The way I see it, there are three kinds of universe:
• The universe in which God created everything in it, from the smallest particle to the largest cluster of galaxies, and controls everything that happens in it, whether it’s our lives here and now or the movements of some distant cousin of a cockroach on some distant planet in some distant galaxy. I’m not talking about a vast team of gods divvying up the universe so that each god is only responsible for a small piece of it, but a single God responsible for a humongous number of pieces of it, twenty-four by seven, without ever missing a beat.
• The universe in which God set off the Big Bang fourteen billion years ago, which set into motion space and time itself, and all things we know and don’t know, which are still unfolding and unfolding in ways that nobody could possibly anticipate, things lovely and cruel beyond comprehension, including the apparent miracles of life, consciousness, intelligence, love, literature, poetry, science, philosophy, and an infinite bouquet of miracles that haven’t been born yet.
• The universe in which the Big Bang just occurred for some reason that currently escapes us but, if we work hard enough at it, we just might figure out the reason and, if not us, then someone or something else, or maybe not at all. And it occurred fourteen billion years ago, which set into motion space and time itself, and all things we know and don’t know, which are still unfolding and unfolding in ways that nobody could possibly anticipate, things lovely and cruel beyond comprehension, including the apparent miracles of life, consciousness, intelligence, love, literature, poetry, science, philosophy, and an infinite bouquet of miracles that haven’t been born yet.
Now, although I’d much prefer to live in a universe in which God exists, using the God-given intellectual equipment I was born with, I have never seen or heard any compelling evidence that He exists.
So it is quite obvious I don’t believe in the first universe above. Not only do I not have any evidence that it exists, it doesn’t seem possible to me that such a universe could exist. It would fall apart too quickly. It could not possibly be held together.
Now we come to the second and third universes. The second universe is just like the third universe, except for inserting God into the causal chain as the First Cause. Okay, so who made God? First causes are problematic that way. Also, God is not a sufficient cause. In other words, if you removed God from the second universe, you would have the third universe, which appears to be perfectly viable for the time being.
As for the third universe, I know that religious Creationists scoff at the idea that life could have developed in a primordial soup of organic particles in a pool of water shocked into existence by a random bolt of lightning, and from that soup sprang professors spouting Shakespeare. It seems far less likely than breaking open a sack full of coins, throwing them all into the air, and having them all land on their edges. First off, life from primordial soup doesn’t sound any more far-fetched to me than the first universe. Just for the sake of argument, however, let’s explore the sack-of-coins-landing-on-their-edges example. Consider the number of successes, in which the coins all land on their edges, the number of failures, in which they don’t, and the amount of time. Given an infinite period of time, not only will all the coins land on their edges at least once, they will do so an infinite number of times. Okay, let’s not talk about an infinite period of time. The probability is just a function of the number of coins being tossed, the likelihood of each tossed coin landing on its edge, and the number of times the coins are tossed. Back to our primordial soup: there were probably billions and billions of lightning bolts striking pools of organic molecules during the first billion years of earth’s existence. This sounds much less far-fetched than the first universe to me.
Do I see the unfolding miracles of the third universe with less wonder and appreciation than someone else who believes in the first universe? I think not. The more I know, the more I know there is that I don’t know. There is more humility in a scientist who confronts and wrestles his ignorance every day than in a person who believes all is known and he knows it all.