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Has Science done away with God?

57

August 7, 2012 by mattfradd


Hasn’t science disproved God?

No, and it is not within the ability of science to do so.

Science is a method that one can use to discover information about the natural world. It, however, has nothing to say about that which cannot be scientifically observed or tested.

Examining God’s material creation using a method which, by its very nature, is limited to the material universe cannot provide evidence against the existence of an immaterial God.

Even if science were to exhaustively describe the physical universe, it would still leave the question: Why does the universe and the laws that govern it exist?

The view that science can or should provide the answer to every question is known as scientism. It claims that we should not accept as true anything that we cannot prove scientifically.

This view is incorrect. There are a variety of things that the natural sciences cannot prove:

1. They cannot prove the laws of logic or mathematical truths. The natural sciences presuppose logic and math, but it cannot prove them.

2. They cannot prove metaphysical truths, like the reality of  the external world is real or that the universe did not simply spring into existence five minutes ago with the appearance of age, including our memories of a past that never happened. These are rational beliefs, but they cannot be proven scientifically.

3. The scientific method cannot prove or disprove statements of an ethical nature. Science cannot show whether helping a starving child is good or whether Nazi scientists in concentration camps did anything evil. Good and evil cannot be measured in a laboratory, and so moral principles lie beyond what science can prove. That includes a principle used in science itself: “It is wrong to fake your research findings.

So there are things that are worthy of belief that science cannot prove, such as the laws of logic and mathematics, metaphysical truths, and ethical truths.[1]

There is also this fact: If scientism is true then one should refuse to believe anything that cannot be scientifically proven. But this would mean that one should not believe scientism itself unless it can be scientifically proven.

Can it?

No, because the claim “You should not believe anything unless it is proven by science” is a philosophical claim that you cannot verify by experiment.

It expresses a value judgment–what one should choose to believe–and that puts in in the realm of ethics and morals, which we have already seen that science cannot verify.

Without the ability to do an experiment verifying or falsifying the truth of this moral claim, there is no scientific proof.

That means that scientism is not only false, it is also self-refuting, because it cannot meet its own test.


[1] For further discussion of these and similar points, watch the following clip:

57 thoughts on “Has Science done away with God?

  1. Not only that, but science has actually even proven things we have known spiritually for eons. For example, science declared that the samllest building block of matter is actually a pulse of energy – all amtter is made up of nergy at work. What does Psalm 104 tell us?: “When you take back your spirit they return to nothingness, but you send forth your spirit and they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” Science is often like mountain climbers struggling to reach great heights, only to discover once they do, that the Church has been sitting there all along!

    • dr rockzo says:

      that is an incredibly vague psalm that can be attributed to almost anything.
      I refuse to believe I’ve been outpaced on the crag by someone who took an elevator and called himself a climber.

      • What is vague is your response. The 104th psalm is not vague. It is a clear song in praise of God for the wonder of his creation. I repeat my point because it is not vague: that pulse of energy that science discovered was described thousands of years ago in the 104th psalm. So, sorry, but science discovered something we’ve known for centuries. When you climbed up and found someone there who had “taken an elevator” as you said, my question is, “then why didn’t YOU take the elevator? Why go through all the trouble climbing when someone made the path easier for you by installing the elevator?” Doesn’t it seem foolish to have struggled to climb a mountain only to discover when you arrive at the top that we’ve already been there for centuries? What makes you think that knowledge that is revealed by God is not as valid as knowledge man arrives at on his own? Maybe you hit the nail on the head when you said “I refuse to believe.” For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. But for those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice.

    • bluesync19 says:

      Psalm 104 is very vague, It has no explanatory power. If it did surely it would of mentioned the Higgs Boson Particle as it explains why fundamental particles have mass. Science is like mountain climbers struggling, learning and reaching great heights. While the Church sits atop a small hill claiming to know everything but explaining nothing.

      Tell me this, where in the Bible does it explain:
      * The Germ Theory of Disease.
      * The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.
      * How stars and planets form.

      If by some chance you find a verse that seems to explain these things show me how the verse can be used in practice.

      • You manifest a clear misunderstanding about the Bible and its purpose. the Bible is not a science text nor is it a history book; it was never intended to be so. It describes our relationship with God and how to put his will into action in our lives, and the benefit of our following him. If you want scientific facts, kindly consult a scientist of the appropriate field. But if you want to understand God’s role in your life, I will be happy to help with that.

      • bluesync19 says:

        If that is true, how can the Church be sitting at the top of a mountain that science is climbing? I would never claim that the Bible is a book of science or history, nor would I dismiss it based on that. I was simply replying to your assertion:
        “Science is often like mountain climbers struggling to reach great heights, only to discover once they do, that the Church has been sitting there all along”

        If you claimed science and religion were two different mountains I could accept that. You also claim that Psalm 104 explains the smallest building block of the universe which is a scientific question.

      • Science and religion can both arrive at truth through various paths, just like one person climbing the mountain from the north side and the other from the south. The truth arrived at is the same regardless of which path one chose to get there. That is why neither science nor religion should discount the other and think theirs is the only way to truth. Truth can’t contradict truth, so somehow all religious and scientific truths in the end must agree with each other. When they don’t there is something about one or the other, or possibly both, that we don’t fully understand. But in the end they reconcile. That was my point about the 104th psalm, not do deny scientific study and truth it has discovered, but to point out its compatibility with faith, that we’ve been saying that in the 104th psalm for centuries. Science asks the “what” of existence; faith asks the “why”. They are perfectly compatible, and in fact, taken together they complete each other. Knowing both the “what” and the “why” gives us a more full understanding of the reality.

      • bluesync19 says:

        Can you give me an example how one truth has two different paths to it? Truth cannot contradict truth. I agree, so if science discovers something that contradicts something in your religion what would you believe?

        How do we know ‘Why’ is even a proper question? Just because we can phrase a question with the correct syntax doesn’t mean it is valid.

        If psalm 104 is not a scientific fact and the Bible is not history, how do we know we can trust or believe in it?

      • Psalm 104 is a perfect example. What science discovered about a pulse of energy being the fundamental particle of matter is what the psalm says: “if you take back your breath, they return to nothingness; but you send forth your spirit and they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” That pulse of energy of which science speaks is the very same thing we see as God “sending forth his spirit” – an action by God, a pulse of energy. So we got to the same truth by two different paths: one scientific, the other Divine Revelation. As I said before, if something we know from science seems to conflict with something we know from Divine Revelation, then there is something about one or the other – or possibly both – that we don’t completely understand. When there is a difference, we need to do further research to find the discrepancy, but ultimately I believe there will always be a reconciliation of the two.

        Remember that Catholics are not Fundamentalists. We don’t hold to the belief that every word in the Bible is an historic or scientific truth. We reject that notion, and we fight Fundamentalists on it constantly. The only people who have a problem reconciling science and faith are the two extremes: those who think that truth comes only from faith and not from science, and those who think science must disprove the existence of God. For us, we have no problem reconciling the two.

      • bluesync19 says:

        If God sends his breath and it affects the physical word, we should be able to test for it. I still don’t see how Psalm 104 is talking about a fundamental particle we have never ‘observed’ God taking a breath back and the matter or energy being destroyed. Renewing the face of the Earth has nothing to do with fundamental particles. So we are only left with “but you send forth your spirit and they are created” and I don’t see how that equals 6 quarks and the fundamental forces of the universe (gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces) or other stuff earlier. Just out of interest can you supply another example of a truth being found two ways.

        You still didn’t address my question of how do you know ‘Why’ is a valid question and if the Bible is not science or history how can we trust or believe in it.

        Anyone who claims science can disprove anything doesn’t know what science is, so I agree with you there. However science can show us what evidence we have and help us figure out our universe, even if the answers are only tentative.

        I am glad that Catholics are not Fundamentals and don’t take the Bible literally it makes for much better discussions. 🙂

      • It seems to me you are looking at God from a scientific point of view and not a spiritual one. No, there is no scientific “test” for God. Science observes the creation; faith observes the Creator. God is not a subject of scientific analysis and he cannot be analyzed scientifically. If he could, we wouldn’t be talking about faith; we’d be saying that even God is scientific. Science has its limits; so does faith. I maintain that if we employ not the “either-or” understanding” but the “both-and”, we’ll have no confusion – still questions, but no conflicts. I am a scientist by education (I have a BA in Meteorology) and a priest by profession (I have an Stb in Sacred Theology and a Masters in Divinity). I have never had a problem reconciling science and faith. Where one falls short, the other complements it to fill in the gaps. To me it’s like asking whether a pick or a shovel is a better way to dig a garden. Use them both and the work is done more easily.

      • bluesync19 says:

        I understand what you are saying and if we were discussing a deistic god I would agree. We couldn’t test for a god like that. However the god in the Bible is a personal creator god that the Bible claims has an affect in the physical world. If God reaches his hand into the physical world and makes changes like miracles or answering prayers then science should be able to test for that. Because something in the physical world has changed and science deals with the physical world.

        Another example is the virgin birth, do you believe that Jesus was born of a virgin? That is a miracle and breaks the known laws of science (in humans). If something like that happened in the modern day we could test it.

        Another example again is intercessory prayer if it has some physical affect on the world then scientists should be able to study it. Scientists have tried and so far have shown that intercessory prayer is not effective.
        Here is a study: http://rsw.sagepub.com/content/17/2/174
        and the Wikipedia article that summaries the information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer
        If you don’t like or trust Wikipedia I can find other sources if you request them.

        How do we know that ‘Why’ is a valid question. If we asked ‘why does it rain?’ we actually mean ‘how does it rain?’ Not many people believe anymore that a god or gods is directly responsible for the rain so the why question isn’t valid in that context since the rain doesn’t have a deliberate purpose. It just happens according to the natural laws.

        If the Bible isn’t scientific or historic how can we trust and believe in it? Other holy books exist and make similar claims. Why pick the Bible over one of them or over nothing?

      • Baldeagle says:

        Science is a study of what God has created. Science can not prove or disprove the existence of God. Theology is the study of God.

      • OK, you want scientific proof? Check out the many reported miraculous healings that have taken place at Lourdes or through intercession of a holy person in the cause for his canonization. In all these cases, doctors have fully documented the person’s extreme medical condition beforehand, and after bathing in the waters of Lourdes or after the intercession of the holy person, they have been inexplicably healed. In one case, it was a person whose x-rays revealed deformed and twisted bones. After going into the waters of Lourdes, the person came out with a perfect skeleton! Check it out online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lourdes_Medical_Bureau. That is scientific proof if ever I’ve seen it!

      • bluesync19 says:

        You mentioned in earlier posts that there is no scientific test for God, now you use these healings as evidence? People claim that science and god is in different realms until there is ‘scientific’ evidence for god. This is bad practice and is not consistent, especially for a scientist.

        Let’s have a closer look at Lourdes. Out of the millions who have visited Lourdes, the Church has only approved fewer than 70 as actual cures, many happening before the 1970’s. The most recent healing in 2002 was Serge Francois and doctors are hesitating in calling it inexplicable. As medical science has gained a better understanding of the human body the small amount of inexplicable healings that happened there has decreased dramatically. I could not find any source of the person coming out with a perfect skeleton. A truly inexplicable healing would be a limb regrowing, if something like that happened it would truly be worth investigating further. Even if everyone that went to Lourdes was healed the evidence falls utterly short in providing evidence for a god, even if the healings were inexplicable you would still need evidence that God was causing the healings.

        I am also assuming you don’t believe in the miracles of the Qur’an even through Islamic people have ‘evidence’:
        http://islamtomorrow.com/proofs/
        http://www.discoveringislam.org/miracles_of_Islam.htm

        Again I will ask, how do you know ‘Why’ is a valid question and if the Bible isn’t scientific or historically accurate how can we believe or trust it?

      • Yes, of the many reported miracles, the Church has been able to dismiss most as psychosomatic. But the fact that there are 70 inexplicable ones speaks volumes. Even one would be amazing. Seventy????

        As for “why” being a valid question, let me ask you: “Why are you here on the earth at this moment?” If it’s pure science, your answer can only be that you are the result of a non-guided, totally random process that began billions of years ago that just by coincidence led to your presence at this time. In other words, you’re just one speck of cosmic dust that resulted from the Big Bang with no more meaning or purpose than any other. But if God is in the equation, you are here because God wants you hear at this moment in time so that he can show himself to the world in a away he has never done before. You are a unique creation made in the image and likeness of God; thus, you are a unique manifestation of God. God has chosen to reveal himself to the world through in a unique way that he has never done before, and you have a way of revealing God to us that only you can do. He loves you and is guiding you to form yourself in his image and likeness so that he can call you into unity with him in heaven where even the angels will serve you. So, either you are haphazard dust or a unique and beloved child of God called to glory. Which is a better belief to live by?

      • bluesync19 says:

        70 out of about 200 million does not speak volumes, considering which types of healings have occurred. If you look at all the healings that have happened in the last 30 – 40 years many of the illnesses can naturally go into remission and have been shown to go into remission by science. Anything older than 40 years and humans had a very different understanding of the human body and healings may have been considered inexplicable at the time. Even if the 70 healings are truly inexplicable and have no natural explanation there is no evidence that they were performed by a god or any other supernatural entity.

        I care about what is true, not just a belief that I think sounds good. I am a cosmic speck of dust floating on a slightly larger ball of dust in a massive universe. I am a unique whether or not a god made me; no other person has my DNA on Earth or my same brain patterns. We are all connected to each other biologically, to the Earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. The entire universe is glorious. We are a way for the universe to know itself.

        Why I am here? Because my mother gave birth to me, how did I get here? It was a long series of events that began 13.7 billion years ago.

        If you were looking for a different answer to the ‘Why’ question, you will need justification for it. Saying ‘why’ someone here is a misnomer, it assumes purpose when none has been established. We need create our own purpose in life.

        Evolution is not totally random, mutations may be random but the process itself isn’t random. That’s why it’s The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Natural selection guides evolution.

        So how do we know the Bible is true? By your admission it isn’t scientific or historic why should *I* believe in it or trust it?

      • You contradicted yourself and inadvertently proved my point. You said that “Evolution is not totally random, mutations may be random but the process itself isn’t random. That’s why it’s The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Natural selection guides evolution .” If Natural Selection is guiding evolution, then the ability to guide something requires someone or something cognizant to guide it – that is one of St. Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs for the existence of God. So by your own argument you just proved God’s existence.

        What I’d like to know is why you are so adamantly opposed to the idea that God is real? It’s inconceivable that someone would prefer to be a unique piece of cosmic dust, as you put it, rather than a deliberately willed creation by God. Is there some emotional reason? Do you really believe in God but are angry with him? My experience has shown that true atheists don’t bother to fight against belief in God any more than they would fight someone who believes in the Easter Bunny. Sounds to me like more is going on than not believing in God. It sounds to me like you refuse to believe in God or don’t want to believe in God. If only you put all your energy into trying to know him rather than fight belief in him, you might find a lot more peace.

      • bluesync19 says:

        First I will clear up your misconception of Evolution.
        http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/misconceptions_faq.php#a2
        http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/evo_25

        Which of the five proofs was it?

        Instead of giving me a good reason why to believe in the Bible you said I have proved God’s existence by my own argument – which is false if you look at the links provided.

        I am not adamantly opposed to the idea of God, but when I don’t get answers from direct questions about the Bible and God it doesn’t give me much confidence to believe it. e.g. “So how do we know the Bible is true? By your admission it isn’t scientific or historic why should *I* believe in it or trust it?”

        Honestly there is nothing going on. I like to discuss my ideas and hear other people’s beliefs, it makes for a better world. Even if we can’t agree on everything an understanding is very important. I have never once claimed to be an atheist and I don’t think I’ve claimed no god exists.

        I enjoy discussion and the reason I don’t discuss the Easter Bunny with people is that there is (probably) no one who seriously believes in the Easter Bunny only children. If there was people who did I probably would have the same type of discussion.

      • It’s good to know there are no problems going on. Sorry if I got the impression that you were an atheist, but that’s certainly the impression you gave.

        As for believing the Bible, you’ve been asking about proving the bible scientifically, but that’s not the point of the Bible. The inerrancy of the Bible is in the spiritual and theological truth it reveals about why God made us, our destiny as humans, and how to grow in his image and therefore go to heaven. It is a “how-to-be-holy” book that even has examples of how people messed things up by not following him. When I want scientific knowledge, I consult a science book. When I want to know about what is expected of me by God, I consult the Bible. Neither Matt Fradd’s post nor any of my entries have ever claimed that one precludes the other, only that, contrary to what some people will hold, you can be a scientist and still be a faithful Christian. Scientific study has only at times reaffirmed the existence of God and never has nor never will disprove him. That would be like someone discovering how all the elements came together to make a chocolate cake reaching the conclusion that, since he discovered how the cake came to be, he has proven there is no such thing as a baker.

      • bluesync19 says:

        I need to clear up the misunderstanding and I apologise for the misunderstanding, I don’t think there is enough evidence for God so I don’t believe. I don’t know if you would consider me an atheist some people don’t because I don’t claim that God doesn’t exist. Labels aren’t usually useful for discussions because people have their own biases about labels.

        There are plenty of good scientists who are Christians I agree. A good example would be Francis Collions who was the head of the human genome project.

        I understand that the Bible is a how-to-holy book, but the question I am trying to ask is how do we know the Bible is true?

      • That’s where faith comes in. Ultimately, every set of beliefs requires a leap of faith. Even science, unless I have run the experiments myself, I take on faith that I trust the authors of the textbooks and the sincerity of the scientists that they in fact did the experiments and are not making it up. It’s a pretty stable foundation that I have no serious reason to doubt, but I do take a leap of faith nonetheless. So it is with belief in God. We can present many arguments that give evidence for his existence, but we will never prove it sufficiently in a court of law. It does take ultimately a leap of faith. As for the Bible, I think the fact that the more science discovers, the more compatible the texts are with scientific knowledge is a good foundation. So many other religions have holy books that were based on beliefs that scientifically don’t hold up (for example, there is no god of the volcano who wants a young virgin thrown in to calm him lest he erupt and destroy the village), or that advocate activities, etc. that do not make one a better person. When I read the Gospel accounts especially, I find the wisdom that Jesus manifests so unlike any other world religion, that to me it makes sense as the only realistic revelation of God. The personal holiness it evokes from one is so unlike any other, that in itself I feel this demonstrates its truth. A good source for understanding would be the Confessions of St. Augustine, for he went through looking for truth everywhere and finally came to accept it in Christianity. It’s a great read if you haven’t read it. But ultimately, even he had to leap from knowledge into faith, and that means just jumping in and not holding on to the railing. Once you do, you understand!

      • bluesync19 says:

        It is very hard to have faith in something you don’t believe in. I have read a majority of the Bible and it didn’t convince me. But I guess that is just where we differ, I hold no ill will towards people who have a religion but I like very much to discuss and challenge them and I hope they challenge me. If you want to call trusting in science faith that’s fine but I think it is different to religious faith, because you can repeat the experiments by the scientists and get the same or similar results. However with religion it is harder you can’t follow a defined path to reach the same conclusion.

        I have enjoyed the discussion so far and I am glad you haven’t taken anything as a personal attack. It makes for intelligence and enlightening dialog.

      • I’m glad you have enjoyed our discussions. I’m happy to see that we’ve reached a clear point: yes, it is hard to put faith in something you don’t believe. But I would say that you seem to want to believe, which is a good thing. If so, keep reading the gospel accounts, especially the words of Jesus and see what happens. Something may eventually resound with you that helps. I’ll keep you in my prayers, and I’m always available to help in any way I can.

        Fr. Carrozza

  2. Jeff says:

    mind blown!

  3. Edgar says:

    Full of sh*t. What’s next? The Sun is a star? You morons.

    • mattfradd says:

      Seriously? Formulate a coherent argument (or an argument at all) and it’ll be taken seriously.

    • Frankus says:

      The sun is a star, Google it.

    • Lori8069 says:

      I just hope that Edgar isn’t another one of those aficionados of porn who can’t stand to hear anyone defend the “concept” of God because it could possibly make them feel a little too guilty to fully enjoy pornography, and I also certainly hope that they aren’t upset that someone has mentioned God because they’re someone who’s suffering under the influence of so many demons that have made strongholds into their psyche due to their porn use that they’re now foolishly defending the territory that the demons have conquered in them, like someone who’s suffering from Stockholm Syndrome who feels compelled to side with their captors.

      Because that would really be bad.

    • Rachel says:

      Edgar, read Matt’s blog again then compare it to your comment and you’ll realise how wrong your use of the word “morons” was. Also the sun IS a star. Its common knowledge. Its hardly rocket science (joke).

  4. Chris says:

    Great comments Matt. Do you have an RSS feed for me to follow?

  5. Al says:

    Don’t you just love atheists and their hatred for God. I think many atheist know God exists deep down in their heart, but something happened in their life and now they hate God so much that they deny he exists.

    • mattfradd says:

      To be honest Al, I don’t think it’s helpful to psychoanalyze people. It gets us no closer to the truth. Your comment resembles a fallacy known as the genetic fallacy, which seeks to invalidate a belief based on how that belief originated. This is fallacious because a person may come to hold all sorts of beliefs due to inadequate reasons and yet those beliefs may still be true.

      • Dexter Suban says:

        Great response matt…it’s true we have to stick to the objective truth because that can’t be argued. Though it’s VERY tempting and easy to fall into the sin of judging one’s thoughts and person. Just wondering if you had any great resources for (apart from your great blog post) regarding fallacies. Websites/books to learn and practice them. Thanks and God bless! BTW…your Man talk DVD is awesome!

      • Al says:

        Matt, I am not trying to show that atheist belief is invalid because of how their belief originated. I am saying that many atheists I know hate God and deny his existence because something bad happened in their life. I know and have had discussions with several atheists that once believed in the existence of God. So, I am speaking from experiences I have with atheists in my family,friends, and others I talk to on a regular basis. All of them, once believers in God, now have a deep hatred for God, Christians, and anything unscientific. They have told me of their life experiences with God, the church, and disappointments in life. Many have been hurt in life and are angry that the God that they believed in that did not prevent the bad things that happened to them. They have turned to science. They believe that Christians are not thinkers and are ignorant of science. I discussed your article with a few of them. They believe that you don’t understand science.

    • Anonymous says:

      Atheists don’t hate God any more than Christians hate Wotan.

      • jackson says:

        Atheists don’t hate GOD but they deny the existence of GOD because they want themselves to be lesser gods. They want GOD to follow their will. Besides they are people who give in to these material world and have given up hope on afterlife.

    • John says:

      As an atheist, I say that we don’t hate god, we just don’t think he exists. (although, I do admit I would be annoyed at him if there was SCIENTIFIC proff of him existing, because he doesn’t make food rain from the sky in 3rd world countries) though I don’t believe in Optimus prime, I don’t hate him.

      • Stefano Principe says:

        No, He doesn’t make food rain from the sky on people suffering. He just came on earth as a man, tried to tell us that He’s the only way to find happiness (biggest man’s desire), endured every kind of pain and gave His life for all the world on the cross. He has taken all that pain on Himself.
        Why? Love.

        Beyond this…if you don’t believe that God exists, don’t you think that could be a great idea to show yourself how much you care to 3rd world countries, by going to Africa?

  6. Prisca says:

    D scientist loves in a world where truth is unattainable,bt where it is always possible to find errors in the long settled.d scientific books meant to provide final answers are not scientic.what is put forward as gospel truth cannot be science.science is forever self-correcting n changing;it is also self-contradictory

  7. Neil D says:

    This link will sum up the whole argument.

    • mattfradd says:

      For those unwilling to click the hotlink, it takes you to a meme which says, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

      This does not “sum up the whole argument” for my argument was that Science can neither validate nor invalidate that which is beyond the physical world and that the view commonly known as scientism is self-referentially incoherent.

      There are other ways of ascertaining truth as was stated in the article.

      “Science” is not a synonym for “truth.” So if I may be so bold as to tweak Tyson’s quote:

      “The good thing about truth is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

      • Lori8069 says:

        Boy, what a smokin’ hot good answer–no wonder they pay you to speak!

      • Anonymous says:

        Reality is the arbiter of truth. When you disagree with reality, you are wrong. Science is the discipline of constructing questions to ask reality, and a methodology which forces it to answer. The answers from reality are called facts.

  8. Anonymous says:

    > 1. They cannot prove the laws of logic or mathematical truths. The natural sciences presuppose logic and math, but it cannot prove them.

    It’s not a presupposition. It’s a language. Logic and math are human inventions. They are descriptions we write about our ideas. Two plus two does equal four. That is what two, plus, two, equal, and four mean. We defined it that way. It isn’t a “truth about the universe.” We described it that way because when we put an object next to another object, we needed a word for how many objects there then were. To say that you think logic and mathematics are in some sense in need of proving is simply to say you personally can’t count. In which case, I pity you.

    > 2. They cannot prove metaphysical truths, like the reality of the external world is real or that the universe did not simply spring into existence five minutes ago with the appearance of age, including our memories of a past that never happened. These are rational beliefs, but they cannot be proven scientifically.

    It is never rational to believe something there is no evidence for. One of the things there is no evidence of is anything at all metaphysical. Normally to prove a negative, I’d have to search the entire universe in every way to show that the evidence never happens, but if you’re going to assert outright from the start that there can’t be any evidence for those things, you’ve saved me the trouble.

    > 3. The scientific method cannot prove or disprove statements of an ethical nature.

    And it isn’t intended to. Instead it tells you what is actually true, and you have to be a good person based on the knowledge of how your actions will influence and affect others. So if you think feeding starving children is good, science can have something to say about whether it is better to feed them $50 of candy or $50 of balanced meals, and how much of it you should provide how often.
    And maybe, just maybe, there might be some ethical statements that CAN be disproved by science, because science is beginning to be able to see directly into brains and into minds and see what actions cause people to suffer and why, and explain how to make it not happen.

    So, to answer your question,
    > Has science done away with god?
    No, science merely reports the already existing continued lack of evidence for one.

    • Brian says:

      Well thought out reply! Here are some of my thoughts on what you had to say:

      “And it isn’t intended to. Instead it tells you what is actually true, and you have to be a good person”

      Aren’t truth and morality linked? For example if I say it’s wrong to rape children, aren’t I also saying something that is true? Isn’t it absolutely true? And if it’s absolutely true, yet science can’t prove it, isn’t that something we simply have to believe without evidence? Are you telling me you don’t believe that raping children is wrong because there’s no scientific evidence of it (because, as you say, “it is never rational to believe something there is no evidence for.”) Do you believe your mother or father or significant other loves you? If so, why do you believe it? Were they able to prove the mathematically for you with a chalkboard equation? Did you add up the evidence and balance it against counter possibilities? Was it then peer reviewed? Or do you simply trust them when they tell you? If so, then you are on the fringes of participation in exactly what Christians call faith. Faith means trust in many of it’s uses and it’s completely reasonable. 99% of what you know is based on the testimony of someone else and your trust of their testimony.

      You seem to be arguing that Science (more specifically the scientific method) is the only path to knowledge of anything real but you fully admit that it can’t (and isn’t intended) to tell us anything about ethics yet you say you have to be a good person “based on knowledge”. If science cannot tell us anything about ethics and science is the only way to knowledge, then you cannot have knowledge of that which is good and, therefore, there is no such thing as ethics. Your logic seems to be: science is the only path to knowledge of anything real, science cannot prove anything ethical, therefor ethics do not exist. But you deny that conclusion by acknowledging that ethics do exist by the admonition that we must be good. That seems pretty inconsistent. Your last statement seems to make the exact same error. If science cannot prove that morality exists, then it must not… but you don’t seem to adopt that conclusion. Why then do you do it with God? Matt’s point is that there are elements that compose our reality such as ethics and metaphysics (the latter which you deny and, in so doing, depart company with all the great thinkers of human history) but most of us still accept their existence without scientific proof. Why then do we object to the claim that the supernatural exists without the same kind of proof. That’s a glaring inconsistency and apparent dishonesty.

    • mattfradd says:

      Thank you for your thought out response.

      1. Logic cannot be verified empirically. Rather, science presupposes logic. You failed to address that. Without the laws of logic you can not do scientific reasoning, or any other reasoning.

      Regarding mathematical truths, you are correct in pointing out that the particular language we use to express mathematics is something which we have produced. The laws of mathematics (as well as the laws of logic,) however, are real and express truths about the world regardless of whether we perceive them, or have learnt how to articulate them, or not.

      The question then is how do we learn about these laws. In some cases, such as basic arithmetic, a child may use his senses to figure these things out, but once you get beyond basic arithmetic and are looking at higher levels of mathematics, mathematicians are using a fundamentally different method. They are using a deductive method that is not based on empirical observation, prediction and experiment.

      2. Here, it seems, you are guilty of the style over substance fallacy, that is, you got so hung up on the term metaphysics that you failed to respond to the substance of the argument. Do you believe that the past is real? Do you believe in the external world? Do you believe that there are minds other than your own? I assume that you do, and yet these claims cannot be verified by the scientific method. So, are we rational to hold such beliefs even though they cannot be scientifically proven? I think the answer is obviously yes!

      3. Science does not tell you what is actually true, rather it gives you reason to think that certain propositions may be actually true. Science uses inductive reasoning and is open to revision. Secondly, science only deals with certain truths and not all truths, such as mathematical truths, the truths of logic metaphysical truths ethical truths etc.

      You then say that science “isn’t intended[ing] to” prove or disprove statements of an ethical nature. Wait a minute -that was my point! Not only that but it cannot! You cannot get an “ought” from an “is.” And yet that is the very thing you attempt to do when you write:

      “…you have to be a good person based on the knowledge of how your actions will influence and affect others.”

      Where did you pull the words “have to” from? Says who? Science can tell you what is, but it cannot tell what you ought to be or what one ought to do.

      Finally and most devastatingly, you are exhibiting a belief commonly known as scientism (mentioned in my post)- the belief that we should not accept as true that which cannot be scientifically verified. This belief is self-referentially incoherent, that is, if you apply the standard to itself it fails! You cannot scientifically verify that you should only accept as true that which can be scientifically verified.

      Very much looking forward to your reply. Though some of your logic is off, it’s refreshing to have a substantial discussion that – apart from the, “you personally can’t count” slur – is not condescending or emotionally (in the negative sense) driven. Well done.

    • “It is never rational to believe something there is no evidence for. One of the things there is no evidence of is anything at all metaphysical. Normally to prove a negative, I’d have to search the entire universe in every way to show that the evidence never happens, but if you’re going to assert outright from the start that there can’t be any evidence for those things, you’ve saved me the trouble.”

      Anonymous, if it is never rational to believe something without evidence (and, I assume, you only accept quantifiable scientific evidence), then you must reject any non-physical thing. Your mind, then, is simply the interaction of chemicals. It’s electric impulses in your brain. If that’s so, why trust it? It could be faulty, and you couldn’t know that it isn’t because your mind is the measuring instrument and the subject of measurement. Love, then, is also simply a chemical release in your body in response to visual or chemical stimulation. Instead of “I love you”, which relies on an unproven metaphyslcal idea, let’s be scientifically accurate and say “you give me pleasure” or “you’re economically advantageous”.

    • Stefano Principe says:

      You just confirmed everything Matt said.

      1. “Logic and math are human inventions”. Yeah, that’s what we say. They can’t be scientifically proved. This is the definition of science. You base science on things that can’t be proven.

      2. “It is never rational to believe something there is no evidence for”. But how do you say that’s not rational? Science doesn’t tells you what’s rational and what’s not. I think you’d need a rational-meter!
      Is it rational to think that everybody has his own mind or that my mind is the only one and i’m dreaming everything? Both are rational, but none can be proved by science. If you don’t admit this, you’re just denying years of philosphy.

      3. “So if you think feeding starving children is good…”. That’s the point. How science can make you understand that feeding starving children is good? Easy. It can’t.

  9. Al says:

    Few scholars have questioned the existence of Jesus as an actual historical figure. Most scholars involved with historical Jesus research believe his existence. The large majority of modern historians agree that Jesus existed and regard events such as his baptism and his crucifixion as historical. In antiquity, the existence of Jesus was never denied by those who opposed Christianity.

  10. Mark says:

    Science asks ‘how?’and explores causes, and religion asks ‘why?’ and explores meaning. In my view, science and religion are two windows looking out on the same reality in a complementary, not contradictory way.

    I think this debate once again highlights the differences between the two disciplines, and I wonder what is the best model for science and religion to relate to each other. What is being played out here is the ‘conflict’ model. Does it have to be like this? Science and religion do have some things in common, and indeed there can be constructive dialogue between the two disciplines. There have been many great scientists with strong faith. Einstein was able to balance his science and his faith.

    Both disciplines rely on a degree of faith in the exercise of that discipline. In my Catholic faith, I believe in the invisible reality of Transubstantiation; scientists have faith in the unseen reality of electrons, protons and neutrons. Einstein’s ability to balance his science with his faith was cited in the forum as an example of Integration.

    Each side can inform each other, and in theory can respect each others boundaries. I think the key word here is respect, and unfortunately I do not see that in many of the atheists’ comments in the public arena.

  11. Diego says:

    Could someone sum this whole blog up for me I don’t want opinions just the summary in simplified words as I am only 16 and very bad at English thank you 🙂

  12. Al says:

    @Diego, Summary – Has science done away with God? Science can not answer every question. For example, science can’t prove something is good or bad. Therefore, science can’t prove God does not exist. Science has not done away with God.

  13. Joseph says:

    “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.” Bl. Pope John Paul II

    • Baldeagle says:

      Science investigates what God has created. Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God. Theology is the study of God.

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