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Proof of God: The Empirical Argument

David Cowles

Jun 1, 2024

“Because God is not perfectly manifest anywhere in our World, we perceive that God is present everywhere…”

In the this Issue of ATM (6/1/2024), we attempted to resurrect a 12th century Ontological Proof of God’s existence. We performed our feat of prestidigitation by standing Anselm of Bec on his tonsured head. 

Anselm et al. argued that ‘existence’ is a ‘perfection’, that being is an improvement over not-being. (Lie quiet, Hamlet!) Since God is perfect by definition, God therefore exists by definition, i.e. among all his other perfections, God must possess the ‘perfection’ of existence. 

Anselm argued God’s case logically. We rescued Anslem by showing that it is not necessary to treat ‘existence’ as a ‘perfection’ or even to posit God as ‘perfect’. All that is required is the ability to recognize gradations of Value. 

Whenever you can say that A is objectively ‘better’ (more beautiful, more true, more just) than B, you are saying, “God exists,” because without God, no gradations would be possible. At the end of the day, God is Value and therefore the ground of all values.

God is Beauty, God is Truth, God is Justice. Therefore, if we say that one painting is more beautiful than another, one proposition more true than another, one law more just than another, we implicitly assert the existence of God. 

As long as ‘actual entities’ manifest varying gradations of various values, they testify loudly to the existence of God. Of course, if all things perfectly reflected God’s Value (Good), they would still testify to the existence of God…but we wouldn’t hear it. 

A world in which everything is maximally Beautiful, True, and Just, i.e. maximally Good, is called the Kingdom of Heaven. Had we been born directly into the Kingdom, we would be co-terminus with God. We would enjoy God, but we would not ‘know’ God. 

We would be ‘reduced to the state of Eden’, i.e. ‘Eve before Apple’, forbidden to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. Or reduced to the state of a fish in water. A fish cannot prove the existence of water empirically. It is only by contrast that we perceive and for a fish, water is ubiquitous. Likewise, it is only by variations in value that we can detect the universal presence of God.

A bit of a paradox, this! Because God is not perfectly manifest anywhere* in our World, we are able to perceive God everywhere in that World. (*exceptions may apply)

According to Genesis, Adam and Eve ‘paved paradise and put up a parking lot’ (Joni Mitchell); they traded Eden for gnosis and ended up with techne (technology). What is the first thing the first family did after leaving Eden? You guessed it: Cain went East and built cities. 

We did the same at Babel. Seeking to be ‘more like God’, we built infrastructure and became less like God in the process. “The nearer your destination the more you’re slip-slidin’ away.” (Paul Simon)

Do these stories seem far fetched to you? Then how about our own very recent so-called  Enlightenment? We set our caps for gnosis and, like the Babylonians before us, we ended up with techne

Before I turned 25, I thought I knew everything; since turning 75, I realize I know nothing now...and knew even less then. In 1900, the cognoscente thought they knew almost everything about almost everything. Spoiler Alert: They didn’t! In retrospect we see that they knew almost nothing about anything – anything important that is.

Conjecture: The more important something is, the less sure we can be of it. (Call it the ATM Uncertainty Principle?) Therefore, the most we can know about the most important subject, God, is nothing.

Wittgenstein labeled a certain family of propositions, Important Nonsense – a rare example of redundancy on the part of this great thinker. The more important the info the less likely  it is that the proposition will be meaningful according to our criteria; therefore, Wittgenstein’s famous meme is redundant.  

Knowledge is like the Cosmos. The frontier is receding from us so rapidly that no matter what we do, our patch will continue to shrink relative to the whole. Metaphorically speaking, the noosphere is imploding at about a billion km per hour. We occupy an increasingly small fraction of spacetime…and of the noosphere (Teilhard de Chardin). What we know is an increasingly small fraction of what is knowable.  

Like various non-human life forms from the Star Trek franchise, the citizens of Eden were willing to accept the horrors of mortality to gain knowledge. But you don’t need to belong to the Q-Continuum or the Borg Collective to value knowledge. We find the same spirit in a very human story that dates back almost 4,000 years. 

Of course, I’m speaking of the Book of Job. Bereft of family and fortune, Job, covered with boils, taunted by neighbors, living on an ash pile, has the incredible courage to say that the worst fate that could befall a person is to ‘die without knowledge’. 

Sidebar: When a university professor (sorry, profs), whose closest encounter with pain was a hangnail, ranks ignorance as the worst fate, we are entitled to a bit of an eyebrow lift. But Job has street cred – as does Jesus after him!

When Job confronts God at the end of the epic, he does not ask God to restore his fortunes; he simply asks for knowledge. Whether or not he gets that knowledge is a matter of debate. In any event, I wonder how many of us would sacrifice ‘paradise’ for knowledge. When confronted with a choice, a challenge, or a problem today, how many of us ask the appropriate question, “WWJD – What would Job do?”

Speaking of knowledge, what is it that we know? We know contrasts. We know A because we are not A and because A is not B (~A). A is the classic Neti, Neti (Not this, Not that). And what is the currency of contrast? Attributes, qualities, values. When we say A contrasts with B, we mean to say that A and B manifest various qualities in differing proportions.

If God is Value, and if Value characterizes every actual entity and manifests as a variety of values in those entities, then God is manifest in every actual entity. We just need to find him, to recognize him. When we do we release the spark (Shekinah); literally or figuratively, we reunite the mortal world with the eternal godhead. 

Now at last, we can restore poor Anselm (above) to his upright position…but we need poor Descartes to take his place. His famous Cogito ergo sum is reconceived:   

Percipio ergo Deus est.

“I perceive, therefore God exists.” This is the famous, elusive, empirical proof of the existence of God. I perceive because there are contrasts. There are contrasts because God exists. A world without God would be monochrome; neither we, nor any sentient being, could exist in such a world.

So have we done what no one has seriously attempted to do since before Socrates? Have we proven the proposition, ‘God exists’, empirically rather than logically? Take our Reader Survey here.


David Cowles is the founder and editor-in-chief of Aletheia Today Magazine. He lives with his family in Massachusetts where he studies and writes about philosophy, science, theology, and scripture. He can be reached at


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