Ron is a retired pastor, engineer, and manager for IBM and other high tech companies.
In his book Faith vs. Fact, evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne totally rejects the idea that belief in God (or religion) can coexist with science. He asserts flatly that:
Science and religion are incompatible, and you must choose between them.
— Evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne
Coyne, of course, is convinced that in that binary choice between religion and science, any thinking person who is “trying to be consistent in how you get reliable knowledge about our universe,” has no other option than choosing science over religion.
But is that really the case? As Coyne himself acknowledges, even in today’s materialistic culture in which “believe the science” is the watchword for rational thought and action, many people still embrace both God and science.
So, who’s right? Is there any legitimate, rational basis for believing in both God and science at the same time? How can we decide?
To answer that question, let’s look to another committed atheist for the starting point for our investigation.
The Debate Between Faith and Science
Writing on the Freethought Debater website, avowed atheist P. Wesley Edwards declares:
“The debate between faith and reason is in many ways the decisive battleground in the debate between theism and atheism.”
Edwards goes on to say that reason, which he equates with science, is the application of the principles of logic to the available evidence.
Believers in God can heartily agree with Edwards’ second statement—science certainly involves the application of logic to the available evidence. But many theists would take serious issue with his assertion that there is a fundamental conflict between science and faith. In fact, the history of science tells us something very different:
Modern Science Is Founded on Belief in God
British mathematician and philosopher of science Alfred North Whitehead asserts in his book Science and the Modern World that the foundation of modern science was laid by “medieval insistence upon the rationality of God.”
And James Hannam, who holds a PhD in the History of Science from Cambridge University, says it was their belief in a law abiding creator God that gave early scholars confidence to investigate a “comprehensible universe open to their powers of reason.”
The Creators of the Scientific Method Believed in God
Some of the giants in the development of science were quite clear in stating that their investigations were founded on their belief in God.
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Johannes Kepler, who worked out the laws of planetary motion, and is acknowledged as being the founder of physical astronomy, is a prime example. Credited by NASA with being instrumental in the development of the scientific method, Kepler saw his scientific investigations as simply “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”
Sir Isaac Newton, almost universally regarded as the most influential figure in the history of science, declared,
“this most beautiful system of sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”
So, far from being fundamentally at odds with reason and the scientific method, belief in God is actually the father of modern science.
Disbelief in God Arises Not From Science but From Naturalistic Ideology
According to the Oxford English Dictionary:
Naturalism is “the philosophical belief that everything arises from natural properties and causes, and supernatural or spiritual explanations are excluded or discounted.”
Note that naturalism (and thus atheism) is not a conclusion of science, but a philosophy that those who believe in it bring to their assessments of science and faith. Adherents of that philosophy must necessarily deny the existence of an intelligent Creator, and, discounting all contrary evidence, maintain that the universe and everything in it arose from purely natural and non-rational causes.
Yet, the most outstanding characteristic of the cosmos in which we live is that it gives every appearance of having been precisely designed to accommodate life in general, and human life in particular.
This is not the assertion of theologians with a vested interest in seeing design where there is none, but of astronomers, physicists, biologists, and other scientists, many of whom are committed atheists.
The Universe Appears to Have Been Deliberately Designed to Support Life
Take, for example, famed physicist, cosmologist, and outspoken atheist Stephen Hawking, who until his death in 2018 was Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge University.
Hawking (as far as is known) never moved away from his commitment to an atheistic worldview. However, his intellectual honesty forced him to acknowledge that the universe presents every appearance of having been deliberately designed. In his book A Brief History of Time Hawking stated:
"The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron… The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.
It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us."
In a similar vein, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, well known for his militant atheism, says in his book River out of Eden, A Darwinian View of Life that the appearance of deliberate design in the biological organization of living beings is undeniable:
"The illusion of purpose is so powerful that biologists themselves use the assumption of good design as a working tool."
Although atheists such as these strongly assert that the appearance of the universe having been designed is misleading, the fact remains that looking objectively at the evidence, they are forced to agree with Richard Morris, a science writer with a PhD in Physics, who says in The Fate of the Universe:
"It is almost as though the universe had been consciously designed."
The most reasonable explanation for the universe appearing to be designed is it that it was designed!
When it comes to applying “principles of logic to the available evidence,” it is those who refuse to acknowledge a creator God who demonstrate an unwillingness to "follow the science."
The Science Indicates that Belief in God is Reasonable
Let’s go back to where we started.
Science, says atheist P. Wesley Edwards, is the application of the principles of logic to the available evidence.
As we have seen, even the most outspoken enemies of belief in God are forced to acknowledge that the available scientific evidence gives every appearance of indicating that the universe did not happen by accident, but was precisely designed for the purpose of supporting life. And, of course, there can be no purposeful design without a Designer.
If we put aside our ideological presuppositions, and just follow the scientific evidence where it leads, it’s clear that belief in God is entirely compatible with science.
So, does belief in God make scientific sense? The evidence says it does.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Ronald E Franklin