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The axioms of science as evidence for Christianity against atheism

March 3, 2014

In the previous post of this series, I said that science, taken as a whole at the fundamental level, serves as evidence for Christianity over atheism. I will elaborate on that in this post, looking at the very axioms of science as the evidence.

Do your remember your high school geometry class? In geometry (and in mathematics in general), you start by making certain statements which are simply accepted without proof. They are called axioms, or postulates. This is necessary because you have to start somewhere; you can't get get anywhere by starting with nothing.

Science also has axioms - unproven assumptions about the universe which serve as the starting point of science. This is expected since science is based on mathematics. Making these assumptions are what allows us to do science - otherwise, nothing can come from nothing.

There isn't a single canonical list of such assumptions, as they are generally used only implicitly by scientists. Nevertheless you can search for various enumerations of these assumptions that others have written, and get a general sense of what these assumptions are. For my purpose here, I will condense these lists to just two axioms which I believe captures the essence of these assumptions.

Axiom 1: The universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner.
Axiom 2: Humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates.

Now, let's consider how these axioms can serve as evidence for atheism or Christianity. According to our definition of evidence, we must first evaluate how likely we are to predict these axioms by starting from either atheism or Christianity. That is to say, we're looking for the better explanation for the axioms of science, while asking "why are the assumptions of science the way they are?"

Let's start with atheism. Now, since atheism is fundamentally a statement about the nonexistence of entities (God, gods, spirits, etc), it lacks explanatory power; for nothing comes from nothing, and nothing cannot serve as an explanation for anything. You can't get anywhere by starting with nothing. Basically, we want to fill in the "????" in the explanation below:

Step 1: There are no spirits or gods. (Atheism)
Step 2: ????
Step 3: Therefore the universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner (Axiom 1), and humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates (Axiom 2).

But we find that we cannot fill out that second step. There cannot be any reasoning derived from atheism, because atheism is a negative statement, about nonexistence of things, which can provide no positive explanations about the existence of things.

Neither can atheism supply any reason to reject any of the alternatives to the axioms of science. There is no way to decide whether the universe will be orderly or chaotic; atheism is equally silent in both directions. It is also silent to other alternatives: the universe may be orderly, or chaotic, or orderly only in certain areas or at certain times, or chaotic only for certain observers, or be always orderly but the specifics laws may change chaotically. Atheism cannot reject any of these alternatives to Axiom 1.

In the same way, in atheism humans may be able to learn about the universe; but it's also possible that we may not be able to. Humans may simply be too stupid, or may have evolved in the wrong way for understanding, or may be inside a "Matrix"-like simulation, or may be a brain in a vat, or an alien conspiracy may have tampered with our memories of scientific learning. All of these scenarios (and many more) would fundamentally prevent humans from accurately learning about the operations of the universe, yet atheism cannot eliminate any of these alternatives to Axiom 2.

Since atheism cannot narrow down our many choices to the correct axioms, we conclude that atheism predicts the axioms of science with very low probability.

Now, let's see what Christianity says about the axioms of science.

Step 1: There is a God, who is revealed in Jesus Christ. (Christianity)
Step 2: God created the universe to reflect his faithfulness, logic, wisdom, understanding, and goodness, so that we may look upon the universe and learn more about him.
Step 3: Therefore the universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner (Axiom 1), and humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates (Axiom 2).

Step 2 is crucial: if you'd like more elaboration on that step, please follow the link to the post where I discuss how science fits within Christianity. There you'll find a fuller discussion on how a belief in the Christian God naturally leads to the axioms of science.

So, if Christianity is true, then it predicts the axioms of science with near certainty.
We can now pull it all together and judge between atheism and Christianity, using the axioms of science as our evidence: atheism predicts the axioms with very low probability, while Christianity predicts the axioms with near certainty. Therefore, the axioms of science counts as very strong evidence for Christianity and against atheism. Or, more concisely: Christianity is a much better explanation for the axioms of science than atheism. 
I'd like to remind you that it did not have to happen this way. It could have been that, after Christianity declared that God created the universe with logic and wisdom for us to understand, science could have come along centuries later with a very different set of working axioms and thereby proven Christianity wrong. But this did not happen, and so the axioms of science counts as evidence for Christianity.

This should not surprise you. After all, it's no coincidence that the seeds of modern science started in Christian medieval Europe. The fact that Christianity explains the axioms of science means that science is subsumed by Christianity, exactly as I explained before. Although theology and science are separate disciplines, it turns out that science is based on God and is about God.

In the next post of this series, I will address some of the possible objections to this post.


You may next want to read:
Answering objections: science as evidence for Christianity against atheism (Next post of the series)
"Proving" God's existence
The word "If" does not apply to God
Another post, from the table of contents

Show/hide comments(7 Comments)

7 comments on “The axioms of science as evidence for Christianity against atheism”

  1. Great post!
    To my best knowledge, you've overestimated atheism (or very possibly I do not understand atheism at all :P). Nearly all "atheists" are like the majority in China or Japan etc., they simply refuse the idea that there are spirits or gods because they've never seen them. Those atheists shall be better called "skeptics". I guess the "atheist" you refer to are not those very few people with deep systematic philosophic thought that there are spirits or gods. I believe that even in academia (not including those majored in philosophy), nearly 100% of the atheists belong to the first category.
    The starting point you give to atheism seem too high, despite that all human have the possibility to connect with God and the inclination to worship something.
    Their starting point may be "it's an observed fact that human can learn about this universe"
    Step 2: According to our experiments, we've never find spirits or gods or anything explicitly points to them and we can deny anyone's claim that their are gods using science or experience.
    Step 3: So, there are no spirits or gods. The ultimate thing in the universe is science.
    In atheist view, the idea that God doesn't exist is an axiom, they even don't have to prove it. They call it superstition or foolishness or the bad remains of feudal society. They hold that what they believe is truth while being unable to deny those scenarios (Matrix etc.) you put before them for those scenarios are beyond the capability and possibility of atheism.
    I used to be an atheist/skeptic. Even after I became a believer of Christianity, I haven't considered these questions. But after reading your post, I finally understand how fallen atheism/skepticism is, how foolish I was. And from this open door, I have a glimpse of how glorious God is! Like is written in Isaiah 55:9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." , for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so is Christianity higher than atheism.
    I'm sure many brilliant scientists and researchers are still enshrouded like blind men. If not revealed by God himself, no matter how clever we human beings are, we can never have true understanding. The more terrible thing is, those clever atheists brag about their intelligence and abilities and use the gift from God to glorify themselves. I'll persuade my colleagues to read your posts :P.
    The ideas in your post are probably sufficient to object polytheism, maybe the evidences only support Christianity and Judaism.
    Thank God for teaching me these through your post.

  2. I'm glad to be of use! My experience in atheism in academia was similar to yours. I met some people who had never given God any serious thought because they had a vague feeling that it was "unscientific". What I want to do here show is that if you try to systematize atheism (something that many atheists loathe to do, as it opens up their belief to cross-examination and falsification), it utterly fails. And once you have eliminated the impossible, the remaining possibilities must be considered.

    But if atheism stays in the "not philosophically systematized" state, then on the scientific level it fails the falsifiability test. It's "not even wrong", if you've heard that expression. One can argue that falsifiability doesn't apply, because this is clearly a philosophical rather than a scientific question, but then that argument requires a philosophical system.

  3. Part 1

    So having read this a few times, I’ve identified, at a minimum, the following logical fallacies in your argument.

    False dichotomy (false dilemma)
    Straw Man
    Equivocation
    Association fallacy
    False Cause
    Special Pleading
    Begging the Question (Circular Reasoning)

    Below are my responses to several of your claims, including the fallacies used.

    “In the previous post of this series, I said that science, taken as a whole at the fundamental level, serves as evidence for Christianity over atheism.”

    Response: False dichotomy. Christianity and atheism are not diametric opposites. It’s the same fallacy made by Ray Comfort in his “documentary” Evolution vs. God.

    “Science also has axioms - unproven assumptions about the universe which serve as the starting point of science.”

    Response: Citation? I'm not sure this is correct. 'Scientific axiom' is an oxymoron. To create an axiom about the natural world is an attempt to create boundaries of the natural world, but the natural world is not a human contrivance. The natural world exists outside of the human minds, and thus, is not subject to contrived human constraints.

    “This is expected since science is based on mathematics. Making these assumptions are what allows us to do science - otherwise, nothing can come from nothing.”

    Response: Science is not based on mathematics. Citation? Some scientific principles can be explained mathematically, like gravity, but not everything can. For example, there is no mathematical basis for natural selection, and other parts of evolution, such as random mutation, cannot be explained mathematically.

    “Now, let's consider how these axioms can serve as evidence for atheism or Christianity. According to our definition of evidence, we must first evaluate how likely we are to predict these axioms by starting from either atheism or Christianity.”

    Response: Another false dichotomy.

    “That is to say, we're looking for the better explanation for the axioms of science, while asking ‘why are the assumptions of science the way they are?’”

    Response: The assumptions made by science are used because they demonstrably work. If the assumptions did not work, the assumptions would be revised or discarded. That’s how science works.

    “Let's start with atheism. Now, since atheism is fundamentally a statement about the nonexistence of entities (God, gods, spirits, etc)…”

    Response: Straw man. Atheism is a lack of belief in any gods. It is not a claim of non-existence or rejection of gods. Theism is defined as a belief in one or more gods. The prefix “a” means “without.” In other words, atheism is a without belief in gods. It is a rejection of theism. You believe a god exists, and I reject your claim. It is NOT a claim of knowledge. That’s gnosticism. Atheists don’t say “I know there are no gods.” They say “I do not believe any gods exist.” Very different.

    “…it lacks explanatory power.”

    Response: So what? Atheism is not required to have explanatory power. You seem to think that atheism, as a rejection of theism, is required to provide an alternative explanation. This is shifting the burden of proof. A theist claims that their chosen god exists. I reject said claim. I have no burden to prove you wrong. You have a burden to prove yourself right.

  4. Part 2

    “…for nothing comes from nothing, and nothing cannot serve as an explanation for anything.”

    Response: Another straw man. Atheism takes no such position.

    “You can't get anywhere by starting with nothing. Basically, we want to fill in the "????" in the explanation below:

    Step 1: There are no spirits or gods. (Atheism)”

    Response: Straw man. Again.

    “Step 2: ????”

    Response: You’re trying to construct an axiom or syllogism where none exists. Equivocation of what atheism means. You’re forming some sort of atheistic position that doesn’t actually exist.

    “Step 3: Therefore the universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner (Axiom 1), and humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates (Axiom 2).”

    Response: Still no syllogism. Step 3 is pointless.

    “But we find that we cannot fill out that second step. There cannot be any reasoning derived from atheism, because atheism is a negative statement, about nonexistence of things, which can provide no positive explanations about the existence of things.”

    Response: Who said there has to be reasoning derived from atheism? Again, you’re making atheism into more than it is. Atheism has no burden to provide positive explanation of things. Again with the burden of proof shift.

    “Neither can atheism supply any reason to reject any of the alternatives to the axioms of science. There is no way to decide whether the universe will be orderly or chaotic; atheism is equally silent in both directions.”

    Response: Of course it is. Atheism has nothing to do with this. It’s like blaming a psychiatrist for not explaining hybrid engines. They are unrelated.

    “It is also silent to other alternatives: the universe may be orderly, or chaotic, or orderly only in certain areas or at certain times, or chaotic only for certain observers, or be always orderly but the specifics laws may change chaotically. Atheism cannot reject any of these alternatives to Axiom 1.”

    Response: Same response as above. You have unreasonable expectations of atheists to have a common response to something that is not atheism.

    In the same way, in atheism humans may be able to learn about the universe; but it's also possible that we may not be able to. Humans may simply be too stupid, or may have evolved in the wrong way for understanding, or may be inside a "Matrix"-like simulation, or may be a brain in a vat, or an alien conspiracy may have tampered with our memories of scientific learning. All of these scenarios (and many more) would fundamentally prevent humans from accurately learning about the operations of the universe, yet atheism cannot eliminate any of these alternatives to Axiom 2.

    Response: It’s not trying to!

    Since atheism cannot narrow down our many choices to the correct axioms, we conclude that atheism predicts the axioms of science with very low probability.

    Response: No we don’t. Same reasons as above.

  5. Part 3

    “Now, let's see what Christianity says about the axioms of science.

    Step 1: There is a God, who is revealed in Jesus Christ. (Christianity)
    Step 2: God created the universe to reflect his faithfulness, logic, wisdom, understanding, and goodness, so that we may look upon the universe and learn more about him.
    Step 3: Therefore the universe operates in a consistent, uniform manner (Axiom 1), and humans can accurately learn about how the universe operates (Axiom 2).”

    Response: I reject these axioms as –

    1. Unreasonable.
    2. Special pleading. You ignore all other gods, including a deistic god and gods that haven’t been made up yet. This is the same fundamental flaw in Pascal’s Wager. You could easily insert any other creator god into this axiom and derive the same conclusion. This axiom, at best, would support deism.
    3. Not actually axioms. An axiom is, by definition, self-evident, despite being unprovable. The commutative property of addition (a + b = b + a) is axiomatic. It is self-evident. No reasonable person would disagree with this property. However, there’s nothing self-evident about your axiom, especially considering a majority of humans on earth reject this axiom.
    4. Circular reasoning (begging the question). The whole purpose of your axiom is to prove that the Christian God exists (Evidence for Christianity over Atheism), but your axiom presupposes this assumption (Step 1). This is the most fatal flaw in your argument. You can’t assume god in order to prove god. That’s exactly what you did. Your conclusion can’t be included in your premise.

    The rest of your argument is essentially irrelevant due to the circular reasoning in your axiom, as it is dependent on the viability of the axiom.

    I could also argue that your statement “what Christianity says about the axioms of science” is not necessarily true. An axiom is, essentially, an unstated premise. It doesn’t need to be stated because it is a priori knowledge. But the premise is stated, in the Bible. And we also know that the Bible is flawed, in that it (1) has no original copies, (2) has anonymous authors, (3) has been translated, (4) has been altered, (5) has parts that were voted on at the Council of Nicea, and (6) appears in different versions with very different meanings for certain passages. In other words, your unstated premise, which is actually a stated premise, is unreliable at best.

    “We can now pull it all together and judge between atheism and Christianity, using the axioms of science as our evidence: atheism predicts the axioms with very low probability, while Christianity predicts the axioms with near certainty. Therefore, the axioms of science counts as very strong evidence for Christianity and against atheism.”

    Response: It does no such thing. And there you go with the false dichotomy again.

    Or, more concisely: Christianity is a much better explanation for the axioms of science than atheism.

    Response: Assuming this statement is correct (I do not, but we’ll ignore that for now), it doesn’t make your position correct.

    “This should not surprise you. After all, it's no coincidence that the seeds of modern science started in Christian medieval Europe. The fact that Christianity explains the axioms of science means that science is subsumed by Christianity, exactly as I explained before.”

    Response: False cause or association fallacy. Furthermore, it’s quite accurate to say that Christianity stifled science, which was closing the “god of the gaps.” Just look at Galileo during the Roman Inquisition, due to his theory of heliocentrism, which was proven correct. The seeds of science started in medieval Europe in spite of Christianity.

  6. Part 4

    “In the next post of this series, I will address some of the possible objections to this post.”

    Response: The only objection I made that actually appears in your “possible objections” you admittedly ignored.

    You must be a follower of Sye Ten Bruggencate. He uses the same kinds of presuppositional arguments to ignore his burden or proof.

    So, in summary –
    1. Your argument ignores all other possible gods.
    2. You don’t understand what atheism is.
    3. You think atheism has some sort of unwritten responsibility to explain things it is not intended to.
    4. Your axiom is not an axiom at all, and contains circular reasoning. You can’t prove god with the premise that god exists.

    And, you know the funny thing, other religions make pretty much the same claims as you do. They just insert their books instead of yours. It doesn’t work for them either, even the Muslims, who invented algebra.

    Sorry this is so long. Character limits...

  7. Thank you for your opinions.

    It seems to me that your inability to understand my arguments mostly comes from your ignorance of Bayesian inference. I have tried to explain Bayesian thinking in the first post of this series, on "evidence", but a single post is manifestly not sufficient to convert a hardcore skeptic. I intend to make several more posts in the future to teach more about this deep way of thinking, so please stick around and look forward to it! Bayesian inference underlies my arguments in this series of posts, and the scientific method itself.

    Meanwhile, if don't want to wait you can get started by following these links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayesian_inference
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes_factor
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_hypothesis_testing

    You can also see the following thread on reddit where much of the same types of objections were brought up and answered:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/Christianity/comments/24klv0/science_taken_as_a_whole_is_evidence_for/ch82ejc

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