Nancy Cartwright on God and Natural Laws

On her homepage, Nancy Cartwright has an interesting working paper, entitled “No God, No Laws”.

My thesis is summarized in my title, ‘No God, No Laws’: the concept of a law of Nature cannot be made sense of without God. It is not as dramatic a thesis as it might look, however. I do not mean to argue that the enterprise of modern science cannot be made sense of without God. Rather, if you want to make sense of it you had better not think of science as discovering laws of Nature, for there cannot be any of these without God. That depends of course on what we mean by ‘laws of Nature’. Whatever else we mean, I take it that this much is essential: Laws of Nature are prescriptive, not merely descriptive, and – even stronger – they are supposed to be responsible for what occurs in Nature. Since at least the Scientific Revolution they are also supposed to be visible in the Book of Nature, not writ only on stone tablets nor in the thought of God…

My claim here is that neither of these features can be made sense of without God; this despite the fact that they are generally thought to provide some autonomy of the world order from God.

But she does offer a way out.