Does Science Imply No Supernatural?

There is a call-in radio show by Don Johnson Ministries that often honors callers with different worldviews. Although it is a Christian show, Don will entertain atheist callers, and the outcome is usually a respectful and thoughtful debate. On one particular segment, caller Justin was attempting to promote a naturalistic and determinist worldview. In the course of the conversation, Justin mentioned that one big reason for his assent to an atheistic viewpoint was the fact that natural science had proven itself so well over the course of history. He maintained that because science assumes that there is nothing other than a physical world and universe, and because it has worked well to help mankind over the years, then it serves as evidence that the supernatural does not exist.

Now this is an interesting vantage point. Don challenged the caller with the following 2 points: 1.) natural science does NOT assume that only the physical world exists, 2.) natural science only cares about testing and observing nature – nothing else. To this last point I would add that anything else you bring to the table here is personal philosophy, not scientific fact.

I think the question then is this - does science imply that the natural physical world is all there is? Now a good many people today think this is true. But I think that linking the effectiveness of science with the assumption that there is no God was not as predominant throughout history as it is today. I am not a historian, but I believe this to be largely a new phenomenon. So if this claim is truly a weapon that some people are keeping in their intellectual arsenal so that they can ignore Christianity, we must examine it further.

First of all it occurs to me also that science does NOT assume that only the physical universe exists. Since natural science is only concerned with the natural world, it can only speak to attributes of that natural world. It cannot say – no matter how much some want it to – that no other type of world exists. This may seem like semantics, but let me put it a different way. Let’s say that I am a really good mechanic, and that I always have a full car shop. Anything from Hondas to GMC vehicles show up at my door. I am experienced at working on cars, and over the years I have become pretty efficient - maybe even impressive. But if you take me out of my car shop and plop me down in front of, say, an art school; I find that I cannot even properly mix a color palette. Simply put – I have nothing to say when it comes to painting or drawing. Science is an excellent tool and predictor of things in the natural world. But I hardly think it can assume that there is ONLY the natural world, anymore than I could assume that replacing a muffler or overhauling an engine is all there is to life.

Second, it occurs to me that when we regard any of the conclusions we draw based on the results of natural science (at least in so much as it pertains to the big questions of life) we are using philosophy or a worldview - not science. Bear with me while I risk an oversimplification with this next example. I can test the effect of two chemicals together, and I can observe the outcome. But I cannot declare that this outcome automatically points to a certain worldview or philosophy. Just because science is really good at science, doesn’t mean that there is no God. I don’t think most people (atheists included) could argue this raw point. In order to argue that point, you would have to break it down into finer and finer arguments, wherein I think you would simply find yourself adding more and more personal preference and philosophy – hence taking you farther away from the factual science itself, and full steam ahead into the arena of philosophy.

When we begin to step outside the realm of the scientific and into the realm of the worldview, we have left science and entered into something different. Let us at least be agreed on that. After all, natural science isn’t good or bad, it just IS. The minute we begin to analyze it as being something that is good or bad, we are making a personal judgment about it, and this is something different.

OK, so what does this mean? I think it means that if a person is relying on the effectiveness of natural science to help hedge their bet that atheism is correct, then they have been misled. In other words, the fact that “science works” is absolutely no indicator that God doesn’t work. You can have both God and science. There is nothing wrong with holding a worldview. We just need to be honest about it when we do.

Please feel free to add your comments below. This is such a BIG issue for some, that I am interested in possible differences in opinion.



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