An Either-Or on Science and Theism:
I have had a lot of students coming to my office of late to discuss intelligent design. I am not going to take on the ID debate itself, instead I want to back up a step and make a more general teleological argument.
Here is the either/or:
Assumption: Scientists really know truths about the world.
Science, of course, uses an empirical method in order to discern laws. Scientific laws (like laws in physics) are thought to be regulative and uniform. That is, the condition for the possibility of knowledge in science is that nature is regular and uniform (intelligible). (Unintelligent things act in ways that are governed and intelligible, like rocks predictably and uniformly falling toward earth at discernible rates).
Genuine knowledge is based on justifiable assumptions. Science is genuine knowledge based on the assumption of the principle of the uniformity of nature, so the principle of the uniformity of nature must be justifiable.
How to justify it? How to explain the intelligibility of the natural world? Well, if the effect is intelligible, then the cause must be intelligent (for how could intelligibility arise out of random chaos?). Therefore, there must be an intelligent cause (one might say both first and final) of nature.
Assumption: There is no justified reason for thinking there is an intelligent cause of nature.
Genuine knowledge is based on justifiable assumptions. The principle of the uniformity of nature is not justifiable, therefore science (which depends on the PUN) is not genuine knowledge.
In short, here is your choice:
a) You either think science is genuine knowledge, in which case you must be a theist of some sort (you need at least an Unmoved Mover)
b) You deny God (UMM), and so must deny that science is genuine knowledge.
That is, you can either be a theist or a skeptic about all empirical knowledge. You can choose God and science, or no God and no science.
This seems too easy. It might be. There is a third option:
c) Options (a) and (b) presume a foundationalist account of knowledge. Instead we should have a coherentist account. In other words, one could say: I do think that scientific knowledge is genuine knowledge about the world, with a disclaimer (you decide if it is small or large disclaimer). The disclaimer is that we admit that the principle of the uniformity of nature is unjustified, but that science is still a coherent system and so we can call it ‘knowledge’.
Those that want to deny an Unmoved Mover are probably wisest to choose c, though even that option is not without its problems. That said, I don’t think that most of my students who think science does not need an Unmoved Mover (God) can choose option c. Two reasons for this: 1) Most of them are really puffed up over their science and so probably don’t want any disclaimers on its legitimacy at all (they seem to think that science has ‘proved’ all sorts of things rather than science being theory) and 2) I think most of my students have a foundationalist view of knowledge.
One could raise some questions, of course, with option (a). For instance, must we think that intelligible effects can only arise out of intelligible causes? (I do think there is good reason to think this, but I can imagine someone disputing it too).