“That’s not science!” Translation: “That’s not naturalism!”

by Jason Dulle

Many believe science has disproven God.  This is not possible, even in principle.[1]  The truth of the matter is that advances in science are providing more reasons to believe in God, not less.  While scientific discoveries cannot prove God’s existence, they can be used to support premises in arguments that have theistic conclusions/implications. For example, science has discovered that the universe began to exist.  Anything that begins to exist requires an external cause.  Since the universe encompasses all physical reality, the cause of the universe must transcend physical reality.  It cannot be a prior physical event or some natural law, because there was nothing physical prior to the first physical event, and natural laws only come into being once the natural world comes into being.  Whatever caused the universe to come into being must be transcendent, powerful, immaterial, spaceless, eternal, and personal, which is an apt description of God.

Or consider the fine-tuning of the physical constants for the existence of advanced life.  For example, the cosmological constant which governs the expansion rate of the universe, is fine-tuned to 1 part in 10120.  That is 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.  For perspective, there are only 1080 elementary particles in the universe!  Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind writes, “[T]he discovery that the value of the cosmological constant – the energy of empty space which contributes to the expansion rate of the universe – seems absurdly improbable, and nothing in fundamental physics is able to explain why.”[2]  And again, “It’s one of the greatest mysteries in physics. All we know is that if it were much bigger we wouldn’t be here to ask about it.” [3]  The best explanation for why the constants have assumed the values they have is that they were designed by an intelligent agent.

It’s not uncommon when making a case for the existence of God or a Designing Intelligence based on scientific findings such as these for an atheist to respond, “That’s not science.”  What they really mean, however, is “That’s not naturalism.”

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One needs to be aware that the word “science” has two different meanings, and the one is often substituted for the other.  On the one hand there is science as method.  This involves making observations, predictions, doing experiments, and drawing conclusions – what we typically think of when we think of science.  But there is another definition of science, often lurking in the background, which is science as philosophy.  The philosophy of science involves what one thinks the purpose and goal of science to be.  For nearly 200 years now, the reigning philosophy of science is naturalism (methodological naturalism).  On naturalism, the purpose of science is not to discover the truth about the workings of the physical world via empirical methods, but to discover natural causes for natural phenomena.  Intelligent causes and theistic conclusions are ruled out a priori.

Scientists have been quite clear of this.  For example, philosopher of science Michael Ruse has written that “science simply does not allow God as a causal factor.”[4]  Kansas State University professor, S.C. Todd, wrote in Nature, “Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such a hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.”[5]  Harvard professor of genetics, Richard Lewontin, is very candid that scientists are guided by the philosophy of naturalism, not pursuit of the truth, and are unwilling to consider intelligent agency even if it is the best explanation of the data.  In The New York Review of Books he made this remarkable admission…

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