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How Can You Detect God if You Can't See Him?

August 8, 2022 | by Harold Gans

Science is adept at detecting and measuring that which is not directly detectable.

If God be with us, why has all this befallen us? And where are the wonders of which our forefathers told us?” – Gideon (Judges 6:13)

Looking For God

Where is God? The question seems strange. If one does not believe in God, the question is meaningless. If one does believe in God, then one probably also believes that God is not corporeal. He is not located in the space-time of the physical universe. Thus, the question seems to make no sense.

Yet, the question is asked many times, particularly after tragic events.

This question was asked by the great warrior Gideon, quoted above. It was uttered over 3,000 years ago, after years of oppression of his countrymen by a foreign conqueror. In the recent past, the question was asked by those who suffered through World Wars I, II, and the Holocaust. In modern times the question came into focus after events such as 9/11 and the Covid pandemic. The question is being posed by Ukrainians as they experience the systematic destruction of their country.

The Challenge From Science

In 18th century Europe, the Age of Enlightenment saw a dramatic increase in empirical science coupled with the employment of logic and mathematics. Science began to explain the mechanisms behind many natural phenomena and, in some cases, how to ameliorate their harmful effects. Many superstitions were debunked, leading to increased questioning of religious dogma.

The universe and everything in it came to be viewed as a complex deterministic mechanical structure, and all of its secrets were expected to eventually yield to science.

Over time, the question, “Where is God?” became the assertion that since we do not see God or His effect on the human condition, it follows that there is no God. The new science explained how things happen, even if it could not explain “why?” The path to trying to understand “why?” was also eliminated by eliminating God. The universe and everything in it came to be viewed as a complex deterministic mechanical structure, and all of its secrets were expected to eventually yield to science.

Science Takes a Step Back

Science has come a long way since the 18th century. It is now known that the universe is not a deterministic mechanical structure and many scientists have serious doubts as to whether we are theoretically capable of discovering all of its secrets. A celebrated theorem in mathematical logic (called the “incompleteness theorem”) discovered in the 20th century implies that our knowledge of the universe must necessarily always remain incomplete.

In modern times, science has probed the far reaches of the universe and detected elementary particles. It has measured ripples in space-time. It has unraveled the code of life and developed technology for detecting and measuring the unseen. Many people (including scientists) have never reevaluated the question raised in the 18th century concerning the existence of God.

However, there would appear to be an insurmountable difficulty in attempting to verify the existence of God scientifically. How can one confirm the existence of something which is undetectable? Scientific investigation is based on what we can observe, hear, smell, taste, or feel. Modern technology has provided us with scientific instruments such as telescopes and microscopes, amplifiers, and chemical sensors that can augment our senses. However, science cannot detect God with any such instrument.

Seeing With the Mind

Science is adept at detecting and measuring that which is not directly detectable.

It turns out, however, that science is adept at detecting and measuring that which is not directly detectable. One of the simplest instruments, a compass, detects a magnetic field. Even though a magnetic field is not detectable by any of our senses or any instrument that augments our senses, its existence can be determined by its effect on things that we can directly observe. In this case, it is the effect that the magnetic field of the Earth has on an iron compass needle. This is a very simple example. There are many other far more sophisticated examples of detecting the unobservable by their effect on things that can be observed.

Since we can only detect God by examining any effect that He may have or have had on physical objects in our universe, we will start with the universe itself. The laws of physics imply that the universe came into existence from absolutely nothing. There are two possibilities: either the universe was created, or it came into existence by itself. If it was created, then it might have non-random structure. If it came into existence by itself, then non-random structures are absolutely not expected. This is because non-randomness implies purposeful design.

The question we must answer is, can we tell the difference between a created universe and a universe that came into existence by itself? Specifically, can we scientifically demonstrate that our universe has (non-random) structure?

Not By Chance

When we examine various entities in the universe from a scientific perspective, we find that they appear to have non-random properties that make the universe amenable to the existence of life. This is a well-known (and accepted) principle in physics; its technical name is the “Anthropic Principle.” There are a large number of such non-random properties.

One example is the strength of gravity. Were it a bit weaker, stars would not produce enough light and heat for life to exist on any nearby planets such as the Earth. If the gravitational force were a bit stronger, then there would be no stars. Instead of burning steadily over long periods of time as our sun does, they would explode as soon as they formed. Either way, there could be no life anywhere in the universe.

Another example is the electromagnetic force. This force is what causes iron to be attracted to a magnet. It is what makes a compass work. If it were a bit weaker, there would be no atoms. If it were a bit stronger, there would be no molecules. Either way, there would not be any complex structure that could possibly be alive. Even something as simple as water would not exist.

These are just two examples of many, but how do we know that they are not just coincidences? Mathematical physics can measure the amount of order (or disorder) in any conglomeration of objects, including the universe. This measure is called “entropy.” Calculation of the entropy of the universe yields a value that implies that the universe is so well ordered that it is virtually impossible that it could have formed without the direction of some extremely intelligent entity. We see, then, that the structure of the universe itself contains the evidence that implies that it was created by God since there were no physical entities before the creation of the universe.

The structure of the universe itself contains the evidence that implies that it was created by God, since there were no physical entities before the creation of the universe.

A scientific analysis of the structure of all living things leads to the same conclusion. Every living organism on Earth contains a molecule called DNA in its cells. DNA defines all the properties of the organism. It holds an enormous amount of information, even for the simplest virus.

An exact mathematical calculation shows that the odds of the DNA of the simplest known virus forming spontaneously anywhere in the universe since the beginning of time (according to the best estimates of current science, approximately 13.8 billion years ago) are so small that, realistically, it could never happen by chance. The odds are not 1,000,000,000 to 1 (a billion to one) or even 1,000,000,000,000 to 1 (a trillion to one) but a staggering 100000000…… [4,000 zeros!] to 1 (no name for such an enormous number to 1).

Thus, we see that the fundamental structure and design of all living organisms on Earth also point unambiguously to a Creator. It follows that we can unambiguously answer the question of God’s existence in the affirmative using pure science.




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