Evidence and Belief

What the Evidence Says about What’s True

Ever since I was old enough to think about the world, I have wanted to understand what is true. I have never been a post-modernist, one of those people who think that reality is nothing but a social construct, devised and maintained by those with power. Having been a pilot, I am sure that reality doesn’t care what I think is real; disobey the laws of physics and you die.  Conversely, as a small boy going to church with my father who wanted company, I was never persuaded that the words of people in robes were necessarily true. Often I either did not understand what they were saying or it made no sense.

Convinced there is truth to be found about the way the world is, but unwilling to accept what people in authority said without asking how they know, I decided a long time ago to explore for myself what the evidence says about certain age-old questions that have long obsessed me:

  1. What is the nature of physical reality?
  2. Is  there a mind behind the universe or is it just the result of blind, random processes?
  3. If there is a mind, does that matter to humans? Are we cared for or just temporary sparks of consciousness that, once extinguished, are forever dark?

To put it mildly, he answers are still in dispute. But humanity has collected a lot of evidence. I make no pretense of offering dispositive, final answers, but I have been surprised by how much my reading has helped me solidify my views. I hope that this account of my explorations will prove a useful guide to yours.

The nature of physical reality

David Tong, a Cambridge theoretical physicist, in 2017 gave a magnificent presentation for laymen on the fundamental building blocks of material reality.

It turns out that the material world is not so material after all. Dr. Tong explains as follows:

  • The fundamental building blocks of nature are not particles (clumps of matter) but something much more nebulous and abstract. Physical reality consists of fields, fluid like substances which are spread throughout the entire universe and which ripple in strange ways. A field takes a particular value at every point in space; that value can change in time.
  • Ripples in the electric and magnetic field are what we call light.
  • The ripples of the electron fluid get tied into little bundles of energy by the rules of quantum mechanics, and these bundles of energy are what we call the electron particle. All the electrons in your body are waves of the same underlying field.
  • Besides electrons, there are also two quark fields. Ripples in the quark field give rise to the up and down quark.
  • Fields underlie everything. What we think of as particles aren’t really particles; they are the waves of these fields [that collapse into packets of energy that behave like particles]. There are no particles in the world.
  • Even when particles are removed, the field still exists. [Physicists call it the quantum vacuum]. It is the simplest thing we can imagine in the universe and it’s very complicated.
  • Fields are governed by the rules of quantum mechanics.
  • In short, our physical bodies are all made of quantum fields.
  • There are four fundamental particles (bundles of energy within fields): the electron, the up quark and  the down quark which exist only in protons and neutrons which comprise the nucleus of an atom, and the neutrino.
  • For reasons nobody understands, each of these four particles comes in two additional forms that vary only by their mass; they are heavier.
  • Everything in the physical universe can be made from these 12 particles (12 fields).
  • These twelve fields interact with  each other through four forces: electromagnetism, the strong force, the weak force, and gravity. The strong and weak forces act only at very short distances within the nucleus of an atom.
  • There is one more force, the Higgs boson, which gives particles mass i.e., the property of resistance to movement. Without the Higgs field particles would move at the speed of light.
  • Physical reality is the result of all the fields interacting with each other in a harmonious dance. Oscillations in one field generate oscillations in the other fields.
  • The properties of all the particles is really a statement of how fields interact with other fields.
  • The name for the theory underlying the interaction of the fields is the standard model.
  • The standard model explains just about perfectly what happens on Earth, but it doesn’t explain other forces in the universe, namely, dark matter and dark energy. We know dark matter exists because of its gravitational effect on visible matter. Dark energy is a field which causes everything in the universe to repel everything else.
  • Physicists don’t understand what caused the universe to come into being or why it expanded so very, very rapidly so very, very shortly after coming into being.

There are hundreds of books and videos that describe the standard model and quantum field theory (QFT) from which it was derived. Wikipedia describes QFT as “a theoretical framework that combines classical field theoryspecial relativity, and quantum mechanics.” The Standard Model is an example of a quantum field theory, describing how the fields interact. Sadly, I lack the mathematical talent to understand the Standard model in depth, but I can say with confidence that no one understands the philosophical implications of what physicists have learned about how the world works.

The realization that physical reality emerges from an eternal dance within and among fields fills me with reverence. Stephen Hawking’s question is haunting, “What breathes fire into the equations?” Whence the fields? Where did the rules of the dance (laws of physics) come from? What keeps the flow moving? What makes all the fields combine in such a way as to create us? How does it come to pass that the balance between order and movement yields such beauty?

Is there a mind behind the universe?

The more I learn about how the world is, the more convinced I am that the answer is an unequivocal “Yes.”  There is an extensive  literature on how science supports the idea that creation is a product of a mind. The scientific evidence is overwhelming and compelling. Here are some key facts from humanity’s multi-century investigation into the origin of the universe and how it works:

  1. The universe had a beginning. It seems literally to have arisen ex nihilo. The so-called Big Bang theory, a set of models designed to explain how the universe came to be , states that the material universe – space, time, energy – exploded from near infinite, density, temperature, and pressure, expanding at an incomprehensible rate, and therefore cooling. This expansion and cooling continue. The Big Bang models so far have passed all observational tests with flying colors.

If the universe had a beginning, there had to be to be a creation event; a creation event cannot happen without a creator. If you accept the empirical validity of the Big Bang, an obvious inference is that the material universe arose from and came after whatever brought it into being. The most succinct and poetic description of the Big Bang is from the gospel according to John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. ,In him was life, and the life was the light of men (John1: 1-5.

For those who want further details on the science behind the Big Bang :

Meyer, Stephen C. Return of the God Hypothesis, 2021, Harper Collins, Kindle pp. 131-201.

Ross, Hugh N. The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th ed., 2018, , RTB Press, Kindle pp. 27-42.

Dr. Ross, an astrophysicist, formerly a post-doctoral fellow at Cal Tech, has posted numerous blogs on this subject on the Reasons to Believe website.


  1. The preconditions for life are so numerous and so exquisitely fined tuned that they could not have arisen by chance. Meyer describes how Oxford physicist, Sir Roger Penrose, who collaborated with Stephen Hawking, calculated “the exquisite and hyper exponential fine tuning of the initial entropy (degree of disorder) of the universe. Penrose compared the maximum possible configurations of matter and energy at the beginning of the universe with the number of configurations that would correspond to a highly ordered universe like ours. The chance that the initial mass -energy conditions that we observe could occur by chance is impossible to comprehend: 1 out of 10 billion raised to the 123rd power.” Meyer comments, “I am not aware of a word in English that does justice to the kind of precision we are discussing.” The universe cannot be here by chance.

Dr. Ross has another way of making the point. He has identified

  • “more than a hundred different parameters for the universe [whose values must fall within extremely] narrowly defined ranges for physical life of any conceivable kind to exist…,”
  • and an additional 150 parameters of a planet, its moon, its star, and its galaxy that also must be astoundingly precise. The rationale and specification of each of these parameters is supported by citations in the scientific literature. Dr. Ross estimates the probability of occurrence of all these preconditions for intelligent life existing in just the right amount and right way at 10-1032. That is a decimal point followed by 1031 zeroes and a 1.

Note that he makes no mention of mind boggling biological complexity. There are about 37 trillion cells in the human body. How they all work in harmony to enable us to function is a mystery. It seems obvious to me that the dance of life is unimaginable without being suffused with an unimaginable intelligence.

The extreme improbability of the prerequisites for intelligent life suggests to me that Earth may be unique in the universe. There may well be no one else out there.

For those who want further details on the science and calculations behind the fine tuning argument:

Meyer, Return of the God Hypothesis, 2021, Harper Collins, Kindle pp.230-254.

Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th ed., 2018,RTB Press, Kindle pp. 197-220 and pp.229-263.

Ross, Hugh N. Designed to the Core, 2022, RTB Press.

  1. The material universe behaves according to laws (relationships among physical variables) which – as indicated by super-sophisticated experiments —  have been invariant from the beginning. The existence of laws presumes a lawgiver. The laws scientists have discovered never evolved. They just are.

For those who want further details:

Rees, Martin, Just Six Numbers, 2000, Basic Books.

  1. As Stephen Meyer noted, since the beginning of the universe, “large, discontinuous increases in functionally specified information have entered the biosphere.”  What Meyer means by “functionally specified information” is the specific information necessary for DNA  to perform a specific function in the cell. DNA is the physical molecule by which information is transmitted. Information is incarnated in the sequence of nucleotides in DNA chains. Information – the precise instructions that yield a precise result – can arise only as a product of a mind. Information, like the laws of physics, is immaterial but essential to the existence of the material world we experience. Furthermore, as Henry Quastler, one of the first scientists to apply informational concepts to molecular biology observed, “The creation of new information is habitually associated with consciousness.” Only intelligence can cause specified information and consciousness.

In sum, the material world offers abundant, prodigious evidence that:

  • There is a mind that has created and supports the universe;
  • Material reality arises from mind, not, as materialists assert, the other way around.  Consciousness – immaterial though it may be – is primary.

The existence of a creator mind cannot be proved with certainty. Nothing can, in fact. But as we learn more about how the universe works, the evidence keeps piling up that the universe is a product of a mind.

For some, all that is necessary to discern mind, purpose, and beauty is to look at a flower.

Let us call this mind God.

If there is a mind, does that matter to humans?

Gloucester in Shakespeare’s King Lear, says, “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods.” He captures nihilism in a line. All of us, save those with a special talent for self-delusion, must have felt this way at one time or another. Suppose science more and more buttresses the intuition that there is a God. Many of us might respond, “So what?” Horrible things happen to good people and wonderful things happen to bad people. Being a “good” person is no protection whatever against calamity. Even if there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent creator intelligence we call God, we still suffer and die. Is there evidence that there is more to the story, even reason for hope that  “[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away?” (Revelation 21:4). I don’t know and no amount of reading and thinking is going to give me a sure answer.

Faced with  this irreducible uncertainty, what have I chosen to believe and why? Beset by frequent outbreaks of doubt, I nonetheless find that the gospel of Jesus Christ not only rings true to my intuition but also, has a surprisingly strong base of evidentiary support. The more you study it, the more it seems to be true.

The commitment to be a Christian turns on accepting that the resurrection of Jesus really happened. What do we know?

  1. Historians of all persuasions and backgrounds are certain that a man named Jesus lived, preached, was crucified, was buried, and a large number of people at the time became convinced — to the point of giving their lives – that he rose from the dead.
  2. Non-Christian and Jewish sources affirm the validity of key facts in in the four gospels.
  3. Two of the gospels were written by eyewitnesses (Matthew and John). Luke and Mark did many interviews with eyewitnesses to the risen Christ.
  4. People from many different backgrounds said they saw Jesus risen from the dead.
  5. The gospels dovetail remarkably well with one another. That is a sign of reliable reporting.

In making the case that the gospels can be trusted, Peter J. Williams, Principal and CEO of Tyndale House and a world class biblical scholar, offers multiple threads of evidence whose cumulative impact is thoroughly convincing. Some highlights:

  • “[There are] two facts generally accepted even by those who doubt the resurrection: (1) that Jesus was buried and that the tomb was later found empty; (2) that a wide range of people believed that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead.
  • “If the presentation of Jesus in the gospels is wrong, one faces many intellectual hurdles to explain why so many historical details are right or plausible. One has to explain how the various layers of textual material arose in the gospels, all of which display signs of abundant familiarity with the time of Jesus and show the features one would expect from the earliest Jewish layers of tradition. One needs to explain the origin of the parables, the original teaching, and the range of cases where one gospel is most simply explained by assuming the truth of another. One also has to explain how the movement of Jesus’s followers took off numerically in a manner for which historians cannot agree on an explanation.”

The simplest explanation that explains the facts is that the events recorded in the gospels really did occur.

How do we know that the text of the New Testament is authentic, and how credible is the evidence it presents that the Jesus rose from the dead?) John Lennox, emeritus professor of mathematics at Oxford and a world renowned Christian apologist, addresses these questions in his Gunning for God (Lion Hudson, 2011.

Re: the historicity of Jesus’s life: Lennox offers quotes from some of the world’s leading experts:

    • Ed Sanders of Duke University, a self-confessed agnostic: “There are no substantial doubts about the course of Jesus’ life.”
    • Christopher Tuckett, University of Oxford, author of the Cambridge University textbook on the historical Jesus: “The fact that Jesus existed, that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate … and that he had a band of followers who continued to support his cause seems to be part of the bedrock of historical tradition. If nothing else, the non-Christian evidence can provide us with certainty on that score.”
    • Gerd Thiessen, a German New Testament historian (on the “liberal / sceptical end of the theological spectrum” according to Lennox): “The mentions of Jesus in ancient historians allay doubt about his historicity. The notices about Jesus in Jewish and pagan writers … indicate that in antiquity, the historicity of Jesus was taken for granted,…”

Re: Evidence for the original text of the New Testament: “There are 5,664 partial or complete manuscripts of the New Testament in the original Greek language…; and over 9,000 in early translations into [other languages]…. There are 38,289 quotations from the New Testament by the early church fathers, who wrote between the second and fourth centuries AD.”

Re: Mistakes in the copying process: “Comparing all these manuscripts to each other, it is possible to reconstruct the original text to a point where expert opinion holds that less than 2 percent of that text is uncertain, with a large part of that text involving small linguistic features that make no difference to the general meaning.”

Re: Evidence that Jesus really died: “When the soldiers came to Jesus, they found he was dead already, so they did not break his legs. This means they were absolutely sure he was dead. …. However, presumably to make doubly sure Jesus was dead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear….

“[The gospel writer] John tells us that the spear-thrust produced a flow of blood and water. This supplies us with medical evidence of death. It indicates that massive blood clotting had taken place in the main arteries, which shows that Jesus had died even before the spear-thrust. John could not have known the pathological significance of this.”

Re: Evidence of the place and manner of burial, and security measures to prevent a fake resurrection: Jesus was buried in a new, private tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea. No one had been laid in that tomb before, “so there was no question of his body being accidentally confused with that of someone else.” His body was wrapped in linen cloths. No one was expecting the resurrection of a dead man. According to Matthew, “… at the request of the Pharisees and with Pilate’s permission, guards were placed around the tomb [Matthew 27: 62-66]

Re: Evidence that the tomb really was empty after burial except for the linen cloths: The authorities wanted Jesus and his teachings to be decisively discredited; the last thing they wanted therefore  was an empty tomb. If the tomb had not been empty ,Jewish authorities would not have spread the idea that Jesus’ body had been stolen, and the Roman authorities would have had no difficulty producing the body. As for  tomb robbers, they would not have taken the body with its valuable spices and left the linens. Who wants a decaying corpse?

I do not think it can be disproven that the disciples somehow were able to steal Jesus’ body. But that seems highly implausible to me. Having seen their supposed messiah ignominiously put to death, they must have been utterly demoralized, disorganized and frightened. Conversely, had they not had what to them was completely persuasive evidence from the own experience of Jesus’ resurrection, they surely would not subsequently have risked their lives for their beliefs. Nobody chooses to die for what they think or know is a scam.

Re: Evidence of eyewitnesses to the risen Christ: “According to Paul’s list in 1 Corinthians 15,there were originally well over 500 people who at different times saw the risen Christ during the forty days between his resurrection and ascension. Twenty years later, in the mid-fifties when Paul was writing, more than half of them were still alive, and presumably, … available for questioning.”  Also significant is the “widely divergent character of those witnesses and the situations in which Christ appeared to them.” Lennox further notes that the testimony of the eyewitnesses was remarkably consistent, and there is “a complete absence of contemporary evidence against the resurrection. “

Despite the body of evidence supporting the truth of the Christian gospel, many of us understandably remain sceptical. The claim is so extraordinary!  Ultimately, you make a leap of faith or you don’t. But, while evidence and logic can take us only so far, they for me have greatly reduced how big the leap has to be.

For those who want further details:

Williams, Peter J., Can We Trust the Gospels?, 2018 Crossway

Lennox, John C., Gunning for God, 2011 Lion Hudson

How physicists’ understanding of physical reality strengthens the plausibility of the Christian message

Iain McGilchrist tells us, “A long roll call of the most distinguished physicists would support the view that the originary ‘stuff’ of the universe is consciousness:

  • Max Planck: “All matter arises and exists only by virtue of a force which sets the atomic particles oscillating, and holds them together in … the atom… We must suppose, behind this force a conscious, intelligent spirit. This spirit is the ultimate origin of matter.”
  • Arthur Eddington: “The universe is of the nature of a thought or sensation in a universal Mind …”
  • James Jeans: “The universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine.”
  • Roger Penrose: “I think that matter itself is now much more of a mental substance.”
  • Richard Conn Henry: “… if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the illusion (italics in original) 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.”

Suppose, as I do, that these physicists are correct. Certain striking inferences follow:

  1. Material reality arises from consciousness.
  2. There may be a master field of consciousness that can control the various fields whose interactions and flows generate the material world we experience and observe.
  3. Perhaps Jesus Christ, was the incarnation of this master field. If so,  could he have combined the fields of physical reality to rise from the dead in some sort of bodily form, as well as create the miracles that were reported? I think so. After all, what Jesus is said to have done is no more miraculous than the creation of the universe itself, a miracle we know occurred because we are here. Many scientists still believe that the universe had a material origin, but despite decades of looking, they have yet to find it. I doubt that they will.

At the very least the evidence from science does not contradict or disconfirm the truth of the gospels.

For those who want further details:

Iain McGilchrist, The Matter with Things, 2021, Perspectiva Press, pp. 1589-1720.

You can like or comment on any article.

Ground rules for comments 

I strongly welcome comments, but  ask you to abide by the principle, “Always respect the person, never respect the idea.”  A thoughtful analysis of why the views  I present are wrong helps all of us get closer to discerning what is true, but civility must rule.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *