Is Science Dependent on God?

I’ve been reading John Walton’s book on the flood recently. In the last chapter he argues that religion and science are essentially symbiotic and benefit each other. He claimed science informs religion and religion purifies science. He claims that:

Science operates on biblical foundations that understand there are consistencies in the cosmos. God created an ordered cosmos that can be studied by observation, and he gave his human creatures intelligence so they can come to certain conclusions based on their observations.

Now I have a few questions:

  1. Is science based on these principles?
  2. Do they assume a cosmic orderer?

@Reggie_O_Donoghue, good question. I just finished listening to his “Genesis One” on Audible, and was impressed. However, I don’t think that the observation of order implies necessarily that there was an intelligent author of that, any more than the discovery of an intelligent and complex author of all that would imply an author of that author.

I’m interested in others’ points of view on this. Of course, I am a theist and a Christian, but I don’t agree with his argument. Thanks.

To 1. the answer is yes. For 2. the answer is more complicated. Philosophy is also a parent of science. Philosophy also says that the universe is rationally ordered without a rational orderer, but it puts its emphasis on thinking and not on observation, so on this basis it is different from science.

Christianity in that it is based on history puts value on observation, thinking, and revelation. YEC says that “revelation” as it understands it trumps observation and thinking. Islam does not encourage science because it believes that Allah did not create a rationally ordered universe.

I would say that a universe with a Beginning rationally needs a Creator. I would say that a rationally ordered universe requires a rational and purposeful Creator, but this does not prove this beyond the shadow of a doubt.

  1. Science can be informed and understood by such principles. Whether or not they are by necessity would be another question. Rather than saying science operates on biblical foundations that understand there are consistencies, one might argue that science operates rather on evidentiary principles that may recognize such consistencies.

  2. The principles as stated would assume a cosmic orderer as there are obviously many who practice science that wouldn’t recognize or presuppose such a being. Only the believing person would say upon examining the evidence that the creation “day by day pours forth speech” (Psa 19:2) or agree with Romans 1:20 that “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” The unbelieving scientist would simply move the goal post to search for another causative agent or natural explanation.

Yes it absolutely is. In order to work science assumes several metaphysical principles which are reflected in the cosmological arguments by e.g. Leibniz and Aristotle.
The first being that with science we detect causal relationships/interactions between the particles in reality. The distinction in terms of causality is that something potentially has an attribute, but in order to gain this new state, it has to be actualized by another. In a temporal series this can reach back eternally, however in a hierarchichal series, in order to have the power to actualize anything, this power has to root in something which is pure actuality. Why? The stick derives its causal power to move the stone from my hand, whcih derives its causal power from my motorneurons which derive their power from the molecules which again derive their power…You realize how that works, do you? We can gon on to the atomic and subatomic and even lower levels, but the point is that if the series is eternal, the motion isn´t possible, because there is nothing from which the causal power ultimately derives from.

The second is the presupposition that not only the universe is rational built up, but we ourselves are rational, so that we can learn about this universe. Ever asked yourself why all the arch-rationalists like Descartes, Leibniz, Baumgarten, Wolff, Meier but also Spinoza (Panentheist) were Theists? Because this principle, which also informs the presupposed “Principle of sufficient reason” (PSR), which states that everything has an explanation, either by itself or in reference to another and which excludes Russellian “brute facts”, ultimately leads to Theism, because the explanation for all things are a hierarchichal series, which leads to conclude that the explanation for everything is rooted in one thing, which has the explanation for its existence within itself. That is the God of classical theism. Sadly I´m not at home, so I´m not able to copy the syllogism applied to the Rationalists Cosmological argument. I can copy it later though, if needed.
Now to the objections. The argument is seen as valid. People like David Hume and the, by me, much admired Friedrich Nietzsche recognised the implications and therefor had a negative view on the ability of the human mind to make sense of the universe. Nietzsche began his philosophy with his atheism and was led to conclude that the human mind necessarily lacks this capability.
The Russellian brute fact is another objection, stated by Bertrand Russell, and it is the way to avoid the necessary conclusion. But now let´s have a look at what that exactly indicates. First of all, I´d accuse him of merely making the concept of a brute (read: unintelligible, no explanation in principle) fact up, to avoid the conclusion of Theism being correct. We have no evidence for something like that and we don´t take that principle seriously in our daily life. Consider this example:

And explosion in the chemistry class:

Professor: What happened? What have you done?
Student: Oh well you know, it just happened, it´s a brute fact.
Professor: Hm, yes, maybe you´re right.

Sounds silly doesn´t it? But Russell asks us for making an exception when it comes to the existence of things period. Not just stating that the origin of everything isn´t understandable to us (which is uncontroversial), but that there is no explanation at all.
Added Note: I recognize Bertrand Russell as a phenomenal philosopher of logic and mathematics and don´t want to diminish any of his accomplishments. He certainly was very important. However, in the philosophy of religion, he was absolutely hopeless. He was one of those people who thought that the cosmological argument from motion stated that “everything has a cause”. In other words, he didn´t bother to read the primary literature.
Another point: A brute fact has no explanation in principle, neither for its existence nor for its attributes. However, if that were the case we would hae trouble to explain why the universe so far as we have and will explore it, seems to be built on a rational basis. Why are we able to formulate correct predictions about e.g. particles like the Higgs-Boson, with our mathematical models? Why is there something we recognize as logic? Not only the origin of those things aren´t understandable, but also the fact that it would require a rational order, which, most importantly, holds up in the sense that it doesn´t seem to collapse, to have its origin in an inexplicable fact which doesn´t even relate to that rational order. I think it is save to conclude that if that were the case, we wouldn´t have made the scientific progress, we have already done or will be doing in the future.

And for the quick summary: The being which is purely actual, whose existence is selfexplanatory and which is absolutely simple, is what we call God, because of the attributes which necessarily has to be ascribed to it by it being purely actual. This God of the philosophers can be identified with the God of the bible, because they complete each other. What we identified here is not merely a principle, but it necessarily has to have an intellect, because of the potentialities rooting in it, it is omniscient and omnipotent. And this is how the Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox and several Protestant denominations understand God and the way he has been understood by the great thinkers of the church. And it is also what we can recognize about God through pure rationality. Of course this isn´t in the least bit threatening to the picture of the God we saw through revelation. But, and that is most important to the topic here, he is ultimately presupposed if the metaphysical presuppositions applied by science are indeed correct.

So God is the Simple One?

If the God of the Philosophers completes the God of the Bible or the Trinity, then it would appear that the God of the Bible is the God of the Many. So do we have two opposite Gods, a dualistic view of Reality, or do we accept the Trinitarian God for what it says God is, God of the One and the Many, God Who is both Transcendent and the Immanent.

God is not limited in that God cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, but just as a human being is a complex/one being to exist, think, and act, God exists as Trinity, as a Complex/One Being to Create, to Think, and to Love.

Philosophy depicts Reality was Being which is static, which it is not. Reality is changing. Philosophy sees change as bad, when it is generally good. Philosophy see knowledge as based on thought, while science sees knowledge as based on experience.

The God of the Trinity combines the One and the Many to make science possible.

Walton is talking about foundational (essential) presuppositions of science called uniformity and intelligibility (at least, that’s how I learned them). Del Ratzsch (who I learned from) and others note that Christian commitments, along with a particular reading of history, suggest that science itself was born of Christian thought. I find that suggestion somewhat reasonable, though I wonder what that means for ancient Greek scientific thought. Historically, then, at least with regard to modern science as we know it, it seems reasonable to say that science has religious roots. This is much different from saying that science has an essential connection to religion or to god, since it does not follow that Christian underpinning (historically) of any particular idea means that this idea needed Christianity or god to be born. In other words, while I as an unbeliever am happy to acknowledge the possibility/likelihood of Christian midwifery in the birth of modern science, I don’t see any logical reliance of science on god. Which is good, since our civilization seems to be hurtling away from reason and even from moral decency, led in large part by people claiming to be Christians. We wouldn’t want to claim that this, too, depends on god, would we?


The challenge, if we want to stop this trend, is to find a way appeal to these people who claim Christians As a Christian I think that this responsibility falls in part to me.


The material world just is. Scientific theories explain our observable world with precision and provability. There is no divinity encrypted anywhere in the strata or the stars.

“is science based on these principles?” Its the other way around. Smart christians have crafted their mythology around the indisputable evidence of natural phenomenon. The science exists. The myth is only comforting.

Yes science assumes and depends upon there being some order and consistency in the universe. So if God created the universe that way then God is in that sense responsible for science. But the keyword there is IF. And thus the only implications here are for the theist not the atheist. It obliges the theist to accept that science is from God.

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No, the material is not just is. It is constantly changing. If it were not changing, if the physical word were just IS, then 1) we could not understand it and 2) would not need to understand it.

Modern science is the effort to understand the physical world and it is an effective effort, but human beings have been trying to understand their world from the beginning. Part of this is understanding that the physical world is only part of our Reality. There is also the biological world where organisms are able to interact with the environment using minds and proto-minds, and the spiritual world where people act based on purpose and morality

What is encrypted in the strata and the stars is rationality. Now since the material word does not think, and therefore could not rationally organize itself, from whence comes the rationality that humans have and the rationality found in nature, which makes it understandable?

Most people think that a rational God designed a rational world to be a rational home environment for rational human beings. If you have a better explanation, I would like to hear it, but that is a long string of rational causes to put together, when we know that rationality is not the result of chance.

We need science to understand the physical world, but we also need philosophy to understand the rational world, and theology to understand the moral and spiritual world. .

According to my thoughts:

  1. Science works under the assumption that the laws of nature are consistent.
  2. Therefore, we should assume that everything that began to exist had a cause.
  3. Therefore, whilst I don’t claim the Cosmological argument is necessarily true, I do claim it is the best way to ‘make sense of’ the universe’s origins.

Roger: When I said “the material world just is”, I didn’t mean to suggest its static. I don’t think the virtues of pupose and morality belong solely the religion or spirituality. In fact, I would argue that there is no such thing as morality.

As for your comment about rationality, I’m confused. Can you provide a tight definition of your understanding of rationality?


Let me unpack that, I´m a bit confused. I reject a distinction between the God of the Philosophers and the God of the bible, ultimately I see them as the same being. The basic attributes can be established by pure human reasoning. I see every added attribute through divine revelation as building up on it. That God is love for example can´t be established through reason. When a Thomist says that God is good he only secondarily means good in the moral sense, because it is abstracted from the primary good that God is, pure being. To make a little abstraction a dog is purely good in the sense that he is healthy and has the full ability to engage in what is the nature of a dog, e.g. running, hunting, playing. From that we can get our morality from in that is is immoral to purposefully take the actual ability from him. This can unproblematically be applied to humans, though I didn´t take us as an example, because our range of abilities which we have by our nature goes far beyond that and is too complicated for a small comment. But applying this Aristotelian notion gives us both an objective morality and an idea how this might look like.
Everything concerning morality which goes beyond that, which we got by revelation, is further data we can add. It can´t possibly collide with the natural law theory outlined above. Therefor there is no tension and no two Gods.
Concerning the Trinity, this doesn´t go against divine simplicity. To be concrete the philosopher has nothing to say about Jesus, the son, and only limited things to say about the holy spirit, however the power to talk about the latter only derives from the philosopher, when talking about God, always meaning God, the father. Undoubtedly, he is the most important part of the Trinity, because if everything but the father would be missing, the divine would still be there. But without the father, Jesus would be a mere brilliant moral teacher and the holy spirit at most a dualistic aspect of ourselves, though probably only a romanticized view on our existence. God, the father, contains every attribute that the philosopher establish and more, as it is revealed in the flesh. In the flesh, God has entered a material world and here, because of the nature of the material universe, he has what isn´t existent when only talking about the father: Parts. Here he is material, held together by the incredible complex system that is our human body. Being made up of parts however means that one can´t possibly hold himself in existence, but must rely on the underlying principles, which ultimately leads to a perfect simple being (so goes the philosophical argument mentioned above), who is God, the father. This is why the Trinity is no problem for Gods simplicity. The Trinity presents him in different realms.
Now that was the to-the-point version and I would link some material, if you are interested, but I don´t think that you are. However it is important for me to get this point across, so that I can finally bury the charge that with the catholic teaching , the Trinity would be contradicted.

God is immaterial and thus can´t be made up of parts. At least God, the father, can´t be made up of it. Like I said above, to include Jesus, the son, and the holy spirit into the divine identity, doesn´t contradict the divine simplicity, when talking about the nature of God the father. If he would consist of parts, he would depend on the principle which enables the parts to be God. This is a contradiction.

Not static, certainly not. Everything in every moment is uphold by God, we would be no more if he doesn´t continue to sustain. Every change in this world is a change within God. However, as the basis of the hierarchy, this doesn´t affect his nature. And you complaining about that I think God is unmovable is rather peculiar. I think God is infinite, as thus, the idea of him moving doesn´t make sense. Imagine for a second that the room you are sitting in is the entirety of reality. Would you remark that it is not moving? No, I don´t think so. Why should you think that if you believe, that the entire reality is within it. (To be clear, I can´t phrase it better, but the view I´m advocating is neither pantheistic, panentheistic or deistic. It is, thus the name, classical theism).
In which way does Philosophy views change as bad? I never heard anyone remarking “Boy, did I wish Parmenides was right”. But change has to be regarded as something that needs an explanation. Not only for the change itself, but also for the ability to change at all.
And your last part is too sweeping of a statement. Philosophy is contains every view. What you describe the scientific method as is empiricism. But great philosophers like John Locke were Empiricists, too. But anyway, I don´t see, why it should be a bad thing, if philosophy were primarily to gain knowledge through thought, because this would contain logic. It is important to identify incoherent thought systems.

As I have stated, I agree.

If you would argue that there is no such thing as morality, then the question arises, if there is no right or wrong, good or bad, why do science? Any decision is based on values, so if there are no values, no eight or wrong, then then there is no purpose and ability to make a decision.

Rational thought is what do when we try to understand something. Other animals cannot do this. They might be able to tell if there is there is food available, so they have some kind of knowledge of their environment, but they cannot use their brains to figure out how to best harvest this food like we can.

The universe is rational in that it is open to this kind of rational thinking. Humans did not have wings and cannot fly, but we have figured out how build machines that enable us to fly any way.

The world appears to be flat, but some people figured out that it is round because they saw that they could not see “forever” from a high viewpoint. So rational means the ability to understand and the ability to be understood.

Uh Reggie, this syllogism is a bit of a non sequitar. Let´s go through it point by point.

No I don´t think that is correct. The laws of nature as we know it, don´t seem to apply on the subatomic /quantum level. Phrase it more general, that Science works under the assumption that everything in nature has an explanation for its existence and its attributes.

In a vacuum I agree with this statement, which is the first premise of the Kalam Cosmological argument. If it wasn´t true, this would be a violation of the ex nihilo, nihil fit principle, that nothing comes from nothing. This however doesn´t follow from your first point.

The Kalam argument isn´t representative for every cosmological argument and should therefor not be used interchangeably. Plantinga listed around 20 different Cosmological arguments, which the Thomistic, Aristotelian and Rationalists arguments are counted among. But even though I don´t think the Kalam argument is the best, I concede that it is a good argument to establish a first cause within a finite temporal series. But I have to engage more with the arguments Craig makes to support the premise of a finite time on purely philosophical arguments. What he has going for him is that he made it the most defended argument in peer reviewed journals on the philosophy of religion within only a couple of years. So it´s definetely worth having a look at.

Does science assume this?

If it weren´t the case, the objective data supporting a rational picture of the universe would fall down like a house of cards, because the supposed rationality would be rooted in an irrational/inexplicable foundation.

Keep in mind, that this doesn´t mean Scientism is presupposed, because I don´t use “science” interchangeably with “natural science” in this context, but in its original definition, where it merely meant “knowledge” and thus included every branch where we gained it, including humanities, philosophy and theology.
Let´s take for example our mental capacities. In the philosophy of mind only a small minority would identify a thought with a brainstate (Eliminative materialists, Paul and Patricia Churchland, Alex Rosenberg and in some sense Daniel Dennett). Generally the vast majority (including seculars) hold the mental properties to be irreducible to the material processes. This excludes the natural sciences as we would apply it, to create an exhaustive picture of consciousness, intentionality and rationality. However we would never just throw our hands up and therefor declare that the mental properties are a brute fact without any explanation, at most we would say that we as humans won´t be able to arrive at an exhaustive explanation. This is the position of Colin McGinn.

I don’t understand. I would have thought we could boil down thought and consciousness to complex interaction of synapses with the complex cortex we have. It’s amazing what simple chemicals will do to interrupt those processes. If that’s all that’s needed, and we are not conscious when we get a given chemical, how is our mentation/consciousness independent? In medicine, we see this frequently–it’s tragic when sepsis, chemical or physical brain damage affect us.


What do you think of John Lennox’s argument that if there is no purpose behind our mind, there is no reason to trust our rationality, because it is the product of pure chance?