Intelligent Design: God Does Not Belong in the Gaps

by
From Truth and Charity

Quite often, when someone points to a scientific explanation of the existence of God, the argument ends by stating that such-and-such is unknown and so the only explanation is that a deity must have designed it that way.  For instance, at one point in time it was probably held that weather is evidence of God’s existence, since there was no explanation for it.  Once the water cycle was discovered, the proof of God’s existence was reduced to the things still left unknown, such as lightning.  Eventually, lightning was understood for the atmospheric electrostatic discharge that it is and God could no longer be proven to exist through weather.

God is often placed in the gaps that exist in our knowledge, especially scientific knowledge.  This is very problematic for (at least) two reasons:

  1. It places God in opposition to knowledge.  This leads to the idea that faith is opposed to science and reason.
  2. As knowledge increases, the gaps decrease as do these “proofs” of God’s existence.  If a person clings to their belief in God because He’s the only explanation for lightning, they will lose their faith when they discover what lightning really is.

In the early days of science, it was very easy to believe that God had created the universe in a very instantaneous way, since there were very few scientific discoveries as well as the presence of theories such as geocentricism.  These were very large gaps in knowledge and the proofs for God rested comfortably in them.  Science developed as did the Theory of Evolution, which, in one swoop, asserted there was no gap at all since nature is an occurrence of random chance.  Many people, even those arguing Intelligent Design, still attempt to hold to the gaps in our knowledge and squeeze God into those gaps.

In 1996, Michael Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, made a case for Intelligent Design in which he cited the presence of “irreducible complexity” within nature.  What this means is that certain things found within nature, such as the human eye, could not have developed incrementally as would be asserted by the Theory of Evolution.  Behe pointed to a traditional mousetrap as an analogy, stating that the five parts of a mousetrap cannot be reduced to four without the functionality of the mousetrap being lost completely – hence, the mousetrap, like the eye, could not have grown incrementally and is, therefore, intelligently designed.  While this might be a valid argument, it is still subject to the problem of relying on gaps.

In the year 2000, Behe attended a conference during which Kennith Miller, biology professor at Brown University, entered the main room wearing a mousetrap as a tie clip.  Miller’s implication was that, while a reduced mousetrap can not function to catch mice, it is possible for it to serve another purpose entirely.  Likewise, the human eye cannot be reduced and still function as an eye, Miller supposes that a reduced eye was used for something other than sight.  This creates a gap-like argument on behalf of the Theory of Evolution, which is as invalid as the lightning proof, but it is enough to call into question the validity of Behe’s initial point.

It seems that the only way to reconcile either theory with itself is to avoid gap arguments.  The best and most eloquent explanation I have found of how this is done comes from Salman Khan of KhanAcademy.org.

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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12 Responses to Intelligent Design: God Does Not Belong in the Gaps

  1. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Sciba tells us that “God is often placed in the gaps that exist in our knowledge”. How perceptive and how true. And so their “God” or religion retreats in the face of scientific advances, into an ever narrower space, whether we like it or not. Sciba accepts this.

    “Intelligent Design” is one such tight corner. We are told of Behe’s example of the eye as an irreducible organ, only functioning whole or not at all. Therefore a “proof ” for Intelligent Design.

    Unfortunately, the elegant agnostic Dickie Dawkins has dismantled this notion in his book, “The Blind Watchmaker”, whose title refers to the Design theory.

    Those “Designers” had better go back to the drawing board and paint themselves into another corner.

    Like

  2. Jerry says:

    Dawkins can be strident and ignorant on many things. But he really is great on biology. If I remember rightly Whippy, it took him less than a page and a half to dismantle the nonsense about the “irreducible complexity” of the eye.

    Like

  3. Jerry says:

    Of course in the natural world there exists a whole spectrum of “ways of being an eye”. From an organ capable of focussing etc such as the human eye, down to eyes that are merely a few clumps of light-sensitive cells. Because the eye has evolved independently in so many different contexts, we can see in action, as well as reconstruct, the gradations and permutations of the evolution of sight.

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  4. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Yes indeed Jerry.The point of all this being that there will need to be a drastic rethink on new knowledge and its relationship to God. The God part is unchanging and serene, the human part is in drastic need of a fundamental shift, rather than shiftiness. In fact, failure to adapt and evolve sufficiently means slow extinction, as dear old Dickie D and Charlie D et al keep telling us.

    Religion cannot continue to fight a losing battle in the ways it does, exemplified by the Intelligent Design desperados.

    Some kind soul will set me on the straight and narrow…..

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  5. toadspittle says:

    .
    “Hume, long before “intelligent design” raised its beautifully-designed head, speculated that the reason our world is so badly “designed” is that possibly the Head God gave it to an Apprentice God to practice on, before giving the lad a serious planet to create.”

    Keen-eyed readers might have noticed the above, from Toad, on another “thread” about Lesbians taking communion and wondered what it had to do with mousetraps. Little or nothing is what.
    It was simply a mistake on Toad’s part.
    However, it provides a serendipitous, textbook example of “Reverse Intelligent Design*” in action.

    *stupidity.

    (Odd lack of interest, so far, in the Dutch murdering their offspring by the dozen.)

    .

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  6. JabbaPapa says:

    The “God of gaps” theory has always been very poorly reasoned, by both factions.

    It attempts to define God on the basis of how we understand miracles — in other words, attempting to reduce God into some sort of stage magician whose tricks can be exposed.

    The idea that a scientific explanation can desacralise what is explained is however a rhetorical trick, that can be exposed — God is present in all things, including various phenomena whose mechanics are explained.

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  7. toadspittle says:

    .
    “..attempting to reduce God into some sort of stage magician whose trick can be exposed.”
    Says Jabba, who is right, as usual.
    Toad was under the impression that that is exactly what “miracles” were (or are).
    Putting aside the notion that they can be “exposed” or not, let’s take Fatima as an example.
    If God did indeed do something odd with the sun, making it cartwheel or whatever (and in such a way that only the spectators there saw it) – is that not a celestial “trick”?
    All depends on what you mean by “trick” says Humpty. True.

    Then…“God is present in all things,” This would appear to nullify His being anywhere in particular. If God is, in cancer, malaria, earthquakes and the Coalition Government, as well as at Fatima, the Vatican and the Kentucky Derby, where does that get us?

    He (and we) might as well be in any one place as any another, surely?
    Particularly the gaps.

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  8. JabbaPapa says:

    Then…“God is present in all things,” This would appear to nullify His being anywhere in particular. If God is, in cancer, malaria, earthquakes and the Coalition Government, as well as at Fatima, the Vatican and the Kentucky Derby, where does that get us?

    No — because this is where the Trinitarian Mystery, as well as God’s both transcendental and immanent Attributes, can defy human logical categories.

    Being everywhere does not prevent God from being somewhere in particular. Nor vice-versa.

    God remains beyond our comprehension, though He can be manifest to our perception.

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  9. toadspittle says:

    .
    “God’s both transcendental and immanent Attributes, can defy human logical categories.”

    So if Ludwig W. was right, Jabba, that “Ethics and logic are one and the same,” God can, and maybe does, defy human ethical categories. But then, maybe Wittgenstein was wrong.

    All a bit “philosophical” for most of us. Toad included. But he started it.

    What’s wrong with “Behave yourself, or you’ll go to Hell”?

    Like

  10. comment says:

    “In the early days of science, it was very easy to believe that God had created the universe in a very instantaneous way, since there were very few scientific discoveries as well as the presence of theories such as geocentricism. These were very large gaps in knowledge and the proofs for God rested comfortably in them. Science developed as did the Theory of Evolution, which, in one swoop, asserted there was no gap at all since nature is an occurrence of random chance. ”

    I don’t believe so. It is always said, like in the history it would have been “easies” to believe in God, but I don’t think so. Folk didn’t even know about theories of geosentricism. It was elite’s role to theorize. But there were many other stories, that were alternatives for God. Ghosts etc. It was not easier to believe in God in the history than it is today.

    Like

  11. toadspittle says:

    .
    Well, Commment, (unususal name -direct and to the point!) We are all “elites” now, aren’t we, and can theorize ’till hell freezes over.
    You seem to be suggesting that some primitive folk did not believe in God, but another supernatural being of the same name. Makes sense to Toad.

    But then there was, and still is, The Bogyman…

    Like

  12. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    “Off with their heads”….
    sez Toad!

    Like

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