Friday, 21 September 2012

Will Science Disprove God's Existence? No.

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Over the past few centuries, the purported efforts of scientists to come to a better understanding of the natural world have often led to wild variations in their theories. Attempts to arrive at a naturalistic understanding of the origin of the universe — operating with the presupposition of excluding a divine origin — have led to a profound divergence of opinion, with only one common point among those who have created such theories: However the universe came into existence, God did not create it.

As explained in my recent book, A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven, the efforts of scientists to disprove the existence of God is not a pursuit of Science, but Scientism. Since Rene Descartes (1596–1650) there have been men and women who have succumbed to Descartes’ egocentric presentation of the scientist as the master of all knowledge; in the words of Michael Gillespie: “The scientist therefore will be the master not of [a] single area of knowledge but of all knowledge. His knowledge will be a mathêsis universalis, a universal science or universal mathematics. He will thus be not merely the wisest human being but also the best technician and the best lawgiver in both political the [sic] theological matters.” This worldview is often called “Scientism” — a materialistic doctrine that (among other tenets of its creed) axiomatically excludes the possibility of a non-naturalistic origin of the universe, and which interprets all observation data regarding the natural realm only in line with its axiomatic assumption that there is no divine origin to creation.

At the root of such delusional attempts to disprove the divine creation of the universe is an inherent contradiction: attempting to prove that God did not create the universe, the Scientistic theorist assumes the truth of that which he purports to attempt to prove. Theorizing based on the assumption there is no God, the “discovery” that one’s theorizing does not lead to the discovery of God is hardly a shocking result.

The latest such Scientistic outburst is from Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, who is busy promoting his upcoming book on the hunt for the Higgs boson particle — the so-called “God particle” — which is one of the latest hopes for bolstering the effort to create a plausible naturalistic explanation of the origin of the universe. As Alister McGrath wrote for The Telegraph last year:

The idea [of the Higgs boson particle] seemed to make so much sense of things that the existence of the “God particle” has come to be taken for granted. It has become, I would say, a “particle of faith”. … 

Science often proposes the existence of invisible (and often undetectable) entities — such as dark matter — to explain what can be seen. The reason why the Higgs boson is taken so seriously in science is not because its existence has been proved, but because it makes so much sense of observations that its existence seems assured. In other words, its power to explain is seen as an indicator of its truth.

There’s an obvious and important parallel with the way religious believers think about God.

 An article by Natalie Wolchover of highlights Carroll’s expansive claims for Scientism:

Over the past few centuries, science can be said to have gradually chipped away at the traditional grounds for believing in God. Much of what once seemed mysterious — the existence of humanity, the life-bearing perfection of Earth, the workings of the universe — can now be explained by biology, astronomy, physics and other domains of science. 

Although cosmic mysteries remain, Sean Carroll, a theoretical cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, says there's good reason to think science will ultimately arrive at a complete understanding of the universe that leaves no grounds for God whatsoever.

Carroll argues that God's sphere of influence has shrunk drastically in modern times, as physics and cosmology have expanded in their ability to explain the origin and evolution of the universe. "As we learn more about the universe, there's less and less need to look outside it for help," he told Life's Little Mysteries.

He thinks the sphere of supernatural influence will eventually shrink to nil.

Of course, one could find similar remarks from scientists in almost every generation from the 17th to the 20th century which were rooted in a wide range of theories which have now been disproven, and remain of little interest to anyone but scholars of the history of science. The explanatory power of various competitive theories has evaporated time and again, while the belief in the divine origin of the universe remains unshaken. In fact, an air of desperation seems to predominate in the angry pseudo-scientific writings of the "new atheists." And, one may anticipate, their reaction to any criticism of their worldview will continue to be angry bouts of ad hominem argumentation.

In truth, Science owes its origin to a distinctly Judeo-Christian understanding of the nature of mankind. Man, created in the image and likeness of God, is capable of perceiving and understanding (within limits) the natural order around him. Scientists simply take for granted that there is a correlation between observation and reality, and they take for granted that the purportedly rational capacities of man are capable of meaningfully interpreting the information provided by the senses. However, it is rare for anyone to call their own axioms into question — those things which one takes for granted, are simply assumed to be true. The internal explanatory coherence of any worldview rests on the application of axioms to observed data. Scientism, by categorically excluding divine revelation, has proven nothing by its exclusion of such data.

Contrary to the assumptions of those who are Scientistically-oriented, science has not “chipped away” at the traditional grounds for believing in God, because the grounds for such belief are rooted in divine revelation. Observations regarded the natural world are governed by one’s core beliefs. The polemical assertion of undermining the axioms of various religious beliefs — including Scientism and Christianity — by means of observation is inherently flawed. Ultimately, people — whether or not they purport to be scientists — will interpret the world on the basis of those things which they personally believe, and thus take for granted. Individuals may be converted from one set of axioms to another, but the result will still be faith.

Photo: Thinkstock

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