Is God Real?
Is God real? In short, yes, and this is much easier to perceive when we first consider how our perception of reality has been distorted by our culture:
Have you ever suspected that you are living in the matrix? If so, you are not alone. Many very smart people have considered this to be a very real possibility. For example, an Inc.com article notes that billionaire Elon Musk (of Tesla and Space-X fame) believes that reality as we perceive it is an illusion. In his view, we are living in the matrix, or a computer simulation created by an advanced future civilization.
I agree with Musk that the material world is ultimately an illusion (at least in the manner which we perceive it), and that we are living in a matrix. However, I disagree with him regarding the nature of this matrix.
Is God real? Start by considering that you are living in the matrix.
In the famous Keaunu Reeves movie titled The Matrix, humanity is duped into accepting an illusory, computer simulated reality by intelligent machines, so that they may use human bodies as an energy source. However, you and I (and virtually everyone else in modern Western culture) have been duped into a false and impoverished perception of reality, not by intelligent machines, but rather, by our own philosophically backwards civilization. Further, opposite to the storyline in the movie, the matrix in which we live is the real world, whereas a shadow world outside of the matrix is the illusion. (Please also read my post: The Cultural Smokescreen Which Obscures God).
Zhuangzi (pronounced shong-zee), an ancient Chinese philosopher from the 4th century B.C., superbly expressed the need to be wary of the limitations of one’s own perception of reality when he wrote:
“A frog in a well cannot discuss the ocean, because he is limited by the size of his well. A summer insect cannot discuss ice, because it knows only its own season. A narrow-minded scholar cannot discuss the Tao [translated as “the way” or “the path”], because he is constrained by his teachings. Now you have come out of your banks and seen the Great Ocean. You now know your own inferiority, so it is now possible to discuss great principles with you.”
Be careful to recognize the limitations of your perception of reality.
Is it possible to discuss great principles with you? If so, please read on. To a large extent, your willingness to consider that you might be like a frog in a well who cannot discuss the ocean, or a summer insect who cannot discuss ice, will dictate your ability to escape the doldrums of an impoverished perception of reality. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Anthony Hewish echoes Zhuangzi’s warning to heed the limitations of one’s own perception in the foreword to Questions of Truth: Fifty-one Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief :
“The ghostly presence of virtual particles defies rational common sense and is non-intuitive for those unacquainted with physics. Religious belief in God, and Christian belief that God became Man around two thousand years ago, may seem strange to common-sense thinking. But when the most elementary physical things behave in this way, we should be prepared to accept that the deepest aspects of our existence go beyond our common-sense intuitions.”
As Hewish alludes to above, we must all be willing to consider that our common-sense perception of reality is flawed. Please recall that humans have frequently needed to radically revise their understanding of the world in which they live. Prior to the ancient Greeks, for example, it was commonly perceived that the world is flat. Imagine how difficult it must have been for certain ancient people to wrap their heads around the idea that the Earth is round. If this is so, they may have asked, why don’t objects just fall off?
To get an understanding of how you and I were duped into a false and impoverished perception of reality, a quick review of history is in order: Throughout the history of Western Civilization, there has been a chicken-or-the-egg debate of which came first: mind or matter? In other words, what is ultimate reality (defined as the something from which everything else comes, or the ground of all being)? Is matter ultimate reality, or is mind ultimate reality? Did everything begin with basic matter (atoms or subatomic particles)? Or did everything begin with a mind (or a consciousness)? Stephen C. Meyer holds a PhD in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University. In his book The Signature in the Cell, he lays out the historical framework of this debate:
“Since the time of the ancient Greeks, there have been two basic pictures of ultimate reality among Western intellectuals, what Germans call a Weltanschauung, or worldview. According to one worldview, mind is the primary or ultimate reality. On this view, material reality either issues from a preexisting mind, or it is shaped by a preexistent intelligence, or both…This view of reality is often called idealism to indicate that ideas come first and matter comes later. Theism is the version of idealism that holds that God is the source of the ideas that gave rise to and shaped the material world.”
“The opposite view holds that the physical universe or nature is the ultimate reality. In this view, either matter or energy (or both) are the things from which everything else comes. They are self-existent and do not need to be created or shaped by mind….In this view matter comes first, and conscious mind arrives on the scene much later and only then as a by-product of material processes and undirected evolutionary change. This worldview is called naturalism or materialism.”
The insights of modern physics make a powerful case for God.
Modern Western culture sits firmly in the second of the two camps which Meyer describes above (matter is ultimate reality). This, as Meyer notes, is the philosophical view known as materialism. (The philosophical definition of materialism is not to be confused with the more common definition of materialism, which involves always wanting fancy material things like exotic Italian sports cars, yachts, and gold watches). But, unbeknownst to our culture, modern physics has an entirely different story to tell: We are living in the mental/spiritual matrix of the mind of God. To this end, Max Planck, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who is credited with founding quantum physics, writes in his book The New Science::
“As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”
Nobel Prize-winning, Harvard University biologist George Wald reflects Planck’s above comments when he wrote the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:
“It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”
(Please read Johns Hopkins University physicist Richard Conn Henry’s article The Mental Universe, and University of California, Berkeley physicist Henry Stapp’s book Mindful Universe for a more thorough exploration of this subject).
Materialism is impossible to rectify with modern physics.
Authority opinions from scientists such as Planck and Wald are valuable. But a precise understanding of the scientific reasons why the mind of God is clearly the best candidate for ultimate reality is crucial to lifting oneself outside of the impoverished shadow reality of materialism (the philosophical stance that matter is ultimate reality). Quantum theory describes the motion of objects at the atomic and subatomic level. One of several quantum phenomena which confound materialism is known as nonlocality. According to nonlocality, it is impossible to isolate an unobserved quantum object, such as an electron, into a bounded region of space. Science writer George Musser discusses nonlocality in an article for Scientific American:
In everyday speech, “locality” is a slightly pretentious word for a neighborhood, town or other place. But its original meaning, dating to the 17th century, is about the very concept of “place.” It means that everything has a place. You can always point to an object and say, “Here it is.” If you can’t, that thing must not really exist. If your teacher asks where your homework is, and you say it isn’t anywhere, you have some explaining to do.
The world we experience possesses all the qualities of locality. We have a strong sense of place and of the relations among places. We feel the pain of separation from those we love and the impotence of being too far away from something we want to affect. And yet multiple branches of physics now suggest that, at a deeper level, there may be no such thing as place and no such thing as distance. Physics experiments can bind the fate of two particles together so that they behave like a pair of magic coins. If you flip them, each will land on heads or tails—but always on the same side as its partner. They act in a coordinated way even though no force passes through the space between them. Those particles might zip off to opposite sides of the universe, and still they act in unison. The particles violate locality—they transcend space.
The impossibility of rectifying materialism with nonlocality is easy to recognize: How can one suggest that nothing exists except for material things when the entire concept of location or place is an illusion? Location is a crucial aspect of material objects. As Musser notes above, if you cannot point to an object and say “here it is,” then in what sense can that object be said to really exist as a material thing? But subatomic particles do not really have a location, as nonlocality illustrates.
Additionally, the observer effect of modern physics (click here for a video illustration) demonstrates the primacy of consciousness. In other words, mind or consciousness (read: God) comes first, and matter is the product of mind. This is an utterly alien concept to the modern Western mind, but it has been repeatedly demonstrated by modern physics. The observer effect demonstrates that, prior to observation by a conscious observer, particles exist only in an immaterial form known as a possibility wave (or probability wave). It is only after an observation is made by a conscious observer that these possibilities “collapse into actuality,” thereby taking on material form. So, in reply to the above mentioned chicken-or-the-egg debate about whether mind or matter is primary, the observer effect answers in favor of the former.
Readers who find this bizarre or difficult to understand are in good company. Even the world’s most elite physicists are amazed and puzzled by the observer effect. But it has been repeatedly scientifically verified. Physicist Amit Goswami (University of Oregon) explains how the famous double-slit experiment illustrated in the above video conclusively demonstrates that mind (read: God) is the ground of all being or ultimate reality in Creative Evolution:
“First let’s discuss how the idea that consciousness is the ground of being is forced upon us by quantum physics. Take the idea that conscious choice affects the quantum possibility wave of an object by collapsing it into an actual event of our experience, into a “particle,” so to speak. This idea seems dualistic at first. Why? Because consciousness has to be nonmaterial to effect collapse. To see this, suppose, as materialist biologists believe, that consciousness is a brain epiphenomenon. But undoubtedly the brain is a conglomerate of elementary particles, quantum possibilities, so it must itself also consist of quantum possibilities. Ditto for any epiphenomenon associated with it.”
“Now do you see why consciousness, to effect collapse, must be nonmaterial? A material consciousness arising in the brain is only a possibility wave. A possibility wave acting on a possibility wave just makes a bigger possibility wave. No actuality ever comes out of such an interaction (von Neumann 1955).”
“You may not have noticed, but we can see paradox in the observer effect in another way. The observer chooses, out of the quantum possibilities presented by the object, the actual event of experience. But before the collapse of the possibilities, the observer himself (or herself) consists of possibilities and is not manifest. So we can posit the paradox as a circularity: An observer is needed for collapsing the quantum possibility wave of an object; but collapse is needed for manifesting the observer. More succinctly, no collapse without an observer; but no observer without a collapse. If we stay in the material level, the paradox is unsolvable. The consciousness solution works only because we posit that consciousness collapses the possibility waves of both the observer (that is, his or her brain) and the object simultaneously from the transcendent reality of the ground of being that consciousness represents.”
(For a more thorough understanding of why materialism is incompatible with modern physics, and how modern physics demonstrates the primacy of consciousness, please watch the following video):
Physicist Richard Conn Henry from Johns Hopkins University explains how people with atheistic leanings recoil at the clear theistic implications of modern physics:
“Why do people cling with such ferocity to belief in a mind-independent reality? It is surely because if there is no such reality, then ultimately (as far as we can know) mind alone exists. And if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the illusion of material reality (which has, in fact, despite the materialists, been known to be the case since the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925), then a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism.” [“Solipsism” is defined as “the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist.”]
You (yes you) have experienced expressions of God’s love.
You (yes you) have received glimpses of the higher reality of the mental/spiritual matrix of the mind of God before, but you may have dismissed them. Perhaps it was in the beauty of sunset, or in the beauty of a mountain meadow filled with flowers. Or perhaps it was in the scent of a flower, or in the love of a human relationship, such as a romantic relationship or a parent/child relationship. English poet William Blake (1757-1827) beautifully captured the essence of this higher reality when he wrote:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wild flower
To behold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour
Johns Hopkins University physicist Richard Conn Henry concludes his article titled The Mental Universe,
“The universe is immaterial—-mental and spiritual. Live, and enjoy.”
But true enjoyment will remain forever unobtainable to those confined to the impoverished shadow reality of materialism. Escaping from this bleak shadow reality will consist of realizing that you are an interconnected spiritual being with a higher purpose ordained by an infinite mind or spirit (God), or “The mind [which] is the matrix of all matter,” in the words of Max Planck, the founder of quantum physics.
God made a sacrifice for you when he sent his Son Jesus to lay down his life on the cross, and he offers you the experience of unimaginable enjoyment of being in a deep relationship with him. As C.S. Lewis wrote:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Release from the doldrums of a life impoverished by materialist philosophy begins by asking God for forgiveness for your sins, accepting the gift which has been offered to you by merit of the sacrifice he made for you on the cross, and committing your life to His purposes for you.
Additional citations relevant to this subject matter appear below:
“Atoms are weird stuff, behaving like active agents rather than inert substances. They make unpredictable choices between alternative possibilities according to the laws of quantum mechanics. It appears that mind, as manifested by the capacity to make choices, is to some extent inherent in every atom. The universe is also weird, with its laws of nature that make it hospitable to the growth of mind. I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it passes beyond the scale of our comprehension.”
–Freeman Dyson, who currently holds the professorship in physics at Princeton University formerly held by Albert Einstein.
“Materialist philosophers argue that consciousness is a construct of matter. But Plato and almost all the great classical philosophers, East and West, suggest the opposite. Matter, at least as it appears to us, is a construct of consciousness.”
“…Consciousness is real and creative. It is not just a by-product of the world we perceive. Without consciousness, that world, the world we perceive, would not even exist. Another quantum physicist, John von Neumann, said, ‘All real things are contents of consciousness.’ This is about as far from materialism as you can get – and it is an interpretation of modern physics, not some weird religiously inspired theory.”
—–Keith Ward, retired Professor of Philosophy at Kings College, London, and a member of the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, as quoted in his book Is Religion Irrational?
“I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence. Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore. To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”
–Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and string theory pioneer.
“…This sense of wonder leads most scientists to a Superior Being – der Alte, the Old One, as Einstein affectionately called the Deity – a Superior Intelligence, the Lord of all Creation and Natural Law.”
–Abdus Salam, winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in electroweak theory. He is here quoted in his article entitled Science and Religion.
“I have looked into most philosophical systems and I have seen that none will work without God.”
“Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We have reached the utmost limit of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent it must have been created.”
–Physicist and mathematician James Clerk Maxwell, who is credited with formulating classical electromagnetic theory and whose contributions to science are considered to be of the same magnitude as those of Einstein and Newton.
“For myself, faith begins with a realization that a supreme intelligence brought the universe into being and created man. It is not difficult for me to have this faith, for it is incontrovertible that where there is a plan there is intelligence—an orderly, unfolding universe testifies to the truth of the most majestic statement ever uttered—-’In the beginning God.’”
–Nobel Prize winning physicist Arthur Compton, discoverer of the Compton Effect.
“Those who say that the study of science makes a man an atheist must be rather silly.”
“Something which is against natural laws seems to me rather out of the question because it would be a depressive idea about God. It would make God smaller than he must be assumed. When he stated that these laws hold, then they hold, and he wouldn’t make exceptions. This is too human an idea. Humans do such things, but not God.”
–Nobel Prize winning physicist Max Born, who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics.
“I believe that the more thoroughly science is studied, the further does it take us from anything comparable to atheism.”
–Lord William Kelvin, who was noted for his theoretical work on thermodynamics, the concept of absolute zero and the Kelvin temperature scale based upon it.
“Both religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations… To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.”
“There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other.”
“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”
–Max Planck, the Nobel Prize winning physicist who founded quantum physics, and is therefore one of the most important physicists of all time.
Religion and Natural Science (Lecture Given 1937) Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers,trans. F. Gaynor (New York, 1949), pp. 184
“God is a mathematician of a very high order and He used advanced mathematics in constructing the universe.”
–Nobel Prize winning physicist Paul A. M. Dirac, who made crucial early contributions to both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics.
“In the history of science, ever since the famous trial of Galileo, it has repeatedly been claimed that scientific truth cannot be reconciled with the religious interpretation of the world. Although I am now convinced that scientific truth is unassailable in its own field, I have never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking as simply part of an outmoded phase in the consciousness of mankind, a part we shall have to give up from now on. Thus in the course of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought, for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point.”
—Werner Heisenberg, who was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics for the creation of quantum mechanics (which is absolutely crucial to modern science).
“We all know that there are regions of the human spirit untrammeled by the world of physics. In the mystic sense of the creation around us, in the expression of art, in a yearning towards God, the soul grows upward and finds fulfillment of something implanted in its nature. The sanction for this development is within us, a striving born with our consciousness or an Inner Light proceeding from a greater power than ours. Science can scarcely question this sanction, for the pursuit of science springs from a striving which the mind is impelled to follow, a questioning that will not be suppressed. Whether in the intellectual pursuits of science or in the mystical pursuits of the spirit, the light beckons ahead and the purpose surging in our nature responds.”
–The great physicist Sir Arthur Eddington, as quoted in his classic work The Nature of the Physical World
“Science is a game – but a game with reality, a game with sharpened knives. If a man cuts a picture carefully into 1000 pieces, you solve the puzzle when you reassemble the pieces into a picture; in the success or failure, both your intelligences compete. In the presentation of a scientific problem, the other player is the good Lord. He has not only set the problem but also has devised the rules of the game – but they are not completely known, half of them are left for you to discover or to deduce. The uncertainty is how many of the rules God himself has permanently ordained, and how many apparently are caused by your own mental inertia, while the solution generally becomes possible only through freedom from its limitations. This is perhaps the most exciting thing in the game.”
“Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
–Erwin Schroedinger, winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics “for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory.”
“The stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears to be an accidental intruder into the realm of matter… we ought rather hail it as the creator and governor of the realm of matter.”.
“…Discussing the creation of the universe in terms of time and space is like trying to discover the artist and the action of painting by going to the edge of the canvas. This brings us very near to those philosophical systems which regard the universe as a thought in the mind of its Creator, thereby reducing all discussion of material creation to futility.”
—The knighted physicist, mathematician, and astronomer Sir James Jeans, as cited in his book The Mysterious Universe.
“The more I study science the more I believe in God.”
“I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.”
“It is evident that an acquaintance with natural laws means no less than an acquaintance with the mind of God therein expressed.”
–James Joule, propounder of the first law of thermodynamics (on the conservation of energy). Joule also made important contributions to the kinetic theory of gases. The unit of heat known as the “Joule” is named after him.
“An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.”
–Srinivasa Ramanujam, who is widely regarded to be one of the greatest mathematicians of all time (on a similar plane with such greats as Archimedes and Newton).
“Is intelligent mind an ultimate and irreducible feature of reality? Indeed, is it the ultimate nature of reality? Or is mind and consciousness an unforeseen and unintended product of basically material processes of evolution?”
“If you look at the history of philosophy, it soon becomes clear that almost all the great classical philosophers took the first of these views. Plato, Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Kant, Hegel—they all argued that the ultimate reality, often hidden under the appearances of the material world or time and space, is mind or spirit.”
–Keith Ward, retired Professor of Philosophy at Kings College, London, and a member of the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy (mentioned above), as quoted in his book Doubting Dawkins, Why There Almost Certainly is A God.
“It is as impossible to conceive that ever pure incogitative matter should produce a thinking intelligent being, as that nothing should of itself produce matter.”
–Philosopher John Locke, who was one of the most important Enlightenment thinkers.
“Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and everywhere, could produce no variety of things. All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being, necessarily existing.”
—Sir Isaac Newton, who is widely regarded to have been the greatest scientist of all time, as cited in Principia, which is perhaps the most important scientific work of all time.
“In the New Story of science the whole universe–including matter, energy, space, and time–is a one-time event and had a definite beginning. But something must have always existed; for if ever absolutely nothing existed, then nothing would exist now, since nothing comes from nothing. The material universe cannot be the thing that always existed because matter had a beginning. It is 12 to 20 billion years old. This means that whatever has always existed is non-material. The only non-material reality seems to be mind. If mind is what has always existed, then matter must have been brought into existence by a mind that always was. This points to an intelligent, eternal being who created all things. Such a being is what we mean by the term God.”
Physicist George Stanciu and philosopher Robert Augros, as cited in their book The New Story of Science.