Natural Theology

By now our view of the relation between science and what we call "God" should be clear, but our title mentions natural theology so a few words about that may be in order.

We may divide natural theology into two types: biased natural theology and unbiased natural theology.

The common type, biased natural theology, begins with some religion's dogmas and beliefs, then seeks to use natural reason to prove or, at least, make more credible, those dogmas and beliefs. Thus, the Christian natural theologian tries to prove through natural reason (that is, reason unaided by "divine revelation") the dogma of the Trinity, or the godhood of Jesus, or some other dogma. And the Jewish natural theologian tries to use natural reason to prove God awarded an ancient people some land in the Near East, while the Islamic natural theologian tries to show why Muhammed deserves the title "The Seal of the Prophets."

In contrast, unbiased natural theology uses the evidence—the evidence we can see with our unaided senses, and the evidence we can see with our senses extended with microscope and telescope and rigorous experimentation and advanced reasoning, i.e., scientific evidence—to draw its conclusions.

By beginning with conclusions and looking for evidence for those conclusions, biased natural theology profoundly contradicts the spirit and method of science. Moreover, to achieve its goal of confirming and defending deeply believed religious dogmas, biased natural theology aims at emotional and physiological comfort, sometimes at the expense of reason.

In contrast, unbiased natural theology pursues a quest for truth, and sometimes may yield uncomfortable conclusions.

The "natural theology" in our title refers to unbiased natural theology.


We did not label our book "Science and Natural Theology" but "Science as Natural Theology". The word "as" implies connection. Can we credibly regard science as a form of theology?

Some early scientists did so. Steeped in the Christianity of Western Europe, they regarded understanding creation (i.e., the natural world) as a way of coming to a fuller understanding of the Creator. To use an analogy, they believed an understanding of the watch could lead them to a deeper understand of the watchmaker. A lucid expression of this attitude occurs in Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason:

The Creation speaks a universal language, independently of human speech or human language, multiplied and various as they may be. It is an ever-existing original, which every man can read. It cannot be forged; it cannot be counterfeited; it cannot be lost; it cannot be altered; it cannot be suppressed. It does not depend upon the will of man whether it shall be published or not; it publishes itself from one end of the earth to the other. It preaches to all the nations, and all the worlds. This natural word of God reveals to us all that man needs to know of God.

Because we identify God with the universe's ultimate ground, for us watch and watchmaker do not essentially differ. Thus, we prefer another analogy: understanding sunlight (the natural universe) can lead us to a deeper understanding of the sun (the natural universe's ultimate ground of existence). Thus, for us science may be viewed as a form of theology.

We now turn to applying our worldview to some traditional theological issues.