12 Things Science Can’t Explain

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Although it’s quite old, there is a rather amusing clip of William Lane Craig in dialogue with Peter Atkins, where Atkins asks Craig whether he denies that science can explain everything. Craig responds with the following five things science can’t explain:

1. Logical and mathematical truths (which are presupposed by science)

2. Metaphysical truths (like the past was not created 5 minutes ago with an appearance of age)

3. Ethical truths

4. Aesthetic truths

5. Science itself (since science is based on assumptions that can’t be proven)

Here are a few more possibilities (as I’m sure Craig would agree):

6. the existence of the universe (why is there universe at all?)

7. the beginning of the universe (assuming it had one)

8. the existence of scientific laws

So far these are things that science cannot explain in principle. Here are a couple more that science cannot explain at present and arguably are such that science is unlikely to ever provide more than a partial explanation:

9. the existence of conscious minds

10. the fine-tuning of the physical constants

Science also cannot explain

11. most of the things that are of greatest importance to us such as love, meaning, purpose and the need for significance and finally it cannot fully explain

12. most of the things that happen in our lives such as why a person lives in a certain place, works in a particular job or marries a particular person.

Some might argue that one day science will explain everything, but this response is just a matter of blind faith and is confused. A hammer is a great tool for hitting a nail into wood, but it isn’t the right kind of tool for fixing my mobile phone. Similarly, science is a great way to make sense of many features of the physical universe, but it isn’t the right kind of ‘tool’ for explaining the things listed above.

I’m not trying to argue that because these points can’t be explained by science they can be explained by God instead (although I think some of them can). Rather my point is simply that science can’t explain everything. To think otherwise is not to elevate science, but to distort it.

Further Reading

Five Ways Science Confirms the Existence of God

Why Science Can’t Explain What Science Can’t Explain

Five Questions Science Can’t Answer

God of the Gaps: Five Problems with a Terrible Slogan


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