The Unformity of Nature
Earlier, in my post on the problem with empiricism, I mentioned that a theory of knowledge that claims that all knowledge is based on sense-experience cannot explain why the world runs in such a uniform fashion (what we call the “uniformity of nature”). To drive this point home to non-Christians we should ask them to give an account of why it is that they trust the future to be like the past. If the universe operates in such a uniform fashion this implies design, or teleology. This teleological dimension of the universe has intensely practical implications.
When we take a prescription medication we assume that the positive effects it had in the past will continue into the present and future. This is especially damaging to one who believes the reality can be boiled down to complex matter in motion for unnumbered eons of time. If the universe is impersonal and purposeless, then why assume a uniformity among random events? If the answer is because nature has always behaved in this manner we must make it apparent that this response assumes what it needs to prove (i.e. is begs the question). If all “knowledge” comes from sense-experience, then we can have no warrant for saying that the future will be like the past. Why? Because, by definition, we have no “experience” of the future.
The Christian is perfectly comfortable with this uniformity because Scripture speaks of it (Deut. 11:14). God has promised, in His word, to continue to run the universe in a largely uniform fashion, as the covenant with Noah tells us (Gen. 8:22).
Though I am simplifying for the sake of clarity and space, we must realize that this last point is absolutely devastating to many of the “scientific” objections to the faith. The scientific method of inquiry assumes the general repeatability of an experimental procedure to validate a given hypothesis. Without some warrant for the general predictability of nature we can have no assurance that a antitoxin that fruitfully achieved its purpose the first one hundred times will not act as a poison the one-hundred and first. Our lives demonstrate that everyday we act on the belief that nature is uniform. What we’re asking of the non-believing empiricist/naturalist/materialist is to provide a philosophical justification for such a belief from within their worldview.
Naturalistic scientists cannot take their first steps without denying, in practice, their philosophical underpinnings.