Secular myth: Science and God are competing explanations

By Scott Youngren

Secular myth: “Science and God are competing explanations for such things as the origin of life and the origin of the universe. There is no need to cite God as an explanation, since science explains such things without the need for God.”

Reality: This commonplace atheist reasoning commits what is known in philosophy as a category error because it confuses different categories (or levels) of causation. The following two statements commit the same category error:

“Living things are not caused by God, but rather, by natural processes.”

“Aircraft are not caused by people, but rather, by manufacturing processes.”

Put another way, in no way does it follow that merely describing how something was made amounts to an explanation of the cause for that something. Atheists here confuse scientific description with explanation. Bold declarations from atheists that “science explains things without the need for God” therefore amount to a category error. Bo Jinn writes in Illogical Atheism:

“In no way does it logically follow that something was not designed and built from the mere fact alone that that something could be understood scientifically. The law of gravity and Newton’s laws of motion are to God and the universe what binary strings and electronics are to Alan Turing and the computer processor. Function and agency account for two entirely different explanations as to how and why something exists. Aristotle explained this over two thousand years ago… Aristotle stated that everything in the universe could be understood in terms of:

A formal cause, a material cause, an efficient cause and a final cause. Science accounts for only two of those causes; the formal and the material. If we were to apply Aristotle’s theory to the Harrier jump jet…:

-The Harrier’s material causes are the components from which it was constructed.

-Its formal causes are the laws of mechanics, aerodynamics and internal combustion.

-Its efficient causes are Ralph Hooper, Sir Sydney Camm and Sir Stanley Hooker [thedesigners of the jet].

-Its final cause is to be flown in dogfights.

Only the first of those categories of causes were open to the scientists in the story. Only the first two of those categories are open to science in the study of the universe.”

Atheism is a belief system which requires one to frequently ignore questions of efficient and final causation. As a further example…


Secular myth: Science and God are competing explanations – God Evidence