Why Intelligent Design Isn’t a God-of-the-Gaps Argument

by Tim Barnett

“Intelligent design is just a God-of-the-gaps argument,” exclaimed a prominent theistic evolutionist. We had just met, but I was shocked at what I was hearing. This kind of ignorance might be excusable from a person on the street, but not from an accomplished theistic evolution advocate associated with Biologos.

Unfortunately, this is a common tactic in these discussions. Rather than honestly dealing with arguments that Intelligent Design (ID) theorists make, theistic evolutionists dismiss ID as God-of-the-gaps.

Consequently, Crossway publishing and Stephen Meyer from the Discovery Institute have teamed up to produce a short video debunking this objection. In this clear and concise video (see below), Meyer carefully describes the salient difference between a God-of-the-gaps argument and the case for ID. Allow me to summarize.

Argument Based on Ignorance

The God-of-the-gaps argument is a particular kind of argument known as an argument from ignorance. This is an informal fallacy. It takes the following structure:

Cause A is insufficient to produce Effect E.
Therefore, Cause B must have produced Effect E.

This is obviously fallacious. Just because we know Cause A isn’t sufficient to produce the effect, that doesn’t mean we know Cause B did it. We would need independent reasons to believe Cause B is capable of producing the effect. But that important premise is missing in this form of argumentation.

It is fairly easy to see how this relates specifically to the God-of-the-gaps argument. Here is how the ID argument is often caricatured by its opponents…

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