A common claim is that science cannot reveal gods. However if a god created the universe, this would have a direct bearing on science. This article examines the possibility and implications of a universe created by a god. We examine whether science can prove god exists.
When speculating on possible gods we can ask the following questions:
– What possible gods are compatible with our universe?
– Given a specific god, what sort of universe should we expect? What is possible, probably and impossible?
– Can our universe be reconciled against any of the popular gods?
In my last article I presented why scientific methodology is the best tool to understand the universe. Even putting aside the scientific theories this develops; at the very least it provides a reliable way of gathering data about the universe. For example we know that the universe is at least 13.7 billion years old (because we can see the past). We know that life on Earth has been present for at least 3.5 billion years, has gone through several mass extinctions, and has increased in complexity over that time.
Given the known facts of the universe, we can speculate on the possible gods that would result in the universe. Any possible gods that contradict the facts of the universe can be rejected as incompatible with this universe.
Definitions and scope
God- For the purposes of this article, the definition will be an intelligent creator of the universe
Deist god– A god that does not interact with the universe
Interactive god– A god that does interact with the universe
Purposeful universe– A universe created for a specific purpose
Aimless universe– A universe created for no specific purpose
A god that creates a universe may or may not have an objective for its creation. Why would a universe create a universe without a purpose? Consider the following example: Imagine if every test of the large hadron collider resulted in new universes being formed. Undetectable in our universe, the scientists would be the deist gods of these universes, which were created as a by-product of another purpose. So we shall include purposeful and aimless universes in our analysis.
Tied closely with this is the competence of a possible god. If they had an objective, were they an infallible god that doesn’t make mistakes with its creation, or like our unwitting scientist-gods, were they fallible? A fallible god that creates the universe for a purpose at worse case would look the same as an aimless universe, so is covered by existing cases in this analysis.
If a god created the universe, then we would expect the universe to reflect this. All science on how the universe began should converge on the inevitability of the need and method of a creator. However if a universe does not need a creator at all, then a creator becomes superfluous.
As covered in my last article, despite anthropic bias telling us otherwise, there is nothing in the laws of physics that requires a cause to the universe. So even on this point, gods are superfluous.
Form follows function- a universe of purpose
If the universe was created with a purpose, then the form of the universe should reflect its intended function. Because of this we can conclude that there would be evidence to support not only the origin from a god but also that god’s objectives.
If the universe was created without an intended purpose, then we do not expect to find a specific purpose. Of course just because we cannot identify a specific purpose, does not mean that no such objective exists.
In the universe was created for a specific purpose, then everything and every life form within that universe would be created to achieve that function. Given an infallible god, the meaning of life and creation would be self-evident in all things and all beings. The universe would inevitably converge on the objective of the god. The only possible outcome of the universe would be to achieve God’s intended outcome. We would expect science to ultimately converge on this meaning and evidence for a creator, because it would be evident in absolutely everything. All science should lead to the truth. Given that everything and everyone would be part of that objective, it shouldn’t even take science- we should expect it to be obvious, logical and unequivocal; after all it would be our function also.
The specific case of life as a test
A frequent claim of the objective of the universe is as a test- a prerequisite for an afterlife. As humans we test our creations because we are not omniscient, perfect creators. We cannot tell until we try them whether we have made our products correctly. Such a claim is an insult to an infallible god. The idea that this god could not simply implement the final reality that it desires, but instead needs to go through a prototype is also an insult. A god could simply create the beings as he wants them without creating the rejects.
One attempted rebuttal of this type of analysis said that the god could then be accused of not giving the rejects a fair chance. This is patently absurd- the “rejects” would never have existed. Even if the process was run (for say 10,000 years), we could simply “accuse” the god of not running it for another 10,000 years to give more non-existent people a fair chance at salvation.
A further problem to the test hypothesis is the requirement for free will. As created beings within a universe, our method of thinking would be 100% the design of the god- either directly or as an inevitable consequence of the original design. Our feelings, desires and willpower would also be. Everything we could possibly think about would be based on the god’s design.
To make matters worse, free will implies the free ability to make decisions. We make decisions based on our desires. We do not choose are initial desires. If we wanted to change these desires, it would be a desire to do so- the very desires that control our decisions! Decisions require desire, and a change of desire requires a desire and a decision. While this decision can be made, this loop means we can never break the cycle of dependency- therefore free will is actually an oxymoron.
Deist versus interactive gods
A deist god is unable or unwilling to interact with its universe. Since an infallible god could create a universe that runs exactly to plan, there would be no need for interaction. Consequently this is a logical expectation. This doesn’t prevent a perfect god wanting to interact, so that is feasible as well.
Interaction however requires a physical action. The god is no longer just a metaphysical entity- it is now the subject of science.
Interaction to communicate
If we consider the special case where a god requires (as part of its purpose) for us to know it exists, then we shouldn’t need to search at all. Every life-form who needs this knowledge should have this knowledge. It should not require a dependence on who you know, where you were born, your intellect or age. If knowledge of god is a requirement of an all-loving god, then this knowledge should be unequivocal for all life-forms (or at least all people). Since this is not the case in our universe, we can dismiss any possible gods that require us to believe in their existence.
Religions that provide patchwork solutions to this problem, such as children who die getting an automatic pass into Heaven, or entire civilisations that don’t have access to a book being exempted, imply a failure of design unworthy of the infallible gods we are considering. If a god only needs to reveal itself to a handful of people, then only that handful of people should need to believe. It is unjust and unloving to punish others who were not favoured.
The footnote of my previous article explained why we would expect such a god to provide direct revelation- possibly directly to the mind. This would be difficult, but not impossible to detect scientifically. The article also explained why we would not expect communication through any form of book. As explained above, this would be unloving and unjust, not to mention untrustworthy, inefficient and unreliable.
Other forms of interaction
Interaction could be mundane, such as a god that manifests itself as a human, undetectable as a god. Some interaction however would definitely be detectable by science:
– Prayer: A god that frequently answers prayer would be statistically measurable. Large scale scientific studies have shown no positive effect of prayer, so god’s that answer prayer can be dismissed.
– Prophecies: Documented prophecies would also be statistically measurable, yet no Nobel prizes have been issued for predicting the future.
– Miracles: a genuine miracle would defy the known laws of physics. Events that are possible but just highly improbable can be included, but they would have to exceed the statistical probability to be even considered as possibly metaphysical. Given the population of the planet, rare events are happening daily. For every person who lives to tell about their miraculous escape, another body lies is laid to rest, unable to speak about their absence of miracles. True miracles would be both statistically measurable and the subject on ongoing scientific investigation.
Interactions that are indistinguishable from placebo are no different to no interaction at all.
From the above we can summarise as follows:
– A deist god with no purpose could only be suggested if science determined that the universe needed a cause.
– A deist god with a purpose also needs a cause to the universe. In addition we would expect to find an obvious, convergent objective when studying the universe.
– An interactive god without a purpose needs a cause, and the interaction should be scientifically measurable.
– An interactive god with a purpose. A cause, the purpose, and the interaction should all be scientifically measurable. Such a god should be the easiest to detect- it should shine like a beacon in nearly all science. In an age where we can detect neutrinos and the Higgs boson, a god that wants to be found and believed in should be obvious and overwhelming to all beings.
All categories of gods that we have presented are possible; however we have eliminated certain objectives of gods due to incompatibility with our observed universe.
If a potent and purposeful god exists, the universe cannot help but fulfil its objective. Consequently, the truly faithful people should be the most laid back: there is nothing to worry about. Science would ultimately converge on this meaning and evidence for a creator because it would be evident in absolutely everything. All things and all lives (and so including all types of people) would be part of that objective. This begs the question why so many religions are eager to convert whoever they can, and look down upon those they cannot.
We do not have a scientifically confirmed need for creation, a purpose, or interaction. If there is a god, it is unable or unwilling to be found. (Or at best case, the purpose of life is one big game of Where’s Waldo. This however does not explain the entire universe and all animals.) We can thus eliminate potent gods that want us to believe. Salvation through belief is eliminated as a possible option. The need to worship is also eliminated. A god that wants to have a relationship is eliminated.
This eliminates the popular gods. We are left with making up new gods.
We see that all possible gods are well within the scope of scientific investigation. The claim of a god should therefore be evidence-based to a scientific standard, and would not require an appeal to faith. If a god existed then the scientists would be leading church sermons- and it would be an agreed science.
The atheist perspective short cuts the entire analysis above: in the absence of scientific evidence for the need for a cause of the universe, a unified purpose, or an interactive god, there is no basis for the claim of any gods- the concept can only originate in the imagination. All speculated gods are therefore the result of fantasy.
Footnote 1: how to spot a true religion
From the above, we can determine the signs to expect from the one true religion:
1- Your religion does not rely on faith. Faith is only relevant in the absence of evidence. If you have no evidence then you have no substance to your belief. (Faith denies justice, as it does not allow people to choose based on evidence. A god that demands faith is not loving or just)
2- Your religion is completely compatible with agreed science. Science is simply a systematic process of measuring reality. If your religion disagrees with the facts then it is fiction.
3- Your religion completely includes and explains all types of people and life-forms. This is an extension of point 2. Killing in the name of God is a tautology. Belief and understanding is not biased towards a particular culture, character, intelligence, sex, as well as disability, illness etc.
4- The meaning of life and creation is self-evident in all things and all beings. Consequently- The only possible outcome of the universe is to achieve God’s intended outcome. Blasphemy is a logical absurdity. Science would ultimately converge on this meaning and evidence for a creator because it would be evident in absolutely everything.
5- God’s message does not require a minion as a publicist or a human-based means of communication, whether a holy text or prophets of any kind: a creator does not have difficulty communicating directly to all of its creations- the most effective, reliable, authentic means to communicate.
6- If knowledge of God is important in the religion then everyone without exception is aware of God without doubt, exception or equivocation. If speaking to God is important, then everyone is aware of this ability without exception. If listening to God is important then everyone is aware of God’s voice without exception or the need for an intermediary (see point 5). If following God’s laws are important than these laws are innate, in alignment for all and unequivocal.
7- If interaction or intervention (such as prayer for change) is supported by the religion then that activity is statistically measurable.
8- If the religion had prophecy this would be 100% correct and prophecies would be unequivocal.
Footnote 2: How to spot a false religion
Any one of the following indicates a false religion.
Faith is only relevant in the absence of evidence. If you have no evidence then you have no substance to your belief. A real god has no need of faith.
2- Indirect communication
False religions must speak through human means because there is no God to speak for itself. A real creator that had something to say could talk directly to its creations, and logically would do so: it confirms the message is true, it confirms the god is just (doesn’t play favourites).
Indirect communication is often in the form of prophets, seers and Holy texts.
3- Incompatibility with the observable world and science
Science is simply a systematic process of measuring reality. If a religion disagrees with the facts then it is fiction. Science is not always correct but it is self-correcting. It converges on reality. A real religion would describe that reality. False religions are created without a thorough knowledge of the universe, so inevitably they fail to describe the real world.
4- Incompatibility with all people and lifeforms
A real creator of all things would not favour some cultures, races, sex, abilities etc. over others.
A real god would not punish its creations for how they think, what they feel, how they behave. This is because the creator would be the designer of all these things and is responsible for how they work. There is no mechanism for the creation to operate independently from its design. A real god would be 100% responsible for its creation.
6- Form fails to follow function
The purpose of a creation is evident in the form of that creation. A perfect designer creates a design to operate perfectly towards its function. False religions have stories that don’t accurately explain the forms we see (this is an extension of point 3). For a real religion, the meaning of life and purpose of creation would be self-evident in all things and all beings. Consequently- The only possible outcome of the universe is to achieve God’s intended outcome. Blasphemy is a logical absurdity.
7- Indistinguishable from placebo
Most religions claim their god has power. Any such interaction with the real world (such as occasionally answering prayers) would be statistically measurable. The more powerful the god, the easier it should be to measure. This is a simple mathematical and scientific process.