Recently, in an online forum for debating the existence of God, an atheist presented me with the assertion that “belief in God is unscientific”. Another atheist wrote to me, stating that “science disproved God years ago.” This seems to be a very common view. It regards science as the realm of ‘fact’ and religious faith as the realm of ‘fairy tales’. But this view, that religious faith is unscientific, fails to understand the nature of science and its limitations.
Science is ultimately COMPLETELY UNABLE to answer the question of God’s existence, because science is simply the study of the natural world and is completely unable to speculate on whether anything OUTSIDE or BEYOND the natural universe exists.
The British Science Council, a body that oversees the standards for professional registration of practising scientists across all disciplines in the UK, defines science as the study of evidence that is observable, measurable and repeatable. Inevitably, this places limits on what science can and cannot comment on. True science cannot comment on anything that is beyond its ability to observe, measure or repeat. If a supernatural being exists (something BEYOND nature), he lies completely outside the parameters of scientific speculation. He cannot be measured, weighed, poked, prodded or photographed. Science can neither prove nor disprove God’s existence.
On the other hand, if a Creator God exists, it is entirely reasonable to expect to find traces of his creative handiwork in the fabric of the physical universe. If the universe was created by an all-powerful, intelligent designer, albeit an intangible, supernatural one, we should expect to be able to observe evidence of his creative design and intervention within the natural realm. As in the case of something intangible such as love, while God himself cannot be observed and measured, it should be possible to observe his effects.
And this is indeed the case. The evidence that we find through the study of nature via scientific methodology is ENTIRELY CONSISTENT with the existence of an all-powerful Creator. In fact, it is much more consistent with the existence of an Intelligent Designer than with the belief in a supposed randomly self-creating universe.
Given the inability of science to study anything beyond the natural world, it is truly remarkable that many scientists feel competent to make authoritative declarations about the non-existence of God. Dr. Richard Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion”, is a dismissive and, at times, sarcastic denunciation of belief in God as Creator.([i]) The title of the book, The God Delusion, is indicative of his major theme; that people who believe in God are delusional. Furthermore, he argues that you cannot be an intelligent scientific thinker and still believe in a Creator God. In fact, he states that people who have such a faith are “infantile”.[ii] Yet, in reality, science is not equipped to make any authoritative declarations on the matter of God’s existence. The subject simply lies beyond science’s purview.
Sadly, Dr. Dawkins is not the only scientist who ventures beyond the limits of science in making proclamations regarding the question of God’s existence. For example, Dr. D. M. Watson made the extraordinary statement:
“Evolution is a theory universally accepted, not because it can be proved to be true, but because the only alternative, ‘special creation’, is clearly incredible.”[iii]
The mistake that Drs. Dawkins, Watson and others make, is to assume that because science can only observe and measure things in the natural, physical realm, no other realm exists. That is a completely illogical leap of reasoning and such a claim is, itself, unscientific.
On the other hand, there were many scientists throughout history, and still today, who express a strong faith in God and see no contradiction between their faith and their study of the natural world. For example: Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, Lord William Kelvin, Johannes Kepler, Nicolas Copernicus, Louis Pasteur, Robert Boyle, Max Planck and Nikola Tesla – some of the greatest scientists who ever lived and who shaped our world – all believed in God. Even the great Albert Einstein once stated:
“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are mere details.”
As Max Born, the German physicist, who won the Nobel Prize for Science in 1954, said;
“Those who say that the study of science must make a person an atheist must be rather silly people.”
More recently, and very significantly, there have been several high-profile atheist scientists who, simply as a result of studying the scientific evidence of intelligent design in the natural world, have renounced their atheism and become convinced of the existence of God. These include Dr Antony Flew (arguably the most influential atheist of the 20th century), Dr Dean Kenyon (Professor Emeritus of Biology at San Francisco State University, who authored the evolutionary textbook, Biochemical Predestination) and Dr Michael Behe (Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania). These eminent scientists are part of a growing tide of scientists worldwide who are now acknowledging that an Intelligent Designer lies behind this amazingly complexity universe. For example, Dr. Robert Jastrow, founder of NASA’s Goddard Space Institute, stated, “That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”[iv]
While there are some who would criticise Dr Jastrow for over-reaching in his remark, he is making an important point. Belief in God is not unscientific. There are many respected scientists who are finding extremely compelling scientific evidence for the existence of God. The only ones guilty of being unscientific are those scientists who issue derogatory, unfounded philosophical statements under the false guise of science.
[i] Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion”, New York, First mariner Books, 2006
[ii] Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion”, New York, First mariner Books, 2006, p.360. Also quoted on https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins
[iii] D.M. Watson, London Times, August 3, 1929, cited by Bolton Davidheiser, “Evolution and Christian Faith”, Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1969, p.79
Kevin Simington (B.Th. Dip. Min.) is a theologian, apologist and social commentator. He is the author of 12 books, and his latest, “7 Reasons to Believe”, is now available. Connect with Kevin on Facebook or his SmartFaith Blog.