Why Science Needs God

Atheists are fond of asserting that religion and science are at war, and that science supports atheism.   Upon closer review, however, “science” doesn’t support atheism or anything else.  Why not?  Because science doesn’t say anything—scientists do!

Are Science and Faith at Odds? Insights by Augustine

Science is a method that people use to discover cause and effect relationships.  Science doesn’t gather and interpret data, scientists do.  Unfortunately, some scientists allow their atheistic worldview to dictate how they interpret the evidence. Since they’ve ruled out intelligence in advance, there’s no way they will ever interpret the data to conclude an Intelligence such as God was involved.  They don’t seem to realize that science needs someone like God.

How so?

In order for us to do science, natural laws must be orderly and consistent. We couldn’t do science if natural laws weren’t held constant or nature behaved in a completely random manner.  But where do natural laws come from and why are they so consistent?  And why do all physical things change, but not the natural laws that govern them?

In all our experience, laws always come from lawgivers.  That’s why the best explanation for the orderly and consistent natural laws that make science possible is a rational Law Giver who created and sustains the universe—the same spaceless, timeless, and immaterial Being that created and fine-tuned the universe at the Big Bang. So even if atheists succeed in demonstrating that natural laws can and do explain cause and effect inside the universe, they still have to rely on God for the existence and persistence of those laws.

Atheistic materialism can’t account for those laws or the orderliness of nature. But a rational Creator and Sustainer powerfully explains the unchanging laws that make science possible.  Thus, the war is not between science and religion, but between science and atheism.

Want the details including answers to objections?  They are in the book and the new Stealing From God online course I’m hosting that beings January 15 (you can start the self-paced version any time after that too).  The course includes ten hours of video, and several live video conferences where I’ll be answering questions.   Since we limit the size of the live classes to ensure every student has an opportunity to ask questions, you’ll want to sign up soon if you want to be a part of this

 In addition to the details on that link, I’ll be discussing some of the course content right here on this page in the few weeks leading up to the course.  So keep checking back here for more.

 


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26 replies
  1. Andy Ryan says:

    “In order for us to do science, natural laws must be orderly and consistent”
    So it sounds like science works best without an outside body interfering with natural laws. Based on that, it seems science works best without a God.
    .
    “But where do natural laws come from and why are they so consistent?”
    There was a time when the movements of Mercury confused astronomers – its orbit seemed to defy Newton’s laws of motion. Many used this as evidence of God, who they felt must be responsible. Then Einstein’s theory of General Relativity provided a scientific explanation. So are the laws of nature being broken evidence for God are the laws being consistent evidence for God? It seems cheating to try to have it both ways. To me, if we imagine a universe where the known laws were constantly changing and as such were unknowable, THAT would be evidence for a tinkering, all-powerful God. The apparently ‘clockwork’ universe we are in is what I would expect from a Godless universe. But given that we don’t have other universes to compare this too, it’s pure conjecture either way.
    .
    “In all our experience, laws always come from lawgivers”
    You’re equivocating between two different meanings of laws. The law of gravity isn’t like a law against speeding or smoking in an office. A scientific law is a statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some aspect of the universe. As I said before, we have no other universes to compare ours to, so cannot say whether its features are more or less likely under theism or atheism.

    Reply
  2. jcb says:

    Science does support atheism: it shows there is no known perfect in all ways being (god). That scientists say things, and not science (because science doesn’t talk?), doesn’t change the fact that the evidence we have fails to show that god exists, and shows that god doesn’t exist, as far as we can tell.
    Yes, science is a method for discovering what reality is like, including whether there are cause and effect relationships between things, and there often are. We have learned that there is a causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer, and no causal relationship between praying (silently, to “god”) and moving mountains, re-attaching limbs, etc.
    Yes, some people are biased in their interpretations. That includes atheists and theists. Some have “ruled out” things in advance, but it is false to say that all atheists or scientists have “ruled out intelligence in advance”. Instead of speculating about the psychology of some human beings, you, FT, should be spending your time instead trying to prove that there is intelligence in the form of god.
    It is false though that science needs god. Looking through a microscope to see what is in a cell does not require god. It doesn’t even require that natural laws be orderly and consistent. We have instead discovered order and consistency in certain behaviors (like objects falling). It is also false to say that there are only two options: order and consistency, or “complete randomness”. There can be some randomness (disorder), and some order.
    Why do objects fall at an orderly rate we call “gravity”? I’m not sure I have a specific answer, but here the task is for you to defend your specific answer: that it is because god exists. Nothing shows your answer to be correct.
    These “laws of nature” are not like the laws of society, where humans choose them. The laws of nature of simply descriptions of how we have learned (from science) how the world operates. We thus say there is a “law of gravity”. What we mean is that objects fall at a particular rate, under certain conditions, and this happens very consistently.

    Such laws of nature, in our experience, never (or virtually never) come from humans or any other known lawgivers. Nothing we know of shows that it is probable that the rate of gravity is what it is because of anything like an intelligent, deliberative person/lawgiver. It is false to say that the best explanation for such “laws of nature” is a “spaceless, timeless, immaterial being that created and fine tuned the universe”. What is true here though is that the facts of our universe are the result of prior facts, which, if you keep going back, eventually would be something other than our universe itself. But we know of nothing that fits the description, “other than anything we know of in our universe”.

    Atheism does not have all the answers for everything, nor does it claim to. The difference though is that theism claims to have answers that it doesn’t actually have. This is of course called God of the Gaps: when atheism doesn’t have an answer to X, claim that God is the answer (without actual probable evidence). That’s what FT just did here. He said, “Atheistic materialism can’t account for those laws or the orderliness of nature. But a rational Creator and Sustainer powerfully explains the unchanging laws that make science possible.” That seems to say, “atheism didn’t answer this question, so our answer does”. But unfortunately, FT’s answer doesn’t answer the question either/account for the laws of nature.

    We have to “rely on” or expect that there is more to reality that just our universe. But it doesn’t follow that we have to “rely on god for the existence and persistence of those laws”. We don’t know what “created” the laws of nature, nor what “sustains” them. And thus we don’t know it to be god (which oddly, Frank Turek doesn’t define).

    Science is at war with faith: believing something is true regardless of the evidence. FT says he doesn’t endorse that type of faith, which is good, but it is still the faith of most religious people. In that war, science is the winner (the best at understanding reality). And the reality we discover from science is that there is probably no perfect being/god.

    Reply
  3. KR says:

    “Atheists are fond of asserting that religion and science are at war, and that science supports atheism.”
    .
    Methinks you’re painting atheists with too broad a brush. Personally, I’m completely disinterested in this kind of war rhetoric. What I’m interested in is the truth – and in my experience empirical verification is the most reliable method of closing in on what is true. I’m open to the possibility that there may be a more reliable method but so far, none has been presented.
    .
    “Upon closer review, however, “science” doesn’t support atheism or anything else. Why not? Because science doesn’t say anything—scientists do!”
    .
    This is of course a truism – and a bit of a strawman argument. When people use the expression “science says”, they’re obviously not attributing any kind of agency to science itself. They simply mean that there is independently verifiable empirical evidence – discovered through the scientific method – which support their position.
    .
    “Unfortunately, some scientists allow their atheistic worldview to dictate how they interpret the evidence. Since they’ve ruled out intelligence in advance, there’s no way they will ever interpret the data to conclude an Intelligence such as God was involved.”
    .
    There’s a couple of problems with this statement. First, I’d like to point out that scientists (ahteists and theists alike) within disciplines like archaeology, anthropology and forensics obviously aren’t ruling out intelligence. On the contrary, they’re constantly looking for signs of intelligence at work. Note that the reason they’re able to identify that there’s an intelligence involved is that they know how the intelligence in question (i.e. human intelligence) operates.
    .
    Secondly, within fields like biology, chemistry and physics, intelligence isn’t excluded for any philosophical reasons but simply because there’s no way to test this proposition. Human intelligence is not a likely suspect and we don’t have any data on any other kind of creative intelligence so we have no way of predicting what evidence such an intelligence would leave behind. We have a sample set of one, which is a problem if we want to make general assertions of what a generic “intelligence” would or would not do.
    .
    In addition, if the proposed intelligence is alleged to be omnipotent, then we’ll have to give up any hope of ever being able to identify any evidence for this intelligence since literally any evidence could have been created by such an intelligence. If you disagree with this, what testable hypothesis for how intelligence can account for our observations in biology, chemistry and physics would you suggest? While you’re at it, could you also explain why – if there are such testable hypotheses – theist scientists (of which there are many) aren’t using them? Are they part of the atheist conspiracy?
    .
    “In all our experience, laws always come from lawgivers.”
    .
    Andy has already explained why this is an equivocation fallacy. Scientific laws are descriptive, not prescriptive. They are observations of patterns in nature. If you’re arguing that such patterns require intelligence, then that’s a claim that you need to justify. Why could such patterns not arise through unguided natural processes?
    .
    “Atheistic materialism can’t account for those laws or the orderliness of nature.”
    .
    As we all know, atheism is not an attempt to account for anything, it’s just a lack of belief in deities. As for materialism, we shouldn’t assume it but it seems like a reasonable starting point for our investigations. I don’t see any way to falsify any claims of supernatural intervention so it seems our null hypothesis has to be that our observations can be explained naturally. Without any testable hypotheses concerning supernatural involvment that’s the only road open to us – the alternative is to simply throw up our hands and declare it to be an unsolvable mystery.
    .
    In short, until someone can present independently verifiable empirical evidence for any supernatural power at work, I will provisionally go with the hypothesis that there are no such forces.

    Reply
  4. Andrew says:

    One look at all the merchandise for sale on this website tells me that Mr. Turek and his cohorts have an extremely strong financial incentive to interpret data with a “theistic worldview” whenever they talk about science, or anything else for that matter! It’s futile trying to convince someone who makes a living from bashing science that he’s wrong; he’s making too much money to care about that.

    Reply
    • KR says:

      I have frequently thought the same thing. The posts by Frank Turek, J. Warner Wallace, Natasha Crain and others often seem like little more than blurbs for their books. I believe Upton Sinclair had it right: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
      .
      However, my posts are not so much for the original poster’s benefit as for anyone else who may be reading. I see all kinds of misrepresentations, logical fallacies and poor reasoning and I just don’t want it to stand unopposed. In that regard, I do have to credit Frank Turek for allowing comments to blog posts. This is certainly not always the case with these kinds of blogs.

      Reply
      • toby says:

        One of the fastest ways to make money is to fleece the religious. Tell them what they want to hear and make them feel special and they’ll open their wallets for you.

        Reply
    • Ernesto Calderon says:

      LOL, Dawkins (net worth $135 million), the late Hitchens and Harris among others make a lick out of you Atheists… the pot calling the kettle black :V :V :V

      Reply
      • TGM says:

        Given the number of theists who quote and bash “The God Delusion”, I suspect Dawkins has made considerable profit from theists as well. Anyway, Dawkins is a science writer –
        no atheism required. “The Selfish Gene” is a fine read, whatever your persuasion.

        Reply
      • toby says:

        How can you say that with a straight face? There are entire CHANNELS on TV dedicated to begging for money in the name of jesus. That fact that you see something wrong is heartening, but you only care enough to attempt a gotcha, which is sad.

        Reply
      • KR says:

        “LOL, Dawkins (net worth $135 million), the late Hitchens and Harris among others make a lick out of you Atheists… the pot calling the kettle black :V :V :V”
        .
        So your argument is basically “atheist activists are just as bad as apologists”? I would question that but I found it interesting that you don’t seem to be disagreeing with the points made about posters plugging their books. Does that mean that you agree that there’s a commercial motivation behind this site?

        Reply
  5. Mark Heavlin says:

    Any of the first 4 posters care to explain The Second Law of Thermodynamics to me ? As well as it’s implications to our known universe ?

    Reply
      • Mark Heavlin says:

        I agree that the Wikipedia entry pretty much explains all there is to KNOW about entropy.
        Now how about my second question from above about the implications for our known universe ?

        “The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”

        — Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)
        — Requoted from the end of the Wikipedia citation on the Second Law of Thermodynamics

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          Good job no-one’s questioning the second law of thermodynamics then. Unless you want to conjecture some being creating energy from nothing…

          Reply
          • Mark Heavlin says:

            At the end of the day you are left with 2 distinct possibilities and only 2 :

            1. That nobody created something from nothing.

            OR

            2. That someone created something from nothing.

            Both are miracles. #1 has a miracle without a miracle worker which is clearly nonsensical. #2 has a miracle and a miracle worker. So which actually makes more sense ?

          • Andy Ryan says:

            Mark, there are many cosmologists who disagree with you, so I see your claim as an argument from ignorance. Why assume that something came from nothing? If the matter and energy in the universe is eternal then it didn’t come from nothing. Are you assuming that ‘nothing’ is the default, and if so, what’s the basis for your assumption?

          • Mark Heavlin says:

            Andy Ryan said:
            “Mark, there are many cosmologists who disagree with you, so I see your claim as an argument from ignorance. Why assume that something came from nothing? If the matter and energy in the universe is eternal then it didn’t come from nothing. ”

            “The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”
            — Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)
            — Requoted from the end of the Wikipedia citation on the Second Law of Thermodynamics

            Unfortunately for you, your theory of an an eternal universe violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

          • toby says:

            Mark, are you aware that the first law of thermodynamics says that energy is neither created nor destroyed?

          • Mark Heavlin says:

            “The first law of thermodynamics is a version of the law of conservation of energy, adapted for thermodynamic systems. The law of conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but can be neither created nor destroyed.”

            — Requoted from Wikipedia’s entry for the First Law of Thermodynamics

            TOBY: I think it would be important to note here that you forgot to include “isolated system” in your comment. I will contend that since the universe did not exist before it was created then it could not have been an isolated system. In fact since it did not exist then it was nothing at all until it was created. However, from the instant after it was created going forward in time that it has been and will continue to be an isolated system. It will cease to be an isolated system again when the Creator decides to end it.

          • KR says:

            ” I will contend that since the universe did not exist before it was created then it could not have been an isolated system.”
            .
            Whether the universe was created or not is the very point of contention. Now you seem to assume that which you want to demonstrate, which is clearly fallacious. The first law of thermodynamics is consistent with a universe that was never created but has always existed. As for the second law of thermodynamics, it would also be consistent with an eternal universe if our universe is an off-shoot from an infinitely old universe. This “mother universe” would be at thermodynamic equilibrium but as far as I can tell, there’s nothing to prevent local areas of low entropy forming within this universe, which could branch off and form “baby universes”.

          • Mark Heavlin says:

            KR – At the end of the day you are left with 2 distinct possibilities and only 2 :
            1. That nobody created something from nothing.
            OR
            2. That someone created something from nothing.
            Both are miracles. #1 has a miracle without a miracle worker which is clearly nonsensical. #2 has a miracle and a miracle worker. So which actually makes more sense ?

            You think the universe in infinite into the past ? This CLEARLY violates The Second Law of Thermodynamics as well as the Law of Causality.

            All of the current evidence from astronomy ( last 60 years ) points to this universe having a beginning. Cosmic Background Radiation, Expansion, etc….

            Which is why people like Hawking are trying to push the multiverse theory. Neither the multiverse or your “mother universe” can answer the question of where they come from so you are left with the same question as a single universe. How were they created ?

          • KR says:

            “KR – At the end of the day you are left with 2 distinct possibilities and only 2 :
            1. That nobody created something from nothing.
            OR
            2. That someone created something from nothing.”
            .
            You haven’t justified this dichotomy. As I explained in my post, there could also be the alternative that there wasn’t a “nothing” to begin with.
            .
            “You think the universe in infinite into the past ? This CLEARLY violates The Second Law of Thermodynamics as well as the Law of Causality.”
            .
            I already explained that an eternal universe would not necessarily violate the second law of thermodynamics. If you’re going to respond to my posts, how about addressing what’s in the post? If you think my suggestion is impossible, then please explain why. Appealing to the Law of Causality doesn’t really help you, since there actually is no such scientific law. Quantum mechanics deals with uncaused events all the time – they can’t be caused, we can only calculate the probability of them happening.
            .
            “All of the current evidence from astronomy ( last 60 years ) points to this universe having a beginning. Cosmic Background Radiation, Expansion, etc….”
            .
            The evidence points to an event (The Big Bang) that started the expansion of our universe. There’s no evidence that the universe started from nothing – and plenty of observations that matter and energy is never created or destroyed (they don’t call it a law for nothing).
            .
            “Which is why people like Hawking are trying to push the multiverse theory. Neither the multiverse or your “mother universe” can answer the question of where they come from so you are left with the same question as a single universe. How were they created ?”
            .
            You’re doing it again – assuming that which you want to demonstrate. Still a fallacy. If there is a multiverse, it didn’t “come from” anything – it was always there.

          • Mark Heavlin says:

            It is you who claim an eternal universe so it is necessary for you to provide that evidence. Again, all evidence from the last 60 years or so points at the universe having a beginning. Also, I find it interesting that you do NOT have a problem with an “eternal” universe but flatly DENY that an Eternal GOD could exist. How convenient of you to leave out the part about a closed system for conservation of mass and energy. The rest of your comments are so unscientific as to NOT warrant further comment.

            “The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”
            — Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)
            — Requoted from the end of the Wikipedia citation on the Second Law of Thermodynamics
            Unfortunately for you, your theory of an an eternal universe violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

          • jcb says:

            Mark,
            It is unlikely that you can get something from nothing.
            More likely, you get something from something.
            But the issue here then is:
            Did our universe come from anything we know of? Do we know it be be intelligent or not? All powerful or not? Still existing or not?
            The basic answer is: we know virtually nothing about what created our universe. We don’t know it to be an all powerful, all knowing being.

            “All of the current evidence from astronomy ( last 60 years ) points to this universe having a beginning.” That sounds true. Concluding that god did it, is not true.

            Yes, scientists often have hypotheses that are not at the time probable. But they are at least working to find evidence, in contrast to typical theists. Yes, if a scientist takes an improbable hypothesis and says it is then probable, that’s a mistake. But it doesn’t follow that if “multiverse theory”, etc. is not probable, then god is. Nothing yet makes either of those claims probable.

            Also, you can answer some questions, without answering other questions. You don’t have to know everything to know some things.

            We know the universe exists. We don’t know what ‘created’ it.

          • jcb says:

            Even if someone else can’t prove that the universe is eternal, it doesn’t follow that we have proven that god created it.
            You are right: god could exist. We just don’t have evidence that it probable does.

          • KR says:

            “It is you who claim an eternal universe so it is necessary for you to provide that evidence.”
            .
            Again, please respond to what I’m actually writing. I did not make the claim that the universe is eternal. I don’t know if the universe had a beginning or not. What I’m claiming is that you haven’t sufficiently justified the claim that the universe couldn’t be eternal in the past. If you’re making that claim, the burden of proof lands squarely on your shoulders.
            .
            “Again, all evidence from the last 60 years or so points at the universe having a beginning.”
            .
            But it doesn’t point to a beginning from nothing – this is the point you seem to be missing.
            .
            “Also, I find it interesting that you do NOT have a problem with an “eternal” universe but flatly DENY that an Eternal GOD could exist.”
            .
            You really need to stop putting words in my mouth, it’s a bad habit. At no point have I said that God (eternal or not) could not exist. I just don’t see any reason to believe in God, since the evidence presented doesn’t seem very compelling.
            .
            “How convenient of you to leave out the part about a closed system for conservation of mass and energy. The rest of your comments are so unscientific as to NOT warrant further comment.”
            .
            I’d say it’s rather convenient for you to insert an unevidenced supernatural deity into the picture just to get around a scientific law. Looks like special pleading to me. Not to mention how convenient it is for you to handwave away an argument by dismissing it as “unscientific” instead of actually addressing it. Not sure how open/closed system applies to the universe. Do you think the universe is an open system? If so, what is it open to?
            .
            I’m afraid your Eddington quote can’t do the work for you – you’ll still need to explain why our universe could not be the result of a local entropy minimum in an eternal universe at thermodynamic equilibrium.
            .
            Every cosmologist that I’ve ever heard answering the question whether the universe had a beginning or not have said that they don’t know. As far as I’m aware none of them has definitively excluded the possibility that it could be eternal in the past – feel free to present quotes to the contrary. Do you think they’ve all forgotten about the second law of thermodynamics – or could it be that they know something you don’t?

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