Why Science Makes Theism Likelier than Atheism
by Saints and Sceptics
Should we view the order of the universe, and our ability to comprehend that order, as evidence of God? As discussed in the article The Evidence for God, a fact provides evidence for God if God’s existence provides a better explanation (or helps us make more sense) of the evidence than would be the case if there is no God. So we need to consider the evidence in light of theism on the one hand and atheism on the other. Let’s start with atheism. From an atheistic perspective, there doesn’t seem to be any explanation for the order in the universe; it would just be a brute fact or a ‘happy accident’ as Polkinghorne puts it.
But that doesn’t seem good enough. In the absence of an explanation, we would have no reason to expect the high degree of order that we find. But does theism fare any better? To many it seems very likely that if the universe is the product of an intelligent mind, it would exhibit order. But others object that theism has no predictive power because we don’t know what sort of universe God would want to bring about. We simply do not know enough about his plans or values to make a prediction.
But this objection is deeply flawed. Whatever else God is, he is personal and can be thought of as a rational agent. Philosopher William Alston points out that part of the very definition of an agent is a “being that acts in the light of knowledge to achieve purposes, a being whose actions express attitudes and are guided by standards and principles.” And Del Ratzsch notes: “Agents, nearly by definition, act toward preselected ends, and typically employ instrumental means in the pursuit of those ends”.
So, if God has been at work, we can expect to find evidence of rational actions. While there are differences between God and humans, God and humans still have certain properties in common. Both are rational, both are agents, and -unless we wish to embrace some form of moral scepticism – we should acknowledge that both would recognise similar values. If we share some values with God then we could recognise at least some of his aims.
We simply do not need precise information about a designer’s intentions and goals to know that a designer is responsible for some state of affairs…
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