Understandably, many have gone after God-of-the-gaps type arguments because in many cases, the “gaps” in our knowledge are filled by scientific inquiry. My question is, is it ever valid to use such an argument? I used to think “no,” but now I’m not so convinced.
As a scientific stopping point, God of the Gaps fails because it stops further inquiry or questions. But this doesn’t mean it is never the best possible explanation for the data we observe (perhaps controversially, even in the natural world). In science, we cannot posit supernatural causes because we are often restricted by methodological naturalism. However in philosophy or other fields, this is not always the case. Thus while God of the Gaps fails as a scientific explanation, it does not always fail as one that maximizes the conditional probability of the observed data.
Furthermore, to claim all historical scientific evidence equivocally points to God as an unnecessary explanatory factor is false. Philosophers Antony Flew and Thomas Nagel both found evidence for the emergence of life under naturalistic processes far more unlikely given recent scientific discoveries (DNA, the complexity of cells). To claim that God would be an invalid hypothesis would thus open up the criticism of a “naturalism of the gaps,” that attempts to explains that all phenomena in terms of scientific laws.
Any thoughts? Are there any circumstances where you think invoking God as a causal factor would be valid (and if so, when)?
I use the term “ God of the Gaps and God of the Unlikely Coincidences “ often and I think they are perfectly fine philosophical arguments, but they are not factual based, they are faith based. I think it’s reasonable to be open that the supernatural may play a role in gaps we don’t completely understand. Scientifically, socially and historically.
The Bible says God had a role in creation. Since I believe in God, I think maybe he had something to do with whatever happened at the very beginning. A time where we have no scientific process to study right now. Could be something that we don’t even understand. I believe that more than I believe God came into existence by the laws that created existence. But it serves me no point to really bring it up. It won’t really be convincing for an atheist or an agnostic. It’s not beneficial to those who believe in a fine tuned universe or intelligent design because it’s to vague.
The other aspect is that the Bible mentions the Hosts of Heaven debating over how to overthrow Ahab. It paints a picture of angels and God sitting in a room discussing ideas and one pops up this idea to sent deceitful spirits or false ideas towards the King through his prophets which makes him confident to go against another King which results in him dying. The Bible also mentions that Michael was the prince of Israel. As if he was an angel over Israel that would go before God for them. That there was other angels, that were princes of other nations such as Persia and that these angels may not all share the same hope for mankind. Some may not even be loyal to God.
So those two things have led me to the belief that angels potentially play a role in trying to drive humanity in one direction or another. So again it’s a gap. I can’t prove it, but I believe it. ( however I’m not positive if it’s still the case since a really lean towards Satan having already been killed and no longer exists ). However, just because “ satanic angels “ are out of the picture does not mean all of God’s angels are in agreement on how to direct humanity and it does not eliminate the possibility that spirits of deceit are not still used to drive those in power to harden their hearts or not.
I’ll return later. In general, I think GotG arguments are mostly just beneficial to help create a sense of security in believers.
The problem with God-of-the-gaps arguments is that they turn God into a placeholder for scientific ignorance. And then when the scientific explanations become available, God shrinks pathetically and becomes more and more irrelevant. What kind of faith is that?
There seems to be a difference between “we don’t know, therefore God did it” and “given our scientific knowledge, X seems highly implausible under the assumptions of metaphysical/methodological naturalism”. In any case, as Christians we believe miracle explanations are sometimes the best explanation (as in the resurrection for instance). Some may believe a miracle may be the best explanation for the beginning of life. I agree that these would not be good reasons to base one’s entire Christian worldview off of. Still, when are we warranted in inferring a miracle or supernatural event?
Since I’m all about God’s sovereignty and providence, and not unlike the manifold number of circumstances that had to happen in a just so manner for the earth’s plumbing to work correctly, so to speak (including the particular sizes and distances of the earth, the sun and our special moon and their ratios to allow for the total eclipses that we have, called “magic” by one secular astronomer), I’m okay with abiogenesis happening naturally, as another spectacular instance God’s providence.
However there is no reason why science will never be able to explain A some time in the future.
Why not use such an argument?
It does not logically follow.
When science does explain it then the argument collapses.
Besides the idea that God explains something is dubious in the first place.
However there are many arguments which people call “god of the gaps” when not all of the above holds. In particular…
sometimes science cannot explain something because of the very nature of scientific inquiry.
sometime science itself tells us that something cannot be explained within the premises of the scientific worldview.
In these cases, the “god of the gaps” objection does not apply.
On the contrary, God fails as an explanation because it doesn’t really give any answers. “Because Goddidit” is pretty much like a parental explanation to a two year old “because I said so.” Indeed its only function is to silence inquiry and forbid questions… “if you have faith then you just believe it and don’t ask questions.” …just about as lame as you can get.
I am a theist… a Christian, but not because I think God explains anything. At least not by itself. At the very least you would need to provide an explanation WHY. Why did God do it that way? But just saying that God felt like doing it that way for some reason we will never understand doesn’t explain anything. But even with such an explanation, this is pure supposition and there is little hope for any evidence to back it up.
But such a reason is something I provide in the one thing where I see God providing an explanation… quantum physics, which has been such an issue of cognitive dissonance for so many physicists because it seems to contradict the very premises of scientific inquiry. But if God wanted a way to interact with the universe without breaking the laws of nature then I think that would explain it at least on the same subjective level where so many physicists have a problem with it. It is certainly not required by the evidence and it cannot count as a scientific or objective explanation though.
I agree and think this is a big point; it is a category error when people claim, for instance, it is a God of the Gaps argument to claim God is the best explanation for the existence of objective morals and duties.
However I’d disagree in that, as a theist, I think God is the best explanation for why anything exists at all, why there are conscious creatures capable of free will, etc. God can provide a teleological cause (or a “Final Cause” in an Aristotelian sense) that in no way contradicts a scientific (or “material”) cause.
To claim something exists a certain way because God willed it to be so could offer an additional explanation that a purely naturalistic one would be unable to find. Such an account may even be complementary to the means by which God achieved such a goal.
Science cannot investigate miracles using its tools of inquiry, so that’s off the table. Intelligent Design fails as science because questions about the designer are not allowed.
The same people who ignore the mountains of origin-of-life research like Dr. James Tour? Boy, is he pathetic. I watched him in a debate and it was pathetic.
Some people find God-of-the-gaps reasoning emotionally appealing. The truth is, deep down they see science as the enemy of faith, so faith has to take a stand somehow. There are good reasons to believe in God, but gaps in science are not good reasons.
When would one be warranted inferring a Marian miracle, such as the miracle of the Sun, or a Marian apparition?
The constants of the universe very strongly suggest fine-tuning. Many scientists consider this a problem so much so that they invent a multiverse in an attempt to rid God from the equation.
The evidence suggests we have purpose, value and meaning but no, let us instead invent a multiverse and make life out to be a freak cosmic accident. I don’t find this overwhelming evidence to be a “problem” that needs to be explained away. In fact, it just corroborates what Genesis 1 tells me. It’s also consistent with why any of us do science to begin with and how we all live our lives— including the atheists who don’t hesitate to mock and deride religion while arguing we are just a freak cosmic accident. Im not into “multiverse of the gaps” or trying to find evidence that renders life a meaningless and freak cosmic accident. I’d rather just accept the evidence we do see at face value. It’s like the universe knew we were coming.
Also, the Big Bang very much looks like a creation type event. Invoking God there is not the same to me as bad “God of the gaps” arguments. Though we must certainly be open to a prehistory of the hot big bang though in the end there is no way of getting around the need for a creator. Infinite cyclical universes into the past or the universe coming out of absolutely nothing (e.g. Krauss) are nonsense and just as bad as the worst “God of the gaps argument” ever uttered by a theist. Guth and others are also convinced their version of inflationary spacetime is not past-complete.
Christian belief and cosmology are remarkably congruent.
“God of the gaps” is only one small part of the flaws in such a claim.
I believe there are absolute and objective aspects to morality. The absolute aspects come from good reasons why something is right or wrong, and the objective aspect come from scientific evidence for why something is good or bad. But religious declaration that God has commanded something is completely both relative and subjective. It is relative to the religion making this claim and subjective because there no good reason to expect others to accept the truth of such claims.
The “god of the gaps” flaw is pretty devastating also because we are constantly finding evidence for the advantages of morality in the evolution of communities.
No… It only explains why the universe exists if you accept that God exists. The naturalists have a similar claim… but their case it only explains why the universe exists if you accept that natural laws exist. Neither really does much justice to the question of why anything exists. But then I am not sure this question is all that meaningful anyway.
…and …BTW, I am aware of the rhetoric by which we attribute such labels as self-existing to God or whatever we want to claim must be accepted to exist by default. I doubt this is very convincing unless one simply chooses to believe such a thing.
To be sure, people look for different things in an explanation. Science expects tools by which they can investigate natural phenomenon and this comes from expecting there to be a way of testing and measuring things. But others expect explanations to justify their beliefs and only that will count as explanatory. Certainly for me, simply saying you believe this God you believe in willed it so, is just empty rhetoric and no explanation at all… little different than saying “because I said so.”
I prefer the “God of no gaps”, because every event at every moment happens because He is sustaining the universe in existence. Any gaps would mean non-existence.
Epistemologically, a “God of the gaps” is doomed because it inherently posits that there are things that happen or exist that will not ever be explainable by science or other means, so that the only explanation there will ever be is “God did it”.
God of the Gaps implies that there are gaps. Science claims that it can navigate from single cell to human without any intervention from God, so God of the Gaps becomes irrelevent. It seems pointless to persue a theory that has already been declared so.
On a theological basis “God of the Gaps” seems to imply some sort of haphazzard intervention rather than a formulated plan. EIther God is master of His creation, or He let go after the intial start and let Nature take its course.
He “lit the blue touch paper and retired immediately”?
Personally, I see God as the creator, not a spectator. Evolution is just part of His creative process.
You forgot about a lot of science required to get to that single cell. Where did all the atoms in that cell come from? When we go back further and further about 13.8 byo and look at all the physical constants and just how tuned they seem to be, things get very interesting.
I don’t insert God into evolutionary gaps. Evolution does a good job explaining how life evolved but I believe God is creator and sustainer. Its not God vs evolution. Its evolution via God. What some evolutionary Christians seem to fail to realize is that “miracles” do occur and if God wanted to move evolution or creation in a certain direction (nudging a comet or asteroid in a certain direction) I do not feel comfortable in denying Him that ability. God is sovereign, not the scientific method. It also has nothing to do with creation being defective (to forestall an objection). It has to do with it being a free and open world that God is always actively involved in. That nature is some thing completely external to God that he does not actively sustain at every instant is not theology I agree with. I am not a fan of the nature/God bifurcation. Its a product of enlightenment thinking. How God chooses to create is His business in the end. God is transcendent yet imminent in creation.
The problem is so many people think science works in terms of absolute proof and when something is accepted by the vast majority of all experts that there aren’t issues that need to be resolved, holes in knowledge or outright problems. The big bang is remarkably well attested but it also has some very significant problems that need to be worked out. Inflation is one of the attempts. People misunderstand science and often don’t understand how something could form incrementally over millions or billions of years. They don’t understand how a model can be so remarkably well attested that problems don’t overturn it. They just mean we need to research and learn more about reality.
And why should I believe science will ever be able to explain why there is something rather than nothing or why the primordial laws and conditions or reality are the way they are? A unified theory that explains absolutely Everything about reality in physics is an imaginary pipe-dream.
Is science going to explain how Jesus rose from the dead? How God could be divine and human? How Jesus could walk on water? There is no logical or biblically necessity that suggests we or science should be able to explain everything. We would need to be God and fortunately for all of humanity, we are not. That premise is just modern intellectual hubris at work. Science explains things through a reliable method. There is no guarantee anywhere of how much we will or should ultimately be able to understand about reality. If we hit a block 13.8 byo we hit a block. The end.
I was spoeaking to a Christian who clearly believes in supernatural miracles related to Jesus not to an atheist scientist. The point is there is a whole class of things science cannot touch or comment on. Miracles would be one and morality another. The ultimate origin of all things would be a third.
What I find odd is how quick many Christians are to claim science can’t deal with super natural miracles but somehow they think historical reconstruction can.