Degrees of Intervention

But would science advance this far while frequently attributing God-acts to natural causes? Would it be this successful if it was so often wrong? Maybe science’s naturalistic assumptions are correct after all.

Just because a God creates a universe does not mean that everything in this universe occurs supernaturally. And, if something occurs naturally, then the scientific method will work even in a God created universe. The best way to think about this question is to look at how we as human beings create things. People have, over the centuries, come up with all kinds of inventions and developed all kinds of devices. So we can draw some lessons about how a god might create the universe based on our own experience with the creative process.

There are several ways in which devices are built:

  1. Assemble and Assist. Some devices are built to require continual effort on our part to work. A bicycle, for example, to take us from point A to point B, requires that we pedal constantly.
  2. Assembly Only. Other devices, once built, can continue to function on their own. A car does not require constant physical effort from us to keep running.
  3. Self-Assembly. Still other devices don’t even need us to build them since they were designed to assemble as well as run themselves. You can double-click a setup file on a computer and the program automatically installs itself.

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Similarly, there are different ways in which God could have created the universe. He could have, for example, made it such that He would need to constantly tinker with it for it to run properly. He would have to perform a miracle to cause rain, to cause the sun to rise and set each day, etc. (A). If all these things functioned on a supernatural basis, the scientific method would not have worked very well at all.

But there is no reason to assume that God would create the universe this way. If we can create devices that assemble and run themselves, why would we expect God to micromanage every minor aspect of creation and continuously intervene supernaturally to keep the universe running?

Therefore, because as theists we expect that a creator would put together a well-engineered universe that doesn’t need constant attention to work, we also expect that the naturalistic methodology of science will be effective in the majority of cases. We expect that any phenomenon occurring today is occurring naturally, and that even when it comes to creation, God put in place various natural mechanisms to at least partly help with that creation process. Unlike the atheist, however, we are not philosophically obligated to assume naturalism in all cases.

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