People who believe in the existence of God are sometimes charged with limiting science, lazily saying that God is the explanation, and therefore we do not need one. While some Christians may be guilty of such thinking, many Christians acknowledge science as the means by which God created the universe. For one to say that because we understand science, that therefore we do not need God, is like saying that because we understanding engineering, we do not need Henry Ford. Ironically, metaphysical naturalists (those who believe that the natural world is all there ever was or will be) do not realize that their own criticism can be charged against them. I think there are at least 6 reasons that metaphysical naturalism limits science.
1 – Metaphysical naturalism leads one to commit Naturalism-Of-The-Gaps. Let me preface this a tad. There is an infrequent error that theists make known as God of the Gaps. They will say that because they cannot explain some phenomenon, that therefore, it must be God. But as science discovers more, it closes the gaps in knowledge that once were filled with God. For one to say that the natural world is all that there is will inevitably lead to this very same mistake. The naturalist will say that while they cannot explain something, surely, there will eventually be an explanation, within the natural world. They readily accept any explanation, so long as God is not attached to it. Thus, they have filled their gaps in knowledge with metaphysical naturalism, and commit Naturalism of the Gaps.
2 – Metaphysical naturalism lacks in explanatory scope. Suppose somebody were to say, as I indicated in my introduction, that because they understand thermodynamics and engineering, that therefore, they do not need Henry Ford. Their thinking is clearly flawed, because they think that the discovery of a mechanism nullifies the need for an agent. This is precisely what the atheists have done. Now, if there is anything that requires agent causality, they will miss it. An article of faith of metaphysical naturalism is precisely to limit the scope of causality. Thus, it limits science.
3 – Metaphysical naturalism closes minds. If a person begins with the conclusion that the natural world is all that there is, they interpret everything in light of that conclusion. It becomes a presupposition, and therefore their mind is closed to the evidence that is presented before them. Perhaps the most prominent example of this is David Hume, who suggested that if a wise man is to see a miracle, he ought not believe it. Thus he literally suggests that people deny what they can see plainly. That is the epitome of having a closed mind. That is what metaphysical naturalism necessitates. In contrast, the Christian is open to natural science, or transcendent agent causality. But the presuppositions of the naturalist do not permit them to follow the evidence where it leads.
4 – Metaphysical naturalism is unjustified. For one to suggest that the natural world is all that there ever was or will be, is a positive claim, for which, we have got to have some evidence. As Christopher Hitchens pointed out, that which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence. So if one is to assert that the natural world is all there is, they need some evidence. But there is no evidence for metaphysical naturalism! Thus the scientist who works within a framework of metaphysical naturalism is working in an unjustified framework. For us to start with false presuppositions, we will ultimately end with false conclusions. That is what metaphysical naturalism leads the scientist to.
5 – Metaphysical naturalism makes little sense of the rational intelligibility of the universe. The very fact that one can do science presupposes that the universe is intelligible. That which can be comprehended must have meaning. Nonsense cannot be comprehended. Indeed the very assumption that the universe would be rationally intelligible came from belief in God. Man expected law in nature because they believed in a lawgiver. But what good reasons are there to think that the universe would be rationally intelligible on metaphysical naturalism? It seems to me to be yet an unjustified assumption. Perhaps our perception of intelligibility is a consequence of the human desire to seek patterns where there are none. Therefore, metaphysical naturalism severs science, undercutting the very foundation for the pursuit of science: the rational intelligibility of the universe.
6 – Metaphysical naturalism makes little sense of human intelligence corresponding with the natural world. As the physicist Doctor Lawrence Krauss pointed out on several occasions, the human brain was not evolved to do science. The human brain did not evolve to grasp quantum mechanics. On metaphysical naturalism, the human brain evolved for one sole purpose: survival and the propagation of DNA. In the words of Richard Dawkins, that is its’ sole reason for being. But then, why should one expect the human brain to be able to grasp truth? If metaphysical naturalism is true, the human brain was fine-tuned to survive, not know truth. (This is the point of perhaps the greatest living philosopher today, Doctor Alvin Plantinga, in his Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.)
That is why Charles Darwin said, “With me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?” As one blogger said, it may be the case that we are just drifting in a sea of madness, thinking that we establish truths when we hear other fools recite them. Metaphysical naturalism seems to undermine the most important tenet of scientific pursuit: mans’ capacity to pursue science.
If you would like to get in on the discussion about this, join my Theology Discussion Group!