It Began with An Experience
I think it’s a great question without a perfect answer. I’ve been meaning to respond to this for a while. I personally began with a ‘personal encounter’ that changed the course of my life in a rather sudden and dramatic way. It was not a very ‘intellectual’ thing, and looking back, while I can try to explain away what my experiences with God actually were, I can’t change the events and reactions that I had to such experiences.
I Used to Love Apologetics
I quickly gobbled up all the best Apologetics arguments and was kind of the go to encyclopedia on such matters. I was convinced I had the absolute truth and was ready to reason anyone to it. These guys really were though my hero so to speak that I looked up to and admired for their ability to defend the truth against anything and everything.
Face to Face with the Cosmos
But everything began to change when I first taught a Cosmology class. Being who I was with a doctorate in Physics, I could not actually teach anything to anyone else unless I genuinely understood where it comes came from and why anyone held such ideas to be true. That put me face to face with a giant mountain of evidence that stands with modern cosmology. While sure there are various anomalies or little pieces that require more research, it is certainly by far the most beautiful, satisfying, and precise/testable explanation of creation that I’ve ever come across (while I would say that say genesis 1 for example can be beautiful and moving, it explains very little about the natural world and if it is trying to explain something about the natural world then well it was wrong. I don’t believe that it really was so I don’t have a problem with it).
Facing the Apologetics
So then, where does that leave me with the Christian apologist? Well they tended to exaggerate things or somehow pretend that Genesis actually predicted the big bang theory. I quickly found them all to be antithetical to the science they argue supports them, where they readily insert God into things that we do not have an explanation for: like the matter/antimatter asymmetry, or the origins of the cosmos, or the fine-tuning arguments.
What I Realized About Fine-Tuning
I think the fine-tuning is interesting, but it usually drives me batty in Apologetics. To talk about any probabilities, one needs to know all of the possible choices of which we know absolutely nothing about. Nobody can pretend to imagine that they actually know how and what the odds are of getting certain fundamental Constance or laws of nature. I am thinking in particular of one graph that I saw by Luke Barnes his most recent book… Here is the graph:
In his actual book, he highlights that the area under the curve is the allowable section for making stars or something like that and that area represents only one part in 10 to the 36th power of the actual limits of the graph. He notes that that region is incredibly small, and thus this is part of the fine-tuning type of argument. Now I hope that you could see why such a statement is nonsense, because nobody knows what’s range of values these constants can take and with the probabilities of getting each of those values even is. So you can make the bounds as big or as small as you want, nobody knows and nobody can tell you’re wrong, but to suggest that it falls within some kind of narrow range without even knowing what the range could be is quite confusing to me and I would dare say misleading.
Special Topic: Dark Energy is made by the god of the Gaps
And then, there is the whole dark energy fine-tuning. I couldn’t find for the life of me where this argument actually came found in the first place when I was first learning Cosmology. But the discrepancy is just that what quantum mechanics predicts the vacuum energy should be is 120 orders of magnitude larger than what we measure the amount of dark energy to be based upon the cosmic microwave background anisotropies and type 1a supernova. That’s where this number is coming from where some kind of special mechanism that nobody knows has to cancel out the quantum field energy to a very precise amount. Given that nobody can actually unite quantum mechanics and general relativity yet, it’s no surprise that the two end up producing such large discrepancy. And then we look and say wow this is evidence of God’s handiwork because only God can fine-tune something so precise and cancel out the quantum field energy density. This argument is cool and popular, and thrown around as evidence or proof of God ( but is completely based on a lack of knowledge and is a God of the gaps argument that all the best apologists use. It frustrates me so much). and sure enough, simulations on the universe happen to show things like actually the dark energy value can be 100 times greater or 100 times less and we don’t have any problem whatsoever.
There we go, the evidence for the Creator God I just got weaker all thanks to zealous public speakers and writers who wow and amaze their audiences as they seized up on gaps in our understanding of the natural world. They can’t see it, and they argue oh it’s not the God of the gaps argument, but it really is. That’s all that they really have to argue. And this leaves many of my students very confused who grew up listening to such people where they realize that holy cow we can explain an awful lot of stuff and they never even realized it, and some of them are even left wondering how can they possibly share the Christian message with non-Christians. It’s crazy to me that the message of Jesus has gotten so twisted into attacking science that many people can’t even tell the difference between the two.
My Brute Fact: A Choice by Faith
So where does that leave me today? Well, I realized that everyone needs a brute fact. I will be the first to grant anybody that the laws of nature themselves are sufficient to produce everything that we see here including our universe. Maybe there’s a multi-verse, I don’t really know but think that would be so awesome. But, for me it’s either the laws of nature or some kind of deity are my brute fact. So perhaps the laws of nature are just there, and there a fact that you just accept. Or, my brute fact is that there actually is a creator who fashioned and up holds such laws of nature. And this is where I have no amazing knockouts apologetics, but a simple thing that I choose to believe by faith.
And then even this doesn’t get me anywhere past deism. I personally think that natural theology can only ever bring someone to perhaps a deist position, and anything beyond that also enters this realm of what I’ve discussed as personal experience and faith in a ‘brute fact.’
That’s a lot of stuff, but I hope that it makes at least some sense of where I’m coming from let me know if you have any questions or comments.