Advancements in science, technology, and medicine over the last century or so have benefitted virtually all people. Scientific progress has lengthened human life spans and improved quality of life. These great strides prompt a provocative question: Why does science work? That is, why is the scientific enterprise so effective in delivering critical, reliable information about the natural world that can inform and benefit humankind?

I have posed this question to many scientists I’ve met through the years. The answer I usually hear is something along this line: “It just does. Science is unique. It works.”

I think the reason that most scientists struggle to tell me exactly why science works is because the “why” of science has more to do with the philosophy of science than with the formal practice of science itself. The philosophy of science can be understood as a subfield of science and is “concerned with all the assumptions, foundations, methods, implications of science, and with the use and merit of science.”The philosophy of science therefore has a lot to say about the whys of science.

A Science-Conducive World

For science to “work,” the following factors must be valid and operative in the universe and in human beings:2

  • The cosmos must be an objective (independent) reality
  • The cosmos must exhibit laws of nature that reflect order, patterns, and regularity
  • The cosmos’ laws of nature must be uniform throughout the universe
  • The cosmos must be at least partly intelligible (comprehensible) to human beings
  • The cosmos must be characterized by valid principles of mathematics and logic
  • Human cognitive abilities (brain-mind) and sensory organs (eyes, ears, etc.) must be basically reliable (trustworthy)
  • The human mind and physical reality must possess a basic congruence (compatibility, connectedness)

So science works (that is, it provides critical and reliable information about the natural world) because the cosmos and human beings possess these qualities and factors. If this universe did not have these necessary elements then science would not work in such a world.

Necessity, Chance, or Design?

But now another provocative question comes to mind: Why are human beings and the cosmos so richly endowed with all these necessary science-favorable assumptions and factors?

Eminent physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies has said that a science-conducive universe (a fine-tuned cosmos) wasn’t necessitated by the laws of physics and could have been different.3 Namely, the world could have been a disorderly chaos instead of an organized cosmos. Moreover, eminent mathematician Roger Penrose has said the statistical probability of arriving at a science-friendly universe (a fine-tuned cosmos) is wildly inconceivable, if not impossible (1 in 10123).4 Thus it appears that the best explanation for such a universe entails design over necessity and chance.

Given such prospects, some people reshuffle the deck of chance by proposing that an ensemble of universes may exist (a multiverse) and we somehow got the just-right one that is conducive to science. Yet there is no directly observable scientific evidence to support that a multiverse exists. However, proposing that a single God caused this designed universe is a much simpler explanation than postulating a near-infinite number of universes (Ockham’s razor).5

It becomes plausible, therefore, to posit that a divine mind behind the universe with the attributes descriptive of biblical theism could be the actual cause of our science-favorable cosmos. If so, science works because the Creator gave us the just-right world for it to flourish.

Reflections: Your Turn

Does a science-conducive world point to God or away from him? Why? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Check out more from Reasons to Believe

  1. “Philosophy of Science”,, accessed September 9, 2019,
  2. For more on these critical assumptions of science, see “Aren’t Christianity and Science Enemies?” in Kenneth Richard Samples, Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), chapter 14.
  3. Paul Davies, The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 169.
  4. Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1989), 339–45.
  5. Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne has affirmed this point. See Richard Swinburne, “Design Defended,” Think 2, no. 6 (Spring 2004): 13–18, doi:10.1017/S1477175600002748.


About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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