The reigning philosophy of science is methodological naturalism, which requires that scientists explain all natural phenomena in terms of naturalistic causes.  If a scientist thinks the evidence for some biological or natural entity points to an intelligent cause, the possibility is dismissed as unscientific by definition, and the scientist is charged with employing a “God of the gaps” argument in which God is invoked to plug up gaps in our knowledge.

I’ve always found this line of thinking interesting.  Can you imagine if this principle was applied to the non-biological world?  What caused Stonehenge?  “People made it,” you say.  Oh no!  You have broken the rules of science.  This is a physical entity, and thus it must be explained in terms of naturalistic causes.  “But,” you say, “it has all the elements of design.  The arrangement of parts is both complex and specified.”  But this is just the appearance of design, not real design.  While we may not know the natural process by which the pyramids were created, scientists are working on that.  We cannot give up on science by appealing to some unknown “designers.”  To do so is to employ a people of the gaps argument.

If someone argued this way he would be laughed out of court.  So why is it different when it comes to the biological world, which is unbelievably more complex and specified?  If we recognize the presence of design by the presence of specified complexity, and at least parts of the natural/biological world exhibit specified complexity, then it is rational to conclude that those features were caused by a designing intelligence.  If methodological naturalism prevents us from concluding the obvious, then so much the worse for methodological naturalism.  Obviously such a definition of science is too restrictive.  While we ought to look for naturalistic explanations for natural phenomenon, we should not rule out the possibility of intelligent causation in the physical world a priori.  “The object and domain of science should be the physical world, but its goal should be truth, not merely physical explanations.  Though science is restricted to examining physical effects, when causes are inferred, there should be no limitation.”[1]

Science often infers the existence of unobservable physical entities because they are causally adequate to explain the effects they observe in nature.  But who says the entities they infer must be physical entities?  The important thing is that the entity be causally adequate to explain the physical effect.  If no physical entity is causally adequate to do so, and the evidence points to an intelligent cause, then it is legitimate to infer a non-physical, intelligent agent.


[1]Greg Koukl, Solid Ground, July/Augusts 2005 issue, 3.