Sorry; No Such Thing as a Scientific Argument Against the Existence of God

Here is excellent post from Melissa Cain Travis

I love science. I mean, I REALLY. LOVE. SCIENCE. My earliest, most vivid memories of school go back to my kindergarten class at C. Wayne Collier Elementary School, watching film strips (remember those, children of the 80s?) about dinosaurs, volcanoes, or the solar system, being transfixed by the awesomeness. My deepest desire in the sixth grade was to attend Space Camp. To this day, I am a sucker for a good science book or documentary–when it sticks to the actual science. Unfortunately, many productions these days promote a deeply philosophical agenda that isn’t scientific in the least (think of the recent TV series, Cosmos, hosted by atheist Neil DeGrasse Tyson). The tragic result of such propaganda is that some impressionable Christians end up questioning the rationality of their belief in God.

However, the statement, “God does not exist,” has never been, is not now, and never will be a scientific assertion. (See what I did there, Sagan?) This means that science, by its very definition, cannot be the epistemic justification for atheism. Yet how often do we see popular atheist writers (Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, et. al.) base entire books on the claim: “God doesn’t exist! Let me show you the science!”

Really? Science investigates the matter (including the physical bodies of living organisms), energy, and relationships/dynamics of matter and energy in the material universe. But if God exists, He is immaterial and transcends the material universe. Science, no matter how far it ever advances, cannot rule Him out because it can never reach beyond the physical.

To be fair, not all materialists are trying to say that science DISPROVES God. But even arguments that simply attempt to discredit theism by rendering God superfluous point to material mechanisms and then make a philosophical leap. “Look how wonderfully creative and powerful evolution is! Nature is the designer! Therefore, God isn’t necessary! There is no goal, there is no purpose behind it all! Religion is dumb!”

This has always struck me as a ridiculous position. First of all, no matter what the “powers” of evolutionary mechanisms happen to be, there is no scientific method that can rule out an immaterial engineer of said mechanisms or any immaterial influence acting through natural processes to make them so [allegedly] powerful. To say that there is no transcendent mind orchestrating what we are able to observe in the material realm is a purely metaphysical statement. Unfortunately, very few scientists are trained philosophers. Perhaps this is why they don’t notice the fallacy or the enormous amount of faith required by their paradigm.

The fundamental question is: What does the World include? By “World” I mean all things material AND immaterial. The theist says that there is, in addition to all things physical, a realm of the immaterial. This realm includes God, upon whom the material universe is dependent for existence. The materialist/atheist says that there is no immaterial realm; but it is a category mistake for him or her to say science itself produces such a conclusion.

Essentially, anyone who makes the claim that science has destroyed or undermined theism is trying to piggyback their materialist philosophy onto scientific theories that cannot support the weight of such a piggy.

To read on, click here:

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6 thoughts on “Sorry; No Such Thing as a Scientific Argument Against the Existence of God

  1. Ed Atkinson November 2, 2014 / 7:59 pm

    Hi

    If we want to assess either claim “God does / doesn’t exist! Let me show you the science!”, then surely the best approach is Richard Swinburne’s. It is commonly used for arguments from Fine Tuning, and I agree with the approach. It usually goes

    We observe X (eg fine tuning)
    If there is a God then the probability of X is high
    If there is no God then the probability of X is low
    Hence our observation of X greatly increases the likelihood that God exists.

    The argument can work the other way for scientific observations that are claimed to be unlikely if God exists. Then the assessment must be repeated for all relevant scientific data. Swinburne and others recommend using Bayes Theorum, which is a good move if the probabilities can be assigned approximate values. Chab – do you agree that this is the best approach?

    My own view is that the answer is not clear one way or the other if a Deist God is being considered, but it is very clear if the Christian God is being considered.

    Cheers, Ed

    • chab123 November 3, 2014 / 2:28 am

      Ed,

      I see a lot of atheists trying to use or appeal to Bayes. And when they do, they seem to think it get rids of all subjectivity and can be a tool used for total objectivity. But it doesn’t work that way. I would suggest to anyone who wants to ‘attempt’ to use it, don’t act like you understand it when you haven’t read the literature. Now having said that, there aren’t that many that are ‘experts’ on it. Other than Swinburne, my friend Tim McGrew and his wife are experts and they used it is his resurrection article for Blackwell’s Companion to Natural Theology book- which is online: http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/Resurrectionarticlesinglefile.pdf

      Or one of his students did piece on it as well. http://www.johndepoe.com/Resurrection.pdf

      Or see Tim’s handout here: http://homepages.wmich.edu/~mcgrew/Bayes8.pdf

      As far as scientific arguments or natural theology arguments, they aren’t designed to give a full blown understanding of God. They can only give us some metaphysical attributes of God. But to get his character attributes, we need to go into history as we see in the post I did on a cumulative case for theism. And when we do that, people are confronted with Jesus which means accountability. A deistic God means no accountability. And that’s what people like!

  2. Ed Atkinson November 3, 2014 / 11:57 am

    Thanks Chab. Great refs on Bayes. I have not heard of atheists using Bayes, so it’s good to know that it is becoming an established structure for discourse.

    I think we’re agreeing that it is just the way things are that causes natural theology arguments to address just the metaphysical attributes of God. However, there is key evidence from science that shows that the Christian God is very unlikely to exist. It largely revolves around evolution and the doctrine of the Fall. [Neuroscience is also informative.]

    Take this quote from Tim Keller’s well known 2008 book, The Reason for God, (page 116-7)? : ….
    “What is Christianity? For our purposes I’ll define Christianity as the body of believers who assent to these great ecumenical creeds. They believe that the triune God created the world, that humanity has fallen into sin and evil, that God has returned to rescue us in Jesus Christ, that in his death and resurrection Jesus accomplished our salvation for us so we can be received by grace, that he established the church, his people, as the vehicle through which he continues his mission of rescue, reconciliation and salvation, and that at the end of time Jesus will return to renew the heavens and the earth, removing all evil, injustice, sin and death from the world.”

    It shows how it is not possible to summarise Christianity without a reference to what Jesus came to rescue us from and an original God-made-it-good state. This is in conflict with science. A good resource here would be some of the theological articles linked from:

    https://answersingenesis.org/theistic-evolution/

    At its most simplistic we could say that Christianity claims that God made the world good and once humankind turned up we are responsible for the Fall, which accounts for all that is not good. As the NT teaches that death, selfishness etc are part of the problem Jesus came to rescue us from, these are part of the results of the Fall. However, science shows that these have been part of the animal kingdom for millions of years before humans evolved.

    I’ve tried to discuss this with a Christian before (Eastern Orthodox), but they did not answer once I set out the case. I have Lennox’s “God’s undertaker, has science buried God?” but there is no mention of this issue. What is the Christian response to this difficulty?

    Cheers Ed

      • Ed Atkinson November 4, 2014 / 10:18 am

        Thanks for the link, Chab. They are saying 3 things

        1) The Bible means only human death came in via the Fall. However, this is still in conflict with science. Humans are animals and have death built in, even if we could have stayed sinless.

        2) Church tradition agrees with (1) and hints at (3) – OK

        3) Death is required for the ecosystem to work in a balanced way, without death it would be worse. I am amazed. So they use ecological science to justify how our world is ‘very good’ – a world full of death, suffering, competition between species, struggle, parasites slowly eating the insides of hosts until they die, pain, etc etc. It is ‘very good’ only because God could not make it in a manner that avoided these things, and so this is the best job possible. But prophesy gives us a promise such as Isaiah 65:25 “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.” So a world without those nasty things is possible for God after all.

        The death of vertebrates was only a subset of what I was discussing in my post, but in attempting to answer just that subset, the clash between science and Christianity comes through twice. In (1) they ignore the science and have immortal pre-fall humans, in (3) they go with the science and so have the nonsense that the natural world with all its nastiness is how the all-powerful God made it pre-fall and it is ‘very good’.

        Sorry; There is Such Thing as a Scientific Argument Against the Existence of (the Christian) God

        Cheers as ever, Ed

  3. Susan Irene Fox November 3, 2014 / 8:25 pm

    “if God exists, He is immaterial and transcends the material universe. Science, no matter how far it ever advances, cannot rule Him out because it can never reach beyond the physical.” This one statement is how I’ve understood the science vs. God dilemma, which I’ve never subscribed to.

    Regarding the physical, there appears to be too much science that leans toward proving Intelligent Design rather than random occurrence.

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