The Double Standard of “We Just Don’t Know Yet”
by Jason Wisdom
I have been part of many discussions with atheists (and witnessed hundreds more) who are more than happy to give the answer “we just don’t know yet, but that’s okay” to questions like, “how did the universe come into being,” “how did the first living thing originate from non-living things,” and “how did matter produce consciousness?” What is more, they insist that to posit God as the explanation to any or all of these questions is really to give no explanation at all. They say, “it is a conversation stopper.” They accuse anyone who would suggest God as the answer of committing the “God of the gaps” fallacy–just plugging God in wherever there is a gap in our knowledge. That is not what is going on in these cases, as Dr. John Lennox explains in this video. By the way, I could listen to Dr. Lennox’s accent all day long. Anyway, that isn’t the direction I want to go in this space.
What I want to do is take a second to think about the phrase “we just don’t know yet, but that’s okay.” It is actually an incredibly loaded sentiment. The first part is fairly straight forward: “we just don’t know,” but why add the word “yet?” The obvious implication is that we will eventually find out. But why tack on, “that’s okay?” The implication is that we can rest assured that there is nothing “fishy” going on–no magic, no miracles, no man in the sky–the answer is definitely something completely natural. If we don’t know something now, that’s okay, because that is just how science works–
we don’t know something, and then we figure it out. And if, for some reason, we never discover the answer, it will only be because it is beyond our ability to understand. In any case, we don’t need to worry about the implications that could arise if the answer were God, because it’s not.
In short, the response looks like this:
1. We don’t know.
2. That’s okay because we will eventually find out, or else it is just beyond our ability to know.
3. In either case, we can rest assured that the answer is something that our concept of reality.
Now, I want to turn the table around for just a moment. Suppose an atheist asked a theist a series of difficult questions like, “why does God allow the amount of evil and suffering that he does,” “why did God consider it better to create a world where creatures would go wrong than no world at all,” or “why did God do (insert event) that way and not some other way?” Would the atheist be willing to accept the response, “we just don’t know yet, but that’s okay”? Hardly…
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