By Rebekah Valerius
In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis sought to describe the beliefs that have been “common to nearly all Christians at all times.” It could be said that these are the beliefs that form the foundation of Christianity’s house—the foundations upon which Christendom has been built. In other words, once we dig past what Lewis called the “points of high theology” and “ecclesiastical history” that are the sources of diversity and division within Christianity’s house, we find the beliefs that all Christians accept. Most importantly, these are the essential articles of faith that non-Christians must first reconcile themselves to before entering the front door.
Today’s scientists need a reminder of what lies at the foundation of the modern scientific enterprise. These are the essential articles of faith that one must accept before entering the house that modern science has built. They might be astounded to learn how fundamentally Christian those assumptions are. In fact, the rest of the house makes much more sense if the biblical worldview is true. This is what I will call Mere Science, and it is in contrast to the view that modern science has buried God.
Here are three of science’s foundational articles of faith:
1. The universe is governed by physical laws that can be investigated and understood by rational minds.
2. The universe is contingent rather than necessary; therefore, in order for science to advance, we cannot assume anything about it: we need to investigate it.
3. Man is finite and fallible; the outcome of his investigation must be subjected to rigorous empirical methods and peer review.
Rationality Begets Rationality
Scientists who think deeply about it are always amazed that the universe is comprehensible. For them, especially those that are not particularly religious, this is completely unexpected. “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility,” wrote Albert Einstein. He likened its comprehensibility to a miracle. Yet early pioneers of modern science, such as Isaac Newton and Johannes Kepler, had little difficulty imagining a comprehensible world because they believed in a God who ordered it in purposeful ways. Lewis wrote:
Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it.
More importantly, it makes little sense that our brains—the supposed products of mindless, non-rational processes—could devise abstract mathematical equations and apply them to the real world if there is no ultimate rationality in the universe. Scientists take it on faith that we can trust the deliverances of our brains. They never stop to ask, as Lewis did, “if thought is the undesigned and irrelevant product of cerebral motions, what reason have we to trust it?”
It is theism that gives us a reasonable justification for this first article of faith. We can trust our brains to give us real knowledge about the world—to do effective science—because they were created not by mindless, random processes, but by a supremely rational (and good!) God. Rationality begets rationality.
The Universe is Contingent
This second article of faith might seem obvious to us today, but this was not always the case. Most cultures believed that God, or more often the gods, were not above the universe but rather were beholden to certain aspects of creation, whether it be brute matter or mathematical truths. By contrast, the God of the Bible is revealed to be free and is not beholden to anything. He can create as he wishes. Consequently, His handiwork must be investigated.
We cannot assume what God has done, and in light of the first article of faith, we can be assured that we will discover order and purpose. When God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind, he tells him that Leviathan and Behemoth, the representatives of chaos in the ancient realm, are under His sovereign reign. Divine order is there, God tells Job, even if we can only see meaninglessness from our limited perspective. Again, the Book of Genesis explicitly rejects the ancient idea that God and creation are one—the view that created things should be worshiped—but affirms rather that all things were created by Him. God did not battle purposeless chaos in order to the create the world. He created it out of nothing (ex nihilo) and imbued it with divine purpose and meaning from the beginning.
What is the atheist perspective? Surprisingly, it comes close to the ancient view. Richard Dawkins captures it best: “The universe … has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose … nothing but pitiless indifference.” For scientists like Dawkins, order, purpose, and meaning may be assumed at the outset, but these are only useful fictions that have allowed science to advance.
The Nature of Man
Given the biblical doctrine of the imago Dei (image of God), early scientists believed that human beings were capable of gaining insight into the works of God’s hands. Scientific advancement is possible. Yet, given the doctrine of the Fall, human beings are also capable of deception, be it self-deception or the deliberate deception of others. Philosopher of science Stephen Meyer notes that “even as scientists during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw human reason as a gift of a rational God, these same scientists … also recognized the fallibility of humans and, therefore, the fallibility of human ideas about nature.” It was this belief that led to the development of rigorous empirical methods and peer review known today as the scientific method.
The atheist worldview stands in contrast with this assumption. Returning to Dawkins, we see that a universe molded by “blind physical forces” would be similarly blind to the moral considerations that fueled the construction of the scientific method. He writes that “the universe … has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, … no evil and no good … DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” One imagines that Dawkins would not accept this as an excuse for a fellow scientist to falsify his research data in order to advance up the ranks of the fittest in scientific circles.
Given how contrary these articles of faith are to the atheist’s position, how could he rationalize their continued use? He might reply, “We assume things like the reliability of our brains because such assumptions get results. We do not need to ask ‘why’ they work. They just do.” Design, purpose, good and evil, are merely useful fictions.
Surely such a mindset runs contrary to the spirit of scientific advancement! Could it be that such assumptions fit the structure of reality best and that is why they work? Indeed, Mere Science is the best foundation upon which to build science. Otherwise, we are building on sand.
 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Touchstone, 1996), 6.
 Andrew Robinson, “Did Einstein Really Say That?” Nature (April 30, 2018). Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05004-4#:~:text=That%20rewords%20a%20passage%20in,isn't%20quite%20his%20words.
 C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 169.
 C. S. Lewis, The Timeless Writings of C. S. Lewis (New York: Inspirational Press, 2000), 310.
 Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 143.
 Steven C. Meyer, The Return of the God Hypothesis (New York: HarperOne, 2021), 37.
 Dawkins, River Out of Eden, 143.
— Rebekah Valerius has a BS in Biochemistry and an MA in Apologetics. She teaches at a classical Christian school in the Dallas area.
Image by Chokniti Khongchum from Pixabay
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