I Don’t Believe in God; I Believe in Science
I don’t believe in God; I believe in science.
Ever heard this one? Here’s another version.
As someone enlightened by science and modern technology, I can’t bring myself to believe in God and old-fashioned superstition. People used to believe in gods that caused lightning and other natural phenomena until science gave us the real answers.
In both cases, the unbeliever asserts an incompatibility between believing in God and believing in science. Several points could be made in response:
- Bacon, Copernicus, Newton, Pascal, Maxwell, Mendel, Pastor, and LeMaitre all believed in God.
- Modern science supports premises in philosophical arguments for God’s existence (e.g. the Kalam argument and the fine-tuning argument).
- Science depends on philosophical presuppositions that support premises in philosophical arguments for God’s existence (e.g. the principle of sufficient reason supports the contingency argument).
- Science depends on philosophical presuppositions that fit well with a theistic worldview and not as well with an atheistic materialistic worldview (e.g. rationality and ethical standards, as explained in this talk by Dr. James Anderson).
A Tactical Reply
However, just because those points could be made does not mean they should be made. My advice: hold off on ALL of those points until you’re clear on what their objection actually is. Instead, employ the #1 thing and ask a question.
Here’s one you could use.
- That’s an interesting claim. It sounds like you don’t think someone can believe in God and science at the same time. Why is that?
- Interesting, but what would you say to someone who believes in God and is also a practicing scientist? Someone like Ken Miller for example.
This tactic takes you off the hot seat. It allows the other person to reveal precisely what troubles them. What exactly is the incompatibility they see between belief in God and belief in Science?
Once they explain the incompatibility they have in mind, aim to defuse the problem. Some of the most common objections are versions of the following:
- Evolution shows God is not required to explain complex life.
- Science shows that miracles don’t happen and can’t happen.
- Science is the only way to truth, and it provides no evidence that God exists.
A quick examination of those objections reveals that they don’t actually show any incompatibility between believing in God and believing in science.
Brief reply to 1: God could have used evolution. This objection gives no reason to think one can’t believe in God and the theory of evolution simultaneously.
Brief reply to 2: How does science show that miracles don’t happen and can’t happen? If God exists, then miracles are possible. This seems obvious. The God who created the laws of nature can suspend them as He wishes. Also, what experiment (or scientific literature) shows that miracles don’t happen? Unless the critic can cite chapter and verse on this, the claim that miracles don’t happen is question begging.
Brief reply to 3: This is a version of scientism. One way to defang the objection is to ask, “Is it true that science is the only way to truth?” If yes, then there needs to be some scientific evidence that supports that claim. It’s hard to imagine what that would even look like. What experiment could show that science is the only way we come to know truth? Moreover, there are truths of logic, mathematics, and ethics that we come to understand apart from the scientific method. For a complete takedown of scientism, see chapter 0 of Scholastic Metaphysics by Edward Feser.
- Ask questions to find out precisely what incompatibility the objector has in mind.
- Prepare to defuse the 3 common objections.
- AFTER asking questions and defusing objections, present some points from the first bullet list in this article.
For a great book on the compatibility of religion and science, check out Where the Conflict Really Lies? from the legend Alvin Plantinga.