Caution: Design Not Really a Science Argument

This is the seventh in a series of guest blogs on science, religion, and design by Dr. Ben Clausen of the Geoscience Research Institute, based near the campus of Loma Linda University. The words that follow are his.

While design is evident to our senses, the appeal to a Designer moves beyond methodological naturalism to something more, something beyond. To be science, the design paradigm should present a better alternative working scientific model, rather than just attacking the standard cosmological model; however, that may be difficult because the design paradigm appeals to actions from outside the realm of repeatable, ongoing processes.

Scientists trust the ongoing processes of nature just as all of us do in our everyday lives. Methodological naturalism works so much of the time that one has reason to trust the method: aerodynamic theory gets us around in airplanes, quantum mechanics theory gives us computers, and seismic theory can reduce the devastating effects of earthquakes and volcanoes. Since methodological naturalism works so well today, it makes sense to use it to explain the past with plate tectonics and stellar evolution, and there it also works amazingly well. Weinberg (1992, p.247) says, “… the only way that any sort of science can proceed is to assume that there is no divine intervention and to see how far one can get with this assumption.” Modern science developed in a Christian culture with many of the founding fathers being devout Christians, but the scientific principle had within itself the seed of atheism. The more that is understood of nature, the less need there seems to be for supernatural intervention to explain it.

Actually, no one would want God to be continually intervening in unpredictable ways. If one expects God to be continually intervening, it would not be useful to study how the world works. There would be no incentive to try to find patterns and laws that govern on-going processes.

Thus, design arguments are encouraging for the believer, but not so logically convincing for the unbeliever. That is not because most scientists are anti-God, at least not the ones I have worked with, but because it doesn’t provide a scientific explanation that is better than what science currently provides. Although one may believe that the universe was designed by a supernatural intelligence, that doesn’t make the design argument a scientific argument; it is more than that. In most cases, methodological naturalism’s use of natural law works well without a need for God to continually step in and adjust the universe, but that still leaves open the possibility that God designed and upholds those natural laws.

To be continued. . .

2 thoughts on “Caution: Design Not Really a Science Argument

  1. DeeDee BIndernagel

    Something is either designed, or it isn’t. If one can show the vast unlikelihood of matter coming out of nothing, of the clusters of stars and galaxies and their various features that just don’t fit a “naturalistic” model at all, of the origin of life that can do repair and replicate itself, of the occurance of emotion and altruism, bisexuality, the periodic table, the receding moon, the fossil record seen thru the eyes of the erosion rate, the complexity of biomes and their inter dependance. Even if I were not a Bible believing Christian, there is NO WAY, scientifically , that I could swallow the no-design postulate.

    Scientists have decided that as things are now, they always have been. That is unscientific. One cannot prove what happened in the past, only what is happening now or in the recent recorded past. And even that can be inaccurate. I can remember being taught as a child that there were extinct volcanos. One beautiful example we were given was Mt. St. Helens. I remember being taught that my spleen was a vestigial organ that when they had to take it out, it would have no impact on the rest of my life. I remember when my science textbooks talked about useless junk DNA. I can remember being taught about the long ages that the Grand Canyon represented (before Mt. St. Helen blew and showed us how different its formation could be).

    What if our definition and description of science, like our definition and description of a human cell or an extinct volcano needs adjusting? Perhaps if we think of science as the study of the physical universe and how we should interact with it, perhaps then we might have room to discuss design and designer

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Dee Dee, I think what Dr. Clausen was saying is that arguments like yours are very encouraging for the convinced but are not complex enough for the scientist who knows the caveat to every one of your points. Science cannot take away faith, but at the moment the best scientific scholarship and the best biblical scholarship are at odds. I believe God has a purpose in allowing this.


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