Science Needs God

July 21, 2021

A new research puts forward an argument for the existence of God that starts with a description of the goal of science and draws the conclusion that without accepting the belief in the existence of God it is difficult to justify, or even understand, some basic presuppositions behind the practice of science.

A pair of Polish reserchers put forward an argument for the existence of God that starts with a description of the goal of science and drew the conclusion that it is hardly possible to describe the goal of science without some theistic or near-theistic concepts. New research entitled, “Does Science Need God? A Theistic Argument from Science” and published in the journal “Religions”, argues that “theism is not a petitioner of science, since science in a way presupposes or needs it.”

“In our paper”, authors write, “we put forward an argument for the existence of God that starts with a description of the goal of science. The fact that science approximates perfect knowledge opens the problem of its status. We proceed to three resolutions of the problem: perfect knowledge is only a kind of fictional idealization; it will be reached by humanity in the future; it is God’s knowledge. We point out the weaknesses of the first two options. Next, we go on to draw the conclusion that it is hardly possible to describe the goal of science without some theistic or near-theistic concepts.”

“The debate on the relationship between science and religion (or, in other contexts, between scientific rationality and faith, theology, or theism) is dominated by the belief that the cognitive value of the former is obvious, while that of the latter needs to be demonstrated. … As a consequence … religious (especially theistic) beliefs can, at best, complement scientific knowledge in areas outside its scope. This paper supports a different view: we argue that without accepting the belief in the existence of God, or, more carefully, without referring to any theistic concepts, it is difficult to justify, or perhaps even understand, some basic presuppositions behind the practice of science. Theism is, therefore, not a petitioner of science, since science in a way presupposes or needs it.”

“The goal of science is to discover “the world as it is in itself” or “to find a description of the physical universe that is independent of our modes of observation” … The cognitive subject which corresponds to “the world as it is in itself” needs to be one which conceives it from “no perspective contrasted with other perspectives” – it needs to be a perfect conceiver which can be identified with the omniscient being, i.e., God. … The goal of science, i.e., to discover “the world as it is in itself”, can be understood only when the existence of God is acknowledged.”

“We propose our own argument, which, assuming the development of knowledge and postulating its purpose or goal, leads to a conclusion of the existence of a subject of perfect knowledge which (at least in epistemological terms) can be identified with God. God (or a similar, epistemologically infinite being) exists as the subject of (currently possessed) perfect knowledge.”

“Please note that … knowledge would have to be comprehensive, i.e., exhaustive. In other words, perfect knowledge should encompass all its objects in their entirety, including all their relations, stages, and complete history…. Comprehensive knowledge is not possible for individual human beings, since they are limited in terms of both time and space. It also does not seem possible for larger scientific communities that embrace greater – yet still limited in terms of their existence and scope of investigation – areas of space and time. Let us remember that comprehensive knowledge requires that an object not only be captured in all its possible aspects but also throughout its whole existence and across all its temporal and spatial relations. Therefore, it needs to be noted that comprehensive knowledge is indeed different from even the most adequate knowledge achieved in the heretofore available scientific processes.”

“Given the above, it needs to be further noted that the subject of perfect knowledge must have certain qualities. First of all, it must transcend the world in terms of time and space, instead of being part of it or being limited by any of its areas. It also needs to have an absolute, unbiased cognitive access to the world and each of its elements. Such a subject can hardly be associated with any other being than God, since … only God “has no particular point of view, no location in the world, no perspective contrasted with other perspectives. He knows, not by the effect of objects or events upon His perceptual equipment, but by His comprehension of all truth.”

“In other words, the subject of perfect knowledge needs to be identified with an epistemically perfect being. The necessary ontic conditions for this epistemic perfection seem to be transcendence, infinity, and primacy over the world (also in the sense of ruling it). To call such an epistemically and ontically perfect being God would certainly be consistent with our philosophical and cultural tradition. Any detailed description of this idea of God and His relation to the world is, however, outside the scope of the proposed argument.”

“To conclude, let us quote a fragment from a famous Polish handbook of the methodology of science, wherein Kazimierz Ajdukiewiczargues that: “It has been said that the procedures used by scientists in a given discipline look so, in a synthesizing approach, as if those scientists were striving towards a goal. This is not to say that those scientists always realize that. Yet they act in the way they would act if they realized what their goal is. If they act so without realizing clearly what their goal is, then it may be said that they are striving towards that goal unconsciously. One of the tasks of the methodologists is to identify those goals towards which scientists working in a given field strive, whether consciously or unconsciously”.

“In our opinion, this, often unrealized, objective or goal is (in a wider or deeper perspective of metaphysics of science) to pursue ultimate or perfect knowledge. The understanding of this concept, requires, however, a reference to the concept of God or a similar entity. Given the above, it seems reasonable to venture a hypothesis that scholars, even those who are declared atheists, behave in their work as if they believed in God or in some sort of His substitute.”

“In a sense”, authors recapitulate, “this hypothesis is confirmed by Richard Rorty, a thinker who is far from theism. In his opinion, “there would only be a ‘higher’ aim of inquiry called ‘truth’ if there were such a thing as ultimate justification – justification before God, or before the tribunal of reason, as opposed to any merely finite human audience.” As you can see, Rorty leaves us with a dilemma. We can either accept the “higher aim of inquiry”, thus acknowledging some form of theism or quasi-theism, or renounce it for the benefit of epistemological relativism, which de facto undermines the very foundations of science itself. Rorty opted for the latter alternative. We, in turn, due to the respect we have for the authority of scholars and the admiration of scientific achievements, have chosen the former.”

Full Paper “Does Science Need God? A Theistic Argument from Science”