On January 7, 1949, the first issue of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation was released. It was a bulletin written by scientists who believed in God and who wanted to make an academic response to the skepticism creeping into America’s secular education. The ASA is not an effort by preachers but a product of the thinking and faith of scientists who believe in God. The ASA Journal is active today, and they released volume 75 # 2 of their journal Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith in September 2023.
The 75th-anniversary issue of the ASA Journal contains twenty-five ASA fellows and editors who tell of their work in conveying academic support for faith through science. Every issue of the ASA journal contains book reviews, but this issue has 20 reviews of books dealing with various apologetics issues.
Anyone can read the ASA Journal, but members of the American Scientific Affiliation must “have attained a bachelor’s or higher degree in a science-related discipline, or they must be philosophers, historians, Bible scholars, theologians or other professionals whose vocational activity contributes to the intersection of faith and science.” They must also give assent to the “statement of faith” (you can see this statement on www.asa3.org-ABOUT-Statement of Faith.)
It is essential to understand that this group consists of people from all denominations and belief systems who believe science supports faith in God. The scholars debate and sometimes express views that others, including your author, may disagree with. However, the organization has made a robust academic response to the growing tide of skepticism, naturalism, agnosticism, and atheism in America today.
You can get more information atwww.asa3.org or 978-887-8833. Their mailing address is American Scientific Affiliation, 218 Boston St., Ste 208, Topsfield, MA 01983-2210.
“Why do I exist?” People have discussed and debated the purpose for human existence from about every philosophical direction imaginable. Atheists have written books to tell us that we are just accidents with no purpose for existence. Many theologians give the trite answer, “Because God wanted to create us,” which is not much of an answer.
Recent evangelical ministers have used the analogy of couples deciding to have a child. If a child asks his parents, “Why did you have me?” What would they say? They might say, “Because we wanted a child to love.” Later, a parent might say their child has brought them great pride as they tell anyone who listens, “That’s my child.” Does that human parent comparison explain why God created us?
I would consider that it is not reasonable to suggest that we humans fulfill a need that God has. God does not have human needs. We don’t praise God because He has an ego problem or is struggling with depression. The Apostle Paul tells us to “glorify God” in Romans 15:6 and elsewhere, but that does not mean God needs us to build Him up because He lacks something. That would be like a political figure or an entertainer who needs people to praise him and build his esteem. Thinking that God has such needs is rooted in human attempts to create God in our own image.
In the Bible, we can find clues to help us understand more clearly the purpose for human existence. For example, the book of Job shows a conflict beyond our daily physical struggles. God never explained to Job the spiritual battle behind the purpose for his existence and which led to the pain he suffered. But after his dialogue with God, Job concluded that the answer is beyond human knowledge or understanding. Speaking through Ezekiel, God tells us that Job, Noah, and Daniel achieved the purpose for which they were created, but their righteousness could not make up for the sins of others. (See Ezekiel 14:14 and 20.)
The New Testament further clarifies the purpose for human existence. First, we see a major confrontation in the war between good and evil in Matthew 4:1-10 when Satan tempted Jesus. Then we see the culmination of the conflict in Revelation 20-22. People often fail to understand the Book of Revelation because they don’t understand that it is not describing a physical war. The war between good and evil is in a realm beyond this physical world. Ephesians 6:10-20 makes it clear that the purpose of our existence is beyond flesh and blood but involves a struggle “against the rulers, against the authorities against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
In Ephesians 3:8-13, Paul writes that his purpose in existing was “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Revelation chapters 20 to 22 give a prophecy of the ultimate destruction of evil and the wonderful existence we all can have if we fulfill the purpose for which God created us. First, John 1: 5-9 makes it clear that we will not be perfect, but we will be forgiven and cleansed as we fulfill the purpose for human existence. Atheists try to tell us that evil doesn’t exist and that there is no reason for us to be here. However, the evidence and the biblical message show us the reason for our existence and the joy and love God makes available to us all.
Two months ago, I asked a computer if God exists. Actually, it was Open AI’s chatbot named ChatGPT. This Artificial Intelligence program has received much attention in the form of praise and concern. The praise is because of the many ways AI might positively affect business, medicine, entertainment, work, and education. The concern is how AI can negatively affect those same areas. That is especially true of education because students can use it to write their term papers. Now Google has an AI chatbot named Bard.
Since I had tested ChatGPT with questions on God’s existence, I wanted to put Bard to the same test. I first asked, “How did the universe begin?” Bard gave me a 176-word response compared to 237 words from ChatGPT on that question. It was four short paragraphs that all began with “The Big Bang Theory.” The third paragraph also mentioned the “Steady State Theory and the Oscillating Universe Theory” as if they have some credibility, which they no longer have. However, the Big Bang Theory does not fully explain how the universe began.
When I asked the AI chatbot named Bard to give me a 300-word essay proving the existence of God, it responded with these 354 words:
“There is no one definitive proof of the existence of God. However, there are a number of arguments that have been put forward that attempt to show that God is a reasonable explanation for the universe and the existence of life.
“One of the most common arguments for the existence of God is the cosmological argument. This argument states that the universe must have had a cause, and that this cause must be something that is uncaused itself. This uncaused cause is what people call God.
“Another common argument for the existence of God is the teleological argument. This argument states that the universe appears to be designed for a purpose. The order and complexity of the universe, the existence of life, and the laws of nature all seem to point to a creator who had a specific goal in mind when creating the universe.
“The existence of evil in the world is often seen as a challenge to the existence of God. However, some people argue that evil is necessary for free will to exist. If there were no evil, then there would be no good, and no choice between the two.
“Ultimately, whether or not you believe in God is a personal decision. There is no scientific evidence that can prove or disprove the existence of God. However, the arguments that have been put forward by philosophers and theologians can provide a framework for thinking about the question.
“Here are some additional arguments for the existence of God:
The moral argument: This argument states that the existence of objective moral values is evidence of a God who created us with a moral compass.
The argument from religious experience: This argument states that the personal experiences of people who claim to have encountered God provide evidence of His existence.
The argument from miracles: This argument states that the occurrence of miracles, such as healings and resurrections, is evidence of God’s intervention in the world.
“These arguments are not without their flaws, but they do provide some food for thought for those who are open to the possibility of God’s existence.”
That is the summary of arguments for God’s existence that the AI chatbot named Bard gave me. It corresponds very closely to ChatGPT’s answer, except that Bard added the argument from miracles and the existence of evil versus free will.
Again, I asked the AI chatbot named Bard the direct question, “Does God Exist?” Here is the answer I received:
“The existence of God is a question that has been debated for centuries. There is no scientific evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God, so the answer ultimately comes down to faith.”
Bard went on to say that there is no right or wrong answer to that question, but each person must make their own decision. I suggest that there is scientific evidence in the design and fine-tuning of the universe and life, but many people choose to reject that evidence.
Like ChatGPT, Bard did not mention Genesis 1:1, so I asked, “What do we learn from Genesis 1:1?” I thought Bard’s answer to this question was the best of all:
“Genesis 1:1 teaches us that God is the creator of the universe. He created the heavens and the earth, and everything in them. He is the source of all life and all order.
“Genesis 1:1 also teaches us that God is a God of order. He created the universe in an orderly fashion, with each part having its own purpose. This order is a reflection of God’s own character, which is orderly and just.
“Finally, Genesis 1:1 teaches us that God is a God of love. He created the universe out of love, and he continues to love his creation. This love is evident in the beauty and order of the universe, and it is also evident in the way that God cares for his creation.
“Genesis 1:1 is a foundational verse for all of Christianity. It teaches us about God’s character, his creation, and his love for us.”
So, I have now questioned two of the latest versions of Artificial Intelligence about the existence of God. Whether it’s an AI chatbot named Bard or ChatGPT, all AIs are created and programmed by humans, so we can expect the answers to correspond to human responses. How would you answer the question, “Does God exist?” The difference is that AI does not have a life, but you do. So, how does your answer to that question affect your life?
In 1960 radio astronomer Frank Drake began research to find alien civilizations in deep space by aiming an 85-foot radio telescope at some sun-like stars. He found nothing, but it was the beginning of a program known as SETI – Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. The program has continued for 63 years, with many radio telescopes listening for messages from space. Researchers have spent thousands of hours and millions of dollars with zero results. They have detected no deep-space radio signals containing any intelligence – only noise.
Radio signals continuously originate from stars, nebula, and other space objects, but it is all noise. How do the SETI scientists know it’s just noise and not intelligence? Intelligence has a pattern. They may not understand the language, but they can tell language from random noise. They can distinguish random, accidental, chance blips from something created by an intelligent being.
Thus, scientists have confidence that they know the difference between information transmitted by an intelligent being and random noise when listening for messages from space. How about when examining the DNA within living cells? Does the complex pattern of information that creates the blueprint within each living cell show intelligence behind it – or is it random noise? Does it resemble a computer program written by a super-intelligence, or does it display random, accidental chance? If we can tell the difference between intelligence and randomness in space, why can’t we tell the difference in our own bodies? Is the problem that some people want to find signs of intelligence in deep space but don’t want to see it within our cells?
Frank Drake admitted that in 1974 he transmitted an encoded message toward a star cluster 25,000 light-years away in the constellation Hercules. That means the message should reach its target in 25,000 years (minus 49 years). If any intelligent being gets the message and responds immediately, the return message will take 25,000 years. Unfortunately, Drake died in 2022, at age 92, without getting a message back.
Is it possible that there really is an intelligent Being out there listening and waiting to hear from us? Is it possible that Being is not limited by time and space? Is it possible that the Being has already communicated with us by coming to Earth and taking on human form? Is it possible that while spending time and money listening for messages from space, we are not listening to Him?
God’s first command to Adam and Eve did not seem to make sense. God created many beautiful trees, but one of them was different. God told the first couple they could eat the fruit from any of the trees, with only one exception. They must have thought that obeying God doesn’t make sense. Why should one tree be off-limits?
Sometimes we must tell our children to avoid doing something that doesn’t make sense to them. To a small child, we say, “Stay out of the street.” They look at that open space where they could run or ride a tricycle. It seems like a fun place to venture into. Genesis 3:6 says that Eve saw the forbidden tree was “good for food” and “pleasant to the eyes.” How could it be possible that God was right when He said that eating from that tree would lead to death (Genesis 2:17)?
Eve knew what God had told Adam about the tree. In Genesis 3:2, she goes even further when she says that even touching it would lead to death. Was she embellishing what God had said, or had she received further warnings? Did she know that if she touched it, she would want to eat it, just like the child who is near the street wants to step into it? Like that child, did the woman even understand what death is?
God couldn’t explain to Adam and Eve why He put that tree in the garden any more than the road builders could explain to the young child why they put the street in front of his house. The “why” didn’t really matter. The point is that just as the parent who tells a child to stay out of the street is wiser than the child, so God was wiser than the newly-created couple. Just as the child must learn to obey, so did Adam and Eve.
Learning to obey wise warnings is more important than knowing the reason. When we demand an explanation, we are saying that we are our own masters and will decide what we will do. Doing what God commands even when obeying God doesn’t make sense means that we believe He knows more than we do. It means we trust God, even though our desires and our culture tell us to take a different action. We must overcome our feelings and pride to obey, even when we want to run out into that street.
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments (John 14:15). When Jesus says to love your enemies, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and pray for your persecutors, we think, “Obeying God doesn’t make sense.” (See Matthew 5:38-48.) Like the child running into the street or Eve reaching for the forbidden fruit, we want to rebel and trust our own understanding. But we need to remember the words of Jesus in John 15:10-11, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
“In a certain sense, you might say that the universe has a purpose, but I’m not sure what the purpose is. I don’t believe in any religion I’ve seen. So in that sense, I am an atheist.” – Roger Penrose
That statement by the British mathematician, mathematical physicist, philosopher of science, and Nobel Laureate in physics Roger Penrose appeared in an interview in New Scientist magazine. Penrose has won many awards and honors for his brilliant achievements. One of his endeavors has been to explore the origin of consciousness. He believes that the known laws of physics cannot explain the phenomenon of consciousness. The first of his three books on the subject was The Emperor’s New Mind (1989). Since then, he has worked with an anesthesiologist to develop a view of consciousness that he calls “orchestrated objective reduction” (Orch OR).
In the New Scientist interview, Penrose said, “whatever consciousness is, it must be beyond computable physics.” Penrose doesn’t think that consciousness is accidental. He said, “I think the presence of consciousness, if I can put it like that, is not an accident.”
If consciousness is not an accident, then it must be intentional. How can something be intentional without a mind that intends for it to be? How can it have a purpose without a purpose giver? Penrose stated in the interview that “nobody knows where the fundamental constants of nature come from.” He suggests that if those fundamental constants didn’t have the specific values they have, then the chemistry of life could not exist, and we wouldn’t be here. If those constants have the precise values for life, how could that happen without a conscious Designer?
Roger Penrose is a man whom God has gifted with a brilliant mind that, even at age 91, is still pursuing an understanding of the universe and consciousness. He clearly states that he does not believe the universe and consciousness are accidents, but he is seeking to explain them by quantum mechanics. However, he admits, “I would say that there is something going on that might resonate with a religious perspective.”
We agree with Penrose that the universe has a purpose. Purpose in the universe and purpose in consciousness can best be explained by a conscious Mind outside of the universe and beyond the reach of scientific analysis. This is not a “god-of-the-gaps” concept but logically seeking the best explanation. Following through with that understanding means that you, like everyone else, also have a purpose.
How was a man living over 2,000 years ago able to accurately calculate Earth’s circumference? How could he even know that Earth is spherical? How can some people today believe that our planet is flat when everyone has seen pictures of Earth taken by satellites in space?
Those may be too many questions at once. Let’s try looking at them one at a time. The first man to accurately calculate Earth’s circumference in about 240 B.C. was a Greek polymath named Eratosthenes. He was a brilliant mathematician, geographer, astronomer, music theorist, and poet, and his calculations were amazingly accurate.
A myth originated from a fiction work by nineteenth-century American author Washington Irving and other authors. Irving wrote a less-than-accurate “biography” of Christopher Columbus. In it, the Spanish authorities questioned Columbus’ plan to sail west to Asia by going east because they thought the ships would drop off the edge of a flat Earth. The truth is that European scholars at that time knew that our planet is a sphere. In fact, Columbus did too, but he believed that it was 25% smaller than it actually is. He should have paid more attention to Eratosthenes.
Ancient Greek scholars, as early as the fifth century B.C., recognized the spherical nature of the planet based on observations. (We have talked about that before.) So Eratosthenes set out to accurately calculate Earth’s circumference. Let’s look at a simplified description of how he did it.
Eratosthenes was the librarian of the famous library of Alexandria in Egypt. Syrene was a city 5,000 stadia south in what is now Aswan, Egypt. (5000 stadia was approximately 800 km or 497 miles.) At noon on the summer solstice, Eratosthenes placed a rod vertically into the ground in Alexandria. At the same time, his assistant had placed a rod of the same length at Syrene. Since Syrene is very close to the Tropic of Cancer, where the Sun is directly overhead at noon on the solstice, the rod did not leave a shadow. In Alexandria, the rod produced a shadow of 7 degrees, which is 1/50 of the circumference of a circle. That means Earth’s circumference would be 50 times the distance from Alexandria to Syrene. Multiplying 50 times 5,000 stadia results in 250,000 stadia for Earth’s circumference. Depending on exactly how long a stadion was, that measurement is accurate to within -2.4% to +0.8%.
That answers the first two questions, but what about people today who believe the Earth is flat when there is plenty of evidence otherwise? That is an example of people believing what they want to believe and refusing to accept the evidence. There is a connection here to the so-called war between science and faith, and it relates to what we read in Romans 1:20. More on that tomorrow.
As our culture turns away from God and the Christian system of living, we have a vast void that many people fill by turning to recreational drugs. Drug promoters try to convince people that they offer solutions to the negative human experience. For example, we now see “churches” that advertise a quick way to have a spiritual experience using a psychedelic brew known as ayahuasca. The promoters of ayahuasca drug use in churches claim it will give spiritual enlightenment and bring the user closer to God.
The government of New Mexico has allowed the ayahuasca church the right to use the drug as a sacrament even though the main ingredient is illegal under U.S. federal law. In Oregon, a U.S. District Court ruled that a church is free from prosecution for the use of ayahuasca because of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Hummingbird Church, with locations in California and Utah, regularly conducts ayahuasca services.
Ayahuasca came to the U.S. from South America, where it has been used in religious rituals for many years. It is usually consumed as a tea. The active ingredient is N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), with harmala alkaloids added to prevent the hallucinogenic drug from breaking down in the digestive system.
The risk factor for ayahuasca is very high and similar to the LSD craze. It raises the heart rate and blood pressure. Many users experience seizures, and most lose muscle coordination resulting in falls. Respiratory arrests have happened, especially with people who have had the COVID virus. One complication is HPPD (hallucinogen persisting perception disorder), which, along with persistent psychosis, results in flashbacks long after discontinued use. New data also links serotonin syndrome disorder to the drug.
With ayahuasca drug use in churches in the United States, we can expect it to become more widely distributed. In addition, we can expect to see use among high school and college kids, especially those who have rejected their parent’s church and Christianity in general.
A person who throws God out of their life will desperately seek something to fill the void. Ayahuasca, like LSD, is a bad choice. The body of a Christian is the dwelling place for God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and any attempt to find a substitute is destined to fail. Ayahuasca drug use in churches and on the street will bring pain and, ultimately, death to the user. Worse than death, eternal separation from God is the ultimate tragedy for any human being.
One of the positive things about science is that its methodology allows change. When new data become available, theories are either supported or discarded, resulting in the constant evolution of what scientists believe to be true. This applies to our understanding of the uniqueness of planet Earth.
Experts from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre have announced that a widespread assumption about life on other planets is not valid. Science has assumed that other stars similar to our Sun in size and type also have similar stability. The Sun has not changed significantly in brightness and temperature in the hundreds of years that scientists have been observing and measuring it. Recent measurements of similar stars show that three-quarters of them go through changes in both brightness and temperature.
Dr. Noah Tuchow of NASA says that the number of alien worlds that could contain life has been “vastly overestimated.” The planetary zone where water could exist as a liquid is known as the “Goldilocks Zone.” A planet would have to be orbiting a star with relatively constant heat output to be in such a zone. Planets that formed too close to be in the star’s habitable zone would have their water boiled away. Those that began beyond the habitable zone would have frozen water that would take a long time to melt. Either way, they would have a relatively short time to support life. This shows the uniqueness of planet Earth.
NASA has created a new label for planets that enter the habitable zone after their formation due to orbiting a changing star. They call it the “Belatedly Habitable Zone” (BHZ). Dr. Tuchow says, “A planet’s history dictates its current potential to host habitable conditions and life.”
Our point is the uniqueness of planet Earth, not whether it is the only place where life exists. However, if life exists elsewhere, God created it. Every discovery scientists make shows that Earth is an extraordinary place and our Sun is an exceptional star. Considering what we have learned about the cosmos, the statement of Psalms 19:1 is more meaningful today than when it was written thousands of years ago: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky shows His handiwork. Day to day they utter speech, and night to night they show knowledge.”
Please go to our doesgodexist.org website to see a chart titled “Evidence for Design in the Universe,” listing 47 of the vast number of variables required for a life-sustaining planet. The constancy of the parent’s star adds one more limiting variable to what it takes to have a world able to support life.
Years ago, I heard a joke that went something like this. Scientists developed a massively powerful computer that could answer any question. The researchers asked the computer, “How did the universe begin?” The computer whirred, lights flashed, and out popped this answer: “See Genesis 1:1.” That joke originated when computers filled a large room, had spinning reels of tape and flashing lights, and used punch cards. Now, computers are small, use keyboards and monitors, have voice recognition, and speak in many languages. Soon we may have quantum computers with capabilities only dreamed of today. Have you ever tried asking a computer if God exists?
A topic that has received much publicity in recent months is artificial intelligence (AI). As computers become more humanlike with their ability to speak and answer questions, we are coming to depend on them more and more. Knowledgeable people suggest that the growth of AI will dramatically affect business, medicine, and entertainment. Other areas expected to face major changes because of AI are work, war, and education.
Recently, I have seen articles concerning a new AI development that worries educators. It’s called ChatGPT. This app can do more than answer questions. It can write essays. A student with an assignment to write a 500-word essay on a subject can input the topic and let ChatGPT write the paper. I decided this would be a good opportunity for asking a computer if God exists.
Going back to that old story, I asked the computer, “How did the universe begin?” ChatGPT responded with a 237-word essay on the Big Bang that agreed with current scientific theories. It was nicely worded, grammatically correct, and would probably satisfy a school teacher. However, it didn’t fully answer the question, just as the Big Bang theory does not.
Then I asked ChatGPT to write an essay about proving the existence of God. The result was 430 words that read in part:
“One of the most commonly cited arguments for the existence of God is the cosmological argument. This argument states that the universe had a beginning, and that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. Therefore, it is reasoned that the universe must have been caused by something that exists outside of the universe, and that this cause is God. This argument is based on the principle of causality, which states that for every effect, there must be a cause. Another argument for the existence of God is the teleological argument. This argument states that the universe is complex and ordered, with many intricate systems and processes that work together in harmony. This complexity and order is argued to be the result of an intelligent designer, which is God. The design argument is based on the idea that the universe is too complex and ordered to be the result of chance, and that it must have been created by an intelligent being. A third argument that is often used to prove the existence of God is the moral argument. This argument states that humans have a moral sense, and that this moral sense must come from a higher being, which is God. The moral argument is based on the idea that moral laws and values cannot be explained by natural causes, but must be the result of an intelligent and moral being. Some people argue that the existence of God can be known through personal experience, through faith. They believe that God can reveal himself in personal experiences, such as through prayer, meditation, or other spiritual practices. They argue that the existence of God is something that can be known through a personal relationship with God, and not something that can be proven through reason or science.”
That summarized the arguments for God’s existence. Then, however, I decided to make the question more direct by asking a computer if God exists. So I asked ChatGPT, “Does God exist?” The answer came back in 195 words that concluded with:
“Ultimately, the question of whether or not God exists is a matter of personal belief and faith. It is important for individuals to form their own opinions on the matter based on their own experiences, beliefs and personal understanding of the world.”
Since ChatGPT never referred me to Genesis 1:1, I decided to ask, “What do we learn from Genesis 1:1?” I received this response:
“It teaches that God is the creator of all things, including the heavens and the earth. Additionally, it implies that God’s creation of the universe was a purposeful and deliberate act, rather than the result of chance or natural processes.”
I certainly can’t argue with that. I conclude that asking a computer if God exists will never result in a definitive answer to the question. Each of us must reach our own conclusion based on examining the evidence with an open mind.