The limits of science as evidence for Christianity

In the previous post of this series, we finished looking at the trends in sciences.

Thus far, we've seen that Christianity explains science, by explaining its starting points, and its progression. Thus science is evidence for Christianity.

If that was the extent of its explanatory powers, then Christianity would only be a very useful philosophical presupposition. But Christianity claims more for itself: it says that we live and move and have our being in God, and that this same God became incarnate and lives fully in Jesus Christ. If this is true - if Jesus is really the transcendent one who is the source of existence itself - then Christianity should explain not only science, but some part of everything. God would have something to say about everything, and everything would have something to say about God. In particular, Christianity should be able to explain some things that science cannot.

Some may object to the above statement; they may say that science can indeed explain everything. I suspect that they're redefining "science" to suit their needs. My working definition of "science" is the natural sciences as described by Wikipedia. The important idea is that science is a human activity and a limited tool, which makes statements about the natural world through what can be inferred from empirical observations.

In this context it's very clear that science has limits. It will never know, for example, how many molecules of water were in Socrates' drink of hemlock; the appropriate measurement was simply never made. This is generally true of historical events which are not repeatable experiments. However, these are not the interesting limits - I will make a much stronger claim on the limits of science, and say:

Even if we humans had all possible measurement data about all physical entities (atoms, quarks, fields, neurons, the human population, the universe as a whole, etc), and regardless of any possible future advances in our understanding of physical reality, there will be questions on non-physical subjects that the natural sciences cannot answer.

Note that I specify "physical entities" and "physical reality". These must of necessity be constrained by our current understanding of the word "physical". I am not covering a possible future where we make a "scientific discovery" about a new type of entity called "virtue", which has a property called "honesty", which we then classify as "physical". Such a thing would rightly fall under the purview of philosophy in our current understanding, not science.

Note also that I specify "natural science". I am restricting science to speak on scientific things, while not denying that non-scientific inferences can be made from scientific facts - after all, this entire series of posts on science as evidence for Christianity is an inference from science to non-science. However, such inferences would again fall under philosophy, not science.

What, then, are these things that even this possible future super-science cannot explain? In general, science cannot speak to things above or below it on the hierarchy of fields of study: Among them are questions such as:
Why are the laws of nature mathematical? 
Why are the laws of nature those specific mathematical entities and not others? For example, why are charges governed by a field defined over space which are solutions to second-order differential equations? 
What are the rules of logic, and why does the universe follow these rules? 
Could I be a brain in a vat, or an organic component in the Matrix, or the unknowing reality TV star of the Truman Show? 
Is there something more to the universe that we have not yet discovered?
Is there any meaning to my existence as an individual, or the universe's existence as a whole? 
Does God exist? 
What is morality? Why should I do what is right?
Many of these questions can be answered quite easily in Christianity. Yes, God exists. The universe is a logical place because logic itself is an aspect of God's nature and the universe reflects it as his creation. Because God created the universe to be understood by us, we have assurance that we are not fundamentally deceived about its nature, as a brain in a vat may be. Morality is also an aspect of God's nature and we should follow it because we were created to be like God. All of this agrees with our experiences and flows easily from our foundational belief in God, who is revealed in Jesus Christ.

Morality, in particular, merits some additional attention. The physical sciences and its theories describe the way things are. Therefore, they cannot describe the way things ought to be. If the physical theories predict that the firing of a certain group of neurons in my brain WILL cause me to squeeze my finger, which WILL exert enough force to pull the trigger of a gun, which WILL start a explosive reaction in the bullet, which WILL exit the gun with enough velocity to kill an innocent person - well, then, that's the way things will be. That is all that science says. The ability to make that prediction, to the exclusion of other outcomes, is the very strength of science. But morality says that those neurons OUGHT not to have fired. That I OUGHT not have pulled the trigger. That (although it is inevitable at this point in the chain of events) the bullet OUGHT not have exited the gun and killed an innocent person. These are two mutually exclusive versions of reality, and therefore cannot be described by one physical theory.

This is an unbridgeable gap if you remain purely in the realm of nature. But Christianity easily handles it: the "ought" facts are derived from our supernatural God, who IS the one we ought to be like, whereas the "way things are" of the physical sciences only still describe the physical world. Why are the two different? Why is the physical world not as it ought to be? That is part of the problem of evil, an oft-discussed theological issue which is tied intricately to the central message of Christianity. Because it is part of the central message, it is both difficult to explain fully, and also fully solved (that is, in Christ). I hope to eventually write about the problem in a future post. For now, in relation to science, I will merely say that God allowed us to understand morality separately from the physical state of matter, because he created us to be more than just components in nature. He created us to be like himself, having a supernatural, spiritual reality which can stand independently from the physical realm.

Some may still object to all this, especially to the idea that morality exists apart from the physical universe. Metaphysical naturalism asserts that all the higher order entities, such as morality or consciousness, supervene upon the physical and therefore can be explained by science. This is then supposed to somehow eliminate the need for God. But this is taking this far beyond even the futuristic super-science that I postulated earlier. It not only asserts that scientific discoveries will inform us more about things like consciousness or morality (which is inevitable, and is actually evidence for Christianity as part of the long-term trends in science), but goes on to assert that the specific discoveries will somehow support a specific philosophical position (atheism) that is totally unrelated to science. Furthermore, it asserts that these future discoveries will belong to an unprecedented new category never before seen in science: discoveries about abstract, non-physical entities which are properly the domains of other fields, which simultaneously negates these other fields. It is at this point that I begin to suspect that "science" has been redefined to be something meaningless, something akin to simply "everything".

Now, I believe that in some sense, everything is indeed physics. But I would also add that there are many things that are "everything". Everything is math, because the laws of physics are mathematical. Everything is philosophy, because physics and the rest of science has philosophical underpinnings. Everything is theology, because what you believe about God determines your philosophy. In the other direction, everything is biology, because all the information I have about the world comes to me through sensory experience. Everything is neurology, because everything I experience ultimately takes place in my brain. Everything is psychology, because I experience my brain as my mind. Everything is sociology, because all these academic disciplines are products of human society. Everything is history, because in the biggest sense, history is everything that happens. And everything is theology, because everything that happens does so through the will and purpose of God. Some of the above are scientific disciplines, and some of them are not. To state that all this collapses down to "science" does violence to the actual meaning of the word, as that very statement lies beyond scientific inquiry and in the realm of philosophy. You may say that the universe is only physics, but it could also be said that the universe is only that which is necessary to bring about my mental state. The "only physics" view is also ridiculously impractical. What will you do, calculate the wavefunction of your brain to decide whether you want paper or plastic?

To prevent such abuses of "science", it is instructive to consider science as we understand it today, rather than the futuristic super-science that I postulated earlier or the "science" of metaphysical naturalism. And in this restricted but practical sense, it's clear that science does not provide all the answers. Science, as we understand it now, cannot tell us which course of action would be morally right or wrong. Science cannot tell us about the nature of beauty. Science cannot verify non-repeatable historical events. Science can and does inform us about some aspects of all these things, but at the end of the day their proper decision lies outside the jurisdiction of science.

Lastly, science, as currently understood, does not explain consciousness. Again, there are certainly many ways that science informs us about certain aspects of consciousness, but at the heart of it the hard problem of consciousness remains intractable. This is probably the most important problem that's currently beyond science, as it's likely to be intrinsically linked with all other such problems. This is yet another issue that I hope to address in a future post.

Of course, I do not have a full answer from Christianity on the problem of consciousness, or some of the other related issues. However, Christianity does tell us what to do in the face of such circumstances that would paralyze us into inaction if we only had science to guide us. It tells us to keep seeking, because the universe was made for us to understand. Meanwhile, it tells us to love one another, and to appreciate beauty. It informs us that God acts through history. Such guidelines are not full explanations, but they do work reasonably well with reality, and therefore with whatever the full explanation might eventually turn out to be.

So when you compare Christianity to any alternate worldview which claim that science alone is the answer, we see that Christianity is superior. For Christianity explains many things that science cannot ever hope to, and provides sensible guidelines even when a full explanation is currently lacking from both science and Christianity. In addition all this, Christianity explains science itself. Therefore, the issues surrounding the limits of science is very strong evidence for Christianity, and against any "science only" worldview.

In my next post of this series, I will discuss the predictions that Christianity makes about the future of science.


You may next want to read:
Christian predictions on the future of science (part 1) (Next post of this series)
How is God related to all other fields of study?
How physics fits within Christianity (part 2)
Another post, from the table of contents

The trends in science as evidence for Christianity against atheism (part 2)

This is a continuation from the previous post of this series, where I consider the trends in scientific discoveries as evidence and show that they support Christianity over atheism. It is a part of a series of posts where I show that all of science, taken as a whole, supports Christianity over atheism.

The question under discussion is "Why should it be that the world is so awesome?" Using science, we humans have studied the universe and and perpetually found it to be magnificent beyond our wildest expectations. Why should that be? Which worldview - Christianity or atheism - best explains this and other similar long-term trends in science?

Consider the depth of science; every scientific advancement has lead to further discoveries in unexpected directions, requiring new creative thoughts. The universe turns out to be not just bigger than anything we've ever imagined, but also deeper. In physics, at the beginning of the 20th century, it was thought that everything was basically figured out and that future advancements could only come from increasing the precision of our measurements - and then we discovered relativity and quantum mechanics. In science as a whole, we have entire new fields that were unimaginable a few centuries ago, such as molecular genetics, psychology, or computer science.

Now, why should understanding the universe require such depth of thought? Atheism, as usual, provides no answer. Christianity, on the other hand, says that the universe was constructed by God's wisdom, knowledge, and understanding - so it is only expected that the universe reflect the depth of God's thoughts. Therefore, every continuation of this trend - every new advancement, every new field of science that opens up, every discovery that shows the universe to be deeper and more intricate than we previously understood - is evidence for Christianity and against atheism.

The depth of science is all the more surprising given that the foundations of nature - the laws of physics - are actually simple. We do not generally expect complex results from simple laws, and yet here we are in a complex universe made from simple laws. Every time we've delved deeper into physics, we've found that nature is governed by a few simple, elegant laws which explains many phenomena. At the frontier of physics is the push to discover even simpler, more elegant laws, culminating in a "theory of everything". This trend towards more succinct, more unified laws of physics is so strong that we believe that this "theory of everything" MUST exist - that, for example, quantum mechanics and general relativity must be expressible in a single, coherent, underlying system. This theory would presumably be built on some immensely complex mathematical structure, but it would be a simple statement in that mathematical structure.

Again, why should this be? Atheism offers no explanation. But Christianity expects this result, because the elegance in the laws of nature are just a reflection of the elegance in God's perfection. God is infinitely simple, and therefore appears as infinitely complex to finite minds - this is a Thomistic idea that I've mentioned before. God's perfection has the same kind of elegance - that same melding of infinity and simplicity - that is found in the laws of nature. Well before modern physics started to unify the variety of physical laws it had discovered, Christianity stated that the Creator of these laws had this property of infinite simplicity. So Christianity expects the universe to reflect this aspect of its Creator, and anticipates this trend towards greater simplicity and elegance in discovering more fundamental physical laws. Therefore, all the discoveries that make up this trend - from Newton's Laws explaining Kepler's Laws, to the Standard Model explaining certain fundamental forces - are evidence for Christianity and against atheism.

At this point atheists may offer arguments about how they, too, could predict the same trends in science. They may cite the principle of parsimony or some reductionist or positivist philosophical principle or some form of empiricism - it doesn't matter. The important point is that they are not citing atheism itself as the principle by which they predict things. It may be that some of those principles can make accurate predictions, but that would be evidence for those principles, not for atheism. Atheism would then be a tacked-on, parasitic postulate attached to the principle that's actually doing the predicting. So it must be cut off and considered on its own. Then we would see that atheism by itself is a statement about the non-existence of certain entities with no explanatory power, because nothing can come from nothing.

Let's go back to considering the trends in science: One amazing trend is just how much we humans have achieved by doing science. We are capable of some amazing scientific and technological feats. We have been to an astronomical body. We can transmute lead into gold. We can read the molecular blueprints for life itself. We have knowledge at our fingertips that characters like Faust is said to have sold his soul for. We are gods.

Which world view better explains all that? Atheism is silent on our powers as humans. As far as atheism is concerned, humans may run into a wall in our pursuit of knowledge, simply because we're too dumb. Or we may merely be components of an experiment conducted by hyper-intelligent mice, who are the real rulers of the planet. Or we may live in a Lovecraftian universe where scientific advancements would only make us go mad from the revelation. Atheism makes no distinction between these or any other answers to the question of what humans can learn and do. Why should a particular species of hominids be so lucky as to achieve all that we have? What are the chances of that?

On the other hand, Christianity says that we humans are made in the image of God. That the universe itself was made to be understood so that we can see God's glory. That we are to fill the earth, subdue it, and rule over it. That we are gods. From this perspective, it was inevitable that we humans learn of the secrets of the universe, advance in our knowledge and power, and master our environment. Therefore, every new technological achievement, and every degree of control we gain over our environment, is evidence for Christianity and against atheism.

To summarize: There are many large-scale, long-term trends in science. These include: our ever-increasing understanding of the tremendous size of the universe; our continually deepening understanding of the complexities and intricacies of our world; the march towards simpler and more elegant formulations of the fundamental laws of nature, and humanity's perpetually growing power in understanding and manipulating our environment. Christianity predicts all of these things, while atheism predicts none of them. Therefore these trends in science counts as very strong evidence for Christianity, and against atheism.

In the next post of this series, I will consider the limits of science, and show that not only does Christianity explain science, it explains other things that science cannot.


You may next want to read:
The limits of science as evidence for Christianity (Next post of this series)
The Gospel: the central message of Christianity (part 1)
How physics fits within Christianity (part 2)
Another post, from the table of contents

The trends in science as evidence for Christianity against atheism (part 1)

The previous post in this series looked at some possible objections raised thus far.

But in an earlier post, I said that science, taken as a whole, serves as evidence for Christianity over atheism. In this and the next post, I will focus specifically on the trends in scientific discoveries and show that they support Christianity over atheism.

"Science is totally a boring waste of time" said no scientist ever. When we look around, we find that the world is just awesome. Starting with the divinely provided axioms of science, we humans have studied the universe and perpetually found it to be magnificent beyond our wildest expectations.

Now, why should that be? What worldview best accounts for that observation, and other similar trends and patterns in science? Which worldview - Christianity or atheism - can better explain these large-scale, long-term trends in scientific discoveries?

Consider the vastness of the universe. In the course of the history of science our conception of the universe has continually grown. It was first conceived as our the solar system plus some additional layers ("sphere of the fixed stars" and the "Primum Mobile"); then it was conceived as our Milky Way Galaxy (see the Shapley-Curtis debates); then the "spiral nebulae" in question were acknowledged as "island universes" - galaxies in their own right; and our current understanding is that the observable universe is some 90 billion light years across, with who knows how many myriads of equivalent volumes beyond the observable edge.

Now an atheistic worldview is equally compatible with any of the above stopping points for the size of the universe. You could be an atheist and be equally comfortable with the idea of a solar-system sized universe, a galaxy sized universe, or a 90-billion-light-year universe. None of these different sizes would cause increased doubt for atheism. This is because the atheism has absolutely no predictive or explanatory power - it has nothing to say on how large the universe should be. It cannot explain why we humans have been continually overawed by the size of the universe as we discovered more of it. It is "equally compatible" and "equally comfortable" with a universe of any size, which is another way of saying it utterly fails to predict what the size of the universe should be.

Now consider Christianity, which states that the universe was created to glorify God by displaying his character, so that we may learn more about him by looking at the universe. In that case, a solar-system sized universe is woefully inadequate; if the universe was really only just the size of the solar system, the voyager spacecraft would have crashed into its outer edge by now, and humans can reasonably be expected to overrun that volume of space in another few millennia. It would have been an embarrassment to Christianity if the universe were only as large as the solar system - such a universe would be far too small to contain or express the glory of God.

In fact if the universe is truly to reflect God and his glory and attributes, it must be inconceivably larger than any distance that humans can possibly experience, and it would only get drastically larger in our understanding as we discovered more of it, as if God were saying, "Did you really think that was all there was to it?" This is the most likely prediction, if Christianity is true.

We now take the two systems - atheism and Christianity - and compare their predictions with reality. What is the actual scientific trend in discovering the nature and size of the universe? We see that the most likely prediction from Christianity is, in fact, exactly the actual scientific trend, whereas atheism doesn't even make a prediction. According to the definition of evidence, we therefore judge that this counts as strong evidence for Christianity.

Remember, this is a long-term trend in science we're discussing here, not a single scientific discovery. A single discovery is generally not "big" enough to distinguish between Christianity and atheism, just as a single driveway is not big enough to distinguish between a round and a flat earth. But a long-term, large-scale trend characterizes science as a whole, and therefore can serve as evidence between Christianity and atheism.

I mention this because atheists love to point out how often Christians are wrong on specific scientific discoveries. They would consider that a "trend in science". So, in the course of humans discovering the vastness of the universe, while Copernicus (who was a Christian), Kepler (also a Christian), Galileo (ditto), and Newton (same) were constructing the heliocentric model of the solar system, atheists will point out that on this specific discovery, some Christians were on the wrong side of the issue in holding to the geocentric model. But the ones who proposed and accepted the heliocentric model were also Christians. So, when Christians are doing science with other Christians, and one group of Christians turns out to have been right and the other group of Christians turns out to have been wrong, this somehow works as evidence for atheism, which wasn't even involved in the discussion?

More importantly, atheists who argue along the "Christians were wrong on geocentrism" line of thought do not understand that being wrong is how science works: false hypothesis are disproven by experiment and rejected, while the unfalsified hypothesis are considered further. Christianity gave birth to science by providing for its axioms, and Christians have been doing science ever since. Therefore on nearly every discovery that came thereafter, you'll find Christians who were right and Christians who were wrong - because that's how science works. Contrast that with atheism, which has no relationship with science, no continuous history, and no scientific heritage, and therefore can point to neither a history of being right nor a history of being wrong.

This is why a group of people being wrong on individual scientific issues is too "small" to distinguish between Christianity or atheism. You must consider science as a whole, and look at the long-term, large-scale trends. It's true that there are some individual scientific discoveries which can meaningfully distinguish between Christianity and atheism (for example: the universe had a beginning), but they are rare. The fact that some Christians were wrong on some issues is no more evidence against Christianity than the fact that some atheists were wrong on cold fusion is evidence against atheism; both are simply what you'd expect from people doing science.

If atheists want to claim superiority over Christians who were wrong on specific points in the course of doing science (because that's how science works), then they must demonstrate that superiority by being right on those points WITHOUT doing science - a futile endeavor. Alternatively, they could examine whether science, as a whole, serves as evidence for Christianity or atheism - which is exactly what we're doing now.

Many atheists clumsily graft their atheism on to the starting assumptions of science, then confuse those two disparate things and make erroneous statements like "Christians are wrong about science" and "science, therefore atheism!" These are such pervasive errors in our time that I needed to take that large detour in the previous paragraphs to specifically counter them. Now we can get back to the remaining trends in science - which I'll continue examining in the next post of this series.


You may next want to read:
The trends in science as evidence for Christianity against atheism (part 2) (Next post of this series)
How is God related to all other fields of study?
How physics fits within Christianity (part 1)
Another post, from the table of contents

Answering objections: science as evidence for Christianity against atheism

In the previous post of this series, I said that Christianity can explain the two axioms of science starting from the attributes of God, whereas atheism, by starting from nothing, can explain nothing. Therefore the axioms of science counts as very strong evidence for Christianity.

Basically, the atheistic explanation is:
Step 1: There are no spirits or gods. (Atheism)
Step 2: ????
Step 3: Therefore the universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner (Axiom 1), and humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates (Axiom 2).

Whereas the Christian explanation is:
Step 1: There is a God, who is revealed in Jesus Christ. (Christianity)
Step 2: God created the universe to reflect his faithfulness, logic, wisdom, understanding, and goodness, so that we may look upon the universe and learn more about him.
Step 3: Therefore the universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner (Axiom 1), and humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates (Axiom 2).

In the rest of this post I'm going to address some common objections and counterarguments.



Now the problem for atheism comes from the fact that it lacks any explanatory power. So one may attempt to save atheism by adding on philosophical postulates on top of it which would allow it to predict the axioms of science. The easiest way to do this is to simply start with the desired conclusion, by modifying the atheistic explanation to read:

Step 1: There are no spirits or gods (Atheism). And the universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner (Axiom 1), and humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates (Axiom 2).
Step 2: See first step.
Step 3: Therefore the universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner (Axiom 1), and humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates (Axiom 2).

In fact this is precisely what metaphysical naturalism (aka scientific materialism, or scientism) does. You may think that I'm making a caricature here, but I'm not. Seriously, go read that linked Wikipedia article on metaphysical naturalism, and look at the definition. It's literally just a logical conjunction of the ideas of science and "there is nothing else".

But if we're trying to do science, and we're willing to accept this modification, why not simply abandon atheism as a postulate? It is certainly no part of science, which does not rely on it and can operate without it. Occam's razor demands that we cut atheism out. Why add on a superfluous postulate which contributes nothing?

I'm going to make this point again, because it's important: adding atheism as an axiom does absolutely nothing for science. It does not allow science to accept or reject any new hypothesis. Science functions exactly the same way as it did before. Atheism is therefore an entirely superfluous axiom, and Occam's razor demands that we cut it off from our list of axioms.

Doesn't the same apply to Christianity? Wouldn't Christianity also be a superfluous axiom if added to the axioms of science? Yes, absolutely. That's why the axioms of science are called that; because they're all that you need in order to start doing science. This is why both Christian and atheists can be scientists. It's also why the axioms of science should be treated as evidence regarding Christianity and atheism, rather than trying to add Christianity or atheism as an axiom of science.

Therefore simply attaching atheism to science as an axiom (as in scientism or metaphysical naturalism) fails. After applying Occam's razor, we're left with only the two original axioms of science, with no initial commitment to either Christianity or atheism. It is at this point that we must ask, "can these axioms themselves be explained? Can they themselves serve as evidence for a deeper truth?" That is precisely the question that we've answered in the previous post, and the evidence falls firmly on the side of Christianity.



Next, an atheist may say, "If the Christian God exists, then he can perform miracles, which are violations of the laws of nature. In that case the universe would not be consistent or uniform. Therefore Christianity predicts the violation of one of the axioms of science".

My answer is that this is a terrible definition of "miracle". My own definition, (which the atheist is obligated to use, as we are speaking about my own belief system) is that miracles are NOT defined as violations of the laws of nature, and that is NOT how God performs miracles. God almost certainly works within the laws of nature, as he created them to reflect his character and declared these laws to be good. But does this not still allow for the possibility that God could, in principle, violate the laws of nature and therefore violate the consistency and uniformity of nature? Well, even if God does violate the laws of nature, he would do so very rarely, in very subtle ways, for the reasons I just gave. Then his actions would be below the threshold of experimental verification, and therefore go undetected by scientists. Science would then operate under the assumption that "the universe operates in an almost perfectly consistent, uniform manner" as one of its axioms, which would be functionally identical to the science we have now. Basically, I'm saying that even if the earth is round, an experimentally undetectable, imperceptibly small curvature of the round earth means that you can still have a functionally flat driveway. In order to contradict me, the atheist would have to say that in order to have a functionally flat driveway, the earth must be flat.

However, it's true that any system that regularly produces violations of the laws of nature would be ruled out by considering the axioms of science. This rules out various forms of animism and paganism. It also rules out the parody versions of God, where he is viewed as a magic genie who must work against the laws of nature (when in reality God is actually the Creator who made those laws). All this only strengthens the Christian position, by eliminating rival positions.



An atheist may then say, "Your conception of the Christian God is too complex. His complexity means that you could have simply tailor-made your God by choosing his attributes so that he fits with the axioms of science. An explanation should not be more complicated than the thing it explains. In Bayesian terms, the complexity of your God reduces his prior probability down to almost zero, so that even after successfully explaining the axioms of science, the probability of God existing is still almost zero".

First, I'd like to get some minor issues out of the way: On the issue of tailor-making God, historically this simply isn't how it happened. The doctrines about God and his revelation in nature came before science was discovered, and these preexisting doctrines were found to be in agreement with the axioms of science. Consider how many different ways Christianity could have gotten this wrong: before the discovery of science, Christianity might have said that nature is so corrupted that it is dangerous to study science. It may have said that God is so far above humans that it would be useless to try to understand his creation. It may have said that (as certain heresies have said) the Devil created the universe, and therefore science should or could not be attempted. Yet Christianity avoided these errors and came to the correct doctrine which enables science, before science was discovered. The doctrines concerning God and his revelation in nature came first, then science came second. When science arrived, it validated the preexisting doctrines, thereby serving as evidence for those doctrines and for Christianity as a whole.

On the issue of Bayesian prior probabilities, it is well known that assigning objective priors are basically impossible without the having all the relevant background information for the person and the issue in question. This is why Bayesian probabilities are often interpreted as personal, subjective probabilities, and it's also why I chose to focus on the evidence (Bayesian likelihood ratio) rather than the priors. I'm simply assuming that anyone who chooses to spend their time reading my posts has a prior probability for Christianity of, say, greater than one in a million as a result of whatever background information they would personally have.

On the issue of low-probability priors for complex explanations: this is not an issue, if the evidence is strong enough. Nobody in the ancient era would have believed that everyday materials you touch and feel were made of specific combinations of atoms, which themselves are quantum mechanical arrangements of electrons and nuclei. They would have had a very small prior probability for that specific position, because they would have thought it too complex. But we are now advanced enough in our sciences that there is ample evidence for that position, so we accept it as being true. We have already seen that the axioms of science counts as very strong evidence for Christianity. By the time that we're done with this series, we will see that there is ample evidence for Christianity, enough to overcome its supposedly low prior probability. Of course, we cannot make firm statements about this without getting quantitative, and there is nothing to be done for the person whose prior probability for God is zero.

But most importantly, there is something that trumps all the issues mentioned above: the idea of divine simplicity. The Christian God is not complex. He is simple, without parts, with no "free parameters" to adjust, and with no contingency upon any other thing. As Thomas Aquinas explains, God is infinitely simple, therefore he appears infinitely complex to finite minds.

If that last sentence from Aquinas seems like just fancy words, consider that this kind of divine simplicity is exactly the same kind that's remarkably paralleled in math and science. Consider a fractal: it is infinitely complex to someone who regards it as a set of pixels on a plane, but simple to those who know the formula and the procedure for generating it. Consider also the laws of physics: as I said before, they are complicated to the uninitiated, but elegant and simple once you get past the infinite number of infinities upon which they are mathematically built. This is exactly what you'd expect if mathematics and physics were made by God as a reflection of his own infinite simplicity, serving as yet additional evidence for God and his simplicity.

To further see how God is simple, consider my own fundamental postulate, which is just one line. Consider also the answer to question four of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which merely reads, "God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth". Yes, it's true that English sentence lengths don't translate directly to simplicity, but at the core of these descriptions of God is a simple idea which nevertheless accounts for all that God does.

There is more I have to say about God's infinite simplicity, which I hope to get to eventually in a future post.



Lastly, one may ask "Why the Christian God, as opposed to the God of some other religion?" This is a good point, and one that I will admittedly not address fully in this series on science as evidence. Science is limited; there are things that it cannot tell us upon considering it as evidence. This series can only narrow down the possibility for God to be one who has the following characteristics: he is transcendent (beyond science and nature, so as to be able to control them), infinitely simple (which means he's a monotheistic God), and a caring creator (who made the universe to reveal himself to us). This is still very significant - by considering science, we'll have pretty much eliminated atheism, and narrowed down our possibilities among the many gods to essentially the Abrahamic God.

That, then, is the limits of science considered as evidence. Again, that is exactly what you'd expect if Christianity is true - science is valuable, but limited in what it can tell us about the universe and about God. It got us this far, but we'll need a different kind of evidence to go further. In order to know what God is really like, in order to distinguish between the Abrahamic religions, we must go to the kind of evidence that can make that distinction. We must go to Christ himself, who can tell us beyond what a creature can tell about a creator, and hear what God has to say for himself: for Christ is God himself incarnate as a human being.

In the next post of this series, I will continue the series and consider the trends in science as evidence between atheism and Christianity.


You may next want to read:
The trends in science as evidence for Christianity against atheism (part 1) (Next post of this series)
Miracles: their definition, properties, and purpose
How physics fits within Christianity (part 1)
Another post, from the table of contents

The axioms of science as evidence for Christianity against atheism

In the previous post of this series, I said that science, taken as a whole at the fundamental level, serves as evidence for Christianity over atheism. I will elaborate on that in this post, looking at the very axioms of science as the evidence.

Do your remember your high school geometry class? In geometry (and in mathematics in general), you start by making certain statements which are simply accepted without proof. They are called axioms, or postulates. This is necessary because you have to start somewhere; you can't get get anywhere by starting with nothing.

Science also has axioms - unproven assumptions about the universe which serve as the starting point of science. This is expected since science is based on mathematics. Making these assumptions are what allows us to do science - otherwise, nothing can come from nothing.

There isn't a single canonical list of such assumptions, as they are generally used only implicitly by scientists. Nevertheless you can search for various enumerations of these assumptions that others have written, and get a general sense of what these assumptions are. For my purpose here, I will condense these lists to just two axioms which I believe captures the essence of these assumptions.

Axiom 1: The universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner.
Axiom 2: Humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates.

Now, let's consider how these axioms can serve as evidence for atheism or Christianity. According to our definition of evidence, we must first evaluate how likely we are to predict these axioms by starting from either atheism or Christianity. That is to say, we're looking for the better explanation for the axioms of science, while asking "why are the assumptions of science the way they are?"

Let's start with atheism. Now, since atheism is fundamentally a statement about the nonexistence of entities (God, gods, spirits, etc), it lacks explanatory power; for nothing comes from nothing, and nothing cannot serve as an explanation for anything. You can't get anywhere by starting with nothing. Basically, we want to fill in the "????" in the explanation below:

Step 1: There are no spirits or gods. (Atheism)
Step 2: ????
Step 3: Therefore the universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner (Axiom 1), and humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates (Axiom 2).

But we find that we cannot fill out that second step. There cannot be any reasoning derived from atheism, because atheism is a negative statement, about nonexistence of things, which can provide no positive explanations about the existence of things.

Neither can atheism supply any reason to reject any of the alternatives to the axioms of science. There is no way to decide whether the universe will be orderly or chaotic; atheism is equally silent in both directions. It is also silent to other alternatives: the universe may be orderly, or chaotic, or orderly only in certain areas or at certain times, or chaotic only for certain observers, or be always orderly but the specifics laws may change chaotically. Atheism cannot reject any of these alternatives to Axiom 1.

In the same way, in atheism humans may be able to learn about the universe; but it's also possible that we may not be able to. Humans may simply be too stupid, or may have evolved in the wrong way for understanding, or may be inside a "Matrix"-like simulation, or may be a brain in a vat, or an alien conspiracy may have tampered with our memories of scientific learning. All of these scenarios (and many more) would fundamentally prevent humans from accurately learning about the operations of the universe, yet atheism cannot eliminate any of these alternatives to Axiom 2.

Since atheism cannot narrow down our many choices to the correct axioms, we conclude that atheism predicts the axioms of science with very low probability.

Now, let's see what Christianity says about the axioms of science.

Step 1: There is a God, who is revealed in Jesus Christ. (Christianity)
Step 2: God created the universe to reflect his faithfulness, logic, wisdom, understanding, and goodness, so that we may look upon the universe and learn more about him.
Step 3: Therefore the universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner (Axiom 1), and humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates (Axiom 2).

Step 2 is crucial: if you'd like more elaboration on that step, please follow the link to the post where I discuss how science fits within Christianity. There you'll find a fuller discussion on how a belief in the Christian God naturally leads to the axioms of science.

So, if Christianity is true, then it predicts the axioms of science with near certainty.

We can now pull it all together and judge between atheism and Christianity, using the axioms of science as our evidence: atheism predicts the axioms with very low probability, while Christianity predicts the axioms with near certainty. Therefore, the axioms of science counts as very strong evidence for Christianity and against atheism. Or, more concisely: Christianity is a much better explanation for the axioms of science than atheism. 

I'd like to remind you that it did not have to happen this way. It could have been that, after Christianity declared that God created the universe with logic and wisdom for us to understand, science could have come along centuries later with a very different set of working axioms and thereby proven Christianity wrong. But this did not happen, and so the axioms of science counts as evidence for Christianity.

This should not surprise you. After all, it's no coincidence that the seeds of modern science started in Christian medieval Europe. The fact that Christianity explains the axioms of science means that science is subsumed by Christianity, exactly as I explained before. Although theology and science are separate disciplines, it turns out that science is based on God and is about God.

In the next post of this series, I will address some of the possible objections to this post.


You may next want to read:
Answering objections: science as evidence for Christianity against atheism (Next post of the series)
"Proving" God's existence
The word "If" does not apply to God
Another post, from the table of contents