Science will always decimate religious thought on the basis of rigorous scientific proof that is, subjection to the utmost of scrutiny and peer review; or so one of the more popular rebuttals against religious thought goes! Simplified, unless you subject your belief to the rigours of scientific scrutiny in order that it is proven to be true or proven to be false, it has no worth, it is pointless. The controversial Richard Dawkins declares, “Scientific beliefs are supported by evidence, and they get results. Myths and faiths are not and do not.”[i]
I would respond:
The belief that any thought direction which, in the view the scientific community, does not measure up to its mantra of being empirically proven, is scientism not science. In fact, the belief that everything must be scientifically verifiable is in itself self-defeating because it cannot itself be empirically verified! [ii] In my view, atheism (being merely the antithesis of theism) requires just as much faith to prop up its fundamental propositions as does theism, perhaps even more!
The God of theism is infinite, without beginning or end – He knows no bounds whether spatial or time based. As F J Sheed puts it, ‘God is existence’.[iii] He is outside any point of reference which we may have or can think to have and would be outside the realm of our imagination for the same reason.
Man on the other hand, is finite; he lives within the finitude that is the universe, hamstrung by time and space and any other material constraint. It is within these parameters then that science must operate and carry out its empirical necessity.
It is rather fatuous then to say that unless you can prove that something, which exists outside of the terms of reference of the universe, using tools and hypotheses which are based on the finite existence within the universe, then that something does not exist. No, that assertion is illogical and in my opinion not very scientific!
In his book, Science and Christian Belief, Coulson makes a fair point. He makes reference to the opening sentence in a schoolboy essay: ‘The difference between Science and Religion is that Science is material and Religion is immaterial.’ He goes on to say ‘Science deals with things that you can get hold of and usually measure in a quantitative fashion; religion with things that you cannot get hold of, far less measure.’[iv] Though this is a fairly general statement, it serves perhaps to bring the relationship between science and religion into perspective.
So as far as the original statement is concerned, I for one do not concur. Science’s existence is finite and restricted to the environment in which it is forced to operate. Ask a scientist ‘What came before the universe?’ or ‘What is the universe expanding into?’ and the stock answer is normally ‘Science can’t answer that!’ That or a plethora of exotic make-do hypotheses which in themselves have no scientific foundation but never the answer ‘Well maybe we should consider that there are things which we don’t and can never know’.
God forbid there should be a God!
[ii] Copan, P. (2005). How do you know you’re not wrong? (Paperback ed.). Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Baker Books. (Pages 58-60)
[iii] Sheed, F. J. (1947). Theology and Sanity. London, United Kingdom: Sheed & Ward. (Page 29)
[iv] Coulson, C. A. (1955). Science and Christian Belief (2nd Impression (Sept. 1955) ed.). London, UK: Oxford University Press. (Page 29)