The Paths that Diverge at the Crossroads of Existential Angst

Why do I wonder? Why am I conscious of my wondering, and why does my wondering create in me such terrifying angst?

Stephen Meyer describes the existential angst he experienced in his early teens in the interview with Sean McDowell that is embedded in its entirety at end of this article. Meyer majored in physics and geology, but he accumulated a minor in philosophy on his way to an undergraduate degree. His interest in philosophy was driven by the existential angst he felt as a young man.

(Stephen would become a geophysicist and college professor and would go on to obtain a Masters n Philosophy and a Ph.D in the philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge. He now directs Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture in Seattle and authored the New York Times best seller Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (HarperOne, 2013), Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperOne, 2009), which was named a Book of the Year by the Times (of London) Literary Supplement in 2009, and more recently, The Return of the God Hypothesis (HarperOne, 2021).)

Meyer wanted to be popular and good at sports, like most teenager’s, but that wasn’t going well for him. A couple of nights before a planned ski trip with his father, some “weird questions” started “popping” into his mind: “What’s it going to matter in a hundred years?” He was initially troubled by it, but anticipation for the ski trip distracted him for the time being.

On the skiing trip, however, he broke his leg badly. He woke up from an operation with a full leg cast. Several days in the hospital and limitations on his mobility stirred his active teenage brain to dwell on the questions that haunted him before the trip.

While he was in the hospital, his father brought him a book on the history of baseball. As he read the book, he began to notice that the stories all ended the same way. The great prospects were scouted. They came up to the majors with budding promise. They had a fantastic career. They accumulated records, and they retired… and, “Then what?” He wondered.

In his 14-year old mind, baseball was the greatest thing a person could do, but he wondered, “In a hundred years, would anyone remember those accomplishments?”

His own mundane routines of life – getting up in the morning, taking the bus to school, coming home, doing his homework and chores, and getting up in the morning to do it all again – led him to fear “that nothing I was doing was going to amount to anything”.

He added the routine of hobbling to the mailbox each day to get the newspaper to read the baseball box scores. As days went by, he became conscious of the dates on the newspapers. Each day a new date, one after the other, with each one passing into his memory. Snap your finger one moment, he realized, and the next moment you are remembering the moment you snapped your finger, but it was gone.

He became aware of the ephemeral nature of time, and began to wonder, “What is it that is the same all the time and is the basis for binding all these passing sense impressions together?” these questions led to the conclusion, “Unless there is something that doesn’t change, everything that is constantly changing has no lasting reality, let alone meaning.”

He had no reason to believe, at that time, that there was an answer to this angst. There was no reason to believe there was anything that was always the same, that was unchanging. There was nothing evident to him to tether the ever changing world of his experience.

I recall early in my life a time of deep unsettling angst. I was maybe around 5-7 years old, when we watched a reel of home movies of my father and grandparents and me as a younger child. This was, perhaps, my first awareness of the passage of time.

I don’t know if I dreamt this, or imagined it, or whether it was a “vision”, but what I recall was “real”. I still remember it, though the immediacy of the feelings that went with it have faded. I experienced the sensation of floating in the unimaginably vast emptiness and expanse of space – alone – not connected to anyone or anything.

Terrifying is not the right word for the feeling I felt, but I can’t come up with a better description. I imagine now that the same or similar gnawing feeling is what Meyer experienced as he wrestled with the questions whirling in his young mind.

Meyer realized one day, as he had a strong urge to ask his parents, that his parents could offer him no better solution, that there was no sense even asking. Stephen Meyer remembers looking at his windowsill in his leg cast and staring at the pattern in the wood. He wondered, “How do I know that what I am seeing is really there and not just something that is going on in my brain?”

At that point his next thought was, “I wonder if this is what it means to be insane?” Then arose the fear that led to a new fear that the questions meant there was something wrong with him. If his parents had taken him to a psychologist then, he might have been diagnosed with anxiety leading to a panic attack.

In college, though, Meyer was able to find some clarity and context for his experience in the study of existentialism: “Without an infinite reference point, nothing finite has any ultimate meaning or value.” (Paraphrasing John Paul Sartre). Meyer realized, “That was what was bothering me!”

Everything is in flux from our human vantage point. Everything is passing, passing, passing….. Nothing has any lasting meaning or value from the position of a finite being. The anxiety he felt was a “metaphysical anxiety”.


Stephen Meyer’s journey is somewhat similar to mine, except for the details. This journey is common to human experience, and it has ancient roots. Anyone who has spent any time reading Ecclesiastes knows what I am talking about.

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Evidence of a Beautiful Mind

Beauty is hard to explain on the basis of naturalism.

Sunrise over Hawaii by Miriam Higgs

Everyone recognizes beauty. That is undeniable. Everyone recognizes beauty in nature. Nature is virtually saturated in beauty from mountain peaks, to ocean shores, to barren Antarctica and the desert landscapes, to the starry host and the living cell. We recognize beauty in things we see, in things we hear, words that are spoken and in the personalities of exceptional people.

We see beauty in human art, and that beauty is usually produced by effort and design. The beauty in art is rarely produced unintentionally. Art, itself, is an intentional activity. If “art imitates nature” (Aristotle), then our proclivity toward art suggests that nature is also the product of intentionality.

Just as human art reveals something of the personality and character of the artist, nature reveals something of the personality and character of its Creator.

Beauty has a certain objectivity to it. While people disagree may differ on whether certain things are beautiful, no one denies that beauty exists and that some things are beautiful. Further, there are some things that nearly all people agree are beautiful.

If beauty wasn’t, to some degree, objective it could not be taught by experts in universities. The study of beauty includes principles of symmetry and asymmetry, color palate, texture and many other things that these experts agree make good art. A principle that is not the least important is the meaning behind the art, not just for the artist, but for the viewer of the art.

Virtually no one disagrees that these are objective truths, self-evident in quality and character. The fact that people will disagree over what is beauty, or what is most beautiful, doesn’t negate the universality of the idea of beauty – beauty does exist, we can recognize it and we can replicate it.

Beauty is hard to explain on the basis of naturalism. What sort of function does beauty supply? And why does it persist? The more advanced human civilization becomes, the more we insist that beauty be incorporated into our world, the more we desire it and the more we seek to make things beautiful. The best explanation for the source of beauty is a Beautiful Mind of which we are but images.

Reflections on the Influence of Stephen Hawking

Lets all go to Mars, sculpture by Stephen Hawking (Depositphotos Photography ID: 169212920 Copyright: irisphoto11 Editorial use only)


Stephen Hawking recently passed away after living a remarkably full life in spite of being stricken by Lou Gehrig’s Disease at an early age. He was one of the most influential people of his time, not because of his condition, but because of his mind. He was brilliant and pioneered new understandings of the universe through applied mathematics in the field of cosmology.

Hawking is a voice that people listened to, not only in science, but in the application of science to such things as philosophy and the origin of the universe. Hawking may have toyed once with the idea of God, but he became an atheist. He chose, as have many a modern scientist has chosen since the 19th century, to view the world without reference to God.

In this article, I explore some comments made by Hawking’s colleague, John Lennox, who begins a recent interview by extolling the brilliance of Stephen Hawking and his scientific achievements. The subject is the existence of God. I will also introduce two very young geniuses who have different takes on the subject of God at the end.

The subtext of the article is this: when Hawking went beyond the science that he knew so well, and entered into the arena of philosophy, he stumbled. Hawking, the great scientist and intellect, wasn’t a philosopher, though he sought to wield his influence in that area. We can, and should, remember Hawking as one of the greatest scientists of our time, but scientific acumen doesn’t necessarily extend to other areas of study, especially when he spent no significant time in them.

John Lennox quoting Martin Rees, a cosmologist, astrophysicist and 40-year colleague of Stephen Hawking, points out in the segment of an interview that follows that Hawking was not well read in the areas of philosophy and theology:



This unfamiliarity with sophisticated philosophy and theology led Hawking to make some very unsophisticated statements. For instance, his pronouncement that “philosophy is dead” is at best ironic. The statement, itself, is philosophical. If the statement is true, it undermines the very assertion being made.

However, since Hawking was a such a giant in his own scientific fields with which he was intimately familiar, we tend to let statements, like the one above, go by unchallenged. The danger in that is to allow some questionable philosophy into our view of the world. Without diminishing Stephen Hawkins’ contributions to science, we need to view his philosophical comments for what they are worth.

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Can We Be Certain of God’s Existence? The Role of the Holy Spirit

Doubt is the common experience of saints and sinners alike.

Depositphotos Image ID: 5872621 Copyright: ccaetano

Can we be certain of God s existence? The short answer is, no. If the question is whether we can have something like mathematical certainty or proof, we have to answer that question in the negative. There is no evidence, no proof or argument that can provide certainty that God exists for finite beings such as ourselves.

Such evidence, proof or argument would have to be built on premises that are 100% certain, and that kind of certainty is impossible for beings that are not all-knowing. The best we can do is to arrive at evidence, proofs and arguments that suggest a probability that God exists. The same is true, or course, for the proposition that God does not exist.

To this extent, doubt is the common experience of saints and sinners alike.

To put this another way: Can we be sure that God doesn’t exist? The only certainty is that we can’t be certain.

Many believers have doubts, and many nonbelievers have their own doubts.

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Rejecting the Right God

If anyone is going to reject God, they should at least be sure to reject the right One (or ones).

It occurs to me that the “new atheists” are rejecting the wrong God (or gods, if you like). They are famous for saying that they don’t believe in the Christian God any more than they believe in Zeus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but does that make any sense?

Does anyone believe that a flying spaghetti monster or Zeus are possible competitors for the category, God of the universe? It seems to me that, if someone is going to reject God, they ought to be rejecting the right One (or ones). There aren’t that many contenders

Not all gods are “created equal”. Zeus or a “flying spaghetti monster” are not on a par the Christian concept of God, to say the very least. The same can be said of the Islamic view of God or any other major world religion view. The concept and “proofs” of God are much more sophisticated than the weak understanding displayed in a comment that likens them to flying spaghetti monsters and Roman mythology.

The ignorance of the new atheists about these things is rather shocking, though it shouldn’t be altogether surprising. They admit they find no use for such things as gods. Most of them have spent no time studying or considering a robust concept of the divine. The ignorance is, therefore, willful and inexcusable.

Anyone can knock a flying spaghetti monster out of the air. Try taking on the transcendent of God who created the universe. That’s a more noble task.

I can’t do justice to the subject in a short blog, but I will try to summarize my thoughts. The only serious contenders for consideration as God are the gods of the major world religions. They can’t all be true, of course, because they are incompatible with each other[1], so which one, if any of them, is the most likely candidate?

I will weigh in, for what is worth, but I would like first to address the modern, western concern over the idea of an exclusive God. Some people with western sensibilities seem to believe modern people should not be so exclusive in our conceptions of God and religion. They say there are many religions, and “Why can’t they all be true?

Having studied world religions in college, I can say that there are many similarities in world religions, but there are some significant differences also. For instance, it’s hard to reconcile the way different religions deal with suffering.

On the various conceptions of God, the various religions are fundamentally different and mutually exclusive. They may have some appearance of sameness on the surface, but they are fundamentally different.

Those differences ultimately mean something. We don’t brush incongruities aside in scientific endeavors just to be polite. We take them seriously in the pursuit of truth. If the various religions have opposing truth claims where does that leave us?

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