjected to the mind, unless it were because something like a mind had been involved in its coming together? Explanations, remember, must work because there are actually features of the world which make the explanations plausible. How can we totally accept the fact that science and reason can explain the world, if we reject the premise that a sort of science and reason had something to do with its making?
Perhaps I have not proven God through empirical study, but I submit the question, if a mind was not involved in ordering the universe, why believe that the human mind should ever succeed? My belief is that there must exist such a force of mind, involved in the empirical world, for otherwise the potential intelligibility of the world is itself, to me, fundamentally unintelligible.