What’s Wrong with “The God of the Gaps” Argument

by Eric Chabot

Introduction

Over the years, I have had my share of discussions with atheists and skeptics about the existence of God. Any attempt to point to God as an explanation for observable phenomena such as anticipatory, irreducible or specified complexity can invoke the atheist or naturalist to cry “ foul play.” Many of these people tend to have faith that science will be able to fill in any gaps in our knowledge. Let’s try to clear up this misunderstanding.

First of all, in his book Who Made God: Searching For A Theory Of Everything? Edgar Andrews has given us some things to ponder here:

1. It is important to understand that science can explain nothing except in terms of the laws of nature. Science works by first discovering (by observation) laws that describe the workings of nature and then using this knowledge to seek out further explanations — beginning with hypotheses and then confirming these hypotheses by various tests, the chief of which must always be repeatable experimental verification. To offer a scientific explanation of anything one must always appeal to existing laws (or at very least plausible hypotheses). No laws, no science; it’s as simple as that.

2. To explain the origin of the universe scientifically, therefore, requires an appeal to laws of nature (established or hypothesized) that pre-existed the universe. But laws of nature are nothing more than descriptions of the way nature operates. No one has ever proposed a law of nature that does not involve existing natural entities, whether they be matter, energy, space-time or mathematical systems. (Note that mathematics are arguably philosophical rather than scientific in character and are only scientifically relevant when applied to natural realities — that is, the world as it exists).

3. This creates a dilemma; the laws of nature cannot exist without nature itself existing but the origin of nature cannot be explained scientifically without pre-existing laws. The logical conclusion is that science cannot, by its very nature, explain the origin of the universe.

4. The only alternative is that the laws of nature did pre-exist the universe but existed as a kind of blueprint in some non-material medium such as the “mind of God”.

Let me add a few of my own points here:

When we observe the effects in the world, we can infer there are two kinds of causes—natural and intelligent. In other words, there are really two general kinds of explanations for events: intentional accounts (which demonstrate signs of value, design, and purpose) and non-intentional accounts (which lack values, design, and purpose). (1)

For example, both Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick (who are staunch atheists) both admit that while the world shows every indication it is designed and have purpose, they add one qualification; it only looks that way. In other words, while the design is evident, it can be explained without resorting to any Designer…

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