Last week I was in a discussion based around the comments I made in my blog post, here. The discussion revolved around the intersection between faith and science. During the conversation I was surprised that my discussion partner wanted to push back on my comment that “science can neither prove or disprove God because science deals with repeatable natural events.” This individual pushed back that God can repeat things so God then is provable. Yet this is very mistaken and fails to grasp the idea that I put forward. Just to be abundantly clear I decided to look up a definition of science and this is what I found, “knowledge covering general truths of the operation of general laws, esp. as obtained and tested through scientific method [and] concerned with the physical world.” The two last clauses are essentially the two which I used in my definition. The “scientific method” necessitates repeatably, because answers must be confirmed in secondary tests, and science is limited to the natural world because we are limited to the natural world. Therefore science can make no claims on non-repeatable events, or things outside the natural world.
Christians– and most other theists– claim God created and is distinct from the natural world, such a claim makes God inherently outside of the realm of science. One cannot test for God because God does not fit into the natural world. I have heard atheists make the claim that they would not believe in God unless G-O-D appeared on the surface of the moon. I have news for them, they still would not believe in God. This claim might sound odd but it is true. God is outside the universe and uses physical processes to accomplish change within the universe. If we witnessed such an event we would certainly have scientists investigating and finding natural causes for the event. Atheists, who have conveniently ruled our God a priori, would only see the natural causes as confirmation the God is non-existent. The fundamental flaw is that they foolishly regard scientific truth as the only kind of truth and the scientific method as the only means for discovering truth. At least this seems to be what individuals like Richard Dawkins tell themselves. But this goes back to my last post, there are multiple means of gaining information beyond scientific investigation. History is one with which I am very familiar . Science cannot tell me that Alexander the Great existed, Alexander is fundamentally outside of the realm of science because his life and the events he witnessed are non-repeatable. A historian is necessary to tell me Alexander lead armies across the Middle East. My favorite illustration for this comes from Dr David Hone of the Terrible Lizards Podcast. he uses this idea often (S4E2 for the most recent) that science can tell us that some dinosaur species died in large groups, but it cannot tell us whether or not they lived in large groups. The reason is (though he never says it explicitly) the events of these dinosaurs’ world are fundamentally non-repeatable and therefore cannot be measured scientifically. This means that science cannot prove or disprove many of the claims Christians make because these claims are fundamentally outside the scope of science. Science can certainly add information to help us make reasonable claims but just like Alexander or whether dinosaurs were herd animals, Christian claims come down to other methods of finding truth.
Unfortunately, there are Christians who try to prove God by the gaps left in scientific explanations as if physical causes rule out God or a current gap in our understanding necessitates God. This is intellectually sloppy, but no less sloppy than atheists who think that because we understand the natural causes for events we can rule out metaphysical causes. Is music simply the vibrations in the air? Both approaches are arrogant and frankly leave much to be desired. A truly holistic approach recognizes there can be physical and metaphysical causes for an event acting simultaneously. physical and metaphysical causes are the natural intersections of the “what” and “why” questions. Science can answer the “what” question, but we must look to other arenas to answer the “why”. This is the overlap between science and philosophy.
An illustrations of this came from the discussion I referenced above, in which my interlocutor objected to fine tuning. The reality is the universe is fine tuned for humanity, this is a bare scientific fact. Now, though this is a scientific fact, we must interpret the fact of fine tuning. As I see it we have three options. We can like John Polkinghorne and Luke Barnes understand that God created the universe and expect fine tuning. We can along with Stephen Hawking and others take this information and develop a multiverse theory. Or we can take the approach of Sabine Hossenfelder, which is to recognize that any attempt to explain “why” the universe is fine tuned is escapes the domain of science and enters into philosophy (Polkinghorne/Barnes) or speculation (Hawking). Recognizing the universe is finely tuned does not mean we must become theists, but it does (at least for now) mean discounting theism means one is left with pure speculation or the reality of dropping the question. But even if we take the approach of Polkinghorne or Barnes and say that God is the reason “why” the universe is fine tuned for life, that does not then necessitate God is the only reason why the universe is fine tuned. Perhaps there is a deeper law of physics we have yet to see, which would open new realities to us. Such a result would inevitably push the question of God further down the tracks for some. Many Christian and Atheist alike, see God at the edge of human knowledge– we do not understand how something works and so here is where we debate the existence of God. But, such ways of thinking miss the point at least from a Christian point of view. Yes, in some ways the question of God always shines brightest as we encounter our ignorance, but if God is the creator we would expect God to use physical processes to sustain creation. And if God is the creator where we chould expect to find God most clearly is in the center of our experience.