God new evidence

GOD: new evidence


Beyond Ourselves

What's in the series?


(1) Consciousness and the Turing Test

The Turing test is a famous test for artificial intelligence. People often misunderstand it as a test for whether a machine is conscious. But it is not. It is a test of a machine's ability to process information. This does not say anything about whether the machine is conscious.


(2) Are Robots People?

Are robots people?  Are they conscious? A robot is just an advanced computer, and most of us probably would not say that a computer is conscious. But consciousness is a real problem for people who think we are just atoms and molecules.


(3) Computers made of meat?

In the past, people called computers ‘thinking machines’ because they seemed able to copy human thinking.  But now we have turned things round, and say that people are nothing more than computers – computers made of meat. But there are huge problems in this way of thinking. One problem is that it cannot explain consciousness.


(4) A different view

There are two completely different ways to describe us: there is what a scientist can see when she studies your brain, and there is your personal experience. Your inner world includes things like thoughts, hopes, fears, memories and plans. No-one else can know what you are thinking about, or hoping, or fearing, just by looking at what your brain cells are doing. 


(5) Thinking about things

You are conscious about things: you see something; you think about something; you want something or you are afraid of something. Being conscious has an object. But how can an arrangement of atoms and molecules in our brains be about anything?  There must be something else going on – something that connects a particular arrangement of atoms with, say, thinking about what I’m going to do tomorrow.


(6) True or False?

What we experience personally, as conscious human beings is totally different from the scientific description of our brain cells and chemicals. For example, what we believe can be true or false.  But how can our brain cells and the chemicals in our brains be true or false? They are just facts of biology and chemistry.


(7) Consciousness - an illusion?

The well-known atheist Daniel Dennett claims in one recent book that consciousness is just an illusion – an illusion that helps us to monitor and manage ourselves, and to deal with one another, but still just an illusion. But this claim does not make any sense: who, or what, is having the illusion of being conscious, if it is not a conscious person? My own being conscious is the one thing I cannot be deluded about.


(8) Consciousness - a performance?

David Eagleman claims that ‘Consciousness is a performance our brain puts on for us.’ But what does this even mean? What could it mean? Who is the ‘us’ in this sentence? It has to mean a conscious observer – otherwise it does not make any sense. But if it is a conscious observer, then the claim is nonsense: 'consciousness is a performance put on for consciousness.’


(9) Consciousness - a side effect?

Is consciousness a side-effect of brain activity? Brain scientists often claim that we can now understand how consciousness emerges from brain activity. But this is not true. Although what we know is growing every day, there is still a huge amount that we do not understand about how the brain works, and about the relationship between the brain and consciousness. 


(10) Giving chips a 'brain scan'

Researchers used 'brain scanning' techniques to examine a computer chip.  Their research failed to show up many vital structures in the chip, and showed up some 'false positives' that were not really important.  This should make us cautious about how much MRI scanning really tells us about how our brains work.


Ability to think

(11) Darwin's horrid doubt

If evolution is true, our thoughts may be good for helping us to survive and reproduce, but there is no guarantee that they will be any good at finding the truth. In fact, for the naturalist (who believes there is nothing except the physical world), things get worse: If naturalism is true, the thoughts in your brain are caused by atoms and molecules interacting – by chemicals and electric currents. But if they are caused like this, why should they be true?


(12) No need to believe!

Evolution does not need true beliefs: all it needs are beliefs that will help a creature to survive. But things are even worse than this for naturalism. Evolution does not need any beliefs at all:  What is important for a creature to survive is what it does, not what it believes. It must avoid threats, find food, and reproduce successfully. But there are all kinds of creatures, like worms and bacteria that do this without having any beliefs at all.


(13) True Beliefs?

If our ability to think is just the result of Evolution it may help us to survive, but it will not necessarily help us to know what is true. Many people have recognised that we are not biologically hard-wired to look for the truth.


(14) He Just Can't Help It

If naturalism is true, we cannot trust our own thinking. But this includes our thinking about whether naturalism is true. For example, the atheist writer Sam Harris claims in his book 'The Moral Landscape' that we are not responsible for what we think.  But is Sam Harris responsible for what he thinks? If not, he just cannot help thinking that… we are not not responsible for what we think. So why should we take seriously anything that he says?


(15) Time for an Alternative?

If we are just atoms and molecules we cannot trust our brains to know what is true – and this includes knowing whether we are just atoms and molecules. So naturalism cuts off the branch we are sitting on. We cannot live like this. No-one lives as if their thoughts are irrational. We all live, every moment, of every day, as if our thoughts are based on truth and reality. So  naturalism is self-defeating, and we cannot live with it. Isn’t it time to see if there is an alternative?


(16) In the image of God?

What is the alternative to naturalism? The Bible says that we are 'made in the image of God.' This means that we are like God in a small way: we are personal because God is personal; we are rational because God is rational: we are creative because God is creative; we can be loving because God is loving, and so on. Which explanation covers the ground best? Which fits better with who we really are?


Right and Wrong

(17) Genuine Right and Wrong?

Between 1940 and 1945, more than a million people were killed in the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau. Many people in Nazi Germany at that time thought there was nothing wrong with what was done there. Today, we think it was a dreadfully evil act of murder. We do not really believe that society decides what is right and wrong. Whatever we say, we do think there is a standard of right and wrong outside of us, over and above what society tells us.


(18) Are Right and Wrong real?

Are there some things that really are right, and others that really are wrong? For example, most of us would say that torturing a baby is completely wrong, always and everywhere. Philosophers talk about ‘objective morals’ – things that are right or wrong whether or not anyone believes them. If objective right and wrong exists, we do not invent it, we can only discover it.


(19) Where does our sense of justice come from?

Evolutionary biologists have tried to explain where our sense of right and wrong comes from in terms of natural selection. But even if they can explain how we have a sense of right and wrong, they cannot explain the existence of genuine right and wrong.


(20) Can we be wrong about right and wrong?

If we can be wrong about right and wrong, there must be something more to right and wrong than what a particular society says, or what a particular individual believes. There must be something outside the individual or the society that makes things right or wrong.


(21) Two reasons why right and wrong are real

One reason to think right and wrong are real is that when we argue about what is right or wrong, it certainly seems like we think there is something real, outside of ourselves, that we are arguing about. Another reason: can society make progress over right and wrong? (Think: slavery, racism, sexism, homophobia). If there is no such thing as real right or wrong, there may be change, but there cannot be progress.


(22) A contradiction at the heart of atheism?

Can there be real good and evil, if we are just atoms and molecules? Many atheists say that there can not.  The problem is that we may say that good and evil are not real, but we cannot live consistently like that. In practice, all of us acknowledge that some things really are right, and others really are wrong.


(23) Science and moral values

Science can tell us more about how our brains work. Maybe it can tell us more about what makes for our wellbeing. But it still can not bridge the gap between the way things are and the way things ought to be.  It cannot tell us that we ought to value the well-being of other people.


(24) Could our sense of right and wrong have evolved naturally?

Could our sense of right and wrong have evolved naturally, without any need to appeal to anything beyond the physical world?  Evolutionists try to explain it in various ways, but these are all forms of selfishness that just happen to involve helping someone else as a side effect.  Evolution still has a problem explaining genuine altruism.


(25) Can evolution account for right and wrong?

Evolution can explain why we think there is such a thing as right and wrong, but it cannot explain why there really is such a thing. It cannot show us how there can be facts about right and wrong. It can only show us how we come to believe that there are such facts.


(26) Is Evil Real?

Is there real evil in the world?  If we are just atoms and molecules, how can we explain the existence of evil?  So is there an alternative? Could right and wrong be pointers to something beyond ourselves? Is it even possible that they point to the reality of God?


(27) A mistake we were born to make?

If naturalism is true – if we are nothing but atoms and molecules – natural selection has programmed us with beliefs that are important, but false, such as our belief in real right and wrong. This means that we cannot trust natural selection to program us with true beliefs. But in that case, why should we trust any of our beliefs – including our belief that we are just atoms and molecules? The snake of naturalism eats its own tail.


(28) What we are not saying

We are not saying that if someone does not believe in God they cannot know what is right or wrong,  or that they cannot have good reasons for their choices about right and wrong, or that they cannot be good people. But we are saying that if someone believes we are just atoms and molecules, they cannot have good reasons to think that some things are right and others are wrong.


(29) A Sense of Guilt?

When we do wrong, we have a sense of guilt. If we are only atoms and molecules, this sense of guilt does not make any sense. But is it possible that this sense of guilt points to something real? Is it possible that there really are standards of right and wrong, which come from God, and which we fail to keep?


(30) Life After Death?

We have a sense of justice, and a lot of what happens offends this sense of justice. We long to see things put right – but we know that this is not going to happen any time soon. Could this sense of justice, and this longing for things to be put right, point towards a life beyond death, where justice will be done? This is not an argument for an afterlife. But could it be a pointer?



(31) Born Believers?

There is a growing body of evidence that we are 'born believers' – we are naturally inclined to see design and purpose in the world. This makes it easy for us to believe in God or gods, even as children. It is our 'default setting.'  Could human spirituality be another pointer to a reality beyond ourselves?


(32) A Natural Explanation?

Justin Barrett found that children are naturally inclined to see design and purpose in the world.  Some researchers claim that evolution has programmed us to see purpose in the world even when there is none. This is called hyperactive agency detection, and the suggestion is that it could also explain away why people started to believe in God or gods.


(33) Naturally Religious?

Are we just naturally religious? Can science explain away our spirituality? Maybe our spirituality developed naturally - but isn’t it possible that we are spiritual people because there really is a God who has designed us to recognise his activity in the world?


(34) Can we trust what we think?

If naturalism is true, there are two huge areas where nature has given us false beliefs: morality and spirituality. But if we can be wrong about this, what reason do we have to trust our thinking at all? If we cannot trust what we are programmed to believe, what reason do we have to think that naturalism itself is true?


(35) Too much to explain away?

In this series, we have asked whether there are things about human nature which we can not explain if we are just atoms and molecules, but which make sense if we have been made in the image of God.  Is there too much about human nature that naturalism cannot explain, but can only explain away? Is it time to explore the alternative – that we have been made by God, to know Him and be known by Him?


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Test of Faith

‘Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan.’
- Nobel Prize-winning scientist Arno Penzias