Where Science and Faith Converge

Explaining the Cosmos’ Susceptibility to Rational Investigation

By Kenneth R. Samples - February 1, 2011

Physicists study the universe through the prism of mathematics. Recognizing the important role mathematical constructs play in understanding the cosmos raises a critical philosophical question: How can the conceptual principles present in the human mind correspond to the structure of the physical universe itself? In other words, why should it be possible for Albert Einstein’s famous equation (E = mc2) to correspond to the very nature of the universe? Or put more simply: Why is mathematics valid?

This astonishing affinity—between the mathematical thoughts of man’s mind, in the form of equations, with the objective cosmos—corresponds well with the Christian theistic worldview. According to Scripture, God created both the physical universe and the minds of human beings. And because people were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27), they possess the cognitive faculties and sensory organs to study the intelligible order of the universe. In effect, God networked the intelligible cosmos and the rational mind of human beings together with himself. So the valid conceptual enterprises of logic, mathematics, and science (investigation of the natural order) are then expected features of a universe made by a perfectly rational Creator. Given these theological presuppositions, it is easy to see why a universe created by a God would be open to rational investigation.

Philosopher Gregory Ganssle comments further about this expected congruence within the Christian theistic world-and-life view: “The fact that the universe is made by a mind for reasons leads us to expect that it can be grasped rationally. It makes sense that stable laws would allow predictions to be made and inferences to be drawn.”1 So it curiously appears that the universe we find ourselves in corresponds quite well with what we would expect to discover in a cosmos that is an artifact of a theistic deity. The universe conforming to rational investigation is not just logically consistent with a theistic perspective, it is an “expected feature” of that worldview. Thus this type of apologeics reasoning suggests that God is by logical inference2 a uniquely viable explanation for the rational features of the universe.

How, then, does an atheistic, naturalistic perspective stack up? Does a universe that conforms to rational investigation comport well with a purely secular, naturalistic point of view? In answering this question consider cosmologist Paul Davies’ claim that the developing cosmos was potentially open to a variety of possible outcomes. Davies insists that the universe is not the inevitable outworking of nature’s fixed laws and initial conditions. Instead the cosmos could have followed untold contingent outcomes. He states, “It seems, then, that the physical universe does not have to be the way it is: it could have been otherwise.”3 It appears that the consensus of the scientific community now agrees with Davies that the laws of physics did not necessitate a universe that is both hospitable to human life and is also amazingly susceptible to rational investigation by human beings.

In light of this incredible happenstance from the naturalist’s viewpoint, Ganssle says: “A naturalistic universe, however, would not have to be susceptible to rational investigation. It fits perfectly well with a naturalistic universe that it be wildly chaotic. Of course, being susceptible to rational investigation is not incompatible with a universe without God, but the theory that God does not exist allows the universe to exhibit any one of a wide variety of descriptions as far as order is concerned.”4

At this point of tension, advocates of the multiverse hypothesis would likely proclaim that both the fine-tuning in the universe along with the fact that it is a cosmos capable of rational investigation are just natural accidents of having so many universes that all possible outcomes have played out. We got lucky. So does the multiverse hypothesis nullify the need to infer God to explain the orderly features of the cosmos?

Consider three potential defeaters of the “many worlds hypothesis” for the naturalist: First, as yet no direct empirical data supports the existence of these multiple universes, so currently they can neither be verified nor falsified. Second, the multiverse sounds like it is virtually metaphysical (beyond the physical) and thus conflicts with the traditional parameters of naturalism. Third, many leading advocates of the multiverse theory have admitted that any universe in the state of cosmic expansion must have had an absolute beginning.5 Thus the multiverse proposal doesn’t eliminate legitimate philosophical and scientific questions about our present universe’s existence and overall intelligibility.

The fact that the cosmos is susceptible to rational investigation favors the idea that an incredible intelligence exists beyond the universe itself (theism). What best explains this striking phenomenon? The Christian worldview asserts that the God of the Bible provides a rationally plausible explanation for the cosmos’ amazing order and intelligibility.

  1. Gregory E. Ganssle, “Dawkins’s Best Argument against God’s Existence,” in Contending with Christianity’s Critics, eds. Paul Copan and William Lane Craig (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2009), 80.
  2. Instead of a god-of-the-gaps form of reasoning, Christian scholars often appeal to God as an inference to the best explanation. In logic, this approach is known as abductive reasoning (see Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007), 52–53.
  3. Paul Davies, The Mind of God (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), 169.
  4. Ganssle, “Dawkins’s Best Argument against God’s Existence,” 80.
  5. See Alex Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), 176.

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