Beyond Matter: Why Science Needs Metaphysics

candle-1537086 freeimages Krzysztof Cuber crop
free images, © Krzysztof Cuber

What did you do on your leap day this year? I listened to a talk by Roger Trigg, who is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick and a Senior Research Fellow of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion in Oxford. Professor Trigg has recently written a book, Beyond Matter: Why Science Needs Metaphysics, and on the 29th February he came to the Faraday Institute to tell us about it.

Roger Trigg

Science works, and we have non-stick frying pans to prove it. But as a philosopher, Trigg cannot simply stop there. He has to ask, “What has to be working in order for science to work?” Other philosophers have argued that science doesn’t need to be justified, or that science is just a matter of taste and not everyone has to accept what it says. For Trigg, however, science is not relative and it does needs to be explained. A large part of his new book explains this thinking. It is better to admit that science needs metaphysics or first principles, and talk rationally about what those principles are.

Trigg believes that both science and religion are claims about truth. They are different ways of looking at or investigating a single reality. That reality exists beyond ourselves and our own thoughts about it. It is something solid that tests our ideas. Science reflects something of reality, and thankfully our minds can grasp it – that is the assumption that lies behind all of science. Scientists are never satisfied with their understanding of reality, and they are always trying to improve their knowledge by doing more experiments. If reality were not intelligible, or if it were not a thing at all, science would be impossible.

When asked about his own beliefs, Trigg pointed to the Cambridge Platonists who believed that “reason is the candle of the Lord”. We can understand reality, he said, because we are creatures of the Creator. In other words, we share something of the reason that created the universe.

You can purchase the book from

Or listen to a podcast about it here

Photo credit: Nigel Bovey

Ruth Bancewicz is a Senior Research Associate at The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, where she works on the positive interaction between science and faith. After studying Genetics at Aberdeen University, she completed a PhD at Edinburgh University, based at the MRC Human Genetics Unit. She spent two years as a part-time postdoctoral researcher at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology at Edinburgh University, while also working as the Development Officer for Christians in Science. Ruth then moved to The Faraday Institute to develop the Test of FAITH resources, the first of which were launched in 2009. Ruth is a trustee of Christians in Science and on the advisory council of BioLogos.


3 thoughts on “Beyond Matter: Why Science Needs Metaphysics

  1. mouthaan25cscom March 25, 2016 / 1:29 pm

    Hello Ruth,

    Your interview stimulated me into writing a meditation on Easter 2016.
    I would much appreciate your reaction.

    Lucas Mouthaan,
    The Netherlands

    Easter 2016

    7 billion people on this earth. And not one has asked for his/her existence.

    Yet it is fairly impossible to find only one who never stood in awe of his existence ; or has never admired life or the universe. For everyone’s existence is a miracle.

    Science can explain a lot, about astronomy and evolution. But it is speculative about the origin and maintenance of the universe, and speculative about the origin and maintenance of living cells; and speculative about the essence of consciousness.

    True, pure science increases the admiration for the Miracle.

    Destruction and Construction go hand in hand. Destruction of the diversity of cells, of plants, of animals, the human race and of beauty.The Unicity of life is terrifyingly precious.Science does speculate, but does not prove that the Universe holds even one other form of life by the side of that on our diminutive earth.


    There is a miraculous story of someone who wanted to save the entire world. That world did not
    want to be saved and it destroyed his body.


    This same world continues with the destruction of living cells, plants, animals and human beings, the precious things of this earth.


    This same world circumvents the miraculous story! Calling it irrelevant, arbitrary, obsolete, a myth.


    The miraculous story ends with a miraculous resurrection, of cells, human beings, mankind.

    Just like pure science it enhances our admiration for the Miracle.


  2. Gracie Gragg July 29, 2016 / 1:09 pm

    There is a whole lot of science in the bible. Currently searching for somebody to take a scientific lesson found in the bible and re-write it in a scientific way without mention of the bible.


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