Science and Faith: Friends or Foes?

by Eric Chabot

Science and Atheism

Atheists have become more vocal about offering a viable alterative to Christian theism and faith in general. Books such as Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, Sam Harris’ The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, Christopher Hitchens’ How Religion Poisons Everything, and Daniel Dennetts’ Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon are have stirred the debate between atheism and theism. Some of these books by atheists have been best sellers. It should be no surprise that The God Delusion has sold over one million copies.

As I have conversed with a variety of people, I have heard a variety of viewpoints on the Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion. Some people who came from a religious background (but with very little foundation) have found Dawkin’s arguments convincing. These people sometimes veer towards some sort of agnosticism or atheism (possibly strong or weak atheism). On the other hand, I have had atheists tell me they are not thrilled with the rhetoric and arguments of the book.

In relation to Dawkin’s philosophical skills, philosopher Alvin Plantinga said in his review of The God Delusion that, “You might say that some of his forays into philosophy are at best sophomoric, but that would be unfair to sophomores; the fact is (grade inflation aside), many of his arguments would receive a failing grade in a sophomore philosophy class.” See the entire review here: And on the cover of Alistar and Joanna McGrath’s book The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine, philosopher and Darwinian advocate Michael Ruse says, “The God Delusion makes me embarrassed to be an atheist.”

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The Scientific Method and God’s Existence

One of the main themes that runs through the latest slew of books on atheism is that faith/theology and science are diametrically opposed to one another. Since science tests the observable, is this the correct way to approach the existence of God? What tends to be forgotten is the insistence  that God must be a visible/material  object which can be observed with the five senses is to commit a category mistake. A category mistake is to assign to something a property which applies only to objects of another category.

As J.P. Moreland says, “It is a category fallacy to fault colors for not having smells, universals for not being located at only one place, and God for not being an empirical entity. From the Orthodox Christian view, God, if He exists at all, is an infinite Spirit. It is not part of the nature of a spirit to be visibly empirically as a material object would be. It is a category fallacy to ascribe sensory qualities to God or fault him for not being visible.” (Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1987), 227.

In my view, one of the best solutions to handling the issue of evidence and arguments for God’s existence is to utilize what is called inference to the best explanation.

The inference to the best explanation model takes into account the best available explanation in our whole range of experience and reflection.  Since we can’t see God as a material object, we have to look at the effects in the world and make rational inferences to the cause of the effect. Hence, we have to look to see if God has left us any pointers that lead the way to finding Him…

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