Post Author: Bill Pratt
As I’ve read comments on the blog over the years, I’ve often read a version of the following: “science disproves the existence of God.” Even prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins and Victor Stenger say something similar. Edgar Andrews, in his book Who Made God?, points out that this argument can be circular.
The assertion is based on the claim that science presents no evidence for the existence of supernatural forces or phenomena. It sounds plausible until you look a little more closely. The argument can be expressed as a syllogism as follows:
1. Science is the study of the physical universe.
2. Science produces no evidence for the existence of non-physical entities.
3. Therefore non-physical entities such as God do not exist.
Why is this a circular argument? What is the fallacy?
Again the fallacy is clear. In point (1) ‘science’ is defined as the study of the physical or material world. This statement thereby excludes by definition any consideration by science of non-physical causes or events. The proposition then argues from the silence of science concerning non-material realities that such realities do not exist. By the same logic, if you define birds as ‘feathered creatures that fly’, there’s no such thing as an ostrich. It’s fairly obvious in this example whose head is in the sand. The correct conclusion, of course, is not that ostriches are mythical but that (on your restrictive definition of ‘bird’) they are not birds. In the same way, to define science as the study of the material universe simply prohibits science from making statements about a non-material entity like God. If the remit of science is deliberately restricted to the physical realm, the fact that science (so defined) tells us nothing about God has no bearing whatever on his existence or non-existence, as most scientists recognize.
Science can actually give us evidence of God’s existence, as Andrews argues throughout his book, and as I’ve argued elsewhere. Science examines effects in the natural world that lead us back to God as the cause of those effects.