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Existence of God
Introduction

Does God exist? This question is of course at the core of any discussion about religion. Being a scientist, and having not been blessed by the Gift of Faith, I have to resort to reason to investigate this question.

Let's begin with a fundamental question: in what do I believe? I think that as a scientist, I am forced to believe in causality. If there is no causality, than obviously there is no point in science, as nothing can be predicted based on current situation. Therefore I will start my reflection with the hypothesis that causality holds in any situation.

That means absolute causality, which states that all effects have causes, not just e.g. most of them. Note that causality may involve some random chance (e.g. in quantum mechanics) but in this case the probabilities are causal (Probabilistic Causation).

This belief in absolute probabilistic causality is a belief not more proven than a belief in God. As a scientist, however, my impression is that there is overwhelming evidence in support of this belief, and therefore that it is a good starting position until something proves it wrong.

The First Cause

St. Thomas d'Aquino wrote in the 13th centrury five proofs of the existence of God. My favorite is the argument of the first cause that proves that God must have been the cause, or the creator of the universe. It is therefore a form of the cosmological argument, and it is summarized below:
  1. Some things are caused.
  2. Everything that is caused is caused by something else.
  3. An infinite regress of causation is impossible.
  4. Therefore, there must be an uncaused cause of all that is caused.
  5. This causer is what we call God.
For me this argument is sufficient, in the sense that it proves that something super-natural (i.e. outside the nature, i.e. not within reach of measurements or of science) is necessary in order to explain the "start" of a causal universe. It does however not prove anything about this something. In particular, it does not prove that this something has a conscience (it may be a diffuse force) or a will (the creation of the universe may be an undersired side-effect of some action of this something, for instance).

Free-will

Are we machines that produce an "output" (our actions) fully determined by the "input" (our genes, the situation)? Or are we creatures capable of free-will?

This is a key question, of course - without free-will, we are not responsible for our actions (there were programmed), nor can be proud of our achievements. We just live out the foreordained lifes.

Is free-will compatible with absolute causality? One can argue that in the case of probabilistic causation, the causality forces only probabilities and hence that the final outcome is not fully defined, which leaves some space for the free-will. But what cause allows us the effect of "choosing" which outcome will happen?

Again, we need something beyond the usual causality chain. A supra-natural force that allows the selection of outcome (or even the breaking of a causality). This demonstrates in my opinion that the something that St. Thomas named God in his demonstration is still around - it is not necessary only to explain the origin of the universe, but is necessary also for the continuing free-will.

Chracteristics of Monotheist's God

To further answer the question about the existence of God, we have to characterize Him. As understood by most religions, God is not just an amorphous, unwilled and unconscious supernatural force, but a person, aware of His and our existences.

Based on my knowledge of the christian Bible, I think we can partly define some characteristics of God which I assume hold also for most other monotheist religions.
  1. Hypothesis: God is benevolent.
  2. Hypothesis: God can do whatever He thinks is required. He is outside of the causality chain and therefore super-natural.
  3. Hypothesis: God created the humans as rational creatures with free will.
  4. Hypothesis: God is all-knowing, in particular knows intimely his creatures.
  5. Hypothesis: God require love/submission/respect from the humans.
Existence of such a God

Based on the characteristics given above, we can follow this reasoning:
  1. Our free-will (3) allows us to selectively offer God what He requires (5) if we understand his requirements.
  2. To understand God requirements (6) we need first to believe in his existence.
  3. Our being a rational being (3) does not allow us to hold beliefs (7) without sufficient supporting evidence.
  4. God being a supra-natural being (2), it is not subject to measurements and science, hence sufficient supporting evidence cannot be gained by observation and reasoning alone.
This may be disputable. One can assume that it is possible to gain sufficient evidence by the means of observation and reason. But as long as one does not believe in God, He has no incentive to really search for Him. Therefore even if such evidence may be gained, it is not expected that it will be gained.
  1. God is however able (2) to provide suffificent supporting evidence of His existence.
  2. Alternatively, God is able (2) to give people Faith in His existence without providing sufficient supporting evidence in the first place (overrides (8)).
  3. If God gives Faith (11), His existence can be accepted rationally as the presence of Faith can probably be considered by itself as enough supporting evidence.
From those arguments, it is clear that:
  1. Lack of sufficient evidence (10) or lack of Faith (11) forces the reasonable creatures not to be able (7) to meet God's requirements (5).
So in order to fulfill God's requirement, we need help from God - either through the "Gift of Faith" or through enough supporting evidence. But will God provide this?
  1. God being benevolent (1) He would not require from His creature something that His creature can not meet - unless benevolent means something different for God than for Humans, in which case (1) is wrong in human terms.
  2. Therefore, God will give everybody either sufficient supporting evidence or Faith because He can do so (2), He requires our belief (5,7), wants us to be able to meet His expectations (14) and created us such (8) that we cannot hold this belief without supporting evidence or a leap of Faith (13) that only He (9) can provide.
So everything is perfect - God will give us all what we need in order to believe in His existence. The free-will will then allow the person to accept or refuse to love/respect/submit God. However...
  1. Hypothesis: God did not give me Faith or sufficient supporting evidence.
Note that the reasoning passes from the plural we to the singular me, I. I am speaking now of a personal situation. (16) may not apply for other people, and therefore for them everything fits as we have seen above. (16) is therefore given as an hypothesis for my situation - and by extension for the situation of any person that have not Faith nor sufficient supporting evidence.
  1. Therefore either (16) is false or (15) is false, and therefore one of the hypothesis on the characteristics of God (1-5) is false.
  2. If (16) is false, it means I may have missed the point - enough evidence but I did not understand it. However, as God is all-knowing (4), He will know that whatever evidence He presented to me (10) will not be understood or sufficient. Thus He did not fulfill the expectations in (15). It may be also that (16) will prove wrong in the future, but this is not relevant for the conclusion I am holding now.
  3. Therefore at least one of the hypothesis on the characteristics of God (1-5) is false.
For instance, God may not be benevolent and finds it funny to request something that we cannot fulfill. Or God may not be able to do what is required. Or God actually does not care that we know of Him... or more simply, such a God does not exist at all.

Conclusions

It is important to understand that this application of reason shows that it is simply reasonable to believe that a God such as described in most monotheist religions does not exist if you have no Faith nor sufficient supporting evidence. This is a personal situation - some readers may consider that they have enough evidence, or have Faith.

Therefore it is not intended as a Proof of the non-existence of God, because if you had your personal revelation, than it is not reasonable anymore not to believe, obviously!

What it does is actually to put the burden of proof in God's hands: as long as I don't believe in Him - i.e. as long as I was not provided with sufficient evidence or Faith - I am not responsible if I do not honor/love/submit to Him. He is. And based on (1), therefore He will not punish me for not giving him what he requires (5)...



Comments

1. Laurent Cavin, 02.05.2010, 15:04   [reply]
Thanks for any comments!



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