Nature's God

The Creation of Adam
Michelangelo, painted in AD 1512

This will be the first instalment of my new apologetics series.

Today I'll explore logical proof for the existence of God in the laws of nature.

Sadly, in the modern world, especially in the West, there has come a mental disconnect between the God of the Bible and the God of Nature. Too often, they're just not associated, and that is a terrible mistake. Unlike the gods of the Pagan pantheons, in North Africa, the Middle East and in ancient Europe, the God of the Bible claims to be above nature, indeed the author of nature, in other words -- Nature's God.

Americans will be familiar with the phrase from the Declaration of Independence. Nature's God is just what it sounds like. Nature's God is the author of nature, the effects of nature, the laws of nature, and the universe itself. Every galaxy, every star, every planet, and every grain of sand, down to the atomic building blocks of matter itself, are the product of Nature's God. Whoever, or whatever, made these things is God, and even an atheist must admit to that.

Though obviously, the atheist doesn't believe in God, he must believe in nature. Unless, of course, he is an idiot and denies the world around him really exists. (Yes, there are a few.) Still, the intelligent atheist must believe in nature, for the intelligent atheist is a materialist, which means he does not deny what his senses tell him is real. To the intelligent atheist, nature is not denied, nor is the realistic probability that all of nature was at one time "created" or "made." For it could not have always existed in its present state. There had to have been a time when nature did not exist in its present form, and so the question arises not only as to how things happened (which is the realm of science) but also why (which is the realm of philosophy), and by what or whom (which is the realm of religion).

Too often modern atheists (both the simple and sometimes the intelligent) err in the discipline used to explore these matters. They rely on the discipline of science to answer the "why," and the "what/whom," in addition to the "how." Science is not a discipline equipped to handle this. Science is, by design, a discipline regulated toward answering the "how" of nature exclusively. The answer to "why" is, at best, only implied in science (sometimes) and never directly answered. As for "what" or "whom" is responsible for nature; science does not attempt to answer such things because it can't. Science relies on nature to study nature, and cannot address those things outside of nature. It's sort of like trying to use an iron to place a telephone call or use a refrigerator to bake a cake. It doesn't work. The instrument was not designed for the task it's being asked to do. This error is called "scientism," and scientism is by definition, not real science. It's the error of turning science into a kind of religion, and one would think the practice of religion is something atheists would try to steer clear of. Yet, for some reason, more than a few modern atheists end up in this intellectual trap. Real science is defined by the scientific method and real scientists would never lead you to believe that every question can be answered by science. Some questions, particularly those questions concerning "why" and "what/whom," are best left to other disciplines, such as philosophy and religion.

While I have been trained in the sciences since childhood, I am by no means a scientist. However, one doesn't need to be a scientist to make simple scientific observations about nature. Any real scientist will tell you that. By making simple observations of nature we can come to some logical conclusions, and logic begins to cross over into the realm of philosophy once we begin to contemplate the "why" of nature.

The very first observation we make of nature is that all nature operates on some basic laws. Some might call these scientific laws, but science is really just the study of these laws. The laws would continue to exist, with or without scientists to study them. So it might be better to describe them simply as "natural laws" because they are the laws of nature. Now the laws of nature are universal and constant. They're the same here as they are on the other side of the world. They're the same on this planet as they are on Venus or Mars. They're the same on all the planets as they are in outer space. Likewise, these same laws apply to our sun and other stars, as well as the galaxies and the universe. The same could be said of inner space as well. The same laws of nature apply to one molecule as they do to another. The same could be said of atoms. One atom is subject to the same natural law as another -- so also the protons, neutrons, electrons and quarks. All matter is subject to these natural laws. The laws are universal and absolute. It makes no difference what kind of matter we're talking about. The same laws always apply, and they are universal, which means that they're the same from one side of the universe to the other. The laws don't change when you hop from one galaxy to another. The same laws of nature apply and they cannot be escaped. The same is true for both inanimate matter and animate matter. Being alive doesn't give one the ability to "opt-out" of these natural laws. Being a conscious living creature doesn't give one the ability to create its own set of laws. All matter, even living matter, must submit to the same natural laws. Scientists, throughout the ages, have defined these laws. These include such men as Sir Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler and Albert Einstein. The study of these natural laws on a macro level is called physics. The study of these natural laws on a micro level is called quantum mechanics. Currently, scientists are trying to discover a way to merge physics and quantum mechanics into one unifying theory called "quantum physics." Once this is accomplished, scientists will have in their hands a methodology for understanding all natural law. When that day comes, it will be a magnificent accomplishment.

In studying natural law, the scientific discipline of physics tells us there are three laws of thermodynamics. They are as follows...

  • The first law, also known as the Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system.
  • The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system always increases.
  • The third law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches absolute zero.

Okay, first we have to understand that the universe is a closed or isolated system. There is nothing outside of the universe, insofar as matter and energy, so the universe is by definition "universal." There are some people out there floating theories of a "multi-verse" wherein there is more than one universe, but scientists have no evidence of this. As it stands, such theories aren't really theories at all. They are simply conjectures. I would appeal to the atheist's sense of reason here. We must come to logical conclusions based on what is known, not what is conjectured.

The second thing we have to understand is entropy. Now entropy is the tendency of all matter and energy to move from a state of order to disorder. This is what all matter does, all the time unless acted upon by an outside force that produces order. For example, if a room is locked up, with no outside force acting upon it, that room will eventually progress to a disorderly state, even if it takes thousands of years and the furniture gradually turns to dust. The room will never move toward an orderly cleanliness on its own. It must have an outside force (like a housekeeper or maid) to come in and clean the room. The cliche example of the tornado in a junkyard serves our purposes here. If a tornado were to rip through a junkyard, we would expect the state of matter in that junkyard to go from a state of disorder to a greater state of disorder. In other words, the force of the tornado, having no intelligent purpose, simply rips through an area, scattering debris in a disorderly manner. Upon visiting the junkyard both before and after the tornado, we would expect things to have gone from a mess to a bigger mess. If instead, we were to discover a completed Boing 747, perfectly fitted together from the junkyard scraps, we would be surprised. For even if a thousand tornados ripped through the same junkyard, we would never expect to find order developed from chaos. It defies logic. So logic dictates that wherever we find complexly ordered things, we can safely assume this did not happen by matter and energy simply following natural law. Something else must have interjected a force to make such order come about. We call such an orderly force "intelligence."

Now when we look at the universe, which is by definition the ultimate isolated and closed system, we have something incredibly old. Fr Georges LemaĆ®tre gave us the "Big Bang" theory, or the "Theory of Cosmic Inflation," which tells us the universe had a definite beginning. However, this beginning happened a ridiculously long time ago, which is roughly the equivalent of 13.8 billion years. This, of course, would be ample time for all matter and energy in the universe to go from a state of order to disorder. Entropy should have had its way by now. Yet, as the universe progressed to where it is now, instead we see the opposite occur, as everything has moved from a state of disorder to order. That shouldn't happen. It's not natural, and it certainly doesn't follow the observed natural law. Based on the observed laws of nature, we really shouldn't be here right now. In fact, nothing should really be here. The universe should be in a constant state of disorder by now. Yet, instead what we see is the development of incredibly complex systems, all working together according to nature's laws, toward what seems to be a state of even greater complexity. Thus we are left with the only logical conclusion. Something, meaning some kind of outside force, is acting upon the universe to create order. The order may be temporary, in a cosmic sense (lasting billions of years), but the universe is ordered nonetheless. Something outside the universe created this order, for the universe itself could not produce it. Nature's laws prohibit that possibility.

The laws of nature themselves cannot be the product of random chance. Law is, by definition, the opposite of chance and the antithesis of random. The fact that all laws of nature are consistent, throughout the universe, indicates that they themselves are given to the universe and are not a product of it. For if they were a product of the universe, the universe could change them from place to place within itself. For example, my body (being a complex system) and my mind (being an intelligent force) should be able to bend the laws of nature at least within myself, if the laws of nature were, in fact, a part of nature. Such is the definition of magic. We fantasize about such things in fiction. Yet that is clearly not the case. The complex system of my body, and the intelligence of my mind, exist and operate precisely because of the laws of nature, and cannot change or control them. The laws of nature are what give my body motion and my mind thought. They come from outside of these material things, and so the same could be said of all animate and inanimate matter. We are all subject to gravity, electricity, magnetism, motion and radiation. There are yet laws we still don't understand, like for example; why does the universe continue to expand at an increasing rate? This is one of life's mysteries right now. The point here is that the laws of nature are given as a template for the universe to operate in. The universe itself does not appear to produce these laws. So once again, we have an outside force acting upon the universe, this time in the form of laws.

This outside force, whatever it is, would appear to have some form of intelligence. For a law is by definition order, and a law must have a lawgiver. Whatever it is, its power is greater than the universe, for the universe itself is subject to the laws it gives. Intelligence, however, is what produces complex things. In the case of a Boing 747, we have such complexity that we would not hesitate to say a man (or men) made it, rather than the random scattering force of a tornado. What of the complexity of man, however, or any animal life for that matter? This dwarfs the complexity of a 747. If intelligence is necessary to make the 747, then certainly greater intelligence is necessary to make the man who designed it. Man, for all of his intelligence, still has yet to create a single cell of life from scratch. So are we to believe the random chances of nature, with no intelligence at all, did this on its own? Again, the laws of nature come from outside this universe, and the universe itself (via the Big Bang) appears to have originated from outside as well. The complexity of our universe, from the tiniest atom to the largest galaxy, seems to indicate some form of intelligence, especially when faced with the complexity of life and most of all -- ourselves. Some form of intelligence is necessary to explain it all, and that intelligence must originate from outside this universe, not the universe itself. When speaking of an intelligence the correct pronoun changes from "what" to "who" and now we have just crossed over into the realm of religion.

Whoever this intelligent outside force is, all of nature owes its existence (and ongoing survival) to it. Whoever it is, it exists outside of nature and is not produced by it. Whoever it is, it is Nature's God.

For the purpose of this essay, I will stop short of defining Nature's God any further. It will suffice to say that nature has a God, and this God is the Lawgiver that provides nature's laws, as well as the matter and energy used for complex systems that operate within these laws.

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com.' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.

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