One of my favorite television shows growing up was Star Trek, and as a lifelong Trekkie/Trekker (whichever moniker you prefer), I mourn the loss of Leonard Nimoy. Like many, I’ve spent the last week reflecting on Nimoy’s life and legacy, and the inspiration he was to many over the years. I’ve also appreciated the many Leonard Nimoy quotes that have been bandied about the Internet these last several days – some of them from Leonard Nimoy himself and some from his best-known and most beloved character, Mr. Spock from Star Trek. Among the quotes that I particularly like is one stolen from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes…
“An ancestor of mine maintained that if you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth.”
The process of elimination has indeed been among the greatest tools of reasoning employed throughout history, and it is one of the best used tools in the arsenal of the Christian apologist. Most of the arguments for the existence of God and for the resurrection of Jesus Christ boil down to discovering the explanation that survives the process of elimination.
In order to ascertain whether God exists, one must start with existence itself. The reality of Nature (space, time, matter, and energy — the base components of the universe and world around us) must be explained in one of the following ways:
- Nature has always existed
- Nature generated itself into existence
- Something or someone outside of Nature created Nature
That’s it. You have no other options. Nature (including the universe, our planet, and all conscious life) definitely exists. An explanation of its existence is found in one of the above propositions. They can’t all be true, nor can they all be false. One of them – and only one of them – is true.
Most intellectuals who embrace atheism or agnosticism reject Divine Creation (the third possibility listed above) because they can’t access the supernatural via their senses, nor can they establish God’s existence through the scientific method. But this dismissal of the supernatural does not represent scientific open-mindedness. Quite the opposite, in fact. The existence of the supernatural may be “improbable” to some, but it can’t simply be dismissed out of hand.
Using the wisdom of Mr. Spock and Sherlock Holmes, we must eliminate the impossible. Whatever we’re left with – however improbable – is necessarily the correct explanation. How can we eliminate the impossible? That’s simple. We weight each propositional statement against known, verifiable facts and plain logic.
The first possibility (Nature has always existed) has been essentially disproved by science and is completely rebuffed by philosophy. The scientific community widely accepts today that the universe began approximately 13.7 billion years ago with a “Big Bang.” Creationists have long decried the Big Bang, arguing that it contradicts biblical timelines. But it’s atheists who should be most alarmed – and have been – by Big Bang cosmology. Creationists can, quite plausibly and with a straight face, maintain that divine intervention calls uniformitarianism into serious question. Uniformitarianism, for those who may not know, is the assumption that the same natural laws, processes, and constants – such as the speed of light or the rate of expansion of the universe – that we see in the universe now have happened the same way and in the same manner for all time, and have done so everywhere in the universe. It’s uniformitarian assumptions which allow scientists to date the universe at 13.7 billion years (give or take). But what if the speed of light hasn’t always been constant? What if the rate of expansion of the universe was much more rapid “in the beginning” (to steal a phrase from Genesis)? If that’s the case, then six-day Creationism is quite compatible with Big Bang cosmology. What’s NOT compatible with Big Bang cosmology is the idea that Nature has always been here. Therefore, the first possibility (Nature has always existed) is out.
The second possibility (Nature created itself) is even more implausible. If Nature constitutes space, time, matter, and energy and if it began to exist, then before Nature, there was….wait for it…Nothing. There was no time, no space, no matter, and no energy. There was nothing. Aristotle once defined nothing as “what rocks dream about.” That’s an apt description for the state of things prior to Nature coming into existence. How exactly then can nothing create something? It can’t. If you start with nothing, and nothing intervenes, then…guess what…nothing will happen. It’s difficult for me to believe that I have to even make this case in the twenty-first century. You would think every rational human being would understand this concept, but alas, atheists and agnostics have trouble with it. Why? Well, you be the judge of that. Whatever their rationale, it’s pretty clear that that Nature didn’t create itself.
And that leaves us with just one possibility remaining. And it’s here that Spock’s logic comes into play. If Nature hasn’t always existed and if Nature didn’t create itself, then guess what? Nature was created by something or someone else. And, definitionally, it is fair to describe the cause of Nature as superior to Nature. Thus, we can use the word Supernatural.
The irony in all this, of course, is that Star Trek is a show which celebrates humanism. Gene Roddenberry, its creator, was raised a Southern Baptist but became a semi-agnostic and humanist. If you watch the show (and I’ve seen every episode of the classic series – as well as Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Enterprise – yes, I’m a geek!), the premise of the entire Star Trek franchise is that science explains reality and humanity is evolving toward a higher state of intelligence, awareness, and enlightenment that is completely free from religion. At one point, Roddenberry bluntly said: “I reject religion.” One of his colleagues has said that the now-late Star Trek creator “felt very strongly that contemporary Earth religions would be gone by the 23rd century.” (Incidentally, while the heart of Star Trek is humanism, the heart of Star Wars is pantheism. Stargate and Battlestar Galactica both tip their hat toward polytheism. The only sci-fi franchise that comes close to embracing monotheism would be the wonderful, but sadly short-lived, Firefly. They at least have a main character who is Christian). Nevertheless, the logic that Mr. Spock offers us deals a devastating blow to atheism (as well as, for that matter, polytheism and pantheism).
Already, Spock’s logic (which of course is Sherlock Holmes’ logic) proves that Nature has a Supernatural Cause – a cause we can reasonably call “God.” But it’s not just process of elimination which brings us to God. We have the Cosmological Argument, which pretty much deals a death blow to atheism. The Cosmological Argument for God goes like this:
- Premise A: For Every Effect, there is a Cause (which means that everything that begins to exist, must have a cause)
- Premise B: The Universe Began to Exist
- Conclusion: The Universe Has a Cause
According to well established rules of logic, if the premises of a syllogism (like we see above) are true, then the conclusion necessarily follows. Therefore, if the premises (as stated above) are valid, then we can logically conclude – in layman’s terms, we can know - that the universe has a Supernatural Cause.
It’s certainly true that the evidence and arguments presented in this article don’t get us all the way to the God of the Bible. They establish monotheism, but not necessarily Christianity. Don’t worry. There are plenty of additional arguments which get us all the way to biblical Christianity. The main thing I wanted to accomplish in this article is to simply show that Mr. Spock has served up (inadvertently, I’m sure) a reason to believe in God, which is quite ironic, given that he is the most iconic character of a TV franchise designed to advance just the opposite view.
God bless you.
For more on this topic (including a more detailed overview of the arguments for Monotheism) read…