Does Romans 1:20 Mean There is Scientific Evidence for God?

A good question just came in:

I know that I am a relative no one. No scientific training. But I wonder if I could burden you to consider this point. I should just preface my question with the acknowledgement that this was my first exposure to Joshua and I found his disposition and tone to be humble and refreshing.

In Joshua’s recent discussion on Unbelievable with Mike Behe, [Joshua stated at 56:34 that

“there are some tacit theological assumptions that IDist’s have, which I really have to question and wonder about. One of them is that if God actually did something that we’d have strong scientific evidence for it.”

So Joshua wonders about the tacit assumptions of the IDist. I wonder about how Joshua reconciles his doubt about God leaving (strong) scientific evidence or fingerprints with what Romans 1:20.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.

I’d just offer this one caution. I’m feel confident that Joshua is familiar with C.S. Lewis’s work and his concern with “chronological snobbery”. It is important to avoid the notion that St. Paul was writing to a bunch of idiot Neanderthals. I see no indication from scripture that people living at the time were thoroughly unscientific. Examples abound of people being scientific, albeit without the lab coats and test tubes. The parable of the sower presupposes that people had actually observed what happens to seeds that are cast upon differing soil conditions. Similarly, Jesus teaching in Matthew, He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

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There is much to discuss about this, but let me start by linking to a few references to understand this further. When I have some time I might explain more:

First, I’ve written specifically about Romans 1:20 here:

https://peacefulscience.org/swamidass-confident-fatih.pdf.

Second, these videos from a few years back clearly summarize my position:

In short, I certainly agree that all creation declares God’s invisible qualities. That doesn’t mean that science can see God. Science is a recent and peculiar way of studying the world. It is much more than observing the world and thinking about evidence rationally (as certainly the ancients did). Science works differently, and Scripture wasn’t talking about science.

As I’ve explained in the past, and in that video itself, I see God’s qualities declared in Mount Everest, even though Behe doesn’t think that the mountain exhibits scientific evidence of design.

The Intelligent Design movement points to the sculptures on Mount Rushmore as an example of the design they hope to detect in Nature. The more I look at life, however, the less it looks like any human design. God created all of us, but we don’t look like Mount Rushmore. We are far more grand than even the grandest human design. Life is more like Mount Everest.

Majestic, dangerous, and looming beauty. Mount Everest calls us all into worship. God created all things, including this great mountain. Biology looks like Mount Everest to me: grand and totally beyond human ability. This is not the type of design with which the Intelligent Design movement is concerned, because it is not like the human design of Mount Rushmore. Everest, nonetheless, screams out to me, “God created all things!” I certainly detect God’s design here. Just like biology, Mount Everest is very little like a human design.

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The broad contours of my position is similar to yours. Namely, the conclusions that can be reached by modern science as it is practiced today has evolved to be only a small subset of all claims that Christians commonly affirm. Some basic Christian beliefs, such as God’s existence and attributes, simply can never be shown to be true from the modern scientific method, simply because of the stringent criteria that have been adopted for what kinds of hypotheses can be examined with the scientific method and the fundamental, general, nature of these beliefs.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t argue for the existence of God in other fields, such as philosophy, or that science is not relevant at all to these arguments. I think there are good arguments for the existence of God, maybe including even some design arguments. However, to me the anti-evolution arguments from people in the ID camp haven’t been convincing enough to be put in the latter category.

Now, should natural science operate in the aforementioned way? (This is something that ID advocates like to bring up, pointing to past examples such as Newton.) I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with specialization. Scientists will naturally want to focus on what is relevant to their goals, and focusing on specific, narrow, testable hypotheses leads to more tangible progress than “big questions”. Rather, it seems to me that the problem here is that some segments of Western society has somehow evolved to value natural science as the only trustworthy authority on everything including these fundamental questions, when many of these questions would benefit from engagement by philosophers and theologians. This is a situation that can be remedied, but arguing against well-established scientific theories is not the answer.

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Interestingly, I also thought of this passage after the first time I ever heard of and listened to you - a video on Sean McDowell’s channel.

The reference in particular is page 175.

I’ll have to take time to watch the videos, but for now I disagree. Scripture still applies to today, so that passage can be talking about science today as much as it is talking about observing the world in Paul’s time. Even if humans then never thought about the world as scientists do today, God still created all of humanity to be ABLE to do so. And I think he created all of us with the capability to be scientists even if we don’t choose it as a career.

And I would argue that since we are created in God’s image, any of man’s designs are God’s designs, whether ours look different from His or not. And science is uncovering God’s design in nature. I believe the problem scientists run into is looking at design and often misapplying what it means or misinterpreting it, such as the example below. That’s why some parts of science, in order to accurately interpret reality, should be interpreted in light of the Bible–to understand what is God’s original design and how God governs that design providentially in light of natural evil in the world. From my perspective: another example - pathogens should be interpreted as natural evil providentially governed, not as an original design, as many have argued to me.

10 posts were split to a new topic: Sam asks about Behe and IC

What do you think are the attributes of a “well-established” scientific theory? Do you think universal common descent is a “well established scientific theory”?

Yes they are well established theories.

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Paging Betteridge…

I disagree with the idea that science is “much more than” observing the world and assessing the evidence rationally. Can Dr. Swamidass expand on this statement and explain the aspects of modern science that make it “much more than” this methodology? Would he appeal to conventions like “need for consensus”? Is the practice of developing models or testing predictions somehow “more than” observing the world and assessing this evidence?

Testing predictions is much, much more than making observations and assessing them retrospectively.

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Btw, I think you’re misunderstanding my point when you say “retrospectively”, as if I’m suggesting testing predictions only applies to historically observed phenomena. Sure testing predictions will involve future observations, of course, dependent on the case. My issue is with the underlying epistemology in terms of the methodology we’re using.

How? Testing a prediction is predicated upon both observations made and rational inferences drawn from that observed data. Once you get to this point, integrating data and inference, you come to a point where you believe you may understand the phenomena. At this point you can test the understanding by making your prediction, and the prediction is again verified or falsified dependent upon observation. At no point in this process did you ever use any additional methods beyond empirical observations or rational inferences drawn from those observations.

There are only two epistemic methods humans have for assessing the truth of a statement: the observations of our senses and our ability to think about what we observe. To suggest that there is “much more” to modern science than these two methods bodes ill for the sciences, because if it’s true it entails the use of illegitimate methodologies to arrive at “scientific” conclusions.

If this is not what you mean by “much more”, then please explain more specifically what “much more” entails to you.

No, then you’re doing it wrong. The power of testing predictions comes from baking all of the inferences into the predictions before you get the answer–IOW, you should be predicting only what you will directly observe, not any inferences.

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Science is not a project for assessing the truth of statements.

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Of course an agnostic would love to believe that, but it ain’t so. And if it were so, then the whole enterprise would be utterly worthless. But thanks for admitting you have absolutely no interest in verisimilitude.

Please re-read what I wrote more carefully.

“How? Testing a prediction is predicated upon both observations made and rational inferences drawn from that observed data. Once you get to this point, integrating data and inference, you come to a point where you believe you may understand the phenomena. At this point you can test the understanding by making your prediction, and the prediction is again verified or falsified dependent upon observation.”

The first two sentences are about the steps of observation and hypothesis formation. It is the later sentences that explicitly mention testing by predicting to observe something specific.

My agnosticism has nothing to do with it.

Quite clearly, you have a very poor understanding of science. Yet you write as if you were an expert in it.

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I did.

What’s your point? My point is that the prediction is empirical. “Empirical” and “specific” are in no way synonymous.

FWIW ‘verisimilitude’ means ‘seeming true’ not ‘being true’.

I frequently say ‘the truth matters’… and find believers busting out Pontius Pilate’s question: “What is truth?”

But science is about creating the best model we can of reality. Under most perspectives in the philosophy of science, we wouldn’t call that model ‘truth’.

Last, to answer Pilate’s question, I’d cast a vote for correspondence theory.