I recently tweeted about Stephen Meyer’s book Return of the God Hypothesis and its surge in the rankings at Amazon after Meyer’s appearance on the TBN television network. The book jumped into the top 700 books overall, and it claimed the #1 spot in the categories of Cosmology, History & Philosophy of Science, and Science & Religion.
YouTube “science communicator” Dave Farina quickly responded with a series of profanity-laden attacks on Meyer’s book, Meyer himself, and the theory of intelligent design, not to mention me personally. Shortly before I blocked Farina for not heeding my warning to be civil, another user weighed in, claiming Meyer’s book was not scientific. When I pressed this user for his definition of scientific, he said science is “the study of and knowledge about the physical world and natural laws.” In my reply, I offered William Dembski’s definition of science:
A careful search for truths about the natural world, including truths about key elements such as the birth of our fine-tuned universe and the origin of living things.
The Twitter user then responded with this frank question:
The book mentioned the god hypothesis. The concept of God lies beyond the realm of natural world. How can a book describing the God hypothesis be scientific? It is difficult to fathom.
After praising him for his intellectual humility, something “Professor” Dave wholly lacks, I replied with three tweets:
(1) That’s a good question. Remember, the greats of modern science — Newton, Boyle, Kepler, and others — pursued science because of their faith in God, not in spite of it. They studied the natural world to understand how the designer did it. Why it’s one way and not another.
(2) God is a hypothesis. What Dr. Meyer does is evaluate that hypothesis against the latest scientific evidence of the last century. He compares it to other hypotheses of the origin of life and the universe. And he draws a reasonable conclusion.
(3) That’s why one’s definition of science is important. Since matter and energy couldn’t be the cause of the universe that brought matter and energy into existence, we must be open to other causes beyond matter and energy.
Logic, Reason, Realism, and Empiricism
I also added this, from the a description of an ID the Future podcast episode featuring Dembski:
Modern science was invented by theists, most of them Christians. They were motivated to search out the rational underpinnings of the cosmos because they believed it was fashioned by a rational designer. It’s a mind-opening, science-starting way of studying nature!
I could sense this Twitter user was at least open to considering why Meyer’s book might be considered scientific. His profile champions logic, reason, realism, and empiricism — all qualities on fine display in Meyer’s book. My brief interaction with this Twitter user — and with Farina — was a good reminder of the importance of humility and openness in the scientific enterprise. Without them, our understanding of science — and indeed science itself — cannot advance.