Does Human Reason Point Toward God’s Existence or God’s Absence?


Human anatomy is a mind bogglingly amazing thing.


For example…


The cardiovascular system threads through your body. Hundreds of miles of plumbing carry 5 litres of blood around our frame every minute. Oxygen is distributed, nutrients shared, and cellular waste products are disposed of.


The digestive system converts food into energy, absorbs that energy and excretes the waste.


The skeletal system is like scaffolding that supports and protects our soft tissues. Each bone is a living organ; some featuring mounting points for muscles, many containing red marrow for the production of new blood cells.


And on – and on it goes. Amazing.


Now some think that your body and its systems are simply the product of the blind and purposeless forces of nature. Others feel that it is the intentional product of a supernatural (i.e. outside of time + space) Designing Intelligence. But both groups agree – there is clear purpose inherent in each and every one of our body’s systems.




We also have another incredible system.


I’m referring to our faculties of REASON. This is our capacity to think, to consider, to explore, to theorise and to speculate about whatever takes our fancy! I believe (or I reason) that our ability to reason has as much purpose as any of the other biological systems we have mentioned.


We can reason for a good reason.


So what is the purpose of our ability to reason? Surely it is there so that we can begin to understand. So that our choices are carefully selected from the options open to us. And we use reason in the hope that it will lead us to an important destination. Discovery of the truth!


If the purpose of the digestive system is to keep me energised and healthy – then the purpose of my faculties of reason are to allow me to move towards discovering the truth – in which ever topic takes my fancy.


I reason that it’s a pretty cool system. But it leads me to a question.


Why do you trust your ability to reason?  And why do I?




Okay – we might not feel very clever, or quick to reason. Yet I can guarantee that we are sharper than we think we are. Think of the smartest person you know. Perhaps you’ve read one of their books or listened to them talk. And you have been captivated by their ideas and their discoveries around life’s big questions. Why are we here? What is our purpose in life? My question is not why do you like their ideas – my question is is why do you trust their ability to reason in the first place?


“The fact that we human beings – who are ourselves mere collections of fundamental particles of nature – have come close to an understanding of the laws governing us and our Universe is a great triumph.” — Stephen Hawking


Yes okay Professor Hawking – but why do we choose to trust your understanding of the Universe? After all, we did not create the Universe. Did we? We were born into it. We have found ourselves here and some of us are compelled to study it and reach some understanding about the truth contained within it. But here is an important thing to consider. My ability to reason does not define that truth – it simply seeks to understand it. However clever the reasoning is – these are just ideas and theories about how life works. How do I know the theories are right?


Ah – by using our senses. That’s the answer. By gathering evidence! But wait – evidence is simply an input to my system of reason. I’ve still got to draw conclusions about the evidence I have found. This takes me back to my original question. Why does anyone trust the conclusions that we make?


Is human reason capable of reaching objective truth? Think of it like this. Someone who sits down at a piano with no training – will quickly master the ability to make the sound of musical notes. But as they randomly press down on the keys, the result will most likely sound horrible! It takes time and training to master the instrument – to play a tuneful melody (altho what is tuneful to my teenagers right now, ain’t so to me!). My question is – we do we believe that human reason is able to reach the truth, in the same way that a pianist can work reach that tuneful melody?


To most people – the intuitive rightness of human reason is just assumed. But I am asking – why is that…and is it right?




It is common amongst many people today to assume that life is a big cosmic accident. That human beings are the product of millions of years of biological mutation and natural selection of the most appropriate mutants. This counts AGAINST our assumption that human reason is right and trustworthy. Why? Because if all of life’s an accident – then there’s every chance that my reasoning faculties are just compounding the mistake!


“if the thoughts in my mind are just the motions of atoms in my brain – a mechanism that has arisen by mindless unguided processes, why should I believe anything it tells me?” — J.B.S Haldane


Why indeed.


It seems to me – as I exercise my questionable faculties of reason – that if people are solely the result of blind, unguided, Darwinian evolution, then we lose any solid ground for rationality. Chaos leads to chaos – randomness leads to randomness not exquisite structure and information.


Further – if we are the product of evolution – why do people intuitively care about truth anyway? Why do we spend so much of our lives seeking for our own truth that will bring us security and happiness? Or running from that same truth? Why do so many spend their lives seeking a true understanding of how our Universe works? Surely if we really were the product of evolution – we would simply be a machine that prioritises survival above everything else. Genes are apparently selfish, not truth seeking!




I suspect the irony of atheism is that it may undermine the very rationality needed to understand, to study and to explore the Universe.


“If Dawkins is right that we are the product of mindless unguided natural processes, then he has given us strong reason to doubt the reliability of human cognitive faculties and therefore inevitably to doubt the validity of any belief that they produce – including Dawkins own science and his atheism.” — Alvin Plantiga



I am not painting a rosy picture here. If evolution is right – then human reason is broken.




Unless, however, Christianity is true.




If Christianity is true then we have a coherent explanation for why our Universe is rationally intelligible. Because God lovingly created everything – including my mind – to be rational and intelligible. He made me in his image – in other words, he has passed his rationality on to me.  This is precisely why I can trust the capacity of human reason. Because I’m built to reason my way toward the truth.


“we are faced, not with the choice between God and science, as the New Atheists would have us to think, but with the choice either to put faith in God or to give up on understanding the universe. That is, if there is no God there can be no science.” — Robert Spaemann



If there is no God – there is no designing first cause mind – therefore there is no guarantee of a rationally understandable universe.


And yet a rationally understandable universe is precisely what we find. Surely a Designing Intelligence is sure to follow?


Personally I believe that Christianity is true; that it makes sense of human reason and points to God’s existence. And I agree with CS Lewis, when he said:


I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” — C. S. Lewis






If you have reached this far – you will be reacting to the argument that I am laying out. Namely that human reason points to the existence of a creator God. At this point – let me mention that we have also been provided with free will in addition to human reason. This means I am well within my rights to acknowledge God – or not. Some today happily stand on the firm ground he has provided – and declare him absent. Or shake their fists at him in anger. Or exercise their reason and communicate in a way that tries to obscure his presence for other people. I can choose to use my God given reason to deny him.


At least I can for now. But our window of opportunity for ignoring him is closing. The clock is ticking.


And frankly what an unreasonable exercise anyway? Cos I reckon the human faculties of reason point to the true, loving, patient and hope giving God that we are working so hard to avoid!



“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him–though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:27, NLT



Challenging the Blind Watchmaker


“The only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics…the blind unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for…life, has no purpose in mind…If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is that of a blind watchmaker.”

 — Richard Dawkins



The Blind Watchmaker Thesis says that life has the appearance of design – but it not actually designed. It is the result of millions of years of gradual random unguided biological mutation and change acted upon by natural selection.



Our culture has – on the whole – accepted the Blind Watchmaker Thesis. And it has done so in spite of the despair filled destination to which this thesis leads us to. (Cue wails of…everything is pointless, there’s no real purpose to our lives, etc, etc)



I do not accept the Blind Watchmaker Thesis – I challenge it. I believe that there are good reasons to be skeptical of it. There IS a point to existence – and there’s a God given purpose for you and me THAT IS THERE FOR US…if we want it.

Here are two reasons I’m skeptical of the Blind Watchmaker.



1 – The Fossil Record Does Not Suggest It is True

2 – The Information at the Heart of Life Cannot (by normal human experience) Arrive by Random Processes



Would you give me a few minutes of your time to explain these reasons?



1 – The Fossil Record Does Not Suggest It Is True

This might sound like I’m completely denying the science of Paleontology, the institution of the Natural History Museum in London, etc! Not so – the Fossil record gives us a fascinating snapshot of ancient history. I’m simply repeating an objection that was levelled at Darwin’s Theory by one of his contemporaries.

Darwin looked at the layered fossil record…

older fossils lower down

more recent fossils nearer the surface

…and saw an increase in creature complexity the nearer to the surface he got. Surely a sign of evolutionary development?



The problem with this conclusion is – it ignores an important piece of data. There is a massive jump in complexity and diversity between each layer at various points in the fossil record. This period is usually referred to as the Cambrian Explosion – a period of time in earth’s history which is estimated to have lasted millions of years. But it’s a period where single celled forms of life were eventually joined by plant life…and then joined by small but complex forms of life like Trilobites (armoured beasties who had eyes, mouths, digestive systems, spines, etc).



The fossil record does not suggest that all creatures are descended from a single ancient primordial form. Rather – life appeared and existed for a while in history. Much of it died out – much of it is still living to this day.



If we look at the jumps in creature complexity between the geological layers with a mind that is not already decided about the truth of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution – it looks for all the world like there were periods of time when complex life suddenly appeared on the planet.

Suddenly appeared? Sounds like magic rather than science!


It’s only magic if we decide ahead of time that life WAS NOT created by a designer. If we are open to the possibility of a designer – then doesn’t the fossil record leave the fingerprints of the God who injected life into his creation? This creation is outside of Science – but God’s creative results are study able BY Science. Which is great fun!



Darwin’s critic Agassiz put it this way.

“[Darwinism] contradicts what the animal forms buried in the rocky strata of our earth tell us…Let us hear them – for after all, their testimony is that of the eye witness and the actor in the scene.”

— Agassiz



In other words – these creatures lived. Their fossilized remains suggest appearance rather than gradual development. 150 years of Paleontology has not found the fossilized intermediate forms that prove Darwin right. We could hang on to Darwin’s  fanciful theory or – we could at least be open to following the available evidence of the fossil record where it leads. Life appeared. And this points to a Life Designer.


Ah – but that’s very closed minded. Isn’t it? Not very scientific. Why can’t I be more open to the possibility that the missing fossilised links will really be completely convincingly found?

Well…because of my second problem with the Blind Watchmaker thesis.


2 – The Information at the Heart of Life Cannot (by normal human experience) Come about By Random Processes

Darwin didn’t realise it – but each of the countless billions of cells in our bodies is an efficient factory. It’s a complex microscopic biological facility for storing and using information to create biological machines – or proteins. Don’t believe me? Just look at this.




Every car or TV production line (and the factory building it sits in) that you have ever seen was designed and built by clever people. Every instruction manual you’ve ever referred to was written by an eloquent author (sometimes Chinese!). Every machine you have ever used – whether it’s your microwave or your iPhone – was intentionally designed by a creative agency.

So why is it when we move from electronics or automotive engineering to Biology – do we suddenly throw away any need of a designer when we reach Biology?



The truth is that life is more complex than ANY man made mechanism.  It demands design even more than electronics or automotive engineering.



Consider for a moment the strand of DNA stored in each cell nucleus in your little finger. The DNA contains instructions for creating proteins, and instructions for managing the life of the cell. It’s the software that keeps the system working. The use of the word “software” is not a metaphor – this is an accurate description. Just ask the guys who are building storage devices today that treat DNA molecules as microscopic hard disk drives.


DNA ‘perfect for digital storage’


Just consider the way that – whenever a new organism is conceived – the cells that appear are hard wired with Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs) to create specific body plans. The cells that comprise a fish embryo are hard wired to create the shape of a fish. The cells in a bird embryo know ahead of time how to create a bird shape, and so on.



I have worked in software and electronics for 20 years. My Manager’s expectations have never been met by accident or random chance. I’ve always had to work hard – and use as much insight and learning as I can – to build the circuit that will work, or to write the code that compiles and runs and performs its task correctly. Circuits don’t mutate into other circuits. They either do their job – or they don’t. And we fix them – or we give up on them.



Why should the situation be any different for biological software and circuitry? A creative intelligence was required to start life off. To deny this just doesn’t fit with normal everyday experience!



I find the idea of life arriving on planet Earth by purely natural processes as fascinating. But to my mind it sounds like a fiction book full of cool ideas – without any grounding in the real world. I do not accept the Blind Watchmaker Thesis – I challenge it. I believe that there are good reasons to be skeptical of it.


I’m much more willing to sing along with the ancient psalmist:

“O Lord, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures.” Psalm 104:24, New Living Translation