The Case for a Creator: Pursuing All Possibilities

The Case for a Creator, Chapter 2

Before embarking on his interviews, Strobel makes a statement about his investigative strategy:

In selecting these experts, I sought doctorate-level professors who have unquestioned expertise, are able to communicate in accessible language, and refuse to limit themselves only to the politically correct world of naturalism or materialism. After all, it wouldn’t make sense to rule out any hypothesis at the outset. I wanted the freedom to pursue all possibilities. [p.28]

This is a favorite complaint of creationists, that scientists’ insistence on natural hypotheses unfairly excludes whole classes of legitimate explanations. But in reality, the strict reliance on naturalism is not an arbitrary choice, but a necessary prerequisite for doing science.

At its most fundamental, science is a way of knowing, one that involves formulating testable hypotheses about the world and then checking to see if the evidence supports or disproves them. This is an incredibly productive strategy of undoubted power, one that in just a few hundred years has assembled a remarkably comprehensive picture of the world we live in and has given us tremendous power to shape that world in accordance with our desires.

The key to science is testability, or alternatively, falsifiability. We need to formulate our hypotheses so that they can be definitively put to the test. That way, we can winnow true ideas from false ones and gradually close in on the way reality truly works. If we had no way to do this, we would be stuck with an endless horde of competing ideas and no way to choose between them, and scientific progress would be impossible. (Readers will note that this is also a good description of the situation that does in fact exist among the world’s religions.)

But what Strobel and his crew advocate is the inclusion of supernaturalism in science, in the form of an all-powerful creator whose motivations are unknowable and who can violate natural laws at arbitrary times and places to achieve his purposes. Clearly, this hypothesis is not one that can be tested in any meaningful way. In fact, it would foreclose scientific progress altogether by forcing us to always consider that the results of any test might be due to supernatural intervention.

Those who advocate a non-natural science never explain to the rest of us what that would look like. In fact, they don’t seem to have any clear idea of it themselves. When the Templeton Foundation, which promotes conciliation between religion and science, offered funding to the advocates of intelligent design to test their ideas, they received no research proposals – a clear measure of the creationists’ true devotion to scientific inquiry.

This is not to say that science conclusively disproves the supernatural. In principle, science can never totally rule out a supernatural explanation, precisely because they are not testable. But for the same reason, science cannot provide evidence for such explanations – unless they’re formulated so that they can be either proved or disproved. For obvious reasons, creationists are mightily reluctant to offer hypotheses that can be put to the test.

Other posts in this series:

Movie Review: The Martian
Weekend Coffee: CRISPR
Book Review: 1491
The Strange Tale of Rose Marks
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Arc of Fire, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.