Whenever the word evidence is mentioned for some reason or other it seems appropriate to give a whos-done-it analogy. I think this is one of those times. You see, I think one of the major problems with the popular, contemporary debate on whether or not G-d exists hinges on how evidence for G-d’s existence is related to. And the best way to illustrate this problem is with an analogy – so here goes.
Two Types of Evidence
Imagine there is a crime – a murder let’s say. Let’s also say that we already have our suspicions – we know that there is a long-standing, bitter and sometimes violent feud between the murder victim and his neighbor. Let’s also imagine that we found the murder weapon – the neighbors gun with the neighbors finger prints all over it.
Most likely we would see this gun as strong evidence that the neighbor was the murderer. But let’s note why. The finger prints are not leading us to suspect the neighbor, we already had reason to suspect him – the long, bitter and violent feud. Rather, the finger prints are confirming our suspicions. As such, we’ll call this type of evidence confirming evidence.
Now let’s image a different murder – this time where we have no initial suspects, no one arch-enemy or bitter rival that we know of. Nor do we have any other potential motive that would lead us to suspect one person over another. In this example we once again find that the murder weapon was the neighbors gun with his finger-prints all over it. Of course, this discovery leads us to suspect the neighbor. In this case, though, he is a suspect because of the evidence. There is no confirming of suspicion here – rather there is a creation of suspicion. The evidence has led us to suspect the neighbor. As such, we’ll call this evidence leading evidence.
Let’s note an important difference between these two types of evidence. Imagine in each of our examples that the neighbor claimed that his gun was stolen from him. In other words, they are his fingerprints and it is his gun, but he didn’t do it. We would be more suspect of that claim in the first case then in the second. Since, in the first case, we already suspected him, appealing to alternative explanations speaks less to us. It’s possible that he is telling the truth. Perhaps he is being framed because he is such a good suspect, but nonetheless we have good reasons to believe that he is lying.
In the other case we are more open to the idea. Since the neighbor was never a suspect in the first place we are more readily able to contemplate the claim that his gun was stolen. Of course, we would want to investigate and verify his claim, but it’s a reasonable option.
Modern Day Evidence for G-d
Let’s apply this analogy to modern day attempts to demonstrate G-d’s existence. In general, evidence in this discussion is treated as leading, not confirming, evidence. In other words, it is treated as inherently neutral, as if the conversation is taking place in an intellectual and historical vacuum.
But this simply is not the case. It’s not like we haven’t been saying for the last 4,000 years that there is a Divine Creator who created and fashioned the heavens and the earth. It’s not like the Torah doesn’t start with the verse “In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth”. And it’s not like we don’t claim that the very G-d that we are discussing is the one who revealed this truth to us.
In other words, this isn’t a new idea, a possible interpretation of the facts. It’s an outstanding claim and any and all evidence that support that claim need to be seen in that light.
Of course, some proofs can also double as leading evidence – and I think that the fine-tuning of the universe is one such example. As Professor Paul Davies stated – the universe certainly looks designed. And what he means by that is that the more you study the universe, the more you understand the laws of physics and nature and how they work together the more the universe looks designed.
Now, a universe that looks designed certainly indicates that there is a designer. True, it could be a mirage, there could be a naturalistic explanation, just like our imaginary gun could have been stolen. And it is legitimate to investigate those naturalistic possibilities. But none of this changes the fact that a universe that looks designed is leading evidence for a some sort of designer. [It also doesn’t change the fact that those naturalistic explanations may also point to G-d, like our fine-tuned-universe does, but that’s another conversation for a later time].
I point all of this out so that we can understand where we are coming from as we begin to further investigate the claim that the universe is fine-tuned. It’s important to understand that we are coming at this from thousands of years of history – from the vantage point of “In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth”. It is equally important to understand that a fine-tuned-universe serves as a piece of evidence for a fine-tuner in and of itself.
All of this is important because it fundamentally changes how we relate to the different philosophers and scientists who argue that the fine-tuned universe is not evidence for a Divine Creator. How so I hope to make clear as we enter deeper into this conversation.