Does Science Eliminate God?

NASA photo of outer space; Michelangelo’s “Creation” art from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

There is a widespread belief that science has utterly destroyed any rational argument for the existence of God. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion1 is currently the principal spokesman for this belief. People with the scantiest knowledge of the history of science will confidently tell you, “Science has done away with God.” This is puzzling because most leading scientists, until recently, were theists (believers in God). The names of Galileo, Newton, Mendel, and Georges Lemaître come to mind. Moreover, most branches of science seem to have no relevance to belief in God—oceanography being an example. Also, belief in God, or disbelief, makes no difference to scientific inquiry. Atheist Dawkins is a distinguished biologist. Francis S. Collins is the Head of the Human Genome Project, the unraveling of the human genetic code, and a convinced theist. Theists and atheists seem to be equally good scientists. Science—what is it?

What is this science that is supposed to undermine belief in God? It can be distinguished by this set of characteristics:

  1. It is a method of inquiry;
  2. It seeks to find explanations for the existence and behavior of things;
  3. It explains many things by reference to laws;
  4. It is based on the theory of knowledge called “empiricism”;
  5. It explains many things by reference to unobservable entities;
  6. It derives many of its findings from an estimate of probabilities: the finding is judged to be more probably true than any alternative;
  7. It allows the possibility that its findings can be falsified;

I intend to show that well-instructed theists produce arguments for the existence of God which are scientific, in the sense that they conform to the criteria of science as summarized above.

Most theists are not sophisticated—they lack sound arguments for God’s existence. The same applies to most atheists. But there are sophisticated theists who present powerful arguments for God which are too little known, theists such as Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-74), the Muslim Al- Ghazali (1058-1111), German philosopher, G. W.F. Leibniz (1646-1716), and contemporary philosophers—Richard Swinburne and William L. Craig. Let us see how theists use scientific method in arguing for God’s existence, keeping in mind that science is a method of discovering the truth.

Well-equipped theists employ the “narrow” version of empiricism. We need to distinguish two versions of empiricism. The “broad” version of empiricism claims that we know only from observation by the senses and experiment. However, this version is false because: “The belief that you should only believe things on the basis of observation and experiment is not itself based on observation and experiment, and therefore it is stating that it should not itself be believed.”2

The “narrow” version is not a claim about all knowing, but one about knowing of the existence of things either by observing them, or by reasoning to plausible explanations of their existence by reference to unobservable entities. Atomic particles, the force of gravity, electrical charges, and quarks cannot be observed. Also, the same is true of minds which believe, disbelieve, like, prefer, desire, make moral judgments, and discriminate in a multitude of ways. Minds are not observable. We know past events without making observations of them. We do not observe them: we infer them. We infer from current evidence the past Cambrian geological era, and that Caesar conquered Gaul. Likewise, scientists infer the “Big Bang” origin of the cosmos. Such entities (in this case an event), though undetectable by observation, best explain what is observed. This is exactly what sophisticated theists argue. They posit an unobservable God as the one and only full explanation for the coming into existence of the universe, and for its continuing existence, for the order (laws) within it, for the existence of humans, and other features of the universe. Scientists set out to explain what they observe. So do theists, who thus apply scientific method.

Science involves the search for regularities of behavior or laws, because these laws largely explain why things behave the way they do. If all atoms of type A combine with those of type B to produce molecule C, then we know what to expect—we can predict. In fact, scientists do their work in reliance on thousands of laws which have been codified. Some laws express invariable behavior, some express varying degrees of probability of behavior. What explains the existence of laws? Theists explain the existence of the cosmos and its laws by reference to an unobservable being of unlimited power and knowledge. As I said above, science relies heavily on estimates of probability. British philosopher Richard Swinburne3 argues in detail for the conclusion that God’s existence is significantly more probable than His non-existence.

Another criterion of scientific method is the possibility of falsification of any finding. Anyone who would not allow the possibility of falsification would not be a scientist. Atheists claim that theists do not allow that an assertion of God’s existence can be falsified: therefore, the existence of God cannot be known. But do theists allow that the proposition “God exists” can be falsified?

Richard Dawkins and other atheists frequently assert that the “faith-head” theist will not entertain the possibility that his belief in God could be falsified, so this sort of theist has to resort to going “beyond science” to justify his belief. God is a delusion, he writes, which is “a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence .. {this} captures religious faith perfectly.”4 But is there any reason to agree with Dawkins and others? Certainly there are theists who are not open to persuasion that they are mistaken. Just as certainly there are atheists of the same frame of mind. The same can be said about believers in anything. But we are only asserting a fact of psychology, which tells us nothing of interest. What Dawkins is asserting is that all theists must refuse to entertain that their belief in God could be falsified because he defines belief in God as faith, and faith is belief so firm that it rejects all questioning.

He is wrong. All beliefs are held with degrees of certitude; that is, estimates of the probability of their being true. For instance, I believe more firmly that I shall die than that Chile is part of South America. It would take a lot of evidence to dislodge my belief in the location of Chile, and it would take a great deal more evidence to convince me that I shall not die. But I believe both with certainty. In my own case, I believe more strongly that I shall die than that God exists, because the evidence for my impending demise is stronger than the evidence for God’s existence. Yet, I believe both that I shall die and, also, that God exists.

Also, I am willing, as are others, to abandon belief in the location of Chile. There are other theists who are disposed to give up belief in God, if they encounter sound arguments offering full explanations, without appeal to the operations of God, of why the universe continues to exist, and explain how it came into existence, and why its parts behave in accordance with laws, and why Earth is hospitable to human life and its flourishing … and many other things. So a theist can subscribe to a canon of scientific method; namely, being open to the possibility that belief in God can be falsified.

How about the search for laws or regularities of behavior, as a feature of science? Theists subscribe happily to the laws governing physical objects that have been discovered. Why? (1) The contents (e.g. ‘Light travels faster than sound’) of a multitude of discovered physical laws are irrelevant to the question of the existence of God. This is not surprising. Most facts are irrelevant to showing that God exists. The fact that I regularly eat porridge does nothing to show God exists, or that God does not exist. (2) God is unique, and (3) God is a person (has personal properties) and persons’ behaviors are not explicable by reference to laws.

Regarding (1), the fact that physical laws exist and operate as they do calls for explanation. Theists argue that God is the best explanation but not by calculations based on the laws themselves. Any explanation of the existence of all laws must lie outside the laws themselves. Regarding (2), everything is unique under some description, so one might think there is nothing special about God’s being unique. But theists hold there is only one being who is God, so that we do not have regularities like “All Gods create universes” (a law) so that we can deduce something from that fact. Note that the same applies to the Big Bang. We must suppose there was only one of them, and seeing that until it took place there, there were no laws (as there was nothing for them to govern), laws cannot explain the occurrence of the Big Bang. However, the laws that came into operation after the Big Bang enable us to know, with some reasonable probability, that it happened.

I have argued that there are no limits to what science can tell with regard to what is observable by the senses. But it cannot answer questions about all sorts of other things. Let me mention some: logical implication, why metaphors can express truth, why some moral propositions are true, the nature of moral judgments, or why I am writing today (my motive is not observable), and why mathematical calculations can be true without reference to the physical world. (We do not go to the laboratory to find out whether 2+2=4).

I have also tried to show that inquiry into the existence of God can exemplify the employment of the canons of scientific method. A believer in God is not obliged in any way to abandon science. The common argument that science rules out the possibility of the formulation of a cogent argument for God is based on the premise that one cannot offer a worthwhile argument unless one employs scientific method which alone gives assured knowledge. I have shown both that plenty of truths are known without employment of scientific method, and also that sophisticated theists use that very method to produce strong grounds for ascertaining the existence of God.

  1. Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion (Sydney, Bantam Press, 2006).
  2. Keith Ward: Pascal’s Fire: Scientific faith and religious understanding, (Oxford, One World, 2006), 118.
  3. Richard Swinburne: Is there a God? (Oxford University Press, 2010), passim.
  4. Dawkins: The God Delusion, 5.
Frank Mobbs About Frank Mobbs

Dr. Frank Mobbs was born and raised on a citrus orchard 50 miles north of Sydney, Australia. He became very interested in theology and philosophy, taking degrees at the universities of Sydney, New England (Aust.), Queensland, Oxford, and Birmingham including Ph.D (Sydney). He taught for 25 years in institutes of higher education in England, Canada, Papua New Guinea, and Australia. Since his retirement in 1989, he has published two books and 95 articles in various fields.


  1. THOUGHTS ON ATHEISM October 2014 by Samuel A. Nigro,MD copyright c 2014.
    For most, atheism is trying to prove a negative by simplified nihilism about incredible nature and supernature, obvious to all conscious-of-consciouness creatures trying to make sense of the universe who conclude that there is more than this craziness on earth. Basically, the universe is the entropy necessary for Love capable creatures returning to the pre-Big Bang-pre-Universe Statimuum of a Loving God whose Love would naturally require the creation of creatures capable of returning back the Him. You cannot “earn” it but you can screw it up. You will get what you are: a creature trying to be Transcendent: truth, oneness, good and beauty, lived in Eternity by focusing on the Catholic Mass Mantra of: “Life, Sacrifice, Virtue, Love, Humanity, Peace, Freedom and Death without Fear”; or a creature in hell living over and over against oneself, one’s own non-being anti-transcendent acts perpetrated on earth against Love now received back on oneself in Justice served. Jesus is a 2 X 4 up side the head saying, “There is more!” Atheists just do not want anyone telling them they are wrong about anything–like the Ten Commandments or any other “wake up, there is more” shouting. Atheists are deluded in their know-it-all rejections of the intense profound ancient secrets they do not want to know or even hear about, because they feel unequal when someone seems to know more than they and dares to offer conscious-of-consciousness at a transcendent different level. “How dare the Church tell me what to do” but the Church is telling you how best NOT to do evil (which is the creation of NON-BEING). Better (no, EASIER) to believe you have proved a negative: “There is no God.” The psychological basis for atheism is not Darwinism but the loss of significance of sexual reproduction (The Nazis knew and taught that unnatural sexuality reduced and removed people’s religiosity). If the sex act means nothing…if reproduction means nothing–then humanity is meaningless too and there is no need for love based behaviors and “anything goes” because “there is no God”, just “power” and the periodic table.
    But dealing with atheists has made clear who and what they are, epitomized by their “anti-Christmas” war with BEING. Atheist, secularists, and satanists, the whole gang, are totally self-discredited as they loudly imitate the “evangelists” they reject, amazingly offering dogmas of universal subhuman materialist NON-SPIRITUALITY, as they offer “spirituality” time and time again, ignorantly unaware or denying that they are doing so. Indeed, as self-defined, they cannot honestly even deal with the Catholic Mass Mantra (supra) or any other such spiritual human concepts including truth, oneness, good, and beauty or any thing else they cannot reduce to chemistry or physics. On the internet, “Salon” and “Huffington Post” especially, and all in the atheist gang seem to be an obnoxious, self-righteous, juvenile, in-your-face puerile, “take that” primitive, mean, rude, un-intelligent, insulting, vulgar, angry, smart-alecky, not wanting truth-seeking dialogue, unneighborly, un-historical, “evangelical”-wannabes carrying on about all sorts of old antireligious ideas dealt with by the Church so many times in the past that the Church just does not want to bother with the flimsy non-neocortical “scholarship” of third graders having tantrums and dumbed and numbed by “evolution without scientific criticism” or by the erroneous belief that “evolution means Godless” or that any “meaning” to life beyond sex or power is fiction. The smirking willful, disturbing-the-peace, OFFENDING of others is simple bigoted intolerance and unconscious jealousy–known most commonly as “atheism”. These atheists really are pitiful and flagrant COWARDS, not preaching to where most evil comes from so-called “religion”: Muslims. Maybe atheists know that Muslims will treat them by something other than religious LOVE. Like: “Merry Loveolution” and “Happy Incarnation”–the physics of Christmas of which they do not want to understand….Atheists believe in the Big Bang, but not the pre-Big Bang or the pre-Universe. They talk about “multiverses” when the Church has had four multiverses for millenia: this universe, Heaven, Purgatory, and hell. Atheists tend to be scientific cronies and frauds, the numbers overwhelming the National Academy of Science such that it closed its “fraud” division. Amazing. Atheists et al offer nothing; have excluded themselves from “spirit”; must offer the periodic table for every phenomenon; and cannot honestly use any metaphors to explain anything. But they keep using crude unrealistic metaphors to degrade the Church. Atheists need prayers and new metaphors. And atheists are the ones who cannot prove “there is no God.” Except, atheists usually worship the law so they are even idolaters but in grotesque denial–as their groups demand to lead “prayers” in opening government events.
    And their presenting themselves as “the church of Lucifer” and other “religious-like” names is pure irrationality and fraud because, in such times, atheists are really worshiping each other as devils, demons and journalists as they do more offending of others than any one else.
    To reject ancient messages of ancient languages in their words (not contemporary science) is incredibly unfair, ignorant and arrogant. What do atheists want from God (an UnRestricted Act of Thinking–“UR-AT” [by Fr. Robert Spitzer]) as messages? No creation? A Big Bang? Scientific probabilities? Goedel’s Theorems? A planet with all the 118 elements of the periodic table instead of one or two elements as on other astral bodies? A planet with water and elements warmed nicely between freezing and boiling protected from all anti-life bombardments? The ideas of Transcendence and Love? A Statimuum–what used to be called Eternity–all of all immediately–I AM WHO AM–an UnRestricted Act of Transcendence (UR-AT for all)? More? Atheists want more than a man who rose from the dead.
    The atheist gang should be referred to, on the WWWeb: “God and Nature-University of Notre Dame”; “Theogeocalculus”; and “Teilhard de Chardin”. And my book: The Soul of the Earth….

  2. Dr. William C. Zehringer Dr. William C. Zehringer says:

    Shall we allow a great poet to enter into this fascinating discussion? William Wordsworth
    affirmed that: “Our true heart and home is in eternity / and only there.”

    May the Lord bless and keep you.

  3. Well, to comment briefly on a complicated matter: No, I think that it is not science but the love of sin that “eliminates God.” What is called “science” – badly wounded as it is by the irrationalities of our times, still trading on its reputation from past days – merely gives the love of sin another fancy suit to wear in public.

  4. Dr. William C. Zehringer Dr. William C. Zehringer says:

    Thomas Richard is correct. What the estimable scholastic of our time, Jacques Maritain, accurately signified as “the dream of Descartes” today abounds in almost all branches of science. Was it Louis
    Evely who foresaw, decades ago, that a robotized humanity was a genuine possibility? Father George
    Rutler was right on the mark when he said that our world needs a new Benedict. .

  5. Avatar Tony Collins AM says:

    Science, society and, presumably, the Catholic Church absolutely decry paedophilia, despite recent horrific disclosures in Australia that such practices were (hopefully ‘were’) occurring. Given that much of the problem was that those in authority within the Church denied or declined to discuss the issues.