God of the Gaps
Modern day science is advancing at an astounding rate. The things that we are able to discover would be practically unbelievable to minds of only 100 years ago. Rather than seeing small dots in the sky at night, we are able to know the very size, distance, and elements which make up the stars. We are able to see about 13.7 billion light years out into space. We are able to examine tiny microscopic elements. We are able to infer and identify the structure of an atom. For anything that works, we have sought and are seeking knowledge of how such things work.
As science discovers more and more about the ways the universe operates, the supernatural seems to explain less and less. The atheistic community has jumped on this idea. They say that the explanatory power of science is increasing, meaning that the explanatory power of a supernatural being is decreasing. It used to be that God’s existence was inferred based on the fact that so many things were not explainable. But with the advances in science and the immense discoveries, those spaces which need to be explained by a supernatural being have become smaller. According to this trend, it seems that God is tending toward place where he will be out of a job as an explanation for how and why things work.
Atheism and materialism will of course interpret scientific discoveries in this way. But are there alternative interpretations of the situation? While God of the Gaps is one way to look at it, what are other reasonable ways?
First, let’s break down the God of the gaps argument into premises with a conclusion:
1. Science is discovering more and more about the way things work.
2. God has been the explanation for the way things work.
3. Things are either explainable by natural causes or super natural causes.
4. God is the supernatural explanation; science is natural explanation.
5. Science is explaining more and more.
6. It is concluded, therefore, that God is needed less and less.
We must evaluate the validity of the structure of such an argument. As stated here, which I believe very closely resembles typical God of the Gaps arguments, the logic lacks validity. The validity is broken between (5) and (6). God of the Gaps seems to correlate explanatory mechanisms with necessity for existence. God may necessarily exist, but not be a direct scientific, or otherwise discoverable, explanation for the operations of things. Think, for example, of the end credits to a movie. Many people are listed for whom there was no observable evidence of their participation in the movie. However, the movie would not be what it was without such people. The only people directly observable are the ones on the screen. So even if God was less and less of a direct explanation, this does not correlate with the idea that he does not exist; He still may be an indirect explanation.
While there is an error in the logical validity of this God of the Gaps argument, there are also questionable premises. Premise 2 assumes that a primary way in which people came to believe in God was through the lack of knowledge of natural causes. This may have an effect on many people, but to say it it is a primary means of persons’ faith would be to claim far too much. It may be the case that most people come to faith based on a personal encounter with God. It may be the case that other arguments for God’s existence have compelled people to believe. It may even be that trusting an authority has lead many to believe in a God.
Premises 1 and 3 are apparently true. Premise 4, while assumed by most atheists, is not true. Science is not necessarily an entirely different explanation from God. This assumes that science works in one realm, while God works in another. It may be the case that science works in one realm while God works in both. There are even Christian believers who are materialists – believing that God only works in our world through physical means. Thus, I do not accept that the explanatory mechanism of science and God are a dichotomy.
Premise 5 seems obviously true, but it leaves out an important point. While science explains and discovers more and more, it also raises more and more questions. It is the most fascinating type of discovery – to open up two more questions every time a question is answered. Taking the atheistic idea that discoveries narrow the gaps for God, gaps are getting smaller, but as they are, more and more gaps are arising.
Picture a ruler, for instance. A simple knowledge of the measurements on a ruler will indicate hashmarks everyone inch. The gaps in knowledge would be 1 inch wide, and there would be 12 of them. As rulers got more advanced, they put hashmarks every quarter inch. The gaps got smaller, but there are now 48 of them. Later, more intricate rulers put hashmarks every 1/32 of an inch. The gaps were smaller, but now there were 384 of them. Notice that the size of the gaps does not do anything to defuse the idea of the original ruler. Regardless of how many hashmarks are discovered on the ruler, the space in between will always equal 12 inches. And no matter the size of the gaps, the ruler itself is in need of an explanation. What the intricacies reveal, however, is the intense care and precision with which the ruler was created.
Therefore, even if the gaps are getting “smaller”, the necessity of God is no less certain. The scientific discoveries go to reveal the precise and intricate mind of the creator.