Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Only Miracles can be Evidence for the Existence of a God


Here is the conclusion I will demonstrate in this post:

All arguments for God's existence must be based on miracles in order for them to be valid and believable arguments for God's existence.

My definition of "miracle": Doing something that either changes or ignores the laws of physics.

Here is my support for this conclusion:

Imagine you create a video game, one similar to SimLife. Let's just go right ahead and make it 'SimUniverse'. The game looks very much like our universe, there is at least one habitable planet, there is a population of sentient beings on this planet, and it boasts a robust physics engine. The graphics are so good that the sentient beings still aren't sure if they have found a pixel yet (strings?). This pretty much makes you the 'God' of the video game you just created.

You made the 'people' in the game quite intelligent, capable of observing their environment, and able to use logic. Basically, they can do both science and philosophy.

Now, if some of them were curious about whether or not God (in this case you) exists, how could they go about establishing that?

Well, let's say you decided to have some fun and make an avatar for yourself and go and talk to the people you made! You could just walk up to them and tell them that you exist, right? Well, that would actually be difficult because they would probably (and rightly) be skeptical about your claims.

But what if you were like "Hey, I'm God!" and then you screwed with the physics engine (you did a miracle). Then you would be displaying an attribute that only God could possess (the ability to change physics--like creating matter or energy from neither matter nor energy). Then the people might start to believe you (and rightly so).

But maybe that miracle was a fluke? Or a clever ruse, perhaps? Well, you could just keep on doing miracles of various kinds until it was more probable that you actually are God rather than just a really good magician.

Ok, so that is one way for you to reveal yourself to the people. Are there others?

You could also just program them to know about you. That would work as well.

Any other ways?

Could the people just 'discover' you?

I do not think that this could happen. If they were to find something that is a part of the physics engine, then it would just be part of the physics engine. They would say that it is part of nature and describe it using science.

If they were to discover something outside of the physics engine--wait, they can't do that. It is impossible for them to 'go outside' of their physics. They are limited to the game.

What if they were to break the laws of physics themselves? Again, they can't do that. It is impossible for a character in a computer program to do something it is not programmed to have the ability to do.

So, the only way for the people to reliably know that you exist is for you to communicate it to them, either by performing miracles, or by programming them to know about you. Keep in mind that if you do program some people to 'just know' that you exist and program others to not have that special knowledge, that the privileged 'just-knowers' cannot convince 'non just-knowers' without miracles (they can't say "you are also a 'just-knower'). Also, simply programming someone to believe something is itself exerting your ability to manipulate physics, so it is also a 'miracle'.

But the miracles are not limited to just turning water into wine--certainly not! It could be all different kinds of miracles.

A few potential examples have been talked about by philosophers for thousands of years:

1. The cosmological argument: Calling creation a miracle and pointing out that there must be a creator.
--http://honestsearchfortruth.blogspot.com/2011/09/guest-post-further-discussion-of.html
2. The fine-tuning argument: Calling the environmental coincidences in our universe a miracle and saying 'God is the best explanation'.
--http://honestsearchfortruth.blogspot.com/2014/07/my-honors-thesis-on-fine-tuning.html
3. Miracles of foreknowledge: Calling many of the teachings found in, say, the Qur'an, to be beyond human wisdom, and therefore miraculous, and therefore attributable to God.
3b. Divine foreknowledge: Making a prediction that would be impossible to make unless you were God (or given power from God).
4. Good old standard miracles: Parting an ocean, bringing a dead person back to life, doing anything useful with Windows 8. You know, things that can only be possible for God (Steve Jobs).

And so, if any of the people in your video game are going to be able to figure out that you exist using logic and reason (as opposed to raw programming), there need to be observable miracles for them to examine. You can do them, you could have a messenger do them, they can be big, they can be small, they can be clear, they can be cryptic--the physics engine has to be observably manipulated--the rules have to be changed.

All arguments for God's existence based on logic and reason must ultimately be based on miracles. Everything else is just physics.

http://joyreactor.com/tag/miracle

Caveats:

1. I realize that multiple Gods could exist in this scenario. My scenario applies for multiple Gods as well.

2. I'm not making an argument for any God in particular here. I know what all you New Atheists are thinking. I'm not ruling anyone or anything out in this post.

Comments:

A. On a more philosophical note, you may note that I am assuming that it is possible for God to exist. I you are a big David Hume fan, just leave a comment below and we can talk about whether or not miracles are even possible.


B. If you are a Bart Ehrman fan, and you want to talk specifics on the historical knowability of miracles in the past, I feel you. Again, leave a commnote

3 comments:

  1. Hi Josh,
    This is an interesting premise that I hadn't considered before. At first I was convinced but then I thought that maybe there were counter-examples. What if the creator utilized an ability to forecast the detailed outcomes of the physics engine to hide "easter egg" messages in the creation simply by setting the proper initial parameters? For example, the creator could tune the big bang so that at 12PM UTC on Jan 1, 2015, massive landslides occur on each continent which each reveal a massive rock wall whose striations and sediment layers present text in the local native language which explains in detail how the author, the creator of the universe, intentionally setup the universe to reveal this message by tuning the initial parameters. Is this a miracle (because of the initial tuning), or does the fact that this occurred only after billions of years of lawful physics make this a "natural event" despite it's massively apparent teleology?

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    1. Hi Travis!

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment! :)

      I think that the initial tuning constitutes divine intervention, just like the fine-tuning argument. The length of time doesn't matter in my opinion--the observation of the miracle could take place instantly, in a few seconds, or billions of years after, it shouldn't matter! The example you shared definitely sounds like a miracle to me--and I certainly agree that a creator could set things up so that just such an event would happen, if that creator wanted to do so.

      Thanks again for commenting! :) :) :)

      Your blog looks pretty interesting btw.

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