You cannot see God? So what?



 “Skydaddy - A big daddy in the sky in whom most people believe, but no one has seen. He's a really nice guy unless you fail to submit to his will and/or doubt his existence, because then he will punish you forever. He's also kind of nazi about who you have sex with. But hey, a buddy is a buddy right?” – Urban Dictionary

It seems as if I regularly run into people who won’t believe in a God that they cannot see. Oh, they will cover it with lots of other objections, but there is too much focus on the “Invisible Skydaddy” (one of the many demeaning terms atheists use to refer to God) to believe that a lot of it has nothing to do with the fact that he cannot be seen.

Of course, it would be nice to be able to see God. Certainly, it is much easier to believe in something that you can see or touch rather than something that can be neither seen nor touched. But a scientifically-minded friend of mine shared with me the following illustration which he says he regularly uses when discussing why our inability to see God alone should never make us doubt His existence.

His point: There are more things that we cannot see than we can see.

The illustration: the electromagnetic spectrum. 

For those who have forgotten the basics of electromagnetic energy/radiation from high school physics class, let the NASA blog remind you:  

Electromagnetic energy travels in waves and spans a broad spectrum from very long radio waves to very short gamma rays. The human eye can only detect only a small portion of this spectrum called visible light. A radio detects a different portion of the spectrum, and an x-ray machine uses yet another portion. NASA's scientific instruments use the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum to study the Earth, the solar system, and the universe beyond.

The important takeaway for purposes of this blog entry are that all of the various waves which are electromagnetic energy are of the same nature. Again, as noted by NASA:  

Radio waves, gamma-rays, visible light, and all the other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum are electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation can be described in terms of a stream of mass-less particles, called photons, each traveling in a wave-like pattern at the speed of light. Each photon contains a certain amount of energy.

What allows people to see is that our eyes have been designed (yes, designed) to be attuned to a a portion of these waves (what we call the visible spectrum which is a subset of the electromagnetic spectrum) which we are able to convert in our mind to images. But if our eyes can see one part of the spectrum, they could also have been designed to see a different part of the spectrum; but they haven't been. So, we cannot see what is outside the visible spectrum.

Visible light is the only part of the electromagnetic spectrum which is visible to the human eye. The human eye is not able to see the radiations with wavelengths outside this visible spectrum. Visible light can be seen in the form of different colors, each color has a different wavelength. Red has the longest wavelength and violet has the shortest wavelength. When all the colors of light are seen together, they make white light.

Now, the percentage of the electromagnetic spectrum we can see is extremely small. The math says that if we use a logarithmic scale of frequency, visible light is 2.3% of the whole electromagnetic spectrum, while on a linear scale it is 0.0035%. Regardless of which scale is used, it is clear that there is a great deal more that we cannot see than what we can see. That's why I really like the photo at the top of the blog as an illustration of what I am writing about. The amount of light we can see coming through the window is only a very small part of the picture and does not illuminate much at all. But the rest of the picture that is in the dark is still there. We know that the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum is there because we are able to use many of the waves on the spectrum in everyday life; for example, we use as X-Rays in medicine, radio waves in communication and microwaves to make popcorn.

This realization makes me want to tweak C.S. Lewis’ famous statement, “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.” While my variation won't become as widely shared because (1) I am not C.S. Lewis, and (2) it isn't as pithy, I would say, “Even though I cannot see him, I believe in God for much of the same reason that I believe in the non-visible portions of the electromagnetic spectrum; not because I can see them, but because I can see how they work in the world.”

Comments

BKQ yea good job. great to have you blogging again!!! you should be Dallas Coby they need a quarterback.
Anonymous said…
I don't believe atheists are objecting to an "unseen" God, but an undetectable one. We are aware of light outside the visible spectrum because of technology and experimentation that made us aware of the unseen. I'm not aware of a similar discovery regarding a God.

I believe this is a straw man.
BK said…
Anonymous, then your fellow-atheists need to be more careful about their language. They focus on the "invisible" God. So, to that extent, it's not a straw man.

But I certainly acknowledge that you might be among those who recognize the distinction and are now saying that the problem is that God is not detectable. In response, I would say that you need to recognize that this is an illustration to show that things exist outside of our ability to see them, and by analogy it creates the possibility that there are other things that may exist outside of our means of detection. That's the same thing, just a broader category.
BK said…
Joe, Dallas Cowboys!?! No way. Bad as they are, I am a lifelong Bengal fan. Even if I had the talent, I would only work for the the Bengals. Who Dey!!!
I actually consider the guys they have now to be the phony cowboys, the real cowboys ceased to exist when Jones bought the name.
the phony cowboys suck, I root for the Chiefs, they used to be the Dallas Texans, the first AFL champions.
im-skeptical said…
you need to recognize that this is an illustration to show that things exist outside of our ability to see them, and by analogy it creates the possibility that there are other things that may exist outside of our means of detection. That's the same thing, just a broader category.
- I'd say it destroys your analogy, which was based on things that couldn't be seen, but which we know exist - because they are detectable. If God was detectable, there would be no dispute about whether it exists. But it's not. That's the point.
If God was detectable, there would be no dispute about whether it exists. But it's not. That's the point.

If that were true there would be no ideological battle tween communism and capitalism because economics is detectable.

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