This seminar, delivered at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, addresses the suggestion that science has explained God away – in light of scientific progress there is no longer any reason to believe in God. It is available in audio or as a downloadable mp4 video.
Some of the main points are summarized below
1. Even the most ardent proponents of the idea that science is in conflict with God do not think that science and God are incompatible in the sense that accepting one (science say) logically requires you to reject the other (God). So if science and God aren’t incompatible, what is the nature of the conflict supposed to be?
2. The idea is that as science explains features of the universe it makes God unnecessary. This objection to belief in God can be thought of in terms of a version of Ockham’s razor – there is no need for two explanations (science and God) when one will do (science).
3. It’s worth noting that even if this argument is successful, it doesn’t show there is no God or even that God’s existence is unlikely. It’s just that if science explains some particular feature of the universe, there is no need to invoke God to explain that feature. However, the idea is that as science explains more features of the universe, God becomes increasingly unnecessary.
4. Does the argument from Ockhams’ razor work? A key point is that it can’t simply be assumed that Ockham’s razor can be applied in any scenario where there are two possible explanations. Sometimes it can, sometimes it can’t. For the argument to work, it needs to be shown that Ockham’s razor can be legitimately applied.
5. When can Ockham’s razor be applied? A number of questions to help determine when it can and can’t be applied are presented. These are based on probability theory and are applied to some simple examples.
6. These questions are then used to determine whether Ockham’s razor can be applied to science and God. A key issue concerns whether science itself depends on God.
7. Typically proponents of the view that science explains God away don’t even try to show that the conditions for applying Ockham’s razor are met. They simply assume that it can be applied. This is simply begging the question.
8. A key conclusion is that there is no easy way to move from ‘science explains’ to ‘science explains away’. More generally, it is argued that attempts to use science to explain God away are very unlikely to succeed.