Is God Dishonest for Designing a Universe Where it looks as if he doesn't exist?

This is a question for those who accept evolution (as I do), but do not like fine tuning and also think a universe made with the appearance of age (light in transit, planted fossils, tree rings, etc, makes God dishonest.

I came across this question posed to Richard Dawkins and his response:

QUESTION: What is your response to the view that some Christians are putting forward that God is the designer of the whole evolutionary system itself?

MR. DAWKINS: In the 19th century people disagreed with the principle of evolution, because it seemed to undermine their faith in God. Now there is a new way of trying to reinstate God, which is to say, well, we can see that evolution is true. Anybody who is not ignorant or a fool can see that evolution is true. So we smuggle God back in by suggesting that he set up the conditions in which evolution might take place. I find this a rather pathetic argument. For one thing, if I were God wanting to make a human being, I would do it by a more direct way rather than by evolution. Why deliberately set it up in the one way which makes it look as though you don’t exist? It seems remarkably roundabout not to say a deceptive way of doing things.

So a mature universe makes God dishonest and objectionable to some.
Fine tuning and every appeal to God in nature seems to be bad “God of the gaps” for some.

If you hold to both of those beliefs:

Is it dishonest for God to make a universe where it looks as though He doesn’t exist?Where everything appears to have happened by chance with no design or long term end goal in sight? Where people just need to base their beliefs on subjective personal experiences that are all too explicable without God?



What would be required in order for a universe to look as though God does exist?


Good point. Maybe if the visible stars spelled out the 10 commandments from our vantage point. It would be tough to say aliens did it.
Another thing, how can you make a universe that makes it look like God did not exist? Certainly, the universe can show no evidence of God, but lack of proof is not proof of his absence.


Is the Bible wrong in saying that the universe does speak to his existence?

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.

Psalm 19:1-2

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I wouldn’t know. I can only speak from the confines of reality as I know it. But God is infinitely more clever than me.

I think your response is failing to consider a key component or assumption in the question. I will elaborate and make it explicit:

Is it dishonest for God to have created a universe that shows no evidence of Himself while He wants us to believe in him wholeheartedly and have a personal relationship with him? That lack of proof is damning enough when we factor in God’s desire to know us.

Paul has a verse in Romans too about God’s invisible qualities. Evolution requires us to keep on chopping bits out of the Bible. Pretend it never meant to say what it actually does and reinterpret things.

It’s extremely easy to challenge and correct bad YEC “science.” But how do you offer a compelling, scriptural and theological out look on the world that maintains core Christian doctrines and beliefs with integrity?


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I think you walk away from sadducees, telling them as Jesus did, “You are badly mistaken”, and shake the dust from your feet. If someone wants to find God, is willing to say they need God, or is interested in or willing to listen to evidence and says tell me more, and if they aren’t daring you to prove God’s existence to them, having already presuppositionally and resolutely denied his existence in their established worldview and habitual thinking, even denying the existence of the supernatural, that is another case. ‘Preach the Gospel to them’ and tell them why you believe in God and what your experience is and why you know he is real and how he has changed your heart and heart’s desires.

The grounds of [true1] belief in God is the experience of God: God is not the conclusion of an argument but the subject of an experience report.

Roy Clouser

What’s the main reason, not reasons, on why you are a Christian? - #56 by RoyC

That experience of God does need to entail objective external facts as comprised in the ‘evidence’ link above, but shouldn’t there at least be objective evidence in your mind and thinking to know that you’ve experienced God? I don’t think mere feelings are trustworthy, and they can be manipulated, either by yourself or by someone else.

Here is a pretty potent example of what I’m talking about, the conversion experience of Phil Yancey, not that they need to be this remarkable. From his Where the Light Fell:


1 As opposed to merely intellectual and impersonal academic assent.

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I guess a lot of it depends on a broader approach to theology. Do I wish God made it clear he existed… yes but I don’t think that would necessarily change very much. I mean the Jewish men and women who rejected Jesus while he was walking this earth preforming miracles in the name of God his father seems to have had all the evidence required to accept it without having to rely on faith and they still dropped it.

So I’m a Christian who rejects all forms of intelligent design. I don’t think God was even working behind the scenes to specifically create humans and I don’t think the laws of the universe was set up to create life. I also don’t believe that people are able to preform actual miracles in the name of God anymore and I don’t believe satanic witches or Nordic pagan Oreo wars exists who can do magic and so on. So I am in the position of thinking there is absolutely zero concrete evidence for anything supernatural. But I also don’t believe that’s always been the case. I think that historically, for most of humans existence supernatural events occurred. I think Moses did miracles. I think Sampson was super strong like a real life Hercules. I think Elijah called down fire. I think Paul was bitten by a venomous snake and survived and that he and the others who was personally handpicked by Jesus and endowed with the power of the Holy Spirit was casting out actual supernatural demonic entities, speaking in unknown tongues and so on. I like think back then people like Balaam, Simon the Witch and the Witch of Endor existed and used supernatural empowerment given to them by a fallen angels. So I think until roughly 2,000 or so years ago around the end of the first century, these things existed. People knew gods existed and what they had faith in was which god was the one true god.

But as the revelations from God given though his prophets and apostles came to end, and all scripture that mankind would even be given was completed I think we went from knowing in part to knowing in full. I think that went hand in hand with Satan being killed and destroyed and all supernatural powers ceasing as the apostles died off no longer to lay on hands.

So I think now the issue of faith we have is are these words found in the scriptures reflective of reality and truth for those alive when they wrote . That’s where fsith comes in. So that may be a unique view among those here, but it’s a very common view among many evolutionary creationist within the restorative movements.

Pascal worried about that 350 years ago:

This is what I see and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and I see only darkness everywhere. Nature presents to me nothing which is not a matter of doubt and concern. If I saw nothing there which revealed a Divinity, I would come to a negative conclusion; if I saw everywhere the signs of a Creator, I would remain peacefully in faith. But, seeing too much to deny and too little to be sure, I am in a state to be pitied; wherefore I have a hundred time wished that if a God maintains nature, she should testify to Him unequivocally, and that, if the signs she gives are deceptive, she should suppress them altogether; that she should say everything or nothing, that I might see which cause I ought to follow.


I’m going to start off by pointing out that once again Dr. Dawkins is parading his ignorance by spouting off in things he knows little to nothing about: when evolution was first proposed, many Christians had no trouble with it at all because they understood that science just reveals what God has done and has been doing, so if the evidence points to evolution then that just tells us something interesting about God.
So while “smuggling God back in” may be true in some cases, primarily Christians who acknowledge evolution are just doing what Johannes Kepler said of astronomy, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him”.

Dawkins problem is primarily that he is so good in his narrow field that he arrogantly acts as though his opinions on other topics are just as valid as his work in evolutionary biology. Someone humble (and the least bit alert about these issues) would have started out by noting that there are plainly Christians who have no problem with evolution for other reasons than what he sees – something evidenced by the Roman Catholic church!

As to his question, I would dispute its validity because I have encountered more than a few people who were initially atheists or agnostics but who due to their study of science concluded that there must be a Designer, and if a Designer then a Creator (since what we observe is not raw design but implemented design), and thus launched into a search for communication from that Creator on the premise that no Designer who made intelligent creatures part of the program would not be watching and interested in what His intelligent creations were up to; plus I’d point out that there are quite intelligent scientists whom he knows who have followed that path so he is being deceptive by claiming that the universe is set up in a way to “make it look like the Creator doesn’t exist”. It may look like that to some, but to quite a few intellectually brilliant people it certainly doesn’t.

As to the questions, I’d start by noting that “to some” is the critical point because “to some” the opposite is true. Thus I find the first question dishonest because it is based on a false premise: God did not in fact “make a universe where it looks as though He doesn’t exist”; what He made is a universe that is sufficiently ambiguous on the question of God’s existence that the only way to find out of He exists is to seek Him and to do so not in the ways we would desire but in the ways He has established – which goes back to those former atheists and agnostics I mentioned who set out to ascertain the identity of the Creator whose existence they had concluded from science: they looked among existing claims of communication from a Creator to assess the best claim. So there’s no dishonesty involved
The second question is more interesting in its presumption: it assumes that we humans are smart enough to be able to distinguish an “end goal” if it was right on front of our faces! I’ll turn to Neil deGrasse Tyson on this one, with his point that the universe is under no obligation to make sense to us and in fact the surprising thing is that we can comprehend any of it at all given that our brains didn’t need to be able to do any more than provide for mere survival. The same point would be true of a Creator; He/She/It would be under no obligation to develop a universe that makes sense to us, so that given the premise that there is a Creator we should be impressed by the fact that She/It./He provided that we can make sense of anything more than avoiding being prey and finding our next meal.
Lastly I’d invoke the “tyrant” argument: any Creator who puts undeniable evidence that It/He/She exists into the creation is automatically a tyrant because if that existence cannot be denied then the typical human reaction will be fear and the best human reaction will be submission to a power beyond contesting – though a fair number would probably defy such a Creator anyway as undeserving of any tolerance let alone obedience.

So I find the questions rather shallow in that they are based on intellectual laziness and a most common denominator approach to the matter.


How about a divine revelation that specified that the distance around a circular brass bowl ten cubits across would be thirty-one and forty-one one-hundredths cubits?

And further stating that this is a holy number that may be found hidden across the heavens and the Earth by those with the wisdom to see?

Yeah, I know that fails because it would only be of importance to people who know the value and significance of pi, which makes it non-obvious to earlier folks – though giving a measurement that precise when all the other people around were at best using ten cubits to thirty-one cubits ought to make people sit up and go, “Maybe this info source really is God”.

The thing is, then, that for something to make God’s reality obvious it would have to do so for all humans however far back God would want to start, and to hunter-gatherers the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter isn’t even worthy of notice; it doesn’t become relevant until there’s a culture that can afford to use valuable resources on making things as large as ten cubits across and can measure precisely enough to get forty-one on-hundredths of a cubit determined.

My thoughts go to astronomy, but there’s another problem there: people in the northern part of the world won’t be seeing the same stars as people in the south, so anything in the skies doesn’t qualify as obvious unless it’s duplicated for both hemispheres. So something identical around each pole star, but then what sort of star pattern would make God’s existence obvious? Everything I can think of requires a society to have reached the level of pictograms at the very least, so pre-writing societies are excluded.

With one exception: planets. It’s not possible to have a planet in a given solar system that is never visible from either hemisphere on a different planet. The question then is: what attribute could be given to a planet that would make God’s reality obvious? It has to be round, to fit the planet; it has to be symmetrical so it has the same appearance to both hemispheres, it has to be obvious…

That last leads to the requirement that this planet has to be large enough to not merely show a disk to the bare eye but to show enough of a disk that some broad detail is discernable. That means something much larger than Jupiter since it will need to take up a chunk of the night sky something like a third of the diameter of the moon. I’ve lost too many math skills to run the numbers on that off the top of my head, so I’ll leave that aside and move to what attribute the planet will need–

The thing that comes to mind is a human eye: if a planet showing a disk to the bare human eye large enough to show anything, simple is best, and the only thing I can think of that would have obvious impact to all human cultures ever is to put an “eye in the sky” orbiting out there. Of course the planet will be rotating on its axis (I can’t conceive of a gas giant that’s tidally locked and has a stable surface pattern), so the eye will come into view and depart from view on a regular schedule, but that’s no trouble; an eye in the heavens is still an eye in the heavens (though if it comes and goes its not quite as indicative of a Creator deity since one would be expected to watch all the time… maybe two planets that appear identical in size and have identical eyes?).
At any rate, I’d think that a human eye looking down from the heavens would announce to every primitive society that Someone Is Watching. That should work long enough that by the time writing comes along God could specify that four-digit precision for pi.

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The whole universe was a mistake. Since evil was lurking in the darkness God should have first dealt with that. But somehow (God knows how) sin(evil) entered this world and now we have this mess.

I would say it’s somewhat “not cool man” kind of premise

Same here.

That makes the question a bit more specific. But different people will also have different ideas of what they would consider “proof.” Even just the existence of the Bible is enough for many.

It would be cool… but for most of humanity, proof of God has not really been an issue. Past civilizations have perceived a god or gods in the sun, the wind, the ocean, lightning, volcanoes, eclipses, the solar system, and the list goes on. I don’t know whether something that appeared to be an eye would be more convincing than what people have always found. The problem for most of history has not been trying to convince anyone that there is someone out there more powerful than us – it’s been more about what is expected of us, and how we are to be in relationship with God.

I’m reminded of the cartoon with the twins in utero, and one turns to the other and says “Do you believe in Mom?” It’s interesting to think about what a mother could possibly do to “prove” her existence to an unborn child, even though she literally holds all things together.

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Since the majority think the opposite, that the universe looks as though God does exist, the question then more reasonably becomes…

Why doesn’t God make His existence more obvious, so that even the most skeptical materialistic atheists will believe it?

The question has been discussed already. This was my answer in this thread

Why there is no proof of God:

  1. All the objective evidence of science only exists as a result of the space-time mathematical structure of the universe, otherwise known as the laws of nature. Therefore you cannot expect something which is not a part of that structure to provide any objective evidence of its existence.
  2. This is not to say that an all powerful God who interacts with the universe cannot make His existence more apparent than He has already. I don’t know that this could ever amount to conclusive proof that people would never find a way to discount. After all, there are people who discount even the evidence of science which is founded on written procedures anyone can follow to get the same result. But if God can interact with the universe as much as most theists believe, then it is reasonable to think God could do something which would convince most of those who don’t believe right now. So we can change the question to… why doesn’t God do such a thing.
  3. If God acts in our best interest then I think we can conclude that this would not be in our best interest. This conclusion is supported by the words of Jesus in Matthew 13, indicating that it is necessary that people be able to avoid the truth if they choose. So apparently, making us believe in that He exists is not God’s highest priority. I can think of several reasons why this might be the case.
    a. A look at our history reveals great deal of evil done by fanatical believers in the name of God. I therefore doubt that it would be in our best interest to strengthen the position of such people.
    b. All through the Bible, the importance of faith is a recurrent message. We can observe there are more unseen things, like love and justice, in which it is also important to have faith.
    c. It should also be observed that it would be very easy for an all-knowing all-powerful being to dominate us completely. Thus if God seeks a relationship of real love with us, then He has to be really careful that this does not happen.
    d. I think it is a demonstrable fact that a belief in God is not of benefit to all people. For a few, the belief in God is even part of a psychopathology. I think this must be the root cause of our separation from God since Adam and Eve, for the only reason a parent child relationship can be broken is when the presence of the parent in the child’s life isn’t in the child’s best interest.

THUS a much much much better argument for atheists to make is this…

If God exists, then since God doesn’t make it obvious that He exists to everyone, then making everyone believe clearly isn’t as important as so many religious people make this out to be. It seems quite likely that other things are much more important to Him. Isn’t it good that some people are focused on these more important things?

Isn’t that subjective though? What things are you referring to?

‘Of course, the Bible verse uses “30” cubits giving the value of pi as roughly 3, despite the imaginative contortions to make it otherwise, and also it was not divine revelation, but a simple approximation from observation, and I am sure known to most craftsman of the time. So, not a real game changer.

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Why would four digits of pi not be a game changer?

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I think he’s questioning that figure and where it came from. (I’m curious as well. ; - )

I have yet to see any bits that evolution requires “chopping out of the Bible” or to re-interpret anything. But then I came to the question of Creation from the perspective of the Hebrew and its ancient literature, so my perspective is not the usual one.

Is there anything you can point out that you think has had to be chopped out of the BIble?

I don’t see the problem. From the perspective of treating the Old Testament as ancient literature I just can’t find any reason that a “compelling, scriptural and theological out look on the world” etc. can’t be offered. The issue I see is teaching Christians to stop treating the scriptures as something they aren’t, and once those scriptures are read as they were intended to be read the problems go away.

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I find that interesting in that when I was in my university days I was part of an informal intelligent design club made up primarily of former atheists and agnostics who due to their study of science had come to conclude that there had to be a Designer and if a Designer then a Creator given that what we see is not raw design but implemented design.
And one of the things we talked about, something that has become more solid since back then it was more speculation, that the more we learn the more it appears that the sort of life we see around us is practically inevitable. I had a prior take on that from an honors course “Form and Function” in community college because one of the things we looked at was how lifeforms on totally different evolutionary paths come up with the same forms because they need the same functions. The latest is that bilateral symmetry in animals seems inevitable, which means that pretty much the entire array of simple forms we see were inevitable. I’m keeping an eye on studies in chordates because if it starts to appear that spinal chords seem inevitable as well then some form of bilaterally symmetrical intelligent lifeforms starts to look inevitable as well. What’s absolutely certain is that the very foundational laws of the universe mandate all the chemicals of life will show up abundantly, which makes life almost guaranteed, maybe not common but sufficiently likely that it would be a surprising galaxy that didn’t have life, including intelligent life, show up. It’s wryly amusing to me since I used to argue that the existence of life showed the action of God in the universe, but as I’ve followed science since getting my degree it appears more and more that God set it up for life right from the moment of the Big Bang.

When I was an assistant in a church in Florida I ran up against Santeria stuff, and whereas before that I was very skeptical about magic being real I became definitely less certain about that as I dealt with curses and spells and the power they had over people’s lives – even in instances where the people didn’t know that a curse or spell had been enacted against them! And corresponding to that I learned that it wasn’t just theory that the Eucharist held the power of God, I found that when the Eucharist was set against Santeria, Santeria was nullified, a lesson that was repeated later when working at a different church.
I think magical power is just hidden from most of society because society is so secular there’s no need for darkness to show any power in order to keep people away from God. But in the “dark corners” it still shows up, both on the side of dark and the side of Light.

Except if you examine records that have survived from the earliest churches that still have documents they list “exorcists” and “healers” and others with spiritual gifts who are recorded as actually having done miracles, and I see no reason to think they were deluded on that point.

Recall that Jesus is said to be the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, and that therefore the Cross and redemption were not plan B. If evil had no purpose, it would not be here. I’d say this goes to a point made by a wise Christian who asked a new father who had previously railed against God for allowing evil, “If you could have what you asked, would you ask God to give your new child free will or to make every step and moment of their life predetermined?” He’s repeated that question, and so far every father has wanted free will for their children.
Free will means evil because it means people can decide against God.