God the Father (represented by an old patriarch with white hair) by Cima da Conegliano, c. 1515

Arguments Why God (Very Probably) Exists

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The question of whether a god exists is heating up in the 21st century. According to a Pew survey, the percent of Americans having no religious affiliation reached 23 percent in 2014. Among such “nones,” 33 percent said that they do not believe in God – an 11 percent increase since only 2007.

Such trends have ironically been taking place even as, I would argue, the probability for the existence of a supernatural god has been rising. In my 2015 book, “God? Very Probably: Five Rational Ways to Think about the Question of a God,” I look at physics, the philosophy of human consciousness, evolutionary biology, mathematics, the history of religion and theology to explore whether such a god exists. I should say that I am trained originally as an economist, but have been working at the intersection of economics, environmentalism and theology since the 1990s.

Laws of Math

In 1960 the Princeton physicist – and subsequent Nobel Prize winner – Eugene Wigner raised a fundamental question: Why did the natural world always – so far as we know – obey laws of mathematics?

As argued by scholars such as Philip Davis and Reuben Hersh, mathematics exists independent of physical reality. It is the job of mathematicians to discover the realities of this separate world of mathematical laws and concepts. Physicists then put the mathematics to use according to the rules of prediction and confirmed observation of the scientific method.

But modern mathematics generally is formulated before any natural observations are made, and many mathematical laws today have no known existing physical analogues.

Einstein Memorial, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. Wally Gobetz

Einstein Memorial, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. Wally Gobetz,  CC BY-ND

Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity, for example, was based on theoretical mathematics developed 50 years earlier by the great German mathematician Bernhard Riemann that did not have any known practical applications at the time of its intellectual creation.

In some cases, the physicist also discovers the mathematics. Isaac Newton was considered among the greatest mathematicians as well as physicists of the 17th century. Other physicists sought his help in finding a mathematics that would predict the workings of the solar system. He found it in the mathematical law of gravity, based in part on his discovery of calculus.

At the time, however, many people initially resisted Newton’s conclusions because they seemed to be “occult.” How could two distant objects in the solar system be drawn toward one another, acting according to a precise mathematical law? Indeed, Newton made strenuous efforts over his lifetime to find a natural explanation, but in the end he could say only that it is the will of God.

Despite the many other enormous advances of modern physics, little has changed in this regard. As Wigner wrote, “the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and there is no rational explanation for it.”

In other words, as I argue in my book, it takes the existence of some kind of a god to make the mathematical underpinnings of the universe comprehensible.

Math and Other Worlds

In 2004, the great British physicist Roger Penrose put forward a vision of a universe composed of three independently existing worlds – mathematics, the material world and human consciousness. As Penrose acknowledged, it was a complete puzzle to him how the three interacted with one another outside the ability of any scientific or other conventionally rational model.

How can physical atoms and molecules, for example, create something that exists in a separate domain that has no physical existence: human consciousness?

It is a mystery that lies beyond science.

Plato. Elizabethe,

Plato. Elizabethe, CC BY-NC-ND

This mystery is the same one that existed in the Greek worldview of Plato, who believed that abstract ideas (above all mathematical) first existed outside any physical reality. The material world that we experience as part of our human existence is an imperfect reflection of these prior formal ideals. As the scholar of ancient Greek philosophy, Ian Mueller, writes in “Mathematics and The Divine,” the realm of such ideals is that of God.

Indeed, in 2014 the MIT physicist Max Tegmark argues in “Our Mathematical Universe” that mathematics is the fundamental world reality that drives the universe. As I would say, mathematics is operating in a god-like fashion.

The Mystery of Human Consciousness

The workings of human consciousness are similarly miraculous. Like the laws of mathematics, consciousness has no physical presence in the world; the images and thoughts in our consciousness have no measurable dimensions.

Comments

Maybe you should be a politician, you wrote an awful lot there and said nothing

stones, you are a savage. i aspire to be at your level of cut throat. virtual claps for you!!!

Thank you

Man created god, not the other way around.
If there was a god everyone would know it, if there was a god you did'nt have to believe in it. It's that simple !!!

Can somebody explain to me why my earlier comment was removed?

OK than, in short, again (...) : what is your definition of 'God'? Is it Allah, Othin, Shiva or one of the millions of other 'gods' that cultures worship(ed)? It's clearly not Jahweh because in the Thora it is said that you shouldn't make images of 'him'. Why not? Because he's not a guy, in the sky, sitting on a cloud.
Maybe you mean that 'God' is - partially - the universe because we know - repeat k-n-o-w - that the universe is the creator of the fundamental laws of nature, most if not all elements, molecules, RNA, bacteria's, plants, animals and .... us! And yes, maybe there's something intelligent in the creation with which we can communicate which physics-experiments seem to show.
So if we want to talk about 'God' we need to get clear what we are talking about; so we first need to define what or who 'God' is.

You forget that the Veda is older than the Jewish religion and there have been excavations made of cities that are as old as 8000 years old Much before the Jewish religion. We should say the oldest living religion in the world is the Vedic religion. Also you did not write about the deep consciousness studies done in the ancient Veda and the Upanishads, that pre-date Buddhism and Confucianism. Yoga being a direct offshoot of such studies and which is very much alive today and practiced all over the world.

riparianfrstlvr's picture

I don't believe in a God, maybe a Goddess, only because it is the female who is responsible for the creation of new life here on Earth, so wouldn't the creator of all life be more "female-like" in nature? that's just me though. i also don't believe in an afterlife either. i have accomplished my goals, engaged my passions, one as a profession. so that said i will die a very contented person. so i really have no need for an afterlife. considering those facts it will take divine intervention to make the afterlife better than this one. on another note, my pets better have a soul and be waiting for me, if not the afterlife holds nothing for me.

riparianfrstlvr

I liked your story, but to put a new twist to it I would recommend that you read, "The twelfth planet" By Z. Sitchen. What he writes makes sense and can really make you wonder.

Sitchen? Seriously?

Kudos to the author.. I believe I will check out his books.

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