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One of the best-known images in the world is that of the Great Sphinx of Giza, situated near the equally famous Great Pyramid of Egypt. But do you know the origin of the Sphinx?
Here’s the story: Over eons of time, swirling winds barreling relentlessly across the Sahara Desert from west to east shifted sand from one place to another. In some spots, the sand formed dunes only to be blown away again by the next storm. Outside of what today is Cairo, and by pure chance, some of the sand descended into a completely random pattern that just happened to resemble the head of a man and a body of a lion. Atmospheric conditions were such that when the sand mixed with a light mist followed by a scorching sun, the accidental figure hardened into what we know today as the Sphinx.
In a sense, the Sphinx had no beginning at all because as far as we know, wind and sand have been blowing around forever. The odds that they would eventually combine somewhere to create the Sphinx are surely astronomical (too many things had to be “just right” simultaneously) but, as Charles Darwin might say, given enough time anything can happen.
This explanation of the Sphinx’s origin is utter fiction, of course. I just made it up. Archeological science, combined with our senses, tells us that the Sphinx had a beginning and a creator and its evolution ever since is the result of a natural process called erosion. The notion that the Sphinx was an aimless fluke demands an irrational rejection of science and senses, as well as a monumental, inexplicable leap of blind faith.
Take this a step further. What if I told you that, as remote as they are, the chances the Sphinx was a random accident are far greater than the odds that human life on Earth could emerge and develop as we know it? What if I said that the greatest-ever leap of blind faith is the non-theist idea that everything—including life itself—evolved out of nothing and had neither a creator nor a beginning?
Consider another hypothetical. If given enough time, one of a thousand orangutans, each one randomly pounding away at the keys of his own typewriter, would eventually produce an exact copy of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I cannot categorically deny the possibility of that. Some mathematicians can probably calculate the chances of it. But are those chances greater than the odds that Macbeth was in fact the product of both intelligence and intent? I doubt it.
“Wait a minute, Mr. Reed!” you might exclaim. “You forgot the important qualifier, ‘if given enough time.’ That allows for all possibilities since time is infinite both forward and backward.”
Origin and Creation of the Universe
Today’s scientific consensus about the origin of the universe, however, no longer accepts the outdated notion that there was no beginning. The evidence emerging in recent decades points with near certainty to a “Big Bang” that started it all 13.8 billion years ago and that the Earth itself was formed about 4.5 billion years ago.
So, the clock is now ticking on those orangutans. Suddenly, time may not be on their side. Several billion years is a lot of time, but it’s also a lot less than infinity.
In his remarkable new book, Is Atheism Dead?, Eric Metaxas explains the profound importance of the Big Bang consensus:
Infinite time was the darling of many atheists who maintained that “with enough time” anything was possible, and therefore the idea of God was unnecessary. Whenever anyone objected that certain things could not have happened randomly and without some “Designer” or “Creator,” those wed to the atheist-materialist position would object that “given enough time” anything could happen. Life could arise randomly out of non-life in the primordial oceans. Amoebas could become redwoods. Aquatic creatures could become flying mammals. It was only a matter of having enough time, for time covered a multitude of sins.
This creaky argument was wheeled out whenever necessary and usually sufficiently quieted those on the other side, so for many decades atheists clutched the notion of infinite time to themselves the way Linus clutched his blanket. It was extremely comforting, especially when other facts arose to challenge their theses. But the eventual consensus about the Big Bang ended this forever, forcing everyone to grow up and face the ugly fact that past time was finite. In fact, we came to know precisely how finite. So whatever one proposed as happening randomly over great periods of time—whether the emergence of life from non-life, or the evolution from amphibians to orangutans—needed to happen within that limited time frame.
The Big Bang suggests finite time as well as a beginning and a beginner, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle of the physical universe and of human life. Even if you posit that the Big Bang was an unplanned accident, you must still deal with something that even more convincingly points to the existence of intelligent design—to, in other words, a “Creator.” It is called the “fine tuning” argument. Science is affirming it with new discoveries every year, and it’s an argument that even the late, diehard atheist Christopher Hitchens admitted was the biggest challenge for atheism.
I turn again to the Metaxas book, Is Atheism Dead?, because the author so beautifully elucidates these matters for a broad, lay audience. He defines the fine-tuning argument this way:
It is simply that there are certain things about our universe—and about our planet—that seem to be so extremely perfectly calibrated that they can hardly be coincidental [for example, the size of the earth, its distance from the sun, the size and distance of the moon, the nanoscience at the cellular level, etc]. If these things were even slightly different, life would not even be possible…But as the decades have passed and science has uncovered scores and scores and then hundreds of such examples of perfect fine-tuning, the odds become far too astronomical to dismiss as luck or coincidence. The overwhelming impression is that the burgeoning welter of perfect coincidences has mounted to a level impossibly beyond anything we can put down to coincidence, so that even the most hostile atheist must at least wonder whether it is all precisely as it is precisely because it was intentionally designed to be that way.
In his book, The Goldilocks Dilemma, astrophysicist Paul Davies reveals dozens of examples of the perfect calibration of forces, materials and properties that make the case for “fine-tuning.” They include the astounding characteristics of the carbon atom, the incredible complexity of DNA, and the remarkable importance of the speed of light. “If you change them even by the tiniest amount,” he says, “the consequences would be literally lethal; that is, they would lead to very fundamental features of the universe being dramatically transformed in a way that would not permit life.”
Is this “proof” of a creator? The Northern Irish mathematician and bioethicist John Lennox believes it’s a question of probabilities. He argues that “the most plausible explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe is that there’s a fine-tuner.”
“Nothing begins without a cause,” posits Boston College’s Peter Kreeft in this short but excellent video, “God vs. Atheism: Which is More Rational?”. “The conclusion that God exists doesn’t require faith. Atheism requires faith. It takes faith to believe everything coming from nothing. It only takes reason to believe in everything coming from God.”
The astrophysicists, mathematicians, cosmologists and other scientists who embrace the fine-tuning argument believe that the odds are strongly and increasingly in its favor. The main alternative view (no beginning, no creator, infinite time) held by atheist materialists is increasingly untenable. It’s tantamount to assuming that we humans won the lottery, not just once but hundreds or thousands of times, or that those orangutans can type out not only Macbeth but also a complete and verbatim edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, footnotes included.
Prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins attempt to get around the fine-tuning argument by postulating an infinite number of universes, hence raising the odds that one as carefully calibrated as ours could emerge. The problem is, there is utterly no evidence of multiple universes. None. The fanciful notion smacks of a desperate effort to avoid the obvious at all costs, as if somehow, it’s more important to be an atheist than it is to embrace what the evidence and probabilities strongly suggest. Dawkins can’t credibly claim to be a scientist if he just makes stuff up to suit his prejudices.
Space does not permit me here to go further into the details of “fine-tuning.”
I encourage the reader to explore the thesis more thoroughly in the suggested videos and readings provided at the bottom of this article.
So far, I have employed the word “God” sparingly in this essay, preferring instead to use “creator” in its place. That’s because “God” has a lot of baggage that flawed and errant humans have attached to the name. Mention “God” and you often evoke the most visceral, emotional, and even unthinking reactions.
Some people don’t believe God exists but seem to hate him anyway, or at least they detest anyone who believes in the evidence and probability of his existence.
Some people are mad at God because he didn’t create things the way they would have preferred. That’s the clay dissing the potter. For the same strange reason, they may even deny his existence. That’s like observing a painting and asserting that because you don’t like it, there couldn’t have been a painter.
Atheist philosopher Sam Harris pompously claims that “the universe is a vastly wasteful way to create life.” If he meets God someday, he can ask him, “What’s all this other junk for—stuff like asteroids and nebulas and the like?” Perhaps God will tell him, and Sam will then understand how little he ever knew about anything.
Other people blame God for the evil that people sometimes commit in his name, exclaiming, in effect, “He should have programmed us like robots or outlawed bad things instead of giving us the options to choose!” Of course, if he had indeed made us as programmed robots and outlawed bad things, these same people would criticize him for denying free will.
If you personally decide, after weighing the evidence and the probabilities, that there is and was a creator, then you can call that entity whatever you want. “God” suffices for me. Next, you should think about which one he is—the god of Christianity, the god of Islam, the god of the Aztecs, the god of an “Eastern” religion, the god of some other past or present faith, or perhaps a god as you uniquely want to imagine him. It’s your decision.
For the sake of full disclosure, I made my decision. I freely proclaim my belief in Christianity. I did not come to that conclusion by tossing dice. I searched, researched, pondered, and doubted—all of which are natural to the process of finding or rejecting faith. I value science and reason and would be very skeptical of any belief system that flouted them. I believe in an ordered universe, not a chaotic and accidental one, and I believe that reason and science are the means the Creator gave us to explore and appreciate it. I also believe that Jesus Christ was precisely who he said he was.
Ask me, “What could I read to better understand how you came to these conclusions?” I would recommend these three books: More Than a Carpenter by Josh D. McDowell; Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace; and How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt. Whether you’re a Christian or an atheist or something else, your beliefs are incomplete without the information and evidence presented therein. Give them a look before you dismiss them.
Christianity and Objectivism
Readers of El American or FEE.org or my various books and articles know well that freedom and free markets are a huge part of my life. I explained in my most recent book, Was Jesus a Socialist?, why the teachings of Jesus Christ endorse the economic, moral and ethical principles that are important to me—principles such as individualism, free enterprise, private property, private charity, and personal honesty. I’ve spent a lifetime building bridges to groups and people who are broadly sympathetic to those principles.
But among otherwise-allies, the emerging science poses a great—perhaps even existential—problem. I refer to objectivists, the followers of philosopher Ayn Rand and her system known as Objectivism.
Rand asserted there was no evidence of God, no reason to believe God exists because reason doesn’t lead us there. Most objectivists (certainly the hard-liners among them) allege an irreconcilable conflict between science, reason, and our senses on the one hand, and the notion of a Creator on the other. It’s as if a man born blind and deaf and were to declare, “Since I can’t see it or hear it, it doesn’t exist.”
Regarding belief in a Creator, the “all or nothing” approach of hard-line Objectivism is hurtling the philosophy toward a dead-end of its own making. Allowing no room for dissent on this matter—by insisting that the Objectivist worldview depends upon a categorical rejection of God—means that sooner or later, thinking people who embrace the growing scientific assurance of a Creator may toss all of Objectivism into the dustbin.
That would be unfortunate because Ayn Rand was so eloquently right about so many things—free markets, sound money, entrepreneurship, the profit motive, individualism, even the importance of reason, among others. One should not have to swear allegiance to atheism to appreciate Anthem or even Atlas Shrugged. But repudiation of Objectivism may be the consequence of the cult-like insistence of extreme objectivists that God must be resisted at all costs. How ironic that a worldview that places reason and science at its center would be hoisted by its own petard, that science and reason would be its undoing.
Orthodox, extreme objectivism has burned its lifeboats. If the ship goes down, it will go to the bottom with it—all because so many objectivists seem to put rejection of God ahead of everything else, even their own professions of faith in science and love of liberty. Write an article about economics or history and include the briefest mention of God and, I can attest from experience, it’ll be the God thing that brings out the long knives of the objectivist extremists. They are the self-anointed keepers of the Rand religion who go by such presumptuous and cowardly anonymous pseudonyms as “Voice of Reason.”
This may be fatal to Objectivism but it doesn’t have to be fatal to either science or liberty because fortunately, both possess a vast literature of their own. Neither has ever depended in the slightest on Objectivism or its adherents.
There may, however, be hope that the best of Objectivism is salvageable. Writing in The Wall Street Journal in November 2016, Jennifer Anju Grossman of the Atlas Society courageously attempted to bridge the divide between her fellow objectivists and believers in God:
Though her atheism never wavered, Rand’s feelings toward religion weren’t simplistic. She admired the brilliance and impact of historical religious thinkers like Aquinas and respected religious freedom, even drafting a speech for Barry Goldwater that included ample references to God… More important, militant atheism doesn’t spring from the pages of Rand’s fiction. If she truly believed that religion was such a threat, where are the religious villains in her novels? Corrupt priests or hypocritical churchgoers are nowhere to be found. It’s possible to read “Atlas Shrugged,” “We the Living,” “The Fountainhead” and “Anthem,” cover-to-cover and have little idea what Rand thought about religion.
Furthermore, an organization called For The New Christian Intellectual (FTNCI) is working to “create a Christian reconstruction of significant parts of Ayn Rand’s philosophical system, correcting the errors inherent in a philosophy such as Rand’s that has rejected Christian teaching.” I find its YouTube channel and some articles on its website, thought-provoking and refreshing. Perhaps this more tolerant and science-friendly perspective may help save Objectivism from its more religiously inflexible advocates.
My apologies to the reader for the unusual length of this essay. If it prompts you to a deeper exploration of the most important of cosmological and theological issues, it will be well worth my time in writing it and your time in reading it.
Bottom line: The Sphinx was no accident, and neither are you. The evidence for a Creator is all around us. It’s been there since Creation.
For additional information, see:
Science Vs God (video):
God vs. Atheism: Which is More Rational? (video) by Peter Kreeft
Is Atheism Dead? by Eric Metaxas
How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin J. Schmidt
The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life? by Paul Davies
Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace
More Than a Carpenter by Josh D. McDowell
Ayn Rand and Christianity by Cody Libolt
Can You Love God and Ayn Rand? by Jennifer Grossman
The Immovable Mover: An Argument for the Egoist God by Jacob Brunton
Lawrence writes a weekly op-ed for El American. He is President Emeritus of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in Atlanta, Georgia; and is the author of “Real heroes: inspiring true stories of courage, character, and conviction“ and the best-seller “Was Jesus a Socialist?“ //
Lawrence escribe un artículo de opinión semanal para El American. Es presidente emérito de la Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) en Atlanta, Georgia; y es el autor de “Héroes reales: inspirando historias reales de coraje, carácter y convicción” y el best-seller “¿Fue Jesús un socialista?”