Does Science disprove God?

by Paul Gould

It has become commonplace to hear from atheists that science has or will soon disprove God’s existence. ‘The godly hypothesis is not necessary,” we are told. “All of reality can be explained by the deliverances of science.” Examples of this thinking are easy to find:

Sean Carroll, a cosmologist with the California Institute of Technology, in an essay for The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity argues “conventional scientific progress will ultimately result in a self-contained understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe, without the need to invoke God or any other supernatural involvement.”[1]

The philosopher and scientist Victor Stenger similarly argues that the absence of evidence for God is evidence of the absence of God. In his book, God: The Failed Hypothesis, Stenger writes,  “We have no evidence for Big Foot, the Abominable Snowman, and the Lochness Monster, so we do not believe they exist. If we have no evidence or other reason for believing in God, then we can be pretty sure that God does not exist.”[2]

The eminent physicists Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow opine in The Grand Design that “…philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge.”[3] Instead, the universe creates itself out of nothing!

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The staunch atheist biologist Richard Dawkins claims that appeals to God lead to laziness in science. While discussing the so-called “god of the gaps” fallacy made by intelligent design theorists, Dawkins imagines the kind of message such a posture would send to scientists: “If you don’t understand how something works, never mind: just give up and say God did it…. Please don’t go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don’t work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries, for we can use them. Don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away. We need your glorious gaps as a last refuge for God.”[4] The idea expressed here by Dawkins is that appeals to God are science-stoppers—they don’t add to knowledge, they actually shut down the process. Why? Because science will one day explain all mysteries and provide us a unified theory of everything.

I could go on, but I you get the idea. What I find interesting about all of these claims is that they are philosophical claims about the nature of science! These kinds of grand pronouncements about the unlimited scope of scientific explanation are not deliverances of science, rather they are philosophical assumptions brought to the scientific enterprise…


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