The Harmony of Scientific and Philosophical Facts

This is the fifth article in a new nine-part series entitled “Evidence for Agnostics.” New articles in the series will be published each Monday.

What realities form the possibility and the basis for the sciences, even the more theoretical reaches of scientific research?  Well, that is a fair question.  A question most agnostics have explicitly and implicitly assumed when it comes to the question of God.  For most agnostics believe science is the only way to truth about reality and the cosmos.  And, if science can’t demonstrate God’s existence and His nature, God can’t really exist.  God is merely a myth or a nagging superstition.  And, it is this fact or its resulting doubt that makes them agnostics.

For most agnostics believe modern science has remanded the existence and the nature of God to the realms of superstition or belief.  Or, they attribute belief in God to a psychological deficiency or an inability to face the real reality of a wholly material universe and the reduction of all human life and living to mere matter in motion.

But, such science is only possible if four crucial aspects are actually present in our universe.  And, three of them are so obvious, it is possible to state them concisely and with clarity.  For we are all awash in them in our daily lives.  And, they are so familiar, even agnostics will acknowledge them without serious debate or lengthy disputation. 

For the first three are explicit in most people’s understanding of what science is and does.  And, they are implicit to our general understanding of science and the empirical method.  The three guiding principles or presuppositions are: the order and the anticipated reliability of the physical world, the general reliability of our senses to accurately perceive the physical realities of our world and our mental ability process this sensory data.  These three operative components are all crucial components to the conduct of scientific research and its applications. 

But, the fourth component is truly the component that makes all the difference.  For it is truly the real source and substance of science’s very power.  And, it is the capacity to make sense of these three realities that is really what makes science so effective and so successful.  For seeing and understanding the order of the physical world and the very processing of this information is a mental process, a product of our minds. 

But, in order to process this latent order in the physical realm and the sensory data we encounter accurately, we must be able to think properly, to rationally and critically process this data.  And, it is just this capacity and at this very juncture that we see the crucial inevitability of our rational abilities, and the inherent intangible rational order of our minds and the order of the physical world. 

For rationality in all its manifestations tells us clearly that science is downstream from reason.  That science is an application of a pre-existing rational order to the data we observe and the order we perceive.  That rational order and that logical ability we have is what makes science possible and so powerful.  For that scientific method and the content of all the sciences are impossible without reason.

And, through rationality and over centuries of rigorous rational observation and experimentation, the physical world consistently reveals its order to the skilled scientific inquiries into the nature and purpose, the structure and the function of all its many physical manifestations.  That is what biology and chemistry, physics and the physical sciences all tell us.  And our investigations into all manner of phenomena seek and expect a certain order to the physical world, though at times the revealed order is surprising, even baffling, to its many skilled researchers.

So, despite the modern faulty separation between science and philosophy, despite the faulty attribution of authority to science and the diminution of philosophy’s factfinding ability through rationality, let’s briefly review some of the crucial findings of science and philosophy.  Let’s see how that demonstrates the inherent harmony of scientific fact and philosophical truth that arrive at the same conclusions through different, but complementary, means. 

So, let’s look at the origin of the cosmos.  Current scientific theory about the beginning of the cosmos is the “big bang.”  According to current science, the origin of the universe can be traced back to a fraction of a second with a high degree of accuracy.  At that milli-second in that explosive instant, space and time, matter and energy came into existence.  In that instant the entire cosmos began in this singularly significant event.

Yet, as any good scientist would tell you, they still are looking for the cause that caused the “big bang,” because every effect must have a cause.  And, that is a rational principle and a scientific certainty.  So, researchers are still looking for that cause, which they have termed the “god particle” for they know scientifically, every effect must have a cause, a prior cause.

Similarly, philosophy, through raw rationality, knows too that every effect must have a cause.  But, they know, through deductive logic.  Philosophy’s raw logic requires that ultimately, the first cause must be uncaused.  That all reality must begin with an “uncaused causer.”  For that is a logical necessity.  For every effect must have a prior cause. And, ultimately this first cause cannot be an effect.  It must be an uncaused cause, an “uncaused causer.”

But, if scientists do find this “god particle,” they will likely pursue research about what caused the “god particle.”  And, if they don’t find this “god particle,” they will insist there must be something that caused it, despite the absence of evidence to the contrary. 

Yet inevitably, the scientific paradigm ultimately leads to an infinite regression.  For the assumption of the scientific paradigm is that all evidence must be physical in some form or other, despite what rational logic tells us.  Despite what our rational laws and power tell us.  For the initial cause of everything will be shrouded in some form of an infinite regression to the scientists who cannot conceive of a non-material entity that is the initial “uncaused causer.”

So, philosophy can prove the inevitable reality of an uncaused causer, but science can only speculate about an infinite regression, because the method for knowing scientifically requires physicality.  But reason and philosophy have no such bias about the exclusivity of tangibility and the tangible sciences.  For philosophy is soundly grounded in reason and science.  But it recognizes logical inevitabilities, as well as scientific evidence.  And, this is a simple but profound case of rational science’s subordination to the pure rationality of philosophy.

But, let’s look at another area of scientific investigation about the “tuning” of the universe.  In the early Seventies, scientists studying the many aspects of the physical realities of the universe began to discover the confluence and simultaneity of a variety of physical constants that made some researchers postulate the possibility that the universe was tuned for biological life, particularly human life. 

They identified a few physical constants of the physical universe that were absolutely necessary for human life to exist.  They called their theory, the “anthropic principle.”  Over the ensuing decades the number of crucial constants has grown to over one hundred apparently “tuned” constants present in the universe that make human life a realistic and real possibility.  The fine tuning of these constants is so crucial that if a mere exponent of any of these crucial constants was changed the universe would not exist as it is, nor would human life be possible. 

Notice the appeal here is to scientific facts and the systemic interrelatedness of these crucial constants.  Here is an appeal to science and to mathematics, both of which strongly imply a possible intention or plan.  Or, at the very least, a highly unlikely probability that all this “tuning” happened by accident, by mere chance.

To take this a bit further, a scientist named Roger Penrose calculated the probability that the “tuning” of the universe, such as it is, could have happened accidentally.  He wanted to examine the real probability that all this apparent complex tuning was reasonably explainable through the accidental processes of an unguided, mechanistic universe.  His mathematical probability became known as “Penrose’s Number.”  “Penrose’s number” indicated that the possibility of the universe’s tuning occurring accidentally was 1 in 1010/123.  That’s one in ten to the tenth to the one hundred twenty third power. 

That number was so infinitesimally small, making an accidentally tuned universe all but impossible.  To give you a sense of how small the probability is that there is a chance, a probability that the universe came about by accidental processes, the probability is so small that we cannot even write the number.  We must resort to description of this vast number, for it is almost unimaginable.  For the probability of the universe with all its fine tuning came about accidentally is stated as 1 in 10 followed by more zeroes than there are molecules in the universe.  Crazy, right? 

So, the possibility that this fine tuning of the universe for human life, based on scientific findings thus far, was accidental is a mathematical impossibility.  Philosophy too, through the raw power of reason, tells us that the law of cause and effect requires an “uncaused causer.”  So, philosophy and mathematics affirm this reality, as do the physical sciences that provide the scientific evidence of the tuning of the cosmos.

Here we see mathematical probability and the logic of an “uncaused causer” and the current science agreeing on the first cause to our cosmos.  But, here we also see science’s limitation to physical phenomenon telling us we can only have an infinite regression despite scientific findings to the contrary. 

Bit, it isn’t that science is wrong.  Rather, it means science can only operate on physical realities.  And, and when it comes to the first cause or cosmic tuning, science must submit to rational and mathematical arguments, particularly when existing science, mathematics and logic (philosophy) all point in the same direction.

Remember mathematics is as rational as is philosophical logic and as rational as science itself.  But, science assumes physicality, which means when it comes to origin or tuning, it can’t get you to ultimate realities because it requires physicality.  That is where mathematics and philosophy have no such limitations. 

For mathematics, using science’s information, as in the “anthropic principle” and “Penrose’s Number,” gives a more definitive answer about the existence of an “uncaused causer.”  And, reason and its order and power as demonstrated briefly above with the philosophical argument for the absolute necessity for an “uncaused causer” also reveal the power and truth of reason again.

So, remember there is an inherent unity between science, mathematics and philosophy.  And, that unifying constant is reason.  For all three are only possible because reason is employed in all three, provided reason is used properly and rigorously in all three methods.  But remember, reason is an intangible order and power.  And, it too is an effect.  An effect that must have a prior cause. 

And, this “uncaused causer” of the universe and logic is what we call God.  For reason as well as all of reality, mental and physical realities, must have a cause.  And, it is this “first cause,” this “uncaused causer” is what we call “God.”


Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

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Mr. Cronin has studied on a graduate level in education at Harvard University and at the University of Connecticut, in leadership at Columbia University and in theology at Regent University and Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He also writes regularly for The National Catholic Register and appeared on EWTN’s The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi following his 2007 reversion to the Catholic faith from atheism and evangelical Protestantism.

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