Theology for the Masses

November 16, 2006

Is there a Numinous?

Filed under: Existence of God,Philosophy,Religion and Science — Henry Imler @ 12:20 am

Is there a God? This is one of the most fundamental questions ever put forth in the history of humanity. Within this question and its follow-ups lay the greatest fears and hopes of mankind. It is a universal question. It is a question that every single human has asked himself at one point or another. Three basic answers have been put forth; there is a God, there is not a God, and one cannot know if there is a God or not. These answers really deal with the two following topics. First, can one know if God exists? Secondly, does God, in fact, exist?

Before one can tackle the question, �Does God exist?� it must be known whether or not that is an answerable question. The principal topic in the discussion is the gulf between the mind and the outside world. If that gulf is bridgeable, then there is hope, however if the void is too wide, then one is left floating in a sea of subjectivism. How is one to know if the gulf is bridgeable? For starters, the senses would have to be able to correctly perceive the world. Secondly, the mind would have to be able to make sense of the perceptions and match them with the realities of the physical world.

Are the senses to be trusted? The answer is yes. As evidence of this all one must do is conjure up the memory of the morning walk from the bed to the shower. Think back and replay the events of this morning. How was this great feat of navigation accomplished? Surely one did not simply flow to the shower from the bed like water down plumbing. Nor did one constantly bump into obstacles until the destination was stumbled upon like a blind man fumbling for his cane. Instead, the sensory input from the real world was taken in by the eye, skin, and nose and the mind was able to translate this input into information and in turn was able to direct itself to the shower. The above example gives us proof that the mind has at least a window in to the world.

Can the mind make sense of reality? Again the answer is yes. Wipe away the previous image of the trek to the shower. Instead imagine a man preparing for a Civil War reenactment down on some grassy field in Georgia. Our man observes a cannon being shot and makes observations of how far the ball lands each time it is shot. He takes measurements of the distance the ball was thrown and amounts of powder used in the shot. He infers a relationship between the two and begins to plot out a way to represent that relationship. He comes up with a formula that should predict the behavior of the ball being blasted out of the cannon. Upon testing his hypothesis he notices that there are variances between his predictions and the results obtained. One by one he isolates variables such as, air resistance, wind, density and size of the ball, rotation of the earth, and so forth until he is able to make accurate and precise predictions of the behavior of the ball. Not only has our man been aware of what was happening; he is able to understand the principals behind what was happening. He is able to predict the future behaviors of certain objects. These objects, our man labels �natural objects�, objects that do not have a choice in what they do, but instead follow a set of rules. In doing so, our man demonstrates that the human mind can indeed make sense of this universe it is trapped in.

In light of the two above passages, it may be safely assumed that the pure skeptics wrong, and that humans have the natural ability to discover their universe and understand it. If humans are able to piece together the workings of their universe, then they should be able to determine if a God exists. Now the topic maybe turned to the second question: �Does God exist?� The word God is perhaps better termed numinous, for that word is a general term, more fitting to the journey of discovery being undertaken here. There are two possible routes a person could take at this stage of the journey. One could ask, �What would a universe look like that was created by a numinous?� On the other hand the question could be asked, �Do the properties of the universe we find our selves in necessitate the existence of a numinous?� The first approach shall be excluded; on the grounds that it lends too much towards an anthropomorphication of said numinous.

Our man from the field in Georgia staggered into the realm of science. In doing so he discovered for himself a set of rules that govern the universe. Having gone to a couple of civics classes in college, he also learned that the rules that govern our country were not arbitrarily set, but instead chosen and for the most part fit together into the machine of society. On his way home from the mock battlefield, his mind wanders from the honky-tonk seeping from his F-150 to the matters of the cannon balls and civic classes. He begins to wonder if there is the same connection between the laws of society having a framer and the laws of nature having a framer.

Is there an implicit connection between the natural laws that govern the universe and the existence of a numinous that actively frames the natural laws? If the connection can be shown then one can say with reasonable certainty that a numinous exists. Those that would favor an existing numinous would say that the fact that the natural laws operate and are balanced in such a way to allow the development of life is sufficient proof for an intelligent framer of the natural laws. However, some in the scientific community have replied to the previous statement with the notion of the Anthropic Principal. The Anthropic Principal states that the universe is the way it is because if it had any other configuration it could not harbor life. It is science�s way of saying that out of all the possible configurations of the universe, we are able to see this configuration because it allows our existence. It was a great coincidence that the current configuration was the right one. This seems to explain away in one fell swoop the necessity of a numinous. However, concerning the physical development of the universe science can only explain history up to the very act that created the universe: the Big Bang. What science cannot tell us is how this event happened. Events near the Big Bang cannot be predicted. Stephen Hawking states in his book, A Brief History of Time, that as one traces his way backward to the Big Bang there is a point where all the natural laws of the universe break down. Beyond this point science cannot predict what is happening because the foundation that science is based on is natural laws. Therefore, science leaves open to conjecture the opening pages of the universe�s history. It is at this point we can infer that there must have been a creative force to �jump start� the Big Bang. In addition, if there was indeed a force that created the ingredients necessary for the Big Bang, then it is highly likely that the same force crafted the natural laws to allow the existence of intelligent life.

The other main �proof� for a creative numinous is that of life. It is said that life is incredibly complex and configured and therefore must have had an intelligent creative force behind its development. Once again science has a rebuttal waiting in the wings. Its response is the theory of evolution. The theory states that �all the living things of today are the direct descendants of earlier, rather different, living things; that these in turn were descended from still earlier forms of life; and so on, all the way back to the first primitive organism � which in itself probably sprang into existence through the interplay of natural forces[1] .� For a long time no one could figure out how the species made the changes from one form to another. Darwin was able to come of with a plausible solution to the problem. He proposed that mutations combined with the principal of natural selection were the driving forces behind evolution. With the theory of evolution we seem to have dispelled any necessity of a creator crafting life. However, the theory of evolution is not without its criticisms. A growing number of scientists have become unsatisfied with evolution�s claims[2] . They claim that the two fundamental principals behind evolution are unable to foster the dramatic genetic change that is necessary to bridge the species gap. Also, there is not a single workable theory explaining the start of life. Many theories have been put forth, but none have been able to yield verifiable results. In light of this, we find science missing another chapter in the history of the universe. It is possible that in the future science will be able to fill these holes. However, until this occurs, it seems to be more plausible that a creative numinous formed the first life forms and through successive creations formed life as we see it today.

We have shown that humans are able to accurately perceive and make sense of the universe. Through the discipline of science humans are able to discover natural laws that govern the universe. As grand as it is, science cannot explain how these laws came to be or why they are so precisely tuned to allow the existence of life. Our present scientific knowledge leaves only the creative acts of a numinous as plausible explanations to the mysteries of the origin of the Big Bang and of life. Therefore the numinous must exist. However beyond that not much else is able to be scientifically inferred about the numinous. This is another way of putting forth the Cosmological Argument for God�s existence. It does not have the weaknesses that Aquinas� first three ways have. Aquinas� formulation was fundamentally flawed. One cannot have the conclusion in validate one of the premises in one�s argument and expect it to stand.


1. Creation and Evolution, Alan Hayward, p 4 ↩
2. Creation and Evolution, Alan Hayward Ch 2 & 3 ↩



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