I was reading the comment stream at the facebook page for the “Magis Centre for Reason and Faith” about how science and religion are compatible because science can’t prove or disprove the existence of God.
There are a whole bunch of things wrong with the comments, including the standard category errors, and moving referent errors, and the lack of understanding that science doesn’t prove anything.
But it got me thinking.
Science is a way to tell which explanation is better. You compare the possible explanations, and you figure out their consequences (because all explanations have consequences). You keep going until the consequences differ: explanation one would have consequence A, but explanation two would not. Then you go and look to see which is right. That explanation is better. You then repeat, again and again, until one explanation dominates its peers.
So the problem with the Magis approach, that God’s existence cannot be accessed via science is this: it is an admission that the God explanation for the way the world works has no unique consequences.
To say theology and science are non-overlapping concerns is to say that God has no consequence in the entire universe: the whole universe is exactly as it would be if there were no God. Because if that weren’t true – if there were some place where the existence of God mattered – well, there would be a consequence, then we could go check.
This is a singly modern idea of God, and it is born out of the fact that for millenia, religious folks have thought that there were observable consequences of God. And they were pretty cocky about them. But it has turned out, time and again, they were wrong. So the fashion in theology is to retreat – to say we don’t want to play that game (after all, Creationism is a dirty word among most Christians I know too), so we’ll partition God from science finally – the two can never meet.
Well, okay, that’s fine as a theology I guess, but if you do that, how have you not just made God totally irrelevant?
And if you can name a point at which God is relevant to the universe, how can that not be testable?