If you involved in any kind of evangelism or outreach, whether it is street preaching or sharing your faith with colleagues and neighbours, you will eventually meet with the argument
“Science has disproved God!”
For many, science is held up as the ultimate nemesis for any religious belief, and it is the sole means by which they think that reality should be described. There is much that can be said about this, and there are perhaps thousands of books that have been written that examine the whole topic of ‘science vs faith’.
Initially, let just examine one response to this argument.
Science is based on a generally agreed process, known as the scientific method. This is the process by which serious and profitable scientific enquiry must be carried out in order to be considered a valid scientific investigation. The steps for the scientific method are generally agreed to be as follows-
- Ask a question (Eg- does regular consumption of eggs raise your cholesterol?)
- Conduct background research (where possible) (Eg -Look at previous data that has been gathered on people with high cholesterol)
- Propose a hypothesis (that is, an educated or reasonable prediction of what you expect, or hope, to prove) (Eg- “People who regularly consume eggs over a period of 3 months can expect a measurable increase on their cholesterol levels)
- Design an experiment to test your hypothesis (Eg -give 50 people with normal cholesterol levels an egg each day for 3 months, in addition to their normal food consumption, and also monitor 50 other people who do not increase their egg consumption over the same period)
- Analyse the findings from your experiment (Eg -Measure the cholesterol levels for all 100 people who were part of the experiment and compare the results to their levels before the experiment began)
- Based on the analysis of your findings, come to a conclusion about the truth or accuracy of your original hypothesis (Eg- based on the measurements of the pre and post experiment cholesterol levels in both groups of people, decide whether the original hypothesis can be accepted or rejected)
The experiment used as an example here is very simplistic and a lot of other controls and factors would need to be included, but as a basic idea it can serve our purpose.
As you can see the scientific method requires observation, a hypothesis, controlled objective measurements, and finally some analysis or interpretation of those measurements to be carried out before anything resembling a scientific conclusion can be reached with any confidence.
Now, compare that process to the statement that ‘Science has disproved God’. Based purely on the scientific method the scientist must proceed as follows-
- Ask a question- Is there a God?
- Conduct background research- Which would of course have to be related to religious, historical or philosophical resources
- Propose a hypothesis- At this point, if they were attempting to disprove the existence of God, their hypothesis would have to be “There is no such thing as God” or “The observable material universe is all that exists”, or something along these lines.
- Design an experiment to test your hypothesis- From the point of view of genuine scientific enquiry, at this point the entire process collapses. There is no experiment, no designed and controlled process, no carefully monitored and measured investigation that could produce any information on this matter. By their own accepted standards, scientists simply cannot proceed any further using their methods
By their own standards, steps 5 and 6 are not possible if they are to be true to their own methods. It is not possible to carry out a conventional scientific investigation into the existence of God, and therefore it is nonsensical to make the statement that ‘Science has disproved God’.
This argument actually falls prey to the logical fallacy of an ‘appeal to authority’- that is, the assumption that the statement must automatically be accepted because it is held by authorities in a particular field (in this case, members of the scientific community). In fact, although there are undoubtedly brilliant men and women in science who deny God’s existence, there are also equally brilliant scientists who accept His existence. But the more important issue is this- the argument that ‘science has disproved God’ is appealing to an authority that is not even relevant to the argument. For example, Ithzak Perlman is a musical genius, considered to be one of the greatest violinists of modern times. There is no doubting his extraordinary abilities in his field. But you wouldn’t necessarily ask his opinion about a life-threatening medical condition, and you wouldn’t want him to fix a Boeing 757 that was about to fly you on your holidays. In the same way, to appeal to someone’s scientific expertise in a discussion about the existence of God is not necessarily a strong argument, because by definition their own methods are not valid in investigating His existence.