Neil Shenvi - Apologetics

III. Evidence for God from Science

Although this is a huge topic, I want to briefly sketch a few arguments that I believe point to the existence of God. If you're an atheist or an agnostic tonight, I want you to resist the temptation to simply reject these observations out of hand because they don't "prove God". "Proof" is generally relegated to the realm of mathematics. Instead, I am asking: which worldview is more consistent with these observations? And that's what science does: it doesn't prove things. Instead, it examines the evidence and then seeks to infer the best explanation for the evidence. That is the question I want us all to consider: which worldview better explains these five pieces of evidence. Are these five pieces of evidence better explained by the hypothesis that God exists or by the hypothesis that God does not exist?

A. The mathematical structure of the universe

First, let's consider the mathematical structure of the universe itself. Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner wrote a very famous paper entitled "The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences" [Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics, vol. 13, No. I (1960)] in which he observes that the remarkable success of mathematics in describing the physical world is actually very surprising. He repeatedly uses the words miracle and miraculous to describe this phenomenon. After all, it is not metaphysically necessary that the universe is the way it is. We could conceive of a universe that was wholly chaotic, described by no underlying mathematics at all. We could conceive of a universe that was just partially chaotic, with temporal and spatial regularity sporadically interrupted by chaos. Perhaps the laws of nature in one laboratory are different than in another laboratory. Perhaps the laws of nature on one planet are different than what they are on another planet. But instead, we observe a universe with a deep and beautiful underlying mathematical structure.

But in addition to the mathematical structure of the universe, there is another surprising observation: that we are able to perceive and understand this structure. This fact is also quite surprising. After all, while one might argue that evolution could select for enough intelligence to escape sabertooth tigers or to avoid falling off cliffs, why exactly are human beings -and human beings alone- able to comprehend quantum mechanics or molecular biology? Surely, that didn't confer any reproductive benefit to our ancestors, who would have been far better served by sharper teeth than by the (unused) ability to understand string theory. After all, chimpanzees and dolphins are both very intelligent but have nowhere near the capacity for abstract thought that humans do. Why should we expect human beings to understand science any better than them? As Einstein said: "the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible."

So we have a conjunction of two very surprising phenomena: a deep, beautiful mathematical structure that pervades the entire universe and the remarkable ability of human beings -alone, uniquely- to comprehend this beauty. What explains this conjunction? It is hard to explain why either of these two phenomena would exist in a purely naturalistic universe. But both phenomena fit quite naturally into a universe created by an infinitely wise God who uniquely created human beings in the divine image to perceive and appreciate the world He had created.

Top: Science and religion

Back: Evolutionary conflicts

Next: The beginning of the universe

If anyone reading this essay has questions about it or about Christianity in general, feel free to e-mail me at Neil -AT- I also highly recommend the book The Reason for God by Tim Keller. It is phenomenal. Free sermons treating many of the topics covered by this book can be found here.

Back to home Back to Essays