A Process of Elimination

But why go about things in this roundabout way? Why not just use a hypothesis that assumes supernatural origin from the start?

The answer is that we don’t really have a choice. If we assume supernatural involvement, then we wouldn’t know what predictions to make, since we have no idea how the supernatural works.

So in a sense the naturalistic methodology of science is not fully anti-God. The initial naturalistic bias should correct itself over time and potentially lead someone to supernaturalistic conclusions through a process of elimination. But, as I’ve said, this is true more in theory than in practice for the following reasons:

  1. Just because we can’t think of a good naturalistic hypothesis now does not mean we won’t be able to think of one in the future when science advances. So scientists are perfectly comfortable putting questions on hold and revisiting them later, all the while assuming natural causes.
  2. If we try several hypotheses that don’t work, we can always come up with more.
  3. It often happens that eventually scientists do come up with a hypothesis that, at least for the time being, seems to line up with the data. In such a case it could take years, decades, or even centuries for sufficient data to come in before that hypothesis is finally demonstrated to be false.
  4. In a situation where you have one working hypothesis dominating the field for an extended period of time with no alternative hypotheses even coming close, that monopoly in itself becomes additional confirmation for that hypothesis. (I will come back to this in part 3.)
  5. The chance is slim to none that science will ever advance far enough to know with confidence that it has in fact ruled out all possible naturalistic hypotheses.

Those with a science background might bring up the self-correcting nature of science. After all, Newtonian physics was eventually superseded by relativistic physics as additional data came in. But Newtonian physics and relativistic physics were both naturalistic ideas. It would take much more than that to rule out all possible naturalistic options before reaching a supernaturalistic conclusion.

Consequently, theists have to be aware of these limitations of science and cannot unquestioningly accept every conclusion that scientists put forth.

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