Science, faith, and the “God hypothesis”

Kim Fabricius has another set of provocative theological propositions at Faith & Theology–these ones on what he calls the “God hypothesis.” By this he means the attempt, by various religious thinkers, to take on the “new atheists” on their own turf and argue for God’s existence on “scientific” grounds.

As usual, Fabricius definitely scores some points, but some distinctions are in order. Sure we can agree that “God of the gaps” arguments–like those offered by proponents of “intelligent design”–are misconceived. But there are still boundary questions like Why is there anything rather than nothing? or Why does the universe have the particular set of fundamental laws and properties that it does, which have given rise to intelligent creatures who can ask questions about God? These fundamental questions, many contemporary theologians have argued, may point to a creator. At the very least, they suggest that modern cosmology is consistent with such an idea.

Part of Fabricius’s distaste for this enterprise seems to be motivated by a Barthian-Wittgensteinian “Nein!” to any natural theology, even a modest attempt to “relate the observed cosmos to traditional religion.” But, assuming that religion and science don’t occupy hermetically sealed intellectual compartments but are rather purporting to offer perspectives on the same universe, then why shouldn’t we look for ways to relate them? Granted that the primary material of the religious life consists of the experiences, stories, rituals, and practices of a religious community, does it follow that the findings of science have no bearing on it? Has God left no traces of the divine nature in the book of creation?

In my view, a more fruitful approach is offered by the likes of Ian Barbour, Arthur Peacocke, and Keith Ward. They neither seek to “prove” God’s existence from the findings of science, nor to cordon off science from theology or reduce them to incommensurable language-games. Instead, they seek a theology that is informed by our best contemporary understanding of the world, as theologians have always done.

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One thought on “Science, faith, and the “God hypothesis”

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