Anti-Supernaturalism

The other day a friend asked me what the biggest challenge is to talking with an intellectual atheist about God. Having already thought a bit about it I answered readily that atheists tend to be anti-supernatural. While I didn’t get much of a chance to continue that conversation with him, let me post some more thoughts here.

The problem is that science operates under a belief in naturalism. If I perform an experiment today, I assume that it will have the same results tomorrow, given identical start conditions. Every time I have dropped a stone it has fallen to the ground. That’s a fact. Every time anyone has ever dropped a stone it has fallen and every time anyone ever will drop a stone it will fall. That’s a reasonable assumption. There is no proof to the contrary. We could be safe and drop a stone every few months just to be sure, but we will assume that the laws of nature hold at all times and in all places and move on with our research. Supernatural events, which violate these rules by definition, must therefore be impossible.

The problem though is that the belief that the rules of nature are never violated cannot be proven. This should not be a surprise to those familiar with Popperism. We can prove statements to be false by finding an example of something that defies that statement, but the absence of violations does not prove the statement but only make it likely. If I said “all ducks have wings” you can prove me false by finding a duck with no wings. If you looked very hard for ducks without wings, and all of the many ducks you found all had wings, it is unlikely that there exist ducks without wings. You can’t be sure though. It is the same with miracles. Even if you never see one it doesn’t mean one didn’t happen. It is unlikely, but not impossible. Of course, we do have written records of miracles in the Bible, but you have to trust those observers.

All of this is to say that science cannot and does not categorically rule out miracles, the resurrection being chief among them. It is very improbably, and very hard to replicate, but it is not absolutely impossible. Anyone who says it is impossible is making a faith statement, not stating a scientific fact.

-Tim

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