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The Existence of God, continued

The Challenge of Science - a reply to Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking

(1) General Principles
It is conventional science which has lately been one of Christianity's greatest enemies, in that many scientists, along with those who read their books, insist that Christianity cannot be true because science has flatly contradicted all the main points of its doctrines; that the two things are quite incompatible and totally opposed. Since modern society tends to look to science to explain how everything originated, and behaves in the way it does, this has had a damaging effect upon Christian belief. That our foremost scientific brains - at any rate, those of them who are most in the public eye - are not Christians might seem a glaring indictment of Christianity.

It’s because there are fewer Christians about generally that the most eminent people in a particular field - those with science degrees constitute a relatively small section of society, and those among them who are particularly brilliant will, as in most fields, be fewer still - may well not be Christian believers. It’s also my belief that Christianity and science are two very different, if compatible, quantities, meaning that whatever is said by one doesn’t have to contradict what is said by the other. People like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking are listened to because they are undoubtedly brilliant as scientists - and it is as scientists that their public listens to them, for its attitude to religion means it has less interest in what churchmen or evangelists have to say about the origins of the universe. It is when they venture into the field of theology that their statements are often, in my opinion, of dubious value. If those statements are well received, that is only because they are in line with the prevailing anti-religious leanings of society in general, leanings which may not in themselves be justified. Intellectual trend - the tendency to believe something because it happens to have an emotional appeal, even where it might not ultimately be valid - is something which affects the whole of society, scientists included. And merely to be highly intelligent doesn’t of course mean you are always right, and can’t be, if I may say so, blinkered on certain issues.

To take one example of scientific narrow-mindedness, the principle that because things occur which are inconsequential or disruptive in their effects the world must be governed by blind, morally neutral forces has become something of a sacred cow among scientists and their admirers. We cannot however be certain that the world was not due to a creative intelligence which had certain reasons for causing, or allowing, such inconsequential or disruptive things to occur. I hope to show this during the course of this article. (If it was the case that any aspect of Christian doctrine could be shown through scientific research to be untrue in all senses, I imagine far fewer people would be Christians, nor could you blame those who weren’t for their unbelief, even if it was nonetheless considered acceptable for others to still believe because it made them feel better.

I get the impression some scientists believe their integrity would be compromised by believing in something like Christianity, which is scientifically impossible to prove. But this wouldn’t be the case, since the two are entirely separate disciplines, Christianity not being something which is scientifically quantifiable (if it was, it would be science and not Christianity). Although connected, they can be pursued as if they are not; it is quite possible to write a scientific textbook which made no reference to Christianity at all. Of Christianity and science, the former is to a believer the most important, but it does not involve ceasing to embrace the latter. The two dimensions coincide enough to suggest that they are different parts of the same system.
At University I knew a born-again Christian (we shall call him Richard),who told me he had been converted while attending a rock concert in the seemingly incongruous surroundings of Gloucester Cathedral. The atmosphere of the place evidently had a profound effect upon him, although I expect other factors too worked towards his conversion (I am unsure of the exact details). For the event occur there would have to be (a) a person who was being converted, whose existence we would have to be sure of, (b) a place called Gloucester, and (c) a cathedral. The actual conversion was undoubtedly a profound spiritual - mystical, if one likes - experience of a sort which is difficult if not impossible to describe scientifically. But it would not have happened if there had not been a person for it to happen to, or a place where it happened. Beyond that - i.e. regarding the experience itself - we can say nothing which makes scientific sense. There is indeed a place called Gloucester, and within it a cathedral; the existence of both the city and the cathedral can be verified by consulting a map and then going physically to the places in question. And although, as I have said, the actual process of conversion was difficult to quantify, it took place within the cells of Richard's brain, which are scientifically quantifiable (in that the biochemist can tell us how they developed, what they are composed of, and how they function). Once they were dead and their brain cells ceased to function, no Christian was ever observed to make profound statements about their faith (not because there is no life after death, but because that life is lived in a realm other than this one).

One may think of theology - the study of God and his works - as a "superscience", the superstructure which is erected on the base, or substructure, provided by conventional science. Both substructure and superstructure are equally important if the building they comprise is to exist and remain standing. Although I believe it is possible to understand enough about God to be certain that He exists, we will not be able to do so immediately, and we must undertake the operation within the framework of a world which we can understand, and thus make possible the life which we must live before we enter the next one possible. Since it is impossible for most twenty-first century people to live without a scientific world view (meaning that they believe everything functions according to an ordered pattern which can be understood and described to a greater or lesser extent, whatever one’s ultimate beliefs about religion) scientists are thus performing a vital role in God's scheme, even if they aren’t Christians. If we reject Christianity because it has not been proven by conventional science, we are merely putting the goalposts in the wrong place.

It appears to be believed by some scientists that understanding the nature of the Universe and the way it functions can no longer be regarded as a legitimate concern for philosophers (among whose number I am here counting theologians - after all, if philosophy is to be regarded as a study of the universe, and the universe along with everything in it was created by God, then it is a study of God and his ways). Stephen Hawking writes:

"Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories to describe what the universe is to ask the question why. On the other hand the people whose business it is to ask why, the philosophers, have not been able to keep up with the advance of scientific theories. In the eighteenth century, philosophers considered the whole of human knowledge including science to be their field and discussed questions such as: did the Universe have a beginning? However in the nineteenth century science became too technical and mathematical for the philosophers, or anyone else, to comprehend except a few specialists. Philosophers reduced the scope of their enquiries so much that Wittgenstein, the most famous philosopher of this century, said: "The sole remaining task for philosophy is the analysis of language." What a comedown from the great tradition of philosophers from Aristotle to Kant." (1)

Since we must have some kind of understanding of science if we are to judge whether it disproves the validity of religion, a philosopher must seek to refute such notions.

Detailed science, true, can’t easily be a territory for philosophers. For one thing, they do not have the time to pursue both disciplines, however good a job they might make of their scientific research if they did. However, it is only necessary for a philosopher to understand the basic principles of science - which any sufficiently intelligent person in an age of mass education can do - in order to comment usefully on whether or not it’s incompatible with religious belief. In any case the rest of science is dependent on those basics - those axioms, as the Greek philosophers termed them - and would not be possible without them. If the rest of science is dependent on the axioms, it follows that whatever is compatible with the axioms is also compatible with what stems from them. So we may reject Wittgenstein's statement. Philosophy, as much as conventional science, is the study of the universe, of ourselves, and how we function, and where we are going; the only difference between the two areas is that philosophy deals with the abstract side of things rather than the material. It’s much more than just the study of language. Of course, the ideas we have about God and the nature of the universe will be of no significance if we can’t express them coherently and unambiguously, but it is equally true that language is of no consequence if there is nothing for it to express.

This chapter is intended to be a philosophical examination of the scientific arguments for or against the existence of God. I mean to start by talking about the general approach we should adopt towards the issue, then move on to the particular areas in which science and religion are thought to be in conflict. In carrying out my analysis I hope I have been guided by logic, which must be a mainstay equally of philosophy and science if our conclusions about the universe are to be as accurate as is possible. I’m not sure whether something can be legitimately regarded as scientifically possible but logically impossible; but certainly, since to be logically impossible is to be absolutely impossible, its scientific possibility would have to be a possibility only in theory and never in practice (and there would thus be no point in the theory). To deny this entails that a scientist might one day plausibly demonstrate that 2 + 2 = 5, or that one can draw a square circle, and that’s surely absurd. I am, I suppose, trying to use logic to prove the validity of Christianity, because although the task is quite simply impossible in attempting it I will at least disprove its invalidity. Call it a vital first step. Obviously, religious belief must be at least compatible with logic if it is to have any credibility, and if we’re not to be led by it down dangerous paths.

Someone like Ayer would have held that this was insufficient; what can’t be demonstrated by logic to be true, rather than merely be possible on account of its compatibility with it, has no claim on one's allegiance. But logic, if it's what it's cracked up to be, if it is to be a respectable method of trying to understand things, must consider the possibility that it is not the only valid source
of knowledge, whether or nor any other sources which did exist would have to be reconcilable with it; otherwise we could justly accuse logicians of arrogance. In order to prove that logic was the only true way by which to understand the world, we’d have to seriously consider arguments to the contrary, because doing so would be an important part of the necessary task of showing why logic was so important. To conclusively establish the merits of something involves considering those of its opposite. This would be so even if we saw the undertaking of that task not as intellectual honesty but rather as a patient demonstration of the truth to people who, irritatingly, insisted on putting forward arguments which we felt sure were irrational and delusionary.

Faith might be seen as a kind of knowledge which is different from, though to the believer no less valid than, logic. Its nature is hard to describe, but can best be compared to intuition; a strong inner conviction that something is the case. It is not susceptible to proof or disproof through scientific or other rational means, and so those philosophers and scientists who judge its validity on whether or not it can be logically verified are barking up the wrong tree. It has to be compatible with reasoned argument, and the fact that it is compatible with it is one of the things which help to validate it. There is undoubtedly intellectual validity in holding that the mere compatibility of something with commonsense and logic doesn’t mean that it actually exists (and, like intuition, faith need only be used where reason doesn’t provide an answer to our questions). But for my money, it’s too much of a coincidence that having approached the subject in a spirit of absolute intellectual honesty, without any preconceived notions or prejudices, we find that Christianity is in all important areas quite compatible with science (you may of course disagree with that assertion, but let it be judged on its merits). It must signify something. And if it does signify anything, it can only be that the two things are both part of the same cosmic system; different, but equally important, aspects of the same Universe. They are both founded in truth; so one should be a Christian as well as a scientist. I think that if they really weren't compatible, and we were worth our intellectual salt, we would be able to prove that. Christians believe that despite the lack of proof for them there is a greater chance that their claims are correct than that they are not; and when one considers the nature of those claims, which are quite remarkable, that ought to be impressive - unless of course you believe all Christians to be deranged.

Faith is not the same thing as rational analysis, but nor is it irrational either. It is compatible with philosophical reasoning, scientific evidence, and an analysis of the Bible and the behaviour of people who figure in it. It doesn’t, as opponents of religion would have us believe, invariably mean a blind and fanatical trust in something, even in the teeth of evidence. "Blind" faith is in fact discouraged by most sensible believers, because of the horrors it has led to in the past. Another reason for not blindly believing in what is simply unproven is that if it ever is ultimately disproved, we will have been wasting our time.

Christian doctrine is not, as some people would allege, based on a hypothesis. In hypothesising we’re merely supposing something to be the case and constructing an argument from that premise. If the premise is false, then everything which is inferred from it may be equally false, and so the hypothesis is of no lasting value as a means of gaining understanding of the universe. The beliefs I hold are partly the result of careful and objective study of the universe around us, and partly of a kind of knowledge which is different in nature from scientific or logical reasoning and thus can’t be subjected to it. I expect some scientists would assert that the Uncertainty Principle, by which it is impossible to analyse certain of the particles which make up everything that exists because the very act of analysis alters their nature, prevents us from being able to understand the universe sufficiently to establish God's existence from our knowledge. This might be a valid argument if it was possible ultimately to prove His existence through scientific enquiry alone, but such is not the case. Faith and philosophical reflection also have an essential part to play in the process.

And, after all, it’s clearly not true that everything is uncertain; although we may not always be able to analyse particles, that does not alter the fact that the particles exists for us to attempt to analyse them, and we would like to know why that is so. If everything were uncertain, we couldn’t exist to talk about the Uncertainty Principle and what it means for belief in God. There is clearly something, some permanent underlying factor the existence of which can’t be doubted, which enables intelligent life forms to exist and have intelligent conversations, whether it is a particle, a wave, or both; to give them a coherent, stable model of the Universe as the starting point for their analysis of its origins.

In proving the existence of God we are demonstrating why the Universe is as it is; it’s as it is because there is a creative intelligence who decreed its shape and form. In contrast, scientists sometimes see themselves as asking how it’s as it is. If that is so, then it’s correct to say that science is a separate area from theology and therefore that one can’t contradicted by anything in the other, there’s no reason why scientists shouldn’t be Christians, etc. The "why" bit is the job of the philosophers and theologians. There is however little difference, intellectually, between asking "how" and asking "why". One can ask, "why does such-and-such happen", and someone can reply that it happens because the molecules making up such and such an entity do this or that. But this would also be a "how" question because we are asking how it is possible for the molecule to exist and thus to do its stuffs. We don’t necessarily know how the molecules whose behaviour makes that process possible exist in the first place. But surely our curiosity must extend to seeking to acquire that knowledge, if we can.

There is an important point which must be made if any distinction can drawn between "how" and "why" questions. One scientist, at least, firmly states that we should not ask "why" at all. Indeed, he appears to think it peculiar if we do. Richard Dawkins writes:
"We humans have purpose on the brain. We find it hard to look at anything without wondering what it is "for", what the motive for it is, or the purpose behind it. When the obsession with purpose becomes pathological it is called paranoia - reading malevolent purpose into what is actually random bad luck. But this is just an exaggerated form of a nearly universal delusion. Show us almost any object or process, and it is hard for us to resist the "why" question, the "What is it for" question. The desire to see.....{order and deliberate design}everywhere is a natural one in an animal that lives surrounded by machines, works of art, and other designed artifacts; an animal, moreover, whose waking thoughts are dominated by its own personal goals. A car, a tin opener, a screwdriver and a pitchfork all legitimately warrant the "what is it for?" question. Our pagan forebears would have asked the same question about thunder, eclipses, rocks and streams. Today we pride ourselves on having shaken off such primitive animism. If a rock in a stream happens to serve as a convenient stepping stone we regard its usefulness as an accidental bonus, not a true purpose. And the same temptation is often positively relished when the topic is the origin of all things or the fundamental laws of physics, culminating in the vacuous existential question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" I have lost count of the number of times a member of the audience has stood up after a public lecture I have given and said something like, "you scientists are very good at answering "how" questions. But you must admit you're powerless when it comes to "why?" questions. Behind the question there is always an unspoken but never justified implication that science is unable to answer "why?" questions, there must be some other discipline that is qualified to answer them. The mere fact that it is possible to frame a question does not make it legitimate or sensible to do so {there are many things about which you can ask "what is its temperature"? or "what colour is it?" but you may ask the temperature question or the colour question of, say, jealousy or prayer. Similarly, you are right to ask the "why" question of a bicycle's mudguards or the Kariba Dam, but at the very least you have no right to assume that the "why" question deserves an answer when posed about a boulder, a misfortune, Mount Everest or the universe. Questions can be simply inappropriate, however heartfelt their framing.
Before Darwin, even educated people who had abandoned "Why?" questions for rocks streams and eclipses still implicitly accepted the legitimacy of the "why" question where living creatures were concerned. Now only the scientifically illiterate do. But "why" conceals the unpalatable truth that we are talking about an absolute majority." (2)

Far from it being "inappropriate", "vacuous", "primitive" or a sign of nervous disorder to ask "why", there are sound moral and practical reasons for doing so. Firstly, if there is a creative intelligence behind everything then we need to understand something about it, about its purpose. If it is malevolent, and allows all the bad things which happen in the world for an ultimately bad reason, then we would need to know as much about it as possible so that we could defeat its plans. (Nowadays, very few Christians would insist that its having created us meant we automatically owed allegiance to it, any more than did its omnipotence. Otherwise we might be equally ready to obey a thoroughly evil Creator, like a son who assists his father in committing a crime purely because he is his father). If it’s benevolent, we need to know how to make maximum use of that benevolence. Are the good things it wants to do for us conditional on something we have to do? To refuse to take any interest in the question of its existence, and thus invite the consequences of its malignity, or lose the opportunity to benefit from its goodness, would surely be irresponsible. And we also need to know, if we have any decency in us, how to reward it for its benevolence, to show that we appreciate it.

There is another reason why we should ask "why". Any nation or community that has any pride in itself must be interested in its origins; in studying and recording them. If this is true of nations and communities, it ought to be even more true of the human race as a whole. If we have any regard for ourselves at all, then we must surely take an interest in our heritage and find out, if we can, exactly why we are here. Not to be interested in the subject is to demean ourselves. One might also say that we want to know why in the same way that an adopted child might wish to find its true parents. We want to know whether there was an intelligent agency behind the creation of the human race so that we can call it Father (or Mother, or whatever). On discovering it there is, as with the reunification of a human family, a sense of having come home, of belonging. Like a human child seeking its real parents, we would want to show our gratitude to it and know how we could repay it for its kindness. Don't those who have been done some act of charity by a stranger seek to find out who they are so that they can reward them? Of course, we may find out that our real parents had unworthy motives for abandoning us, and aren’t the sort of people we’d like to be acquainted with, but all the same we feel we need to know for sure, and would certainly want them to be loveable, because they are our parents. At least, most people would agree that those who don’t feel this way about the question ought to.

Everything in science, as well as in logic (in so far as one can view the two as separate considerations) must be proven to be compatible with Christianity. If just one thing isn't, it'll blow the whole system, for that would imply that God had lied or was limited in his knowledge; and if he can lie, or commit an error, in one instance he can do so in any number of others. Some scientific atheists object to any attempt at including Christianity in the scientific cosmos. But if the basic premise of my argument, that Christian belief is not incompatible with science, is correct - and it needs to be judged on its own merits - then I have every right, if I wish, to run up the Christian flag on the scientific citadel.

It is now time for us to look at exactly how it can be shown that Christianity is reconcilable with known scientific fact. Attempts to do so have not always been conducted sensibly; both sides have used arguments which are disingenous and ultimately lack plausibility. I will have enough to say in this chapter about what I see as the flawed thinking and unjustified assumptions of the anti-Creationists. But Christians too exhibit such shortcomings. In The Probability Of God Hugh Montefiore, attempting to disprove the theory of natural selection, argues that a polar bear, since it is the dominant species in its natural environment and not preyed on by any other animal, would not need to evolve its white colouring because there would be no need for it to camouflage itself(3). As Dawkins correctly points out, he is forgetting that in a world of snow and ice a black polar bear would be easily spotted, and thus escaped from, by its prey, so that its white colour confers a positive survival advantage by preventing it starving to death. It is also useless to point to the existence of things which supposedly have no utilitarian function, but can give pleasure, in order to demonstrate the existence of a benevolent Creator. Those who do so might, for example, point out that the clitoris serves no purpose other than to give sexual pleasure. Or they might ask what the purpose is of the gene which gives people fair hair, from a rational point of view, since it’s not essential for SURVIVAL, but rather contributes towards a pleasing diversity among human beings. However the Richard Dawkins school of genetics would, I expect, respond to such objections like this: "It is a mistake to see natural selection as having a purpose. It has no purpose; it is the Blind Watchmaker. It has no intention either to provide pleasure or to cause suffering. It is a process, to a great extent random, in which certain genes which for some reason or other promote their own survival are passed on from one generation to the next - are "selected" - and those genes which do not, die out. They must have a survival value, but there is no purpose in their survival. The genes must either have a positive part to play in the survival of living things (or they would not survive themselves) or they must simply be benign. Female animals which have clitorises would be more sexually attractive to the males of the species, and thus more likely to have sex and produce children (the females of whom would of course possess clitorises themselves, except in certain abnormal cases). As regards the gene for fair hair, this is not meant to positively benefit the human race as a whole, or even the individuals whom it most closely affects; it is merely benign. It promotes its own survival - if I happen to have a predilection for blonde women, the chances are that I will marry one, subsequently impregnating her, and producing children in which the gene for blonde hair is reproduced. Even if those children do not have fair hair themselves the gene may still, perhaps, be passed on to resurface in the family at some point in the future. Even if my wife or partner's blondeness was not a factor in my choosing her as a mate, the gene will still be transmitted down the generations as a result of our sexual union, precisely because it makes no difference to survival. There are no negative consequences arising from the blonde gene, and no reason for anyone to object to it. The positive consequences of it outweigh the negative ones, and so it has "survival value". If it were not benign it would be weeded out of the gene pool somehow. True, it only benefits those who are attracted by it, which is not everybody. It is not necessary for survival, but the genes do not have that purpose anyway. Their continued existence is merely an unforeseen consequence of their blind operation."
As it happens, I do believe the blonde gene to be the work of a creative intelligence which loved diversity and wanted as much of it as possible among His creatures. But it is not easy for me to show that in argument.

If there is nothing in nature which can’t be explained in terms of Darwinian evolution we must, if we believe that life on Earth was the work of a creative intelligence, hold that intelligence to be one which operates through natural selection. So what we have to do is decide whether the latter really is the case. But we’ll return to this question later; for the moment I want to continue discussing the probability of God in general terms.

There is nothing which strikes us as direct and clear evidence of a benevolent creative intelligence at work; nor, from the point of view of God's moral purposes, would such evidence be desirable. If it were available, it would be less difficult for people not to believe in God (unless they were merely credulous, which would not be a good thing) and so the purpose of allowing people to CHOOSE for God, and thus prove themselves deserving of eternal life, would be frustrated. The atheist's argument must have at least the appearance of plausibility.

The "Argument from Personal Incredulity" isn’t defensible. We mustn’t conclude that something (i.e. the complex yet ordered nature of the world demonstrating that it must have been the work of some kind of intelligence) is the case merely because we personally find it incredible that it could not be. That something is difficult to conceive of doesn’t of itself mean that it is not real. As people like Richard Dawkins will themselves point out, plenty of things which remained inexplicable for many centuries have eventually been understood and explained. However, this is a principle which works both ways. Dawkins in his writings frequently attacks the Argument from Personal Incredulity, by which people repeatedly say “I just cannot believe that” {the elaborate design of living things could have come about by accident}. But he is in danger of shooting himself in the foot. His criticism could be directed at those sceptics, of whom he is among the most notable, who personally find the idea of God incredible; for it’s quite clear that he “just cannot believe” the elaborate design of living things could be the work of a fully-formed, pre-existing, uncaused creative intelligence.

We must be prepared to submit all our most cherished, and apparently most defensible, beliefs, to the light of reason. But that does not mean we will necessarily end up renouncing them. To honestly question a much-cherished opinion does not necessarily result in abandoning it, as those who oppose it probably expect and certainly hope. It may rather be that one emerges all the stronger from the questioning, convinced anew of the opinion's correctness and sure in the knowledge that there is nothing dangerous or morally wrong in it. So, having hopefully divested ourselves of any intellectually dangerous tendencies, let’s begin.

TWO – Law and Order
Firstly we should ask, what has science actually proved? Basically that the universe functions in what for the most part can be considered an ordered fashion. Without that order, or some possibility of unravelling disorder, it would be so difficult to analyse that the scientist, assuming s/he could even exist, would have an almost impossible task. The fact that the Universe is basically ordered may not, in itself, prove the existence of God – Paley’s Argument From Design with its analogy of the watch and watchmaker is in itself insufficient, and Dawkins right to question it - but it seems strange to me that sceptics should cite it as an argument against it. It is, after all, quite consistent with - and in fact is what one would expect from - a rational creative intelligence. Some would deny that the universe does function in an ordered fashion, and that order can’t therefore be held up as proof of God's existence. They may point out that a splash of water, for example, is a manifestation of disorder; and so it is.

Let us look more closely at this particular example. Where does one find the water that may splash? From a variety of sources. I could find some by going into my kitchen and turning on a tap; by going to the seaside; by taking a walk along the river; by visiting a local swimming pool. In all these cases it will be noted that the water is segregated from other things in such a way that they will not, if the water splashes, become inconveniently wet. Either the segregation is natural, the Earth having formed in such a way that the land and sea were separate, or the nature of the universe was such that it was possible for it to be accomplished artificially, i.e. when a tank was filled with water and put in an aquarium the glass continued to hold the water in its required position and did not, unless broken in some accident, leak its contents onto people and objects in its vicinity. It's true that water sometimes does splash in ways that prove inconvenient, but this does not generally happen. Of course if I fall into water because I have been so foolish as to get drunk, or was simply not looking where I was going, then God can’t be blamed for that. And if someone splashes me with water mischievously, we are into the separate subject of free will and its use/misuse.

It will be noted that there are several, at least, ways in which water splashing can actually have beneficial consequences (and I believe these are the reasons why God allows it). It wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun to go swimming if water were something solid and inflexible, resisting the force imposed on it by a human body. Splashes of water may also be aesthetically pleasing; we’ll all have seen, I expect, those striking photographs of them displayed in art galleries. In both these cases, the splash is being used to a certain advantage. It seems to me an odd and unlikely coincidence, if the world was not created, and is not being sustained, by an organising intelligence, that the water should be arranged in such a way that a splash of it does not, generally, cause anyone serious problems, and can even on occasions be turned into something positive - a state of affairs which itself constitutes a form of order. Another example of necessary disorder is the way heat emanates from a radiator or fire; here, molecules are not behaving in an ordered fashion, and yet the heat is necessary for human beings to be kept warm enough both to simply survive and also to live and work in comfortable conditions.

If order wasn’t a fundamental characteristic of creation, then surely the world would be of such a nature that water would constantly appear at random and in inconvenient places, making life impossible, or would have formed in such a way that everywhere would have been like Holland, or worse. It would be highly unlikely that complex beings such as ourselves, who could debate the concepts of order and disorder and what they said about God, would exist.

There are of course exceptions to the rule. God's system isn’t without what might, I suppose, be called flaws; as we will see in another article, moral and practical considerations force Him to operate within certain limits. Serious floods, which have a much more disastrous effect upon people than merely making them wet, do occur from time to time. My belief is that God has a moral reason for allowing these floods, along with other natural disasters, to occur; but whatever their explanation, they occur relatively rarely. It may be that as the Day of Judgement approaches they, and all sorts of other catastrophes, will take place with much greater frequency. But in this case we can say that they are fitting in with a particular purpose of God's, who is winding up the Earth in any case (though they might also be a product of global warming, in other words of Man upsetting the natural ordered state of things through his own greed and folly rather than any inefficiency on the Creator's part). And even if we found ourselves living in a time when floods, earthquakes etc. happened every day, it would still be too much of a coincidence that things had gone on for so long without there being any serious disruption most of the time. We must accept, therefore, that order is a basic feature of the universe. Both the Christian and the sceptic are capable of doing so; but the latter insists that this order is a mindless thing, which can be divorced from the concept of sentience.

Dawkins writes: "...our experience of technology also prepares us to see the mind of a conscious and purposeful designer in the genesis of sophisticated machinery. It is this second intuition that is wrong in the case of living machinery {meaning of course animal and plant organisms}" (4). It is true that we must not be led merely by the sense of wonder we feel when confronted with complex machinery to anthropomorphise, and conclude that living organisms, which in effect are biological machines, must also have been made by an intelligent agency. On the other hand, though, we are perhaps unjustified in holding that living creatures did not come into existence through conscious design when the only other examples in the world of things which can perform complex tasks automatically, that is inorganic machines such as computers and robots, are known to have originated from intelligent beings - ourselves - who consciously designed them to behave in the way they do. A computer can of course carry out a variety of sophisticated functions automatically, but to do so it needs a human programmer in the first instance. There is no proof that both kinds of machine came about in the same way, i.e. through a creative intelligence, but similarly there is no logical reason why we should assume they had different causes unless we are trying to make the universe seem more interesting. Perhaps it would be more interesting if not everything happened for the same reason, but in matters like this we should be concerned primarily with the truth rather than what we find fascinating – to be perhaps a little ruthless (though we should not that the world is fascinating in any case whoever we think made it). We have, in the last resort, no ground for thinking that order in the natural world must necessarily be of a different nature from order in the human world - a mindless kind of order, and not a concept in a sentient mind - any more than we have for assuming that because one half of the universe, the artificial half, was designed by intelligent life forms the other, living half, must have been designed by an intelligence too.

I’d like to comment on another passage from The Blind Watchmaker, in which Professor Dawkins cites the radar used by bats as an example of unconscious design.

"Echo-sounding by bats is just one of the thousands of examples that I could have chosen to make the point about good design. Animals give the appearance of having been designed by a theoretically sophisticated and practically ingenious physicist and engineer but there is no suggestion that the bats themselves know or understand the theory in the same sense as a physicist understands it. The bat should be thought of as analogous to the police radar instrument not to the person who designed that instrument. The designer of the police radar speed-meter understood the theory of the Doppler Effect, and expressed this understanding in mathematical equations, explicitly written out on paper. The designer's understanding is embodied in the design of the instrument but the instrument itself does not understand how it works. The instrument contains electronic components which are wired up so that they automatically compare two radar frequencies and convert the result into convenient units - miles per hour. The computation involved is complicated, but well within the powers of a small box of modern electronic components wired up in the proper way. Of course a sophisticated conscious brain did the wiring up (or at least designed the wiring diagram),but no conscious brain is involved in the moment-to-moment working of the box."(5)

The analogy Dawkins uses here is a bad one if he is trying to show that animals are not the product of a creative intelligence. The bat may merely be analogous to the police radar instrument, but that instrument itself had a designer, as Dawkins admits. If the bat is analogous to the instrument it must also, in some way, bear the stamp of the instrument's maker. The distinction between designer and instrument is of dubious validity. God did not, of course, create the bat directly; we know its current form to be the product of evolution by natural selection. If He is as powerful as we are told is the case, He may not have needed to. But whether His creation of the bat was direct or indirect is of no importance to the religion versus science debate; what is of importance is whether we can believe He created it, regardless of the means he chose of doing so. Dawkins' position seems to be that God could not have created it indirectly - that is, by natural selection - because natural selection is not the tool a rational and benevolent Creator would have used to accomplish his purposes, among other reasons; but as we shall see later, this approach stems from a serious misconception.

As for whether the bats themselves understand the process, that is surely irrelevant; it makes no difference to the question of whether or not there is a creative intelligence. There is no reason why, if the bats along with everything else in the world were the product of such an intelligence, they would necessarily have known that. After all, we ourselves, who are much more sophisticated than the bat, do not have proof that there is a God. It is not part of His brief to make animals into deists; whether they have souls, and need salvation (for which knowledge of God is required) in the same way that we do, and what provision if any will be made for them in the afterlife, are questions whose answers are known only to Him.

Nor does any conscious brain need to be involved in the moment-to-moment working of the bat/radar device. It is a view common to most Christians, and apparently supported by day-to-day experience, that God leaves the universe to get along for the most part without Him, until the Day Of Judgement. After all, if He does His work properly He should not need to be regularly intervening to push things along.

Can we rightly speak of order (not the same thing as purpose) in a Universe that has no God; is it something which can be totally divorced from sentience? To me, this question amounts to asking "Was Berkeley right?" even if those who ask it don’t perceive it in such terms. I would answer it as follows. One is either a Berkelian, holding that everything is a concept in the mind either of God or Man, or one is not a Berkelian. If I am a self-respecting Berkelian, then I will find it impossible to conceive of order as existing independently of mind; it must be identical with intelligence, because it is a concept in a mind. If I am not one, then I will either reject the notion that order is synonymous with sentience or be an agnostic on the question (not everyone has needed to understand or concur with Idealism to believe in God).

Creationists also seek to demonstrate God's existence by pointing not so much to the order that is evident in the universe but to the purpose to which that order seems to be directed. A revealing fact about the natural world, to which David Attenborough draws our attention in The Living Planet, appears to lend credence to their ideas. Here, Attenborough describes a certain type of algae which exists on the upper slopes of mountains:

"These tiny plants take nothing from the world except sunlight and a minute quantity of nutrients that are dissolved in the snow. They feed on no other living things and nothing feeds on them. They scarcely modify their surroundings except to bring a blush to the snow. They simply exist, testifying to the moving fact that life even at the simplest level occurs, apparently, just for its own sake {implying, for the Christian, that there is a benevolent intelligence behind everything}"(6).

But to the likes of Richard Dawkins this is simply another way of saying that there is no purpose behind everything; i.e., that no creative intelligence fashioned the Earth and its living things.

To conclude that this is necessarily the case is however rash. It is perfectly possible for a desire to do things "for their own sake" to be a desire in the mind of an intelligent entity - after all, human beings do things, such as pursue pleasure, for their own sake - rather than be a characteristic, described in anthropomorphic terms, of a mindless Universe (to do something for its own sake is a "purpose", quite as much as is doing it for some ulterior end to which the something is purely a means, possessing itself no intrinsic value). Dawkins may, on the other hand, be right (I am attempting to look at this matter through the eyes of an open-minded agnostic rather than those of either a Christian or an atheist). And so we can’t infer the existence of a creative intelligence merely from the absence of an evident ulterior purpose for the prevalence of life. At the most, it suggests that if there is a God he is of a benevolent caste of mind rather than a coldly and amorally rational being; His existence is not, in itself, something which is proved by it.

Then there is that argument which focuses on the improbability of certain things. It has been said that the existence of life is statistically improbable, and therefore the fact it exists nonetheless is regarded by some as constituting proof of a creative intelligence (it certainly makes it more likely). However there is no reason to think, unless one is a Berkelian, that it wasn’t simply a very unlikely, but not impossible, occurence which, because it was not absolutely impossible, happened. A probability of, say, a million to one is still a probability and one is quite legitimately entitled to regard the apparent miracle of life on Earth as not being the handprint of God. In this matter we also have the problem that if you do believe in God at all then there is no such thing as chance in any case; so the Creationist presents one with a tautology rather than a means of rendering his arguments convincing.

The order which characterises the Universe, making its analysis - and thus the discipline of science - possible is an order in the way the particles that make up the universe are arranged and behave. Scientists have demonstrated that everything, living or non-living, is made up of those particles, whose precise nature determines what things are made of and how they behave towards other things. Strictly speaking, this may not be quite true; quantum theory suggests we can’t be sure whether the essential building block of all entities in the universe is a particle, or a wave, or both. Sometimes it behaves like a particle, sometimes like a wave. But this should make little difference to the validity of any arguments set out in this article. Whether the building block is a particle, a wave, or both - we might for simplicity's sake just call it a "thing" - we still don't know where it came from and it's entirely open to us to say that God created it and therefore the whole universe. How it behaves makes no difference to its existence; but if it did not exist, it would not be able to behave in any sort of fashion.

Without the particle the process of natural selection which makes possible the evolution of living creatures could have nothing to work with; indeed there would be nothing to be selected and nowhere for it to be selected in, and no beings who could understand the process and talk about it. In The Blind Watchmaker, Dawkins compares natural selection to the sorting of pebbles on a beach into different layers of small and large ones by the action of the waves, or to the operation of a sieve.

"The waves and the pebbles together constitute a simple example of a system that automatically generates non-randomness. The world is full of such systems. The simplest example I can think of is a hole. Only objects smaller than the hole can pass through it. This means that if you start with a random collection of objects above the hole, and some force shakes and jostles them about at random, after a while the objects above the hole will come to be nonrandomly sorted. The space below the hole will tend to contain objects smaller than the hole, and the space above will tend to contain objects larger than the hole. Mankind has, of course, long exploited this simple principle for generating nonrandomness, in the useful device known as the sieve." (7)

Some force shakes the objects about so that they fall or do not fall into the holes, depending on their size, and are thus sorted into their different categories. Dawkins does not appear to know what that force was, nor think it important that he tell us. But as long as he doesn’t there is an important gap in the argument of the scientific atheists. Science, although it can tell us how the particle combines with other particles and forms larger units such as atoms, molecules, cells etc., has not so far been able to explain why the particle itself, the basic building block of all things, exists at all; so it seems to me that it can’t claim to have established a general principle by which it and only it can account for everything. This gives us an opportunity to bring God into the picture. Here it may be said that where science has no answers theology does. The particle exists because God created it, whether through its being an idea in His mind or by some other means. Since there is no proof that anything else was responsible for it, and thus for the whole universe along with the way that universe behaves, it is perfectly open to us to say that God made it, and scientists, whether they are biologists or physicists, should at least be agnostics rather than atheists.

The theme of Dawkins' book The Blind Watchmaker is that we don't need to postulate a designer in order to understand the universe. He quotes his friend and Oxford colleague, the chemist Peter Atkins:

"Atkins asks what is the minimal amount of design work that a very lazy Creator would have to do, in order to see to it that the universe and, later, elephants and other complex things, would one day come into existence. The answer, from his point of view as a physical scientist, is that the Creator could be infinitely lazy. The fundamental original units that we need to postulate, in order to understand the coming into existence of everything, either consists of literally nothing (according to some physicists),or (according to other physicists) they are units of the utmost simplicity, far too simple to need anything so grand as deliberate Creation." (8)

It is unlikely that the essential building blocks of matter consist of nothing; for if they did, then by definition they would not exist. Logically, whatever is created must be created out of something (that is a scientific principle). As for their being "far too simple to need anything so grand as deliberate creation" this would leave unanswered the question of why they exist at all. And even if God only designed the very basic building blocks of life, and then set in motion the process by which they came together to form complex entities, afterwards leaving things to go on more or less without his intervention, then that was important enough. It leaves him as a Creator to whom we are indebted for our very being. Perhaps He can be, and is, lazy, up to a point at any rate. It is, after all, a theme of Christian doctrine that He leaves the universe to get along without him most if not all of the time, in the interests of free will. An efficient God would in any case be able to design a system which functioned without His constant, active intervention; and if he were a rational God he would do so, since it would be pointless and illogical for him to do anything which was not necessary (once he does he has broken the mould and might as well order us to kill each other, etc etc.)

The world functions in an ordered way; you will also believe, if you are a Christian, that it is orientated towards a certain goal (namely Man's spiritual redemption and salvation through God). In denying the existence of a creative intelligence sceptics point to the fact that plenty of things happen which serve no apparent purpose. There is an answer to this objection. If matter has a fixed nature and obeys certain laws - which is what one would expect from a rational creator - and God does not intervene but allows the universe to function independently of him, then it is inherently possible that from time to time things will happen that have no ultimate consequence, whether beneficial or unpleasant. God might fail to intervene in order to make sure that something profitable comes out of the matter, but why should He? After all nothing bad is happening. Of course where something profitable might have happened but didn’t and the wastage is due to human beings, God can’t seriously be blamed for it, and he can't intervene to prevent it because of free will (the morality of which is an entirely separate subject).

Yet another argument for the existence of a Creator hinges on beauty, whether expressed in works of art, an ability to find pleasure of various kinds in the natural world, or sublime emotions such as love. Beauty seems to be something so wonderful that it gives some of us, at any rate, a kind of gut feeling that the universe must have been brought into existence by a benevolent intelligence for its own sake. The beauty is in us, or rather our ability to entertain a notion of it (for it’s not something for which there’s an objective standard) but it seems to imply the existence of a decent God who wants to make the world as pleasant as possible for his creatures, something with which it certainly wouldn’t be inconsistent. Even though the way we measure beauty is an individual thing, down to personal inclination, the ability to do it at all is God-given.

Some sceptics respond to this point by saying "that's simply the way our minds {because of the way they function}perceive the world." But of course it is! If a benign Creator wished to give us the ability to perceive beauty in things there would clearly have to be some chemical and biological method to his doing it. Certainly the "Argument from Beauty" is not an argument against the existence of God; but how good an argument is it for that existence? The problem is that if we are able to experience such things as beauty, and emotions as love and happiness, there must logically be a means by which we are able to do so – any goal has to be achieved by a certain process, which by extension means using a physical medium with some kind of structure if it involves interaction with the physical world of hormones and brain tissue, say (hence the Laws, ordained by God, which determine what happens in the universe).

It is possible to describe beauty in terms of certain electrons taking up certain positions in the brain, certain chemical reactions happening in certain places. Doing so ought not to make any difference to the its sublimity, but once we have admitted that beauty can be described in this way we have opened the door to the conclusion that it is simply another aspect, albeit one that happens to be beneficial, of a mindless mechanical universe. The argument is really one of whether the electrons that make up everything are arranged in such a way as to constitute a creative intelligence, which is the source of everything else. If one is a Berkelian then there is no problem because everything is a concept in God's mind anyway, but if one is not a Berkelian it makes a big difference. This question has striking parallels with that of whether the existence of God can be inferred from our having an idea of Him, and not just in the ways you will have seen above; it, too, has proved notoriously inadequate for the task of convincing atheists and agnostics. I personally, in an intuitive way, know that the existence of beauty demonstrates the reality of God, but this feeling isn’t shared by all others.

It is principally in the fields of biology and physics that the challenge to religion has been made (chemistry is not a problem provided we accept that the laws which govern the behaviour of substances under different conditions were ordained by God - in the Berkeleian view, were aspects of His mind).

First, physics. Modern theories about the origins and nature of the Universe are thought to disprove the existence of God, and they seem to have a particular pertinence when originating from someone with the undoubted brilliance of Stephen Hawking. Therefore they should be addressed. The two areas where objections are made to Christian theology are:

(1) The size of the Universe.
The size of the Universe, along with its age, is seen as having a bearing on the question of God's existence and His importance to us. Stephen Hawking appears to think that a universe with no boundary in space would leave no room for a Creator.
How damaging this really is to belief in God depends on whether God is something separate from the Universe, in terms of having a different location in space (if this were the case He could clearly not exist, for an infinite universe would leave no room for Him),or is to be identified with it - is the universe, occupying the same place in space and time.

It is an interesting point whether the universe by definition is endless. If there is anything beside it, what exactly might that be? The definition of "the universe" is intended to encompass everything that is. To speak of anything existing beyond the universe is nonsense; that something would have to be the universe too, surely? I suggest that the definition of whether anything should count as "the universe" depends on whether it has a spatial dimension to it, so that we could travel through it and between any pair of points within it. After all, when we speak of the Universe, or of any object that exists within it, we are by implication speaking of an area of space as well as the object, because anything that exists at all must clearly have a certain spatial dimension. To be sure that it was an area of space we must actually be able to travel in it; we might be able to see it from the known universe, but merely to see what looked like an area of space, albeit an unfilled void, would not constitute proof of its existence since we might merely be observing some complex illusion. We would have to actually be able to traverse it somehow; and if "the universe" is taken to mean matter as well as the space it exists in, the region could certainly be called a part of it since matter - i.e ourselves and the vehicle, if any, that we were travelling in - would be existing in it. The idea of anything that has no spatial dimension is difficult, if not impossible, to conceive of.

It also seems to me that there’s no reason why the universe, if it has a spatial limit at all, should be any particular size unless it were so decreed by something or other – something or other which for the same reason would itself have to be infinite. Otherwise it would simply happen to be that size, and in a scientific universe things can’t just happen to be, there must be a reason for them. The creative agency of course would be God, regardless of whether he was identifiable with the Universe or had a different spatial location from it. However in any case an infinite God is in my view inseparably connected with an infinite universe because even He cannot deny logic, and logic demands there is no reason why the universe should begin at one point and end at another.

But if we do nevertheless insist in believing in a finite universe, that doesn’t mean we must at the same time abandon belief in God. Whether the universe being finite necessarily involves God being finite too depends on whether one sees Him as being a separate entity from the universe, and thus occupying a different spatial location; it is possible that some might not. If they are separate, then although the Universe might be finite God could still be infinite and thus undiminished in majesty. The finite nature of the universe need not bother us as long as God is able to maintain it in a stable form which allows life to go on meaningfully, as well as to one day recreate it after a fashion which will eliminate all its harmful features in accordance with His purpose. For both God and the universe to be finite (whether or not they are identifiable with each other),or the universe infinite but God finite, might seem unacceptable to Christians on account of their diminishing Him in stature. Again, however, I would contend that it’s the quality, in both its current and its ultimate state (but especially the latter),of the universe which should matter to us rather than how big it is, if God's benevolence is to be seen as His most important quality (more important to us, morally, than his size). To deny God's omnipresence, to hold that there were limits to His extent, would certainly go against orthodox Christian teaching but by itself ought not to count as heresy - even if there were something (the universe) bigger than Himself, which might be thought to diminish Him more than a scenario where what lay beyond Him was simply nothingness - provided His ability to extend His benign and unique influence, if not His actual presence, throughout all Creation was not affected.

The final possible scenario to be considered is that both God and the Universe are infinite (whether or not they are identifiable with each other, although I think they must be). That in fact is what I believe. As outlined elsewhere, I adhere to a form of Berkelianism in that I hold all things - both physical entities and abstract ideas - to be concepts in the mind of God, and sometimes of our minds as well, though not in such a way as to prevent them having their own sense of identity, and being distinct in their natures and the effects they have on their environment. These concepts include such things as the universe, which is thereby identifiable with the Creator. Since space, endlessness and non-endlessness are also ideas in His mind, which enables Him to be omnipresent, the universe is therefore also without limit. The prevailing scientific orthodoxy that the universe has no spatial boundary is consequently no threat to Christian belief, and in fact could be said to reinforce it.

(2) The age of the Universe, and the related question of how it was created.
In considering this matter, it is possible to demonstrate that God was both the first cause of everything and its only cause, an essential feature of Christian doctrine. The question of the age of the universe might seem to be a problem for believers, for one tends to find oneself wondering what God was doing before it was created. However such objections rest on the unjustified assumption that God's conception of time is the same as, or similar to, ours. There may be ways in which God is indeed like us; but it’s clear that he must also be very different. He is omnipresent, omniscient (within certain parameters which are far wider than those within which humans are forced to work) and has no physical form. Our own conception of time is determined largely by the rhythms of our physical bodies and the way those bodies cause us to perceive the universe around us. If God does not even have a physical body, then his conception of time may well be very unlike our own. Alternatively, His nature may be such that even if he does experience time in the same way that we do, it will not cause Him undue boredom to be doing nothing (and by the same means he is enabled to have infinite patience, tolerating the continued existence of an earthly world where appalling sins are daily committed, spoiling His creation). Hence, debate over the exact or approximate age of the Universe may be entirely inconsequential, since God's nature is such that he doesn’t perceive any length of time in the same way as ourselves; spans of time reckoned in human terms, whether they be great or small, are useless to any debate about whether our knowledge of the Universe conclusively discredits the idea of Him.

There has in the past been a conflict between the "Big Bang" and "Steady State" theories of the origin of the Universe. The former states that the Universe began at a particular, though not quite identifiable, point in time when a tiny singularity of matter exploded outwards, while the latter holds that the Universe has always existed in much the same form as it does now. It has gained increased currency in recent years, in no small measure because it is espoused by the likes of Stephen Hawking. We must examine the implications of each of these theories for the role, if any, of God in the cosmos.

It should be pointed out that in several respects the idea that "the universe" came into being at any one single time is wrong. If by "the universe" we mean a certain area of space - and when we talk about anything we are talking about a certain area of space, since whatever exists in any sense must have a spatial dimension - then the Universe must have existed before the Big Bang (there must have been a considerable amount of space for all the matter which went to form the Universe as we now know it to expand into). If we are talking of the matter which fills that space, then that must also have always existed, albeit in the form of a singularity which had to expand outwards, if we accept the scientific dictum that nothing can be created or destroyed and that there must have been something for the Universe to be formed out of. We still, however, have to answer the question why the explosion of matter from a singularity to form the Universe as we now know it should have taken place at one particular point in time rather than another, since if it did then we would like to know how God, if He was the cause of that explosion, was occupied before then.

As well as the theological problems it poses, this point highlights an important logical shortcoming of the "Big Bang" theory. It implies a particular time has a particular causal property, something for which there is no evidence (and also raises the alarming possibility that if the universe came into being at any one time, for any reason, then it could just as easily cease to be at any one time). The Universe might perhaps have been continually collapsing, expanding and recollapsing, but what started this process off in the first place?

It is clear to me that there must have been a first cause for everything. The alternative is that we believe in an infinite regression, in which the Universe has always been going through this cycle of collapses and expansions. But if the existence, and continuing development, of the Universe are the result of a chain of causal factors which stretches infinitely backwards, we are talking about something - the components of this process - which has no boundary in time. And among those components there must be some element which has been constantly present at all stages of the process; if this was not the case, the causal chain would be broken and the universe would cease to exist, or at any rate to develop. The elements making up some stages of the process could not have come into existence entirely spontaneously, without any reason, any external cause, for that would defy logic. And even if the succession of each causal factor by another was the product of a string of fortunate coincidences, there would, over such a span of time as is implied by the Universe having always existed, be an infinite probability - I believe it would amount to a certainty - that the string of coincidences would cease and the causal chain snap, unless there was a common factor which enabled the process to continue. We may as well regard that factor as the first cause, and the first cause which has always been in operation.

The notion of a first cause was defended by St Augustine, who did not see it as incompatible with belief, in his book The City Of God. He pointed out that since we remember who or what was responsible for this or that event, Man and so also perhaps the universe could not have been around for that long; they had must have come into being at a particular, relatively recent point in time. However, this is insufficient to meet the objections made by opponents of the "first cause" argument. Perhaps there have been periodic disasters which have set Man right back to the beginning; we have no way of proving such a proposition to be false. Of course we now know, from science, that the Earth and Man have not always been around, but before the creation of the Earth there may well have been other planets, some perhaps inhabited by intelligent life forms. If the Universe has always been in existence - and presumably has always been inhabited by intelligent beings, of some kind and at some time or other - then the latter would have to begin destroying their records of the past, starting with the earliest, once their species had survived beyond a certain point in time, because there would not be space for all the accumulated records, or because their minds would not be able to store all of the vast quantity of information and incorporate the knowledge into their self-consciousness.

Later, Kant believed that if the Universe did not have a beginning there would be an infinite period of time before any event, which he considered absurd. There was in any case an equally good argument for the antithesis; if the Universe had a beginning there would be an infinite period of time before it so why should it begin at any one particular time?
Augustine's reply to such questions was that time was a property of the universe which did not exist before God created the universe. This does not solve the problem, because the very word "before" implies a temporal relationship between a state of affairs in which God had not created the universe and one in which he had. And there is no particular reason why God should have created the universe at any one point in time rather than at any other (or why any other agency should have done so; the reason why the creation should have taken place when it did rather than any other time is a problem for opponents of the Steady State theory whether one believes in God or not).

If God did create the Universe in a single action, whether through a "Big Bang" or some other means, this immediately raises the question of what happened before then. If God has always existed, and his only purpose is the creation and sustenance of the universe (there's not much more one can do than that!) then he must always have been creating and sustaining the universe. How does this make sense?

Scientifically, the Big Bang and Steady State theories have both been defended by intelligent, rational people. Either different scientists have simultaneously held opposed views on the matter, or a period in which one theory has been more or less universally accepted has been followed by a period in which the other has displaced it. Although we are inclined to doubt whether anyone can do better in this field than Stephen Hawking, we cannot say for sure that at some future date an equally brilliant scientist will not succeed in disproving his theories and swinging opinion back towards the "Big Bang" view.

Neither of the two theories has been universally seen by Christians as incompatible with their beliefs in the sense that there are not some Christians, at least, who accept it. The Vatican has pronounced the Big Bang to be quite compatible with Christian doctrine. Other Christians, such as John Polkinghorne, find themselves quite able to accept the Steady State theory. But to say that the Steady-State/Big Bang controversy (along with the discovery of natural selection) does not worry Christians, in that they are able to accept one or the other theory without abandoning their beliefs, is of limited use when it is the sceptic and not the person who already believes whom we are trying to convince of God's existence. As with the theory of natural selection Christians, with the exception of a relatively small minority of Fundamentalists (mostly in the USA),may not be seriously bothered by such things, but the sceptic does insist on seeing them as invalidating Christian belief.

Both the Big Bang and Steady State theories are equally problematical, if they are problematical at all, for the Christian theologian. The former leads one to ask what God was doing before he created the Universe. The latter also causes difficulties, because the Creation would seem to be a single act of God. The word "act" implies there having been a time before the act was committed, and if the Universe has always existed then that clearly could not be the case.
Hawking puts it thus:

"....the quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility in which there was no boundary to space-time and so there would be no need to specify the behaviour at the boundary. There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time. One could say: "the boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary." The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would not be created or destroyed, it would just be." (9)

Later on in the same book, he writes: "the idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the Universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the Universe to break these laws. However the laws do not tell us what the Universe should have looked like when it started. It would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end. It would simply be. What place then for a creator?" (10)

Objections such as these have tended to be answered by saying that God stands in some way "outside" time, or, as Augustine tautologously put it, that time did not exist before God created it. I myself tend to reject such ideas. If everything comes from God, as it must do if orthodox Christian doctrine is to be upheld, and if it is correct to say, along with Berkeley, that everything including time is a concept in His mind, then time must if anything be encompassed within Him. One way of approaching the problem is by considering what God is.

God has no physical form, yet He is clearly something which is conscious and sentient. The implication is that He is essentially a mind. If that is the case, and everything comes from Him, then everything must in some sense be mental; so we are back to the Idealist philosophy of Berkeley. One advantage of that philosophy is that it provides us with an explanation as to how God is able to be the sustainer of the space-time egg. God is a mind which cannot be destroyed (for "destruction" has to be a concept in an existing mind). He has existed at all times and will always exist. The concept of him not having always existed, or of not existing at present, or of ceasing to exist at some point in the future, are all concepts in an existing mind. The mind therefore exists in all directions both temporally and spatially. It may not be correct to say that God stands outside time, but it is true to say that God is outside time as we know it - that he exists within a time-frame radically different from ours. There is one single time, and God is located within it, but for one reason or another it can be perceived differently by different beings, just as an area of space can be perceived differently according to which part of it one is in and the quality and nature of one's visual faculties. Our nature means that we see things differently from God, that when we attempt through science to understand the universe it looks as if everything had a beginning and will have an end, when this may not have been the case. Now if God exists in this kind of timeframe then, since the qualities of existence and action can’t be separated, an action being dependent on one’s existing to do it, everything he does must be done within it. It would not, of course, seem like it to us (unless perhaps we worked it out after a considerable period of philosophical reflection). Not only ourselves, but the rest of the created organic and inorganic world, are malleable. They are also perishable; they have a beginning, a middle and an end to their lives. Because we not only experience perishability in ourselves, but observe it in everything about us, we have a world view in which everything comes into existence after a period of time in which it was not in being. A being which itself was not perishable would see things very differently.

The Creation, therefore, was not something which God did at any particular time, after having sat twiddling his thumbs for an infinite period before suddenly, and for no apparent reason, changing his mind and deciding that it would be more interesting to create a universe. It was simply something that He did.
John Polkinghorne puts it like this:

"If Hawking is right, and quantum effects mean that the cosmos as we know it is like a kind of fuzzy spacetime egg, without a singular point at which it all began, that is scientifically very interesting, but theologically very insignificant. When he poses the question, "But if the Universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a Creator?", it would be theologically naive to give any answer other than "Every place - as the sustainer of the self-contained spacetime egg and as the ordainer of its quantum laws." God is not a God of the edges, with a vested interest in boundaries. Creation is not something he did fifteen billion years ago, but it is something that he is doing now." (11)

If accepted, Berkeley's philosophy and its implications can be used to meet Kant's objection that if time had no beginning there would be an infinite period of time before each event, for it would be true neither that the universe had a beginning in the sense of a time when it did not exist being followed by a time when it did, nor that it had always been going on. Mutability, and thus the division of time into states when a particular event is occurring and states when it has ceased occurring or has not yet occurred, is a characteristic of the created universe and not its creator. If this distinction between the nature of what was created, as opposed to the timescale on which creation took place, is borne in mind there is no absurd contradiction of the kind that Kant believed would be involved.

If God, because he existed outside time (meaning time as in past/present/future/beginning/middle/end),did not create the universe at any particular point in time but just did it, then it would look to beings such as ourselves, who existed in a very different timeframe, either as if it had been created at a single point in time or as if it had always been in existence, depending on the general state of scientific knowledge and the way individual scientists' minds worked.

If the Universe was not created in a single act, why is it suggested to us, in Genesis, that it was? The idea of God, and thus the actions he performs, being timeless is a complicated philosophical concept which would not be understandable by most people in any period of history. Our scientific researches, of course, suggest to us that the planet Earth, if not the universe, came into being at a particular point in time, and thus did not exist prior to then. This was so even before Man, whose perception of time is different from God's, came on the scene. But there are clear reasons why it is so.

For the purposes of what I am about to say we can see "Creation" as the fashioning either of the universe itself or, if one thinks of the Universe, regardless of whether it should be identified with God, as necessarily having (perhaps by definition) no temporal boundary, of the finite entities within it. Where those finite entities are concerned the Creation was not of the sub-atomic particles out of which they are ultimately constructed, which cannot physically be created or destroyed and must therefore exist at all times, but rather amounted to the arrangement of those entities into the combination which gives them their character either as individuals or a species.

Although the act of creating the Universe was not, from God's point of view, something that He was doing at a particular time and had not done before, the nature of what was created - the mere fact that it was created rather than Creator - meant that it would come into being from a state of chaos, a jumbled mass of sub-atomic particles, the arrangement of which could be altered so as to produce changes in its form and behaviour, and possibly revert to that state later on if God for some reason desired it. While God Himself has no boundary either in space or in time, everything else has to be created, and may one day be destroyed, and while it exists is malleable within the limits imposed by logic, whereas the essential nature of God is such that He does not change. So once the Universe was created, the things in it did change, and develop; entities came into existence, ceased to exist, or were recreated. Therefore, when human scientists began to analyse the Universe in order to understand its past and its origins, they found change; although the Universe itself might always have been there, things within it had not constantly existed or behaved in the same way. For example the Earth had formed out of a cloud of hot gases and fragments of rock, and the living organisms it supported evolved from very simple units which gradually became more complex. The changes were not always in the form of strict linear progressions from a chaotic to an ordered, or a simple to a complex, state of affairs, but they were changes nonetheless.

The Christian philosopher needs to prove not just that God was the first cause of the Universe, but also that he was the only one. Once we have forsaken the theory that there must necessarily have been only one cause for the Universe and everything in it, it is open to us to suggest that there might have been as many as a thousand or a million different causes, for we would have no reason for supposing that X number of deities were responsible for the Creation as opposed to any other number of deities. Perhaps each entity that is in the Universe has its own cause, a cause that was responsible for nothing else - e.g. dandelions were brought about by some agency which had no other purpose for its existence other than the origination of dandelions. But that surely would be too much of a coincidence. The probability of there existing a vast number of deities, one for every single entity that existed in the universe, and each deity chancing to be of such a nature that it wanted, and was able, only to create that particular entity, is infinitesimally small. The probability that the universe was the work of a smaller number of deities who each created a much larger number of entities, although relatively slight, is greater. It is open to us to ask whether the universe was not the product of a certain number of different factors, some or all of whom might have been intelligent, which each created a certain percentage of the entities, living and non-living, that exist in it, and did so independently of any of the other causes. But quite apart from the problem of explaining how each separate causal agency was itself originated, it is surely too much of a coincidence that their diverse creations should have been able to harmonise and so bring about a fully functioning universe, which generally behaves in an ordered fashion. There is no logical reason why a certain range of commodities should have only one cause, another range another cause, and so on; and why should any one causal factor produce the particular range which it is producing, rather than another?
Of course, the span of time in which Creation is taking place may be considerable, and during it there might seem to be a strong probability that a certain, possibly vast, number of causal factors might come into existence and also produce things which harmonised to create a basically ordered and functioning universe. But probabilities can only be things which are possible. For any number of things greater than one to have come into existence quite independently of each other, in the first place, would be fundamentally impossible; to suggest that they could would be the same thing as saying that things can come into existence entirely spontaneously, without any cause. Whether we are philosophers, scientists, or simply recognise the need to apply common sense to our efforts at understanding the world, we must accept that everything happens for some kind of reason. If it were possible for something to happen without a reason, there would have to be a reason for that, although such a scenario is impossible because of the contradiction involved (what a splendid paradox!)

It makes no difference if the various causal factors were each self-begotten, as God is supposed to be (whether this means they must have been always existing, or they exist in a relationship with time which means that words like "always" cannot apply to them),because they would still be existing independent of any reason for their existence. They would each just happen to be there. The myriad deities postulated by those sceptics who can see no reason for supposing the universe to have been the work of only one God could not all exist, whether or not it were possible for the results of their actions to harmonise if they did. If something is fundamentally impossible then it must be fundamentally impossible at all times.

By way of reinforcing the above arguments, let us try to imagine what it would be like if there were in fact several different deities, who between them created, and are sustaining (God is, of course, supposed to be the sole sustainer of things as well as their sole creator) the cosmos and everything in it. Either these deities would be all of the same mind, having exactly the same ideas about how to go about their task, or they would not. If they were all like-minded, there would be little point in regarding them all as separate Gods, and for practical purposes they wouldn't be. (And it would be too much of a coincidence, surely, for them all to be of such a nature that they had the same intentions). If they weren't all of the same mind, then either they would eventually come to some agreement about how to go about their task, and thus be acting as one, therefore rendering the notion of diverse deities pointless, or they wouldn't. If they did not come to such an agreement, they might be prepared to let one of them go ahead with His own scheme, the others effectively sidelining themselves. And that, again, would mean there was to all intents and purposes only one deity. If they were not so disposed, if they were each determined to fight their corner, for egotistical reasons or because they disagreed out of principle with what the other deities were doing, then they either would not have got around to creating the world in the first place or would have fallen out at some stage over how it was supposed, once created, to develop. The result of the latter would be universal chaos, and yet that is not what has been observed throughout the universe's history.

I hope that the above convincingly shows God to be the creator of the Universe. As already stated, it’s an important aspect of Christian doctrine that he is also the sustainer of the universe. Some atheists would argue that there are no grounds for supposing the force behind the creation of the universe and that responsible for its sustenance to be the same thing. But they must be, because logically everything must come from the same source. Descartes held that whatever had the power to create the Universe in the first place must clearly also have the power to sustain it. In the case of human beings, it is not always the case that to create something means one is able to sustain it too. Why is God different from us in this respect? Because human beings are finite and fallible (and, because they have no direct and scientifically verifiable experience of something which is, find it hard to believe that it exists). I can only create at second hand, and what I make may well be perishable. I am the creature not the creator, dependent on God for what properties I do possess. We merely make use, much of the time inefficiently, of the materials God has provided, and he probably anticipated what we would do anyway, being omniscient. He did not of course make helicopters, but he foresaw them and also provided the materials out of which they were constructed.

The whole essence of sustenance is implied in creation, since unless something were first created there would be nothing to sustain. It is also possible to argue that God "sustains" things by having a concept of them in his mind. They must ultimately be mental concepts of His if they are to exist, and continue existing, because "sustenance" and "continuation" are mental concepts themselves. If one is not a Berkelian, one can approach the subject by looking for moral and practical reasons why a creative intelligence would have taken on the role of sustainer as well as creator of the universe. For example, could not God have let someone else take the credit for keeping the universe in being, once he had finished making it? But who could He have chosen? It would have made no sense for Him to have populated the universe with beings exactly like Himself. We had to be smaller and more limited in our properties, and if we were then we could not take on such a role as that we are talking about here. To sustain an entire universe and all its complex functions would be more than a finite intelligence could accomplish; God would have to create another being exactly like Himself, or endow one of his finite creatures with divine attributes, but that would be pointless since He himself has all the properties required for the job. And if He allowed an ordinary human being to perform the task, their moral and other imperfections would mean that He would have to be constantly stepping in to put things on the right track, so there'd be no point in the exercise.

Since God has to be the first cause of everything, if there were another agency who was sustaining the universe that deity would have to have been created by God, who would hopefully have the power to revoke it if the agency were human and therefore fallible, and so God would still be the sustainer albeit indirectly.

He might however have let some other deity do the job out of an altruistic desire to let others share the credit for everything. But there would be no need. Again, if someone else, i.e. Himself, could have done the job just as well, there would be nothing for the sustaining agency to gain in terms of job satisfaction or prestige. Nor is there anything unreasonable and egotistical about God's wanting to sustain as well as have created the Universe. After all, so long as he is able to do the job, to pension him off would be a strange way for us to show our gratitude at His having created us.

It’s now time to look at the biological arguments against the existence of God. Essentially they are as follows:
(1) The account of the world's creation which we find in the book of Genesis is incompatible with modern scientific knowledge.
(2) Evidence of past catastrophes which wiped out a great many species, such as the cataclysm which killed off the dinosaurs, does not accord with the Bible or with the notion of a benevolent and rational God.
(3) We now know that living things evolved through natural selection, and did not come about through a single act of creation as the Bible suggests.

Let’s consider the account of the world's creation, and that of the living species which populate it, which appears in the book of Genesis. The view of the Dawkins school would be that the Genesis story is just one among a number of different Creation myths, with no more right to be regarded as true than any of the others.

Genesis in fact offers two separate and contradictory accounts of the world's creation.
(1) Ch 1 v 11-13 And God said, Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, herb yielding seed after its kind, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind....
v 20-31 And God said, "Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and let fowl fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created the great sea-monsters, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kinds, and every winged fowl after its kind..And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.........
And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after its kind; and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after its kind, and the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the ground after its kind.....
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, which in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat: and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
(2) Ch 2 v 4-9 These are the generations of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven. And no plant of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up: for the Lord God had not yet caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground; but there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
V 18-23. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and he brought them unto the man to see what he would call them: and whatsoever the man called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And the man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for man there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof: and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And the man said, "This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."

There is nothing in the first Creation story which conflicts with what science has revealed about the origins of the world and its flora and fauna. The second is quite another matter. The two accounts are clearly in conflict with one another; they cannot both be true, and the writers of Genesis would surely have realised that unless they were stupid to an extent which would be implausible in any society at any point in history. It is extremely doubtful that any attempt was being made, from some wicked or misguided motive, to get people to believe something which was false, since presenting two accounts which were obviously contradictory would be an unlikely way of convincing them. Why not just stick with one, and so make the job a lot easier? It therefore appears that either (a) the writers were unsure as to which account should be regarded as accurate, so thought it would be better to put both in, or (b) one of them was included primarily as kind of tribute to an ancient tradition, without any intent to present it as actual fact. If (b) is the case there is no obstacle to the credibility of Genesis. If (a) is the case there no obstacle either, because there is a difference between not being sure that something is the case and saying that it definitely is when it is not.

We are therefore left with a choice as to which of the two stories to believe. That being so we are entitled, if we wish, to prefer the first story, which after all accords with what we know from science (rather more so than, say, the belief of a certain West African tribe that the world was created from the excrement of ants),over the second, which science has manifestly shown to be untrue (rather a pity as it has a quaint and charming ring to it). To say there is no reason why the Genesis story should be considered more reliable than that of our West African tribe, with respect to them - as Dawkins does at one stage in The Blind Watchmaker - is transparently erroneous.

The writers of Genesis could not merely have been cleverly formulating, out of a desire to deceive, something which could be seen as compatible with science and thus acceptable, for in their day there was no such thing as "science"; only myths and legend, which may or may not have had some basis in actual fact. They and the scientists of the modern era were working with very different aims and methods - which makes it all the more strange a coincidence that what was written down in Genesis, and what was demonstrated to be the case by science thousands of years later, should be fundamentally compatible.

There is, of course, the problem that Genesis states the Earth's creation and that of the life forms on it to have taken seven days, whereas science has revealed that it took millions of years. But to suggest that this disproves the truth of Genesis ignores the possibility, already referred to, that if there is a God his conception of time may be different from ours. For him a million years may pass as do a few seconds. From the Creator's point of view, the time intervals between the different stages in the evolution of life (and in the development of the Universe as a whole) would not be as huge as they appear to us. This also effectively deals with the question of why Man has come on the scene at a relatively late stage in the day. Since we cannot say exactly how God perceives time, other than that it is probably very different from the way we do, it makes no sense to say "God would surely have done X at that point in time, and then done Y at this point..."

But if that is the case, why not give this explanation to the people of the ancient Middle East? It should be remembered that though not necessarily stupid, they lived a fairly simple, pastoral existence in an age where there was no mass education. They probably had no understanding of complex philosophical concepts, unless it were latent, in which case the means to develop and express it was probably not available. The truth had to be conveyed to people in a form which they would understand. They probably could not mentally conceive of the vast spans of time which, by modern scientific reckoning, it took the Earth and the Universe to be created, nor could their grasp of metaphysics have been sufficient to enable them to work out that God must have a different relationship with time from that which Man does, or perhaps stands outside it altogether. Why the figure of seven days was chosen I confess I do not know; it may really be how millions of years would have seemed to a being like God, or it may have been purely arbitrary. What matters is that we can appreciate why it was chosen and so not be led to conclude that God was deceiving us. If God were not telling the literal truth, there was an understandable reason for that. Later generations, finding the figure of seven days rather odd in the light of their greater scientific knowledge, would be free to reinterpret Genesis in whatever way seemed sensible. It may be that there were some people with the intelligence to understand the truth, but they would not have been typical. God's concern was to reach everyone, and the only way he could do that was by going by the lowest common denominator. Those with more intelligence than most of their fellows could use that understanding to ascertain the truth.

Why did God make us in such a way that we need exaggeration in order to make us see a point? For two reasons, both of which will be described in more detail in another article.
(1) Human society is constantly changing, since God's scheme, which involves the world lasting long enough to maximize the number of people who exist and hopefully prove worthy in the end to go to Heaven, necessarily entails that it starts from a certain primitive state and goes through a series of changes to eventually attain its final form, beyond which it can change no further without bringing about catastrophe. (There is also the advantage that scientific and technological change can be a fascinating voyage of discovery for those involved in it, as well as interesting for future historians to analyse). Therefore Man would be starting from a point where his knowledge was limited and he had, as a consequence, a rather superstitious outlook on things.
(2) The world is, as we have already seen, complex in all its aspects. It is its complexity which, along with its capacity for change, makes it pleasurable and thus endurable. Human nature therefore will have many quirks and idiosyncrasies, which God to some extent has to work around.
Of course, the way in which people understood the Bible was bound to change as their knowledge of the universe, and thus the way they thought, changed. God had to take account of that. So He said something which could be interpreted either literally or flexibly depending on the circumstances and intellectual climate of the time one was living in, but could nevertheless be believed, at all times, to be fundamentally true.

Someone once told me that they were sceptical about the validity of Genesis because there is no mention of dinosaurs in the story of Noah's Ark. But nor, out of the Ark's living cargo, is any other type of animal specifically mentioned; it is merely stated that "of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the ground, there went in two and two unto Noah in the Ark, male and female, as God commanded Noah." Why should dinosaurs be an exception, even though they were often (but by no means always) very large in size, and thus more noticeable, as well as very widespread and successful?

There are two possible approaches to Genesis, other than to dismiss it as completely and utterly false. Either we are not meant to see it as anything other than a wholly figurative affair, in which there was never any pretence of giving a strictly accurate account of what actually happened, or we are, in which case the presence of dinosaurs on Noah's Ark would surely be even more difficult to accept, for the rational mind, than their absence from it. After all, there is nothing in science whatsoever that suggests Man was ever contemporary with them, however much Hammer Films might have found it dramatically necessary to include cavemen in such productions as One Million Years BC. The fossil evidence indicates that dinosaurs died out some 65 million years ago, whilst Man has only existed on this planet for between two and five million. It is true that in the past discoveries by palaeontologists have tended to push Man’s existence further back in time, in a manner of speaking, but the gap of 60 million years is too large for it to be at all feasible that he and the dinosaurs were ever contemporaneous with one another. Those of our ancestors who were alive at time the dinosaurs died out would not have been recognisable as humans, or even primates.

Some people nevertheless feel, however, that there ought to have been some mention of dinosaurs in the Bible. In answering this objection we must consider what the purpose of Genesis was. It was to show that God had created the world and was its ultimate Lord, to whom Man owed allegiance, and to make clear the terrible consequences which would be suffered by those who, like Adam and most of the people of Noah's time, went against his will by sinning, and the benefits which would come to those who, like Noah and Abraham, showed obedience to Him. It was not to write a textbook on natural history. All God really needed to do was to inform his readers that he had created the world and everything in it; what specific life forms he mentioned was entirely up to him. And to get the point across it would merely have been necessary to mention all those life forms which existed at the time. It would not necessarily have been of any benefit to include those which had died out. For Genesis to have listed every single life form that had ever existed would not only have been tedious and impractical but also totally pointless. At the same time, there may have been altruistic reasons for the omission of the dinosaurs. God wants Man to discover his world, and the other wonders of the universe, for himself, so far as that is in line with his purpose. Had he told us about the dinosaurs, it would have anticipated the discoveries of the scientists, and thus got in the way of such an aim (though he does intriguingly mention "the great sea-serpents").

We might ask what is so special about the dinosaurs in any case, theologically speaking. They were, as admitted above, a very widespread and successful species, but they did not produce any intelligent life forms, so far as we know anyway. God's whole purpose in revealing his will in the Bible is to secure, through making it possible for them to enjoy the best kind of relationship with him, the happiness of beings like ourselves - sapient, as well as sentient, beings who are capable of understanding what "happiness" is, possess souls, and therefore may lose them. Animals, including dinosaurs, do not fall into this category – though they may, perhaps, possess souls, such are clearly not of the same kind as human souls. Therefore, there is really no need for the Bible to mention them.

It has been speculated that some dinosaurs might eventually have developed intelligence, and indeed there is no firm evidence that this planet was not inhabited by any intelligent species prior to Man. God's reasons for not informing us about them would be the same as in the case of extra-terrestrial civilisations; He wanted us to find out about the wonders of the universe for ourselves. This suggestion is quite compatible with the truth of the Bible. Genesis does not state that there weren't intelligent civilisations on this planet before Man. If there were, their past presence has made no difference to his ability to build his own civilisations and respond, if he chooses, to God's word. Since there is no evidence for or against the existence of an intelligent species on this planet prior to Man, the question is theologically largely irrelevant. It must however be said that a benevolent God would, if he had created an intelligent race of, say, reptiles, have made some provision for allowing them to enjoy the closest and most beneficial relationship with Himself, and that they might have had their own equivalent of the Christian experience. For those who have faith in His goodness it is possible to believe that this would have been the case.

It is not, I feel, that important theologically to ask why the dinosaurs died out, though if you are looking for an answer to that question it might have something to do with God's purpose being the evolution of Man (which obviously was an important part, at least, of that purpose). That process must have taken a certain amount of time (though it would be perceived differently by God from the way we would),during which the time the ecosystem would have to be sustained in being. Now there has to be a world for Man to evolve on and that world has to be kept in being, while the process is under way, by the ecosystem that inhabits it (including the ancestral species of Mankind). Each variety of dinosaur had its ecological niche, which was later occupied by the mammalian forms which began to flourish after the Age of Reptiles ended. Probably dinosaurs had to die out so that they could make way for Man, who was the apex of God's Creation and who could not easily coexist with them, at any rate within the limitations prevailing in an Earthly ecosystem.

If there really was an Ark, it only took on board those animals that were then existing; the dinosaurs by that time had long died out. But this raises the question of why there should be cataclysms at all. The idea of them does not conflict with Genesis – after all, the episode of Noah's Ark is about a cataclysm. The question is rather one of why cataclysms do occur. If we believe God is a rational being, and I hope I have shown that he is, then they must serve a rational purpose. Morally, cataclysms are only a problem if they involve suffering or loss of life. We might say that being non-sentient, dinosaurs and other non-human species which perish in them do not "suffer", though of course this isn’t something that can conclusively be proven. Altogether, this is not so much a scientific question as an ethical one. The matter of animal suffering is discussed in more detail in another article, as is the reason why the world is allowed to exist in a flawed state (of which state cataclysms, even if they are in some way necessary, are obviously a symptom) at all.

The Genesis account of the origins of the Earth and its creatures is only nonsense if one interprets the Bible in a narrow, fundamentalist fashion, as some people do in the "Bible Belt" of the United States, in which case it is clearly at variance with science (and, I am tempted to say, with commonsense, although it should be stressed that many fundamentalists are as sane as you or I and sincerely believe their strain of Christianity to be the correct one). If something can be interpreted in more than one way, and no rule has been laid down as to which way is correct, then we are perfectly at liberty to interpret it in a non-literal fashion. The idea that the Fundamentalist interpretation is the only possible one, leading among sceptics to the conclusion that the Bible can’t be regarded as true because it conflicts with science, is entertained not only by Fundamentalists but also by those unbelievers who have little real understanding of Christianity or Christians.

We should now consider natural selection and its implications for Christian belief. Not all scientists see the two as irreconcilable. Those who do seem to be implying:
(a) That it is in any case incompatible with the picture of the creation of the world given in Genesis.
(b) that evolution by natural selection is not the way a benevolent and rational creative intelligence would have tried to populate the world with life forms.

The first objection is only valid if one is justified in only interpreting the Bible literally. Genesis merely tells us that God created all life on Earth; it does not say how. It is therefore entirely open to us to say that he did it by natural selection, especially if that is what science seems to point to. There is no actual claim that life arose in a single, instantaneous (although it may have seemed instantaneous to a being such as God) act of Creation; the text is open to more than one interpretation.

Concerning the second objection, I believe Christians can (and in fact, mostly do) accept the theory of evolution through natural selection without compromising their beliefs. It is largely the atheists who insist on seeing Darwinism as a refutation of those beliefs. I shall be arguing here that it is possible for anyone to have a philosophy which accommodates both, and that to see this matter as a dispute between "Darwinists" and "Creationists" is erroneous. Both believe the world to have been “created”; the difference is over how. One side thinks it was a mindless process, the other believes it to have been the work of sentient superbeing, which is what I take to be meant by “Intelligent Design”. Both sides have been prevented by flawed thinking from becoming reconciled; Darwinists see an irresoluble contradiction between evolution and God, while some Creationists argue for one reason or another that the latter cannot be operating through natural selection. I think they’re wrong. If there’s a distinction between Creationism and Intelligent Design, then the rift needn’t be there and can be healed through a willingness to question established positions. All “Creationists” believe the world to be the work of God, the dispute essentially being over how exactly he did the job. But if there is such a dispute it needn’t prevent scientists like Richard Dawkins from joining the Church – as it invites him to do. (On the subject of Darwin’s own religious position, it does seem that his discovery of evolution left him uncertain as to the truth of the traditional concept of God, which is unsurprising in view of the bombshell such revelations are bound to be after centuries of viewing the world in one way rather than another. It’s most likely he ended up an agnostic, which has enabled both sides in the debate to claim him, perhaps perversely, as their own).

Creationists have often pointed out that we have no firm evidence of one species turning into another (except POSSIBLY Archaeopteryx, that apparent bird/reptile hybrid). Their arguments may sometimes be absurd; to say Darwin must have been wrong because no-one has found, say, a frelephant, a halfway stage between frogs and elephants, is nonsense because frogs and elephants, although related to each other in certain respects, don’t in any case occupy successive places on the same branch of the evolutionary tree. But there are other kinds of evolutionary gap which are more difficult to account for. Nevertheless, there may well be an explanation in terms of natural selection. The fossil record is vastly incomplete in any case; we are acquainted with but a small fraction of the total number of species which have existed on our planet since life began there. Among other things, geological convulsions will have destroyed many fossil remains, or rendered them inaccessible. We may add to this the consideration that evolution very often happens in leaps and jumps, which means that the intermediary forms might not have existed at all, or for a long enough period of geological time for there to be a certainty of their fossilised remains being unearthed in the modern era, given the other factors restricting the likelihood of a fossil being discovered.

Creationists (using Dawkins' "Argument From Personal Incredulity") are frequently heard to ask how something as complex as Man can be the product of random natural selection. But, as Dawkins himself is at pains to inform us, natural selection is not a random affair (in as far as one can speak of non-randomness within a world-view such as his, which leaves no place for a creative and organising intelligence). If such is the case, the damage Darwinism does to the credibility of theism is if anything limited, supposing damage to have been inflicted in the first place. Even if one does see the process as being to any extent random, for it to be capable of producing functional organisms at all suggests there must be some kind of underlying order to the system, some permanent factor, or an interplay between different factors that occur with regularity, which ensures that randomly occurring elements are arranged in an ordered fashion once they exist. Natural selection has always been capable of producing fully workable organisms - and an omniscient God would know that. One of the sorting factors - the most important - is the environment, which all life forms have to be able to interact with properly in order to be viable in the long run; this, in the analogy of the sieve, is the hole which sorts out things into their different categories.

It may be, as some theologians have suggested, that our present form was not specifically determined by God; that those random elements which do occur in the process mean it was never inevitable we should take on the form we currently occupy, in its different versions. Maybe all he wanted was some form of intelligent life, which might even have arisen from the reptilian or invertebrate line, rather than the mammalian line as it has done; but the result of the process is something which serves His purposes (and He knew that it would serve His purposes).

It has also been objected that some if not all, intermediaries would simply not have been physically possible. Generally I find this not to be a problem. To my mind they are quite possible, if the change happened sufficiently slowly and over a sufficiently vast period of time. Dawkins meets the objection thus:

"The essence of life is statistical improbability on a colossal scale. Whatever is the explanation for life, therefore, it cannot be chance. The true explanation for the existence of life must embody the very antithesis of chance. The antithesis of chance is non-random survival, properly understood. Non-random survival, improperly understood, is not the antithesis of chance, it is chance itself. There is a continuum connecting these two extremes, and it is the continuum from single-step selection to cumulative selection. Single-step selection is just another way of saying pure chance. This is what I mean by non-random survival improperly understood. In this book we have sought a way of taming chance, of drawing its fangs. To "tame" chance means to break down the very improbable into less improbable small components arranged in series. No matter how improbable it is that an X could have arisen from a Y in a single step, it is always possible to conceive of a series of infinitesimally graded intermediates between them. However improbable a large-scale change may be, smaller changes are less improbable. And provided we postulate a sufficiently large series of sufficiently finely-graded intermediates, we shall be able to derive anything from anything else, without invoking astronomical improbabilities. We are allowed to do this only if there has been sufficient time to fit all the intermediates in. And also only if there is a mechanism for guiding each step in some particular direction, otherwise the sequence of steps will career off in an endless random walk. It is the contention of the Darwinian world-view that both these provisos are met, and that slow, gradual cumulative natural selection is the ultimate explanation for our existence. If there are versions of the evolution theory that deny slow gradualism, and deny the central role of natural selection, they may be true in particular cases. But they cannot be the whole truth, for they deny the very heart of the evolution theory, which gives it the power to dissolve astronomical improbabilities and explain prodigies of apparent miracle." (12)

In expressing their incredulity that a partially random process could lead to the appearance of intelligent life or complex organs such as the eye, the Creationists may not, in a way, be sufficiently acknowledging the wonder of God's creation, something they themselves are continually seeking to draw attention to. The atheists for their part ought to consider the possibility that the fascinating, almost miraculous nature of evolution by natural selection is a sign that God is very very clever rather than that He does not exist.

The period of time over which natural selection operated, and is continuing to operate, also explains why we are not continually stepping over the bodies of all those life forms which failed to evolve fast enough to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Are all objections to the theory then taken care of?

There do remain a few areas where I must admit to still feeling a certain amount of scepticism. In one the difficulty is not so much the form of the creature itself as the processes which go on inside it. For example, at some time in the dim and distant evolutionary past our ancestors changed from being egg-laying reptiles to being mammals, or perhaps mammal-like reptiles, which gave birth to live young. I cannot foresee an intermediary stage between the two processes that would work; at the risk of seeming facetious, it is hard to visualise an animal with an egg hanging halfway out of its body, the fully-formed arms and legs of its young sticking out through holes in the shell while the rest of the young is inside the egg in embryonic form! Another objection to natural selection centres on the improbability of certain factors, all of which are essential for the survival of a species, occurring more or less simultaneously. Dawkins:

"The second basis for our natural incredulity about the evolution of very complex organs like human eyes and bat ears is an intuitive application of probability theory. Bishop Montefiore quotes C E Raven on cuckoos. These lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, which then act as unwitting foster parents. Like so many biological adaptations, that of the cuckoo is not single but multiple. Several different facts about cuckoos fit them to their parasitic way of life. For instance, the mother has the habit of throwing the host's own chicks out of the nest. Both habits help the cuckoo succeed in its parasitic life. Raven goes on: "it will be seen that each one of this sequence of conditions is essential for the success of the whole. Yet each by itself is useless. The whole opus perfectum must have been achieved simultaneously. The odds against the random occurrence of such a series of coincidences are, as we have already stated, astronomical."
There are two things wrong with the argument put by Raven. First there is the...confusion of natural selection with "randomness". Mutation is random; natural selection is the very opposite of random. Second, it just isn't true that "each by itself is useless". It isn't true that the whole perfect work must have been achieved simultaneously. It isn't true that each part is essential for the success of the whole. A simple, rudimentary, half-cocked eye/ear/echolocation system/cuckoo parasitism system, etc., is better than none at all. Without an eye you are totally blind. With half an eye you may at least be able to detect the general direction of a predator's movement, even if you can't focus a clear image. And this may make all the difference between life and death." (13)

Dawkins does not, however, say what a simple, rudimentary half-cocked cuckoo parasitism system would be: does the mother cuckoo only throw the chicks halfway out of the nest? A "simple, rudimentary, half-cocked eye and ear" are relatively easy to imagine, but this is rather different.

Both these examples, however, could be explained by a tendency for evolution to proceed occasionally in sudden leaps, of a greater or lesser magnitude - as Dawkins in fact admits it to do. This tendency would have enabled our ancestors to pass from the egg-laying to the live birth stage, and the cuckoo from a state where it did not live in a parasitic manner to one where it did, without any need for ludicrous or impractical intermediaries. Nonetheless, it does seem rather significant that the leaps occur just when they are most needed; when doing things gradually would cause the most problems. It suggests that a creative intelligence either programmed something into the system to ensure evolution would always happen in this way, or directly intervened to make sure things stayed on the right track, apparently in such a way that it could not be proved to have done (for proof denies faith).

Another thing about natural selection is that the mutations occur primarily in individuals rather than in a whole species. This means that for the mutated organism to breed and so pass on its genes it would have to mate with a non-mutant member of the species from which it originally sprang, the genes, which in some way conferred a survival advantage and this endured, subsequently becoming dominant in its descendants. This entails that its mate would have to recognise it as still being of the mate’s own species, or at least not sufficiently different from it to put it off. And generally, life forms do only mate within their own species. Given the law of probability, there would not be enough exceptions to the rule to preserve a diverse and constantly changing ecosystem. If the result of the mutation is a whole new species, how can that species survive in the long run? Dawkins himself admits in The Blind Watchmaker that the first human may have been a bit lonely, but regards this as a “boring” reason for objecting to the truth of natural selection. This only makes it seem as if he’s evading the issue – because in truth he doesn’t really know the answer – and in a rather flippant fashion. Something which is unwise for him to do if he’s concerned to meet all possible objections to Darwinism and so prevent people embracing that false and misleading, to him, doctrine of Christianity.

It may be that in making such objections as all these to the validity of natural selection, I’m merely failing to sufficiently understand how it works. But this is not a difficulty as far as proving its compatibility with religious belief is concerned. We can do that, I believe, by considering what the implications would be if natural selection were true and what they would be if it wasn’t. Either there is an argument which can explain living things and their behaviour in terms of natural selection or there isn’t. If there isn’t, then either the case for a creative intelligence is strengthened (assuming natural selection really is incompatible with belief in God) or the question simply remains open. It’s useful to bear in mind here that science hasn’t conclusively answered as many questions about the universe as we think; the mere fact that one theory which was previously the received wisdom can be superseded by another, or the two theories constantly compete for supremacy – something evident in the “Steady State vs Big Bang controversy” in the field of cosmology – surely proves that it is not the custodian of a set of objective and unquestionable truths in favour of which religion, where it contradicts them, must be discarded.
But if there is unqualified proof of natural selection, then there is still no incompatibility with God. The lack of evidence for the direct transformation of one species into another may, indeed, simply be because of the gaps in the fossil record (it is not too big a coincidence to enable us to rubbish Darwinism if we haven't found this evidence, but we must ask what the effect would be on religious faith if we did),or, if that is not the case, there may be some scientific (in the sense of something which we can believe in regardless of our religious convictions or lack of them) explanation for apparent evolutionary gaps (and for the apparent physical implausibility of certain of the stages),whether or not it involves natural selection. Or perhaps these things do represent the direct intervention in the evolutionary process of a creative intelligence. As I say I may, in being so incredulous, be simply failing to understand how natural selection works. But whichever is the case, they would make no difference, as far as I can see, to the question of God's existence.

Whatever is the case, natural selection is not, I believe, discredited as the principal means by which life forms are created (whether or not it required a "push" from a divine hand from time to time). Whatever the truth about Archaeopteryx, the most birdlike reptile and the most reptilian bird are to my mind too like each other not to suggest that God was using evolution as his main method of creating life forms (otherwise it would be too much a coincidence that they were so similar),as are Man and his closest relatives among the apes - or reptiles, mammals and mammal-like reptiles. It seems absurd that he would have independently created two creatures so similar to each other, rather than connect them by the same continuous evolutionary process. He may have needed to step in and guide that process from time to time, to bridge certain gaps, and would have been quite capable of doing so if He were worth his salt; but he could equally easily have pre-programmed the whole system in such a way that evolutionary jumps would from time to time occur.

Dawkins is unimpressed by the suggestion that God, while not constantly guiding the evolutionary process, was nevertheless necessary for starting it in the first place by setting up the chemical machinery with which it had to work:

"..any God capable of intelligently designing something as complex as the DNA/protein replicating machine must have been at least as complex as that machine itself. Far more so if we suppose Him additionally capable of such advanced functions as listening to prayers and forgiving sins. To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer...{we cannot believe in}the spontaneous existence of any fully fashioned, perfect and whole beings, including - I see no way of avoiding the conclusion - deities." (14)

This is a perfectly reasonable objection to make to Creationism; in fact, it is the best weapon in the atheist's intellectual arsenal. But it still isn’t entirely effective. A lot depends here on whether you can accept Berkelianism, and the idea that everything is mental in nature (or that matter and mind are essentially the same thing),and thus ultimately ideas in the mind of God, is a bit much for many people to accept. However it is generally recognised that the
Darwinian view of things is excessively materialist, dealing principally with how organic matter is reproduced and not asking where the mind comes from and how it fits in with everything else. To take these reservations forward and develop them into a (valid) argument for Intelligent Design, the mind and the material world both exist as real entities within the universe. We know that matter exists because we occasionally stub our toes on it or get seriously injured in a collision with an articulated lorry. We know the mind exists because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to think that if matter didn’t we wouldn’t occasionally stub our toes on it, etc. If mind and matter are both “entities”, they must be connected in some way – in effect, be part of the same thing – because it isn’t possible for any two “entities” to come into existence spontaneously and entirely independently of one another; if they did, they would just happen to exist, in a way which denies the rational universe a scientist needs to believe in to practise his trade.

It’s also evident that mind and matter are able to interact in a way which suggests they must have some very close relationship. Skills (inherent in a bloodline and not acquired characteristics) are often transmitted from generation to generation which must be at least partially mental or we could not make use of them properly. And the whole mental part of our nature must be transmissible genetically in any case unless we are to envisage a scenario where God makes a mind fall “plop” into a person’s body from Heaven whenever someone is born, which of course must be happening in a thousand places simultaneously every minute; and of course Richard Dawkins would laugh at the idea of that, in his usual sardonic fashion! If entities (not just matter) can’t be created or destroyed because there’d be no reason for them to spontaneously plop into existence, then the mind must have been around before the creation of the Earth – present as the mind of God, which encompassed all things including time and so did not act at a particular point within the latter.

Objections to "Scientific Creationism", both from within Christianity and without it, seem to see natural selection as not being quite the way in which a rational being who had unlimited (within the restrictions imposed by sheer logic) power at his disposal would choose to create life. But if anything exists, or happens, at all there must be a reason why it can do so - and we must believe this, unless we are to renounce all logic and our religion is to be of an irrational and superstitious kind. Therefore God did not "just" create life; he must have done it according to some kind of system, some form of method (even if He created all the life forms on the Earth instantaneously and simultaneously by sending a ray of light down from Heaven, there would have to be a reason - something to do with its composition, along perhaps with other factors - why that ray of light could have had such an effect). Darwinian opponents of "Creationism" see it as incompatible with natural selection because a true Creator would have foresight, designing his creations with a future purpose in mind, whereas natural selection is a blind, unconscious, automatic process. As stated earlier, my belief is that God did have foresight; the foresight to see that the system could be fashioned from the outset so that something selected the randomly occurring elements and enabled them to form fully functional organisms. So, instead of constantly and directly controlling the process, he so designs living things that they will genetically mutate, the mutations which will not be favoured by the environment dying out (the environment has to be a major consideration since the life forms clearly have to be able to function effectively in it). He starts the genetic ball rolling but does not afterwards intervene to determine the course it takes, generally speaking.

This "laissez faire" policy can produce some bizarre commodities. Here is Dawkins on the flatfish:

"the whole skull of a bony flatfish retains the twisted and distorted evidence of its origins. Its very imperfection is powerful testimony of its ancient history, a history of step-by-step change rather than of deliberate design. No sensible designer would have conceived such a monstrosity if given a free hand to create a flatfish on a clean drawing board. I suspect that most sensible designers would think in terms of something more like a skate." (15)

It is a mistake to think of God as necessarily having to design the flatfish in the sense of getting out a drawing board in some celestial workshop and, having worked out what it should look like, manufacturing it directly in that same workshop before depositing the finished product in its intended environment, for it to be a properly functional living thing. The flatfish might look grotesque, but nevertheless it functions more or less satisfactorily, both to itself and us. To populate the world with viable and scientifically interesting life forms it was simply not necessary to work by "instantaneous creation", as Darwin and his followers have shown.

Possibly God may not have specifically intended anyone to have blond(e) hair, while not objecting to it if they did, although he probably envisaged that human females would possess something like a clitoris; but I believe he did want all life forms to be reasonably diverse in their characteristics as well as functional in practical terms. So he set up the biological machinery by which the genes that led both to the emergence of certain characteristics, and the tendency of those characteristics to be sexually attractive, would occur, knowing that the combination of the two factors would lead to the perpetuation of the characteristics.

The morality of natural selection is another issue. It is, after all, a rather cruel process, which does not appear to reflect favourably on God. It's in line with the concept of a creator who leaves the universe to function by itself, but not, or so it may appear, with that of a really benevolent one. But then that’s another issue.

Scientists such as Einstein and Hawking have asked how much choice God had in creating the form the Universe took. Well, he does have to operate under certain limits. If he does a particular thing He will not be able to do anything which is incompatible with it. He is constrained by the laws of logic, at least. The more complex his creation becomes the more limits there are, and the more widespread the effects of those limitations. Once He commits Himself to a certain course, he will have to follow it through and do everything that is logically implied by it. Even in Heaven one presumably can’t do what is logically impossible. In creating the universe as we know it his options were far more limited because He was not creating Heaven. Here, apart from anything else, moral considerations, discussed in detail in the article on suffering, led him to subject our world to certain physical restrictions.

God may, nevertheless, have had a certain amount of freedom in the way he operated, though how wide this freedom was, and what each of the other options open to him would have been, we cannot say. The world may have had to be created, in any eventuality, according to certain rather limiting specifications, both because of logic and because it needed to be more or less fully functional while containing, for moral reasons, things which might cause disruption and suffering; but nevertheless its precise form might have been different from what it is. If God had been faced with a host of different options he may well have had to make an entirely arbitrary decision as to which one to go for, and would have been quite justified in doing so if each would have served his purposes just as well as the others.

Certainly I do not believe he had no choice at all. Hawking seems to proceed on the assumption that God and the Universe are entirely separate entities, and that facts about the latter which remain facts whatever God might or might not do have the effect of restricting the Creator's freedom of action. I don’t believe he is justified in saying this. If the Universe is all that exists, and God exists, then by definition it must include God. God is the Universe. Hawking writes, "if the no boundary proposal is correct {God}had no freedom at all to choose initial conditions. He would of course still have had the freedom to choose the laws that the Universe obeyed. This however may not have been all that much of a choice; there may well be any one, or a small number, of completely unified theories, such as the heterotic string theory, that are self-consistent and allow the existence of structures as complicated as human beings who can investigate the laws of the universe and ask about the nature of God"(16). If one goes on this way, one may as well leave God out of the picture altogether, because it must inevitably lead to the conclusion that He is either entirely impotent or does not exist at all. It is the conviction of most modern Christians, myself among them, that the Universe is God, and vice versa, and is endless because God is endless. All the other features it exhibits, including its limitations, are aspects of God (and Berkeley's ideas provide, for me, the best way of showing how this can be the case). God is the heterotic string theory. If He is anything, He is the creator and sustainer of all things.

Assuming that God did create the universe in the first place, why, Hawking then asks, should He have permitted it to develop in ways that we could understand; should have enabled us to see that everything functioned in an ordered manner, and to understand that order. As a Christian I suggest the following answer to that question. The things God needs to hide from us are those which would give us conclusive, scientific proof of His existence. He must only be understood through faith or through an open-mindedness towards the question of his existence, which can amount to the same thing. It is not necessary, for that all-important consideration to be met, for Him to prevent us knowing anything at all; therefore if he is benevolent why should he, where it doesn’t get in the way of his purpose, allow us to understand things about the Universe, such as natural selection and how it operates, and how black holes form? Where there is no justification for leaving us continually blundering about in the dark in a confused and miserable fashion, unable to use the intellectual abilities He himself gave us, he does not do so. It appears that there is a great deal we can be enabled to understand which does not make any difference to our views on God; that this is so is proven by the fact that however much we know about the nature of the Universe, scientists and intelligent laypeople consistently refuse to see the order which it clearly exhibits as evidence of a rational creative intelligence. In order to have faith, Richard Dawkins must first be allowed to doubt.

One final point. It could be said that God is diminished by the need to justify Him using an external standard other than simple faith. By asserting that there is such a need, are we not effectively saying that the source of all truth is the external standard and not what it validates? Of course, reason alone is not the means by which a person can become convinced of God's reality, but for many people it is still an important element in the process. Even if it were the only element, we would still have to pass the test of accepting that to be the case, which our blinkeredness would probably get in the way of doing, and of resisting anything which might distract us from our enquiries. Nor would it in any sense devalue the Creator. We too often break our own rules, rejecting any definition of logic, or result of rational enquiry, which doesn’t suit us. If reason is as important to us as the philosopher and scientist claim, then we must by that token embrace wholeheartedly not just the principle of reason itself, but the conclusions the use of reason leads us to; conclusions which I believe include the existence of God. If an objective standard of intellectual reasoning points to the existence of God, it is all the more reason to worship Him.

(1) S. Hawking, "A Brief History Of Time," p174-5
(2) R. Dawkins, "River Out Of Eden", p95-8
(3) Quoted in R. Dawkins, "The Blind Watchmaker", p38
(4) Dawkins, TBW, p37
(5) Dawkins, TBW, p36
(6) D. Attenborough, "The Living Planet", p41-2
(7) Dawkins, TBW, p44
(8) Dawkins, TBW, p44
(9) Hawking, ABHOT, p136
(10) Hawking, ABHOT, p141
(11) J Polkinghorne, "Science And Christian Belief", p73
(12) Dawkins, TBW, p317-18
(13) Dawkins, TBW, p40-41
(14) Dawkins, TBW, p140-41
(15) Dawkins, TBW, p92
(16) Hawking, BHOT, p174