Has Science Buried God? (Part 1)

Some ideas become so imbedded in the sub-conscious of a culture that they are assumed without challenge. One of those notions is that science has buried God. But is it true? Has science really got rid of God? Is that even possible? Science is the study of the physical universe, so it can’t tell you, and never will be able to tell you, that a spiritual being does not exist.

Oliver Newbery 242315 Unsplash

“All right,” says someone, “but science has certainly got rid of the need for God. We now understand the universe so well that we no longer need to appeal to the activity of a deity.” This is also mistaken. Understanding how something works doesn’t get rid of the need for a creator or designer. In fact, it increases it. When you understand how a kettle, a car, or a radio works, you don’t say, “I understand it, so no one made it.” On the contrary, you admire all the more the skill of the maker, and consider foolish any notion that such things came about without intelligent input. So it is with the universe – the more it is understood, the more the power and wisdom of the Creator become obvious. John Lennox makes the point this way:

Take a Ford motor car. It is conceivable that someone from a remote part of the world, who was seeing one for the first time and who knew nothing about modern engineering, might imagine that there is a god (Mr Ford) inside the engine, making it go. He might further imagine that when the engine ran sweetly it was because Mr Ford inside the engine liked him, and when it refused to go it was because Mr Ford did not like him. Of course, if he were subsequently to study engineering and take the engine to pieces, he would discover that there is no Mr Ford inside it. Neither would it take much intelligence for him to see that he did not need to introduce Mr Ford as an explanation for its working. His grasp of the impersonal principles of internal combustion would be altogether enough to explain how the engine works. So far, so good. But if he then decided that his understanding of the principles of how the engine works made it impossible to believe in the existence of Mr Ford who designed the engine in the first place, this would be patently false – in philosophical terminology he would be committing a category mistake. Had there never been a Mr Ford to design the mechanisms, none would exist for him to understand.

It is likewise a category mistake to suppose that our understanding of the impersonal principles according to which the universe works makes it either unnecessary or impossible to believe in the existence of a personal creator who designed, made, and upholds the universe. In other words, we should not confuse the mechanisms by which the universe works either with its cause or its upholder (1).

Let’s look at three scientific facts which I hope will show that science points towards, not away from, God.

We live in a fathomable universe

What kind of universe makes science possible? We need:

  1. A rational creation
  2. Rational creatures

Rational Creation

If the universe tumbled into existence without a creator/designer, why would anyone suppose it to operate according to discoverable and consistent laws? Does not the existence of natural law naturally point to a lawgiver? To quote again from Lennox:

One person who drew attention to this circumstance ... was the eminent historian of science and mathematician Sir Alfred North Whitehead. Observing that medieval Europe in 1500 knew less than Archimedes in the third century BC and yet by 1700 Newton had written his masterpiece, Principia Mathematica, Whitehead asked the obvious question: How could such an explosion of knowledge have happened in such a relatively short time? His answer: “modern science must come from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God ... My explanation is that the faith in the possibility of science, generated antecedently to the development of modern scientific theory, is an unconscious derivative from medieval theology”. C. S. Lewis’ succinct formulation of Whitehead’s view is worth recording: “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver.”(2)

Rational creatures

For science to be possible there needs to be a creature capable of rational thought. If atheism were true, everything in the universe is purely physical, reacting according to physical law, which would mean that there is no such thing as rationality. Every thought of the mind would be only the by-product of chemical processes over which we have no control. As the Christian apologist, Frank Turek, says, it’s not merely “that science supports theism but theism supports science. In other words, theism makes doing science possible. We wouldn’t be able to do science reliably if atheism were true.” (3)

(1) John C. Lennox, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, Lion, 2007, p. 44.

(2) Lennox,God’s Undertaker, p. 20.

(3) Frank Turek, Stealing from God, Why atheists need God to make their case, NavPress, 2014, p. 145.