Friday, September 20, 2013

The Necessity of God in the Success of Science

Historically, the success of science has been predicated on the notion that God created the universe to behave in a law-like manner. Voltaire, a deist and vehement critic of religion, considered the universe's law-like behavior as the definitive proof of God's existence. After all, things do not occur over and over again by chance alone, but are designedly so. As Thomas Aquinas put it some eight-hundred years ago:

"Contrary and discordant things cannot, always or for the most part, be parts of one order except under someone’s government, which enables all and each to tend to a definite end. But in the world we find that things of diverse natures come together under one order, and this not rarely or by chance, but always or for the most part. There must therefore be some being by whose providence the world is governed. This we call God."

The idea that science and faith are at odds with each other is a myth began in the nineteenth-century with Andrew White Dickson's publication of "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom." Before that, folks like Newton would have scoffed at such an idea.


  1. After all, things do not occur over and over again by chance alone, but are designedly so.

    What argument can be mustered for this assertion? I agree that something like random chance cannot account for law-like behavior. But it seems that necessity could account for law-like behavior while not entailing the existence of God.

  2. This law-like behavior can not, however, consist of purely natural laws. Especially if God's providence is to govern particular physical, mental and spiritual things.

  3. Jayman, necessity is one possible alternative. However, even if we take it seriously, a thing can only be necessary if its being and essence are identical. This would make it Pure Actuality, and the divine attributes can be inferred from there. My previous posts on the argument from change address that issue.

  4. Ian, yes, I agree that God's providence extends beyond the laws of nature. I was just defending a more modest argument.