Reasons to Believe

Multiverse Musings - A Matter of Faith?

 Just before Thanksgiving last year, a New York Times article by Paul Davies said:

…”science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed.”

Davies added:

“Clearly, then, both religion and science are founded on faith — namely, on belief in the existence of something outside the universe, like an unexplained God or an unexplained set of physical laws, maybe even a huge ensemble of unseen universes, too. For that reason, both monotheistic religion and orthodox science fail to provide a complete account of physical existence.”

As you might expect, the article prompted a considerable response from various scientists. More recently, a response (search for "Davies" inside newsletter PDF) in the spring 2008 Forum on the History of Physics newsletter caught my attention. The author boils Davies’ argument down to this proposition: “All human knowledge is uncertain and incomplete.” He then advances three caveats against Davies’ proposition and in favor of trusting scientific beliefs.

  1. Not all uncertainty is created equal; there are degrees of certainty, depending on the strength of reasonable ground for our beliefs.
  2. Science has widely accepted strategies for producing and evaluating evidence that provides firm grounds for scientific beliefs.
  3. Science works; it produces reliable knowledge with demonstrable effects.

I distinctly remember a lunchtime conversation at a local Subway where Ken Samples was articulating the Argument from Reason (AfR). As I understood Ken’s explanation, the AfR contends that naturalistic philosophies cannot account for the rational inferences which provide the backbone of scientific inquiry. Blind naturalistic mechanisms, like those typically invoked in the theory of evolution, provide no basis for human beings to trust the thought processes operating in our brains. In contrast, Christianity does provide a basis for rational thought by virtue of humanity being made in God’s image. In other words, humanity’s capability for rational thought flows from God’s rationality.

I responded to Ken, “So what, science works.” Like most philosophically challenged scientists, I did not appreciate the weight of the AfR. As I have pondered the argument more and discussed it further with Ken, I better understand its import (although I still have trouble articulating the argument in a way others understand).

Davies grapples with the elements of science that derive from a Christian worldview. We believe the world to be governed by a reliable, rational set of physical laws. Further, we believe humanity possesses the necessary mental capacities to discover and understand those laws. Naturalists have yet to provide a compelling, or even adequate, explanation for these beliefs.

On the other hand, the Christian worldview firmly grounds the characteristics necessary to the scientific enterprise in an uncaused Creator who endowed us with the ability to understand His creation.

Subjects: Argument from Reason, Philosophy of Science

Dr. Jeff Zweerink

While many Christians and non-Christians see faith and science as in perpetual conflict, I find they integrate well. They operate by the same principles and are committed to discovering foundational truths. Read more about Dr. Jeff Zweerink.