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Of Gods and Gaps
June 15, 2007, Wausau, Wi— Many
skeptics see religion as little more than how people tried to make sense of the
mysterious world around them, before the emergence of modern science. Lightening was seen coming down from the
clouds so there must be something in the clouds throwing it down, and this something
powerful enough to cast down lightening must be a god.
emergence of modern science and the understanding of nature that we have gained
as a result, the need for religion has diminished. So now we have a much better understanding of
the physical basis of lightening and thus no longer need the lightening god to
explain it. With each advancement of
science, the need for religion has
diminished. Or at least so the argument
now tend to write off every claim that God has not been excluded by claiming it
is nothing more than a God-of-the-Gaps argument. God is only invoked to explain those areas
where there is a gap in our scientific knowledge.
is no doubt that the God-of-the-gaps charge is at times accurate. But even so, that does not make it always accurate,
nor does it mean that atheistic charge does not have problems of its own.
One of the
problems is the skeptics view of religion that sees it as little more than an explanation
for nature to be supplanted later by science. Most religions, and in particular
Christianity, are much, much more than just an explanation for nature. In fact for Christianity, explaining nature
is at best just a backdrop to the primary focus which is our relationship to
God. Christianity does maintain that God
created the universe and everything in it, but it also believes in a creation
governed by reason. In fact much of modern science came out the desire to
understand the creator by studying the creation, in the same way you would
study a painter by studying their paintings.
But a more
serious problem is that while Christians are sometimes guilty of gap arguments,
not all arguments pointing to the problems of science are gap arguments. The problems with gap argument is that they
are based on the absence of evidence, and thus commits the fallacy of an
argument from ignorance, we do not know, therefore it must be God.
instead of pointing to an absence of evidence, an argument points to the
evidence against, it is no longer a gaps argument. For example, if one looks at the evidence for
the origin of the universe, it clearly points to a beginning. There are two
main competing scientific theories for how this took place both of which cannot
explain how the whole process could started on in first place. An objective look at the evidence says that
the universe had a beginning. Either the universe created itself, (and absurd
idea) or there was some other creator. This is not a gaps argument because it
is simply going where the evidence points.
same can be said for the origin of life where the more it is examined, the more
impossible it seems to get. Again this
not a gap argument because is not grounded on the lack of an explanation, but
on the evidence that it is impossible.
In fact, in
both of these areas, if anyone has a gap type argument, it is the atheist. But
rather filling the gap with appeals to God, they appeal to chance. Whereas
Christians believe that God can do anything, atheist believe that chance can do
anything if given enough time. This chance-of-the-gaps
type argument takes many forms. For life, the belief is that regardless of how impossible
the evidences says the origin of life would be, there is always a small chance,
however tiny, that it could have
happened so it is not completely impossible. But arguing something is not
completely impossible is not quite the same as arguing that is happened.
incarnation of this chance argument is to postulate an infinite number of
universes and then claim that we just happen to be in the universe where all
these seemingly impossible things did actually happen by chance.
often overlooked by atheists and agnostics in all these appeals to chance, is
that by their very nature, these arguments run contrary to the evidence. After all, if the evidence clearly supported natural
processes, there would be not be any need to appeal to chance. For example, one does not need to appeal to
an infinite number of universes to explain the possibility of lightening.
dealing with the unknown, one can either
go where the evidence currently points, or try to explain away the evidence so
as to maintain current beliefs. For both
the origin of the universe and life, the evidence is currently against it being
completely natural. Attempting to
explain this away so and to maintain a worldview that precludes the existence
of God and the supernatural, is putting
faith in the worldview above evidence and reason, and in doing so theses
skeptics are guilty of exactly what they accuse Christians of doing. Claiming
that unknowns can be explained by chance is a chance-of-the-gaps reasoning. It is placing one’s faith in chance ahead of
See www.consider.org for additional information.
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