Does science support belief in God?

This evening, I attended a fascinating meeting at the South Place Ethical Society in central London organised by the Centre For Inquiry UK.  The title of the event was “Does science support belief in God?”.

The meeting was addressed by two of the world’s most powerful and respected thinkers from either side of the theism/atheism divide.

Richard Swinburne is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Religion at the University of Oxford. Over the last 50 years, Swinburne has established himself as one of world’s foremost philosophers of religion. He is an influential proponent of natural theology, that is, philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Swinburne’s “Is There A God?” has been translated into 14 languages.

Herman Philipse is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utrecht, The Netherlands, and one of the world’s leading atheist thinkers. Philipse’s 1995 “Atheist Manifesto” was republished in an expanded edition in 2004 with a foreword by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who partly credits the book for her shift from Islam to atheism. Philipse’s forthcoming book “God in the Age of Science? A Critique of Religious Reason” will be published by OUP in early 2012.

Swinburne argued that the entire universe is governed by simple laws and that such laws are arranged so that humankind was created. He believes that this is evidence for the existence of God. Philipse argued that the existence of such laws does not require a God and that, if the universe was constructed as it is in order to produce us, then it is an amazingly wasteful exercise since humankind constitutes so little of the matter and the energy in the universe.

I must say that I do not regard the rules governing the universe as simple as will be appreciated by any effort to understand quantum physics. But, so far as we know, the laws governing the universe are consistent throughout the universe. For me though, this does not suggest a God. If the laws of the universe were not consistent, I don’t see how a universe in which we evolved could exist.

I have written more fully about my problem with religion here.


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