12 Examples of Evidence That Support God’s Existence

I’ve often heard it said that there is no evidence for the existence of God. Of course, as soon as I challenge that claim, I usually hear a series of qualifications, e.g. there is no empirical evidence, or there is no scientific evidence, or there is “scant” evidence, or there is insufficient evidence. The fact is that there is no singular way to understand “evidence.” So when someone says, “there is no evidence” or “you haven’t shown any evidence,” the first task is to nail down precisely what “evidence” means. Only later can we take up the question of the sufficiency of evidence.

In defining evidence, I prefer something like a Bayesian account:

(∀x)(∀h){[P(h|x)>P(h)] ⊃ Exh} (read as: for all facts and for all hypotheses, if the probability of a hypothesis, h, given a fact x, is greater than the probability of h unconditioned, then x is evidence for h).

This definition is commonly accepted by philosophers of science, is natural, and implicit in legal reasoning. It doesn’t beg the question as to whether the hypothesis is true, believed to be true, or known to be true. It just lays out when something should rightly be called evidence for a hypothesis. If someone would like to explain why there is absolutely no evidence for God, I would like to know a) what do they mean by evidence, and b) why do the following not count?

So is there any evidence that makes the God hypothesis more likely than the God hypothesis alone? I am going to present some facts that I think make God’s existence more likely than the God hypothesis is by itself. Think of it this way: were you to wake up tomorrow to the news that these facts were overturned for one reason or another, would you have even less reason to think God exists? Another way to think of this is to consider if the evidence is more surprising given the non-existence of God or the existence of God.

1. That there is a universe of existing things rather than nothing: Think of it this way, if there were no universe and no God, there would be nothing that needs to be explained. The universe exists, and so it makes the hypothesis that God exists a little more likely than if there was no universe at all. Now it might be odd to think about a scenario where you read in the newspaper that there is no universe at all. Nonetheless, if we could posit some observer of a situation where there were no universe, I think such an observer would have less reason to think God exists than we do given that there is a universe.

2. The contingency of the universe: Related to there being something is the notion that the something we perceive is contingent.  It didn’t have to be. And the existence of contingent things always has an explanation. So, the conjunction of all contingent facts, requires an explanation. But that explanation cannot be within the conjunction. So the explanation is something non-contingent, and beyond the contingent natural world. If nothing were contingent, then classical theism would be less likely as a hypothesis. Conversely, the existence of contingent things is expected on classical theism. If non-theism were the case, perhaps there would be nothing at all and so nothing requiring an explanation.

3. The fine-tuning of the universe: Sure there might be some multiverse explanation on the horizon. But keep in mind that the multiverse is an additional ad hoc hypothesis that has yet to be established. Furthermore, it may very well be that fine-tuning applies to the multiverse as well. But generally speaking, if there were no fine-tuning at all, theism would be less likely. That is, if it turned out that the universe did not need much fine-tuning to sustain life (that the parameters were huge), we would think God would be less necessary as a hypothesis. Conversely, fine-tuning is at least some evidence in favor of God.

4. The ubiquity of biogenesis and lack of observation of abiogensis: If abiogenesis were a common occurrence, we would think that would really make God less necessary. But generally we observe that life comes from life. And so it seems that this fits better with a world-view where biological life my have been brought into existence through the providence of a living God. Again, imagine you open your newspaper tomorrow morning and read an article that says “Scientists have discovered that abiogensis occurs everyday at the bottom of the ocean”… would you rush to post that on your favorite Atheism/Theism forum on Facebook as evidence against theism, or would you shrug? Would the theist nervously try to explain the scientist’s findings away? Now I am not saying that the discovery of abiogensis would be a defeater for theism, but it would be slight evidence against God. Likewise, the constant confirmation that life comes from life fits with theism, where a living God is the source of everything.

5. The hard problem of consciousness: If there were no conscious beings, naturalists wouldn’t be struggling to resolve the hard problem (a series of interconnected problems associated with intentionality, qualia, identity, individuation, other minds, moral responsibility and freedom). Likewise, if there were no hard problem for the naturalists to resolve, theism would look less likely. Consciousness is not surprising on theism since it posits that consciousness is fundamental and necessarily existing in God and that God would somehow want to create rational substances like Him. Suppose that tomorrow a purely naturalistic explanation of consciousness were vindicated and the hard problem no longer existed, would the absence of the hard problem of consciousness mean that the God hypothesis on its own would be less likely? It seems to me, then, that the God Hypothesis is more likely given that consciousness is a hard problem for the naturalist. That is, consciousness is less surprising given the existence of God than the non-existence of God.

6. Testimony from scripture: Yes, testimony is a form of evidence! Sure, you might have your doubts about the authority of scripture. But if there were no scriptures or testimony at all, theism would be even less likely, wouldn’t it? Suppose that you lived in a universe where no sacred scripture existed at all. No one claimed to have a revelation. You might not think that testimony from scripture sufficiently proves that there is a God, but surely it is some evidence.

7. Contemporary miracle claims: Again, you might have your doubts, but imagine a world where there were absolutely no miracle claims at all. Such a world would make the existence of God less likely, so obviously claims of mystical experiences, healings, visions, and apparitions have to count in some way.

8. Common consent: Most people in most ages thought there was a god or Gods. If most people throughout time were atheists, and only a tiny minority thought God belief was reasonable, that would make God’s existence less likely since we wouldn’t have to devise ad hoc hypotheses to explain the ubiquity of God belief. In and of itself, God’s existence is more likely if most people believe there is a God than if hardly anybody does. That is, absent strong defeaters, when most people think something is the case, that counts in favor of the hypothesis.

9. A natural desire for God: This is related to common consent, because this is the common natural desire for God. The universal desire for a transcendent being is found across cultures. Non-theistic psychologists, like Freud accounted for this religious desire by appealing to the Oedipus complex and the development of totems. Evolutionary psychologists say that our desires and beliefs have their origin in a hyperactive agency section device that has aided our survival. But the psychological and evolutionary genesis of our natural desires for God and transcendence are not evidence against God. After all, the naturalist wants to say that truth-tracking has survival advantages, generally. C.S. Lewis noted that all natural desires have a corresponding object that satisfies the desire. We desire food, there is food. We desire sexual gratification, and we can attain it. We desire warmth, there is fire. Now we also have artificial desires that have nothing to do with our natures and there isn’t always a way to satisfy those desires. For instance, I might desire the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, and without technological advances, I’ll never be able to do that. But the desire for God seems to be a part of our nature. And if all other natural desires can be satisfied by something that exists, the desire for God is some evidence in favor for God. Put another way, if we generally did not feel a desire for transcendence at all, if belief and desire for God were artificial creations of capitalism and marketing, or science fiction, theism would be less likely.

10. The coherency of the concept of God: Natural theologians and philosophers of religion have examined the coherency of a perfect being and arguments for inconsistency among the attributes have been addressed to the point where many atheists avoid inconsistency arguments altogether. The attributes of God are adjusted to avoid logical paradoxes and impossibilities. Arguments for the logical consistency and possibility of a perfect being were advanced first by Leibniz and then Gödel have been further refined by Maydole, Pruss and many others. Furthermore, the concept of God has been productive in this history of philosophy, and has pushed philosophers to make important and fine-grain distinctions: substance, subsistence, nature, and persons. The concept of God has refined our understanding ontological categories like relations, accidents, essences, what it means to be a se. Also, the God concept has expanded our notions of modality to the contemplation of possible worlds, and in distinguishing different modes of necessity. It has introduced us to the concept of divine simplicty, generated fascinating discussions on the nature of universals, the nature of time and eternity, and the nature of ethical commands and duties. Could the concept of a perfect being be inherently incoherent yet has been so philosophically useful? The concept of God provides provides so much traction that one is forced to carefully think through other concepts when they are related to God. But incoherence provides little traction, since the principle of explosion means that anything could be the case. Why were the scholastics making such careful distinctions? It seems to me that they realized that the concept of God implied very specific things and not just anything. But given the S5 axiom of model logic, the apparent logical consistency of the concept of God is strong evidence that God actually exists. Again, the evidence here is not the coherency of the concept of God itself, but the years of scrutiny and utility of the God concept.

11. The rational “discoverability” of the universe: Induction is rather inexplicable on naturalism, but is unsurprising if there is a personal intelligent creator of the universe. In other words, induction is an intractable problem for those who deny that God exists. Any evidence in support of induction question-begging lay relies on induction. Most just pragmatically move on without really sweating over whether induction is justified. If tomorrow it turned out that induction no longer provided legitimate justification for beliefs, naturalism would have nothing to explain, but theism would be harder to believe. Hence the success of induction, the law-like behavior of nature, and the scientific enterprise generally, is evidence in favor of theism.

12. Change: Given that anything that undergoes change is actively changed by something non-identical to it, change is evidence that an unchanged purely active changer exists. One can derive various other divine attributes of a purely actual unchanged changer, like uniqueness, omnipotence, necessity, simplicity, aseity, goodness, etc. through subsequent proofs. To me, the empirical evidence of change supports classical theism. In a world were change does not occur or is an illusion, there is less evidence in support of classical theism.

Are these lines of evidence sufficient to prove God exists? I leave that assessment to the reader. I cannot pretend to know what makes evidence sufficient for belief. We all must assess the evidence ourselves and consider which beliefs we are committed to. If admitting the hypothesis that God exists means that one must abandon other deeply held convictions, one must consider the cost of accepting God belief over and against abandoning those other beliefs. At the same time, I’m not claiming that the evidence I have presented is decisive or cannot be explained away by other facts. The point of this post is merely to say that there is some evidence. And so there is. To claim otherwise is patently false.

Posted on June 11, 2014, in Arguments for God and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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