January 9, 2010

Mind the Gap!

If you've ever ridden the "Tube" in London, you've heard the warning "Mind the gap!" as you step from the train. But the warning to "mind the gap" is one that should also be heeded by those engaging in discussions of science and faith. A recent question about a new scientific discovery led to the following discussion of the "God-of-the-Gaps" fallacy, and why we should be careful to avoid such arguments:


  1. Although I disagree with some of your premises (which leads to a disagreement on some conclusions), this is an excellent summary. Thank you Phil. - DH

  2. You don’t specifically cite with which premises or conclusions you disagree, but let me comment further to perhaps clarify a few points.

    First of all, let me repeat what I said in an earlier post. I see evidence of an intelligent designer everywhere I look. The problem I have with the popular conception of the “intelligent design” movement is that, by using weak “God of the Gaps” arguments, it actually portrays God as being less intelligent than He really is. It tends to defined God’s intelligence in terms of our own, and puts unnecessary limits on His ability.

    Take, for example, the claims of Newton cited in the Biologos article linked to in my previous post. Newton described the laws of gravity that kept planets in orbit around the sun. But he assumed that the perturbations caused by planets interacting with each other were something God had to keep correcting for. In essence, he was saying, “I never would have anticipated that problem, so God probably didn’t either. The fact that everything works is evidence that God is constantly interacting with His creation, in order to keep compensating for the flaws in His original design.” Further study, of course, showed that the planetary interactions are in equilibrium, and no correcting hand is necessary.

    In essence, the “God of the Gaps” argument says, “Here’s something we observe in nature that the greatest scientific minds don’t have an explanation for. Therefore, this can only be explained by God stepping in to make it happen.”

    The naturalist argument says, “We have studied it further, and can now explain how this happened. Therefore, your God is not necessary.”

    My response is, “The explanation for how it happened is evidence that the intelligence of the Designer is far beyond our own. We thought this was an inexplicable problem that could only be explained by the correcting hand of God when, in fact, we have just discovered that He already anticipated how this would work, and built the mechanism into His creation from the very beginning.”