Why Trying to Explain Away God With Science is an ERROR
by Scott Youngren
In order to please my readers, I have made the bold decision to begin this essay in an utterly groundbreaking fashion…by providing a surprise bonus feature (that will, at first, seem unrelated to the topic of this essay): I will now explain the mystery of the JFK assassination. The decades of waiting are finally over. Sit tight…here it goes:
The ignition of a powder mixture consisting of the chemicals sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter caused a rapid expansion of gasses which, consistent with Isaac Newton’s laws of motion, forced a lead projectile down a metal tube at a supersonic velocity. The collision of the projectile against certain of Kennedy’s vital organs caused a transference of kinetic energy, which severely damaged these organs, resulting in death.
What’s that I hear you say? You’re disappointed?! You were suspicious of my bold claims from the outset?! All I did was describe aspects of a gunshot (and subsequent wound), in pretentious scientific terms, rather than explain the assassination? You were hoping I would explain who the guilty parties were, and what their motives were?
Well, you were justified in feeling suspicious and then disappointed. The same suspicion, and then disappointment, should surround any bold claims atheists make about science “explaining” things without reference to God. As I note in The God of the Gaps: Why God and Science Are Not Competing Explanations, atheists commit what is known in philosophy as a category error any time they declare that science and God are competing explanations for natural phenomena. Below is an excerpt from the Wikipedia post for Category Error:
A category mistake, or category error, is a semantic or ontological error in which “things of one kind are presented as if they belonged to another”, or, alternatively, a property is ascribed to a thing that could not possibly have that property. Thus the claim that “Most Americans are atheists” is not a category mistake, since most Americans could be (contingently) atheists. On the other hand, “Most bananas are atheists” is a category mistake. This is because bananas belong to a category of things that cannot be said to have beliefs.
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Just as bananas cannot have beliefs, science cannot provide complete explanations for natural phenomena. Rather it can only provide useful descriptions. This is why bold declarations from atheists that “science explains things without the need for God” amount to a category error. Edgar Andrews writes in Who Made God?:
“…far from explaining everything, science actually ‘explains’ nothing. What science does is describe the world and its phenomenology in terms of its own specialized concepts and models — which provide immensely valuable insights but become increasingly non-intuitive as we dig ever deeper into the nature of physical reality.”
“…The formula [that describes the force of gravity] equates the gravitational force between two objects to the product of their masses multiplied by a universal constant (the ‘gravitational constant’) and divided by the square of the distance between them. But does the equation ‘explain’ why you don’t bump your head on the ceiling? Not really. It tells us there is a force that keeps your feet on the ground, but you knew that already. It also quantifies that force, allowing us to calculate its strength in any particular case, which is extremely useful. But it doesn’t tell us why there is such a force, why it follows an inverse square law, and why the ‘gravitational constant’ has the value that it does. The equation is a description of gravity rather than an explanation.” [underlining mine]
Science describes natural phenomena in terms of laws, but it does not explain where those laws came from, who (or what) enforces those laws, or why the universe has laws in the first place (rather than just chaos). Scientific description, in other words, ends at the level of natural/physical laws. So how does theism explain the above mentioned phenomena? The answer is simple…
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