Re: [asa] Science proves there's no need for God?

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Wed Oct 08 2008 - 04:44:38 EDT

Hi Bernie,

My knee-jerk response is that I wonder why you're arguing for the existence of God when the issue is the necessity of God as an explanatory hypothesis? I'm thinking that one could actually allow that God exists and still argue that science does away with the need to invoke God to explain anything.

That said, let me map out how I would respond to the topic;

> Resolved: Given the success of science, including evolution, there is
> no need for a God as posited by Christians to explain the universe.

First, I'd assume that your opponent is going to follow Richard Dawkins in making the claim that "God as posited by Christians" actually stands as an alternative to scientific explanation. Key here is the (erroneous) idea that the Christian conception of God is primarily intended as a way to explain the universe at a level identical to that of scientific explanations.

So, I'd expect your opponent to argue something like;

1. We see certain phenomena A, B, C, D, etc.

2. In the absence of any scientific explanation, people posit God as an explanatory hypothesis for these phenomena.

3. BUT we can now offer scientific explanation for phenomena A, B, C, D, etc.

4. Therefore, (following Laplace!) "we have no need of that hypothesis" (i.e. "God") to explain these (or any) phenomena.

In response to this, I would point out that the topic under debate is whether God AS POSITED BY CHRISTIANS is necessary to explain the universe, and therefore that it is no business of your opponent to define what Christians posit by the term "God". HENCE if Christians do NOT, in fact, argue for God as an alternative to scientific explanations the your opponents approach as outlined above is actually entirely beside the point.

That established I would argue that the Christian concept of God is indeed NOT any sort of "explanatory hypothesis" intended to compete with scientific explanations and that Christians, traditionally, have distinguished primary and secondary causes. Here I would be attempting to establish two claims;

1. That "God as posited by Christians" is primarily the creator and sustainer of the universe - by which is NOT meant that we expect to see regular interventions to put right the course of natural events. Rather God is the "underlying substrate" (if you like) upon which the natural order is established "seamlessly".
2. That 1. has led to Christians developing a concept of primary and secondary causes which distinction offers a "grammar" of secondary causation whereby it becomes possible - in a manner consistent with Christian conceptions of God as primary causative agent - to speak of phenomenon without invoking God as an explanatory hypothesis. I would further argue that (a) this talk of secondary causes does not, in the Christian conception of God, negate talk of primary causes; and (b) to offer scientific explanations is to speak the language of secondary, not primary, causation.

[NB: As a critical aside, note that language of primary and secondary causes was developed well prior to modern science - indeed may even have facilitated the rise of science by allowing explanations of "natural" events without reference to primary causation (i.e. without invoking God as explanatory hypothesis) - so this distinction properly belongs to the Christian conception of God and is in no way intended as an evasion of the purported "challenge" offered to "the God hypothesis" by modern scientific explanations.]

1. and 2. established I would move to the conclusion;

The success of Science, including evolution, does not remove the need for God AS POSITED BY CHRISTIANS to explain the universe because;

(1) to speak the language of science is to speak the language of secondary causes;
(2) science does not address questions of primary causation.

(3) God "as posited by Christians" allows questions of primary causation to be addressed (as well as undergirding the language of secondary causation).

(4) Therefore: in addressing questions of primary causation which science does not and cannot address God as posited by Christians remains necessary to explain the universe. Indeed, by undergirding (hence validating) the language of secondary causation, the concept of God as posited by Christians establishes and validates scientific explanations, including evolutionary theory.

No doubt this requires a bit of tweaking - at the very least it requires flesh upon its bones - but at least you know how I'd approach the question!

Hope it helps,
Murray Hogg
Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology

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Received on Wed Oct 8 04:45:56 2008

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