A common argument against the existence of God is to use an analogy with imaginary things such as unicorns. It is said that because unicorns are a product of human imagination then God must be too. The reasoning goes that because unicorns have never been seen, they do not exist and so the same must be true for God. But this is a poor analogy and it is important to understand why before dismissing the concept of God altogether as a fantasy.
Narwhal tusks and Marco Polo
First let us consider the origin of the unicorn. One theory for the imaginative invention of the Unicorn is that Narwhale tusks were the model for the type of horn we see on European representations of unicorns as in the photo above. These unicorns look like an antelope or a horse with the narwhale horn coming out of the middle of its forehead. It is possible the unicorn started as a tall tale from a fisherman or a beachcomber.
Another source for belief in the existence of unicorns comes from Marco Polo who wrote about his travels in Asia in the 13th century. Today we know that he was describing a rhinoceros when he wrote the following description:
There are wild elephants in the country, and numerous unicorns, which are very nearly as big. They have hair like that of a buffalo, feet like those of an elephant, and a horn in the middle of the forehead, which is black and very thick. They do no mischief, however, with the horn, but with the tongue alone; for this is covered all over with long and strong prickles [and when savage with any one they crush him under their knees and then rasp him with their tongue]. The head resembles that of a wild boar, and they carry it ever bent towards the ground. They delight much to abide in mire and mud. ‘Tis a passing ugly beast to look upon, and is not in the least like that which our stories tell of as being caught in the lap of a virgin; in fact, ’tis altogether different from what we fancied.The Travels of Marco Polo
The human imagination and ability to communicate easily mixes truth with fantasy. However, after many years of trying to prove the existence of unicorns, it is generally believed now that they do not and have never existed.
Having established that fact, there is another question to consider. Does it matter whether unicorns exist in the same way that it matters whether God exists? My existence does not depend on the reality of unicorns because the unicorn is not the cause of my existence. The same thing cannot be said of God. There is some part of reality that explains the existence of the universe and everything in it. Whether it is called God or Creator or Spirit we are referring to something that is different in kind from a figment of our imagination. This is why we cannot explain away God’s existence based on the workings of human imagination alone.
Replacing God with Science
It is true that the New Atheists, as well as many scientists of our time, believe that they have an alternate explanation of the universe based on the science of Particle Physics and Cosmology. I believe this is a flawed approach to understanding reality and I will begin to address the various problems with this thinking in the next post.