There are many reasons why atheists don’t believe in God, but perhaps one of the biggest is that, up until now, believers haven’t put forward a credible scientific explanation for how and why God would even exist in the first place.
The traditional argument for God’s existence is that he has simply always existed, which is why many believers refer to him as the “First Cause.” This is probably unsatisfying to an atheist, because it doesn’t really explain anything.
It is like hearing about the existence of a mysterious machine in a village. The locals claim it provides them with all the food and drink they need for free. They conceal the machine from outsiders, and do not permit them to approach it. Any stranger who attempts to do so is put to death by the villagers, who venerate it and call it the Great Machine. They believe it has always existed, and has no need of an explanation. They fear that if anyone were to try and explain it, the machine would lose its mystery and therefore stop providing them with free food and drink.
I think it’s fair to say that scientists and outsiders to the village wouldn’t have the same concerns. They would want evidence of the machine’s existence beyond the word of the villagers; otherwise it might sound, to the skeptical mind, like a religious fable made up by a priestly class to, say, control the village food supply and thus the villagers. Scientists would also want an explanation for why the machine supposedly existed, and what it was doing there in the first place.
Now, I don’t mean to imply that “God” and the “Great Machine” are the same; but there is a clear similarity between the villagers’ belief in a Great Machine that has always existed and doesn’t need explaining, and the idea of God as the First Cause. I think the analogy serves to highlight why atheists and skeptics struggle with this as an explanation for God’s existence.
Furthermore, the description of God given by believers may also be a problem. For example, God is often described as a “spirit” who resides in “heaven.” These terms aren’t particularly useful for scientists, who like to get to the bottom of things as much as possible. Where exactly is “heaven” located, and what is “spirit” in scientific terms?
No wonder atheists are unconvinced by religious arguments that refer to God using these words. However, a few chapters from now I will present evidence indicating that scientists may have already discovered where heaven is, and what spirit is, without them even realizing it.
The objection to God’s existence has also been framed as a complexity problem. The argument starts with a simple premise: the creator of a thing must be equally or more complex than the thing it creates.
For example, in our analogy, the Great Machine must be equally or more complex than the food and drink it provides for the villagers. Therefore, where did its complexity come from?
As another example, consider the blueprint for human life found within the cells of our body. It needs to code for thousands of different proteins, the building blocks of life. But it also needs to code for the production of other cells like itself, as well as yet more humans, as if there aren’t enough of us already. Biologists usually say this complexity came about because mutations and natural selection caused the blueprint to change and evolve over vast periods of time. We will explore these concepts in detail in the second half of this letter.
However, if God created all things, as many believers claim, then God would need to be equally or more complex than his creation. But where did God’s complexity come from?
Up until now, I don’t think believers have answered this question in a way that could satisfy the scientific or skeptical mind. To most people who believe in God, he is somewhat similar to the Great Machine in our analogy. He has simply always been, and doesn’t need explaining any further than that.
According to the “argument from complexity,” which is an argument against God’s existence, the way to solve the problem of God’s complexity is for God to have been designed by an equally or more complex God. But then, who designed that particular God? Only an equally or more complex entity could do it. And then, who designed this entity?
Each time we conceive of an equally or increasingly complex godlike entity, we could ask who designed it, in what is called an “infinite regress.” Since an endless number of these entities seems a pretty absurd explanation for God, this argument has led some to conclude that the opposite must be true – that God almost certainly doesn’t exist.
However, as I will show not many chapters from now, there is another simple way to solve the complexity problem. The “Neuroverse Hypothesis” I will introduce in a little while provides a potential explanation for God’s existence, and resolves the complexity issue in a way that I think is both satisfactory and scientifically testable.