Perhaps the most common response from atheists when it comes to arguments for the existence of God is “This is a God Of The Gaps argument!” The God of The Gaps fallacy occurs when we are faced with some phenomenon that scientists haven’t yet been able to explain in natural terms, so we just plug “God did it” into the gap in our knowledge. For example, hundreds of years ago, we didn’t know how lightning worked, so people in Norway said it came from the hammer of the god Thor. Greeks said it came from the hand of Zeus. Now we know exactly how lightning works. NASA has a short article on it here. But we know it has to do with electrical currents, sky temperatures, pressure, etc. It’s not from a powerful being.1
So, the atheist says, most arguments for God as the best explanation of some phenomenon commit the same fallacy. Is this true? Well, in some cases they’re right. Fortunately for the Christian Apologist, a lot of them don’t. Let’s first look at the ones that don’t and then look at the ones that do. It’s important that we know which arguments really are God Of The Gaps (hereon abbreviated as GOTG) and which ones don’t. Why? Well, Atheist readers need to know which ones don’t so that they’ll either be convinced by the arguments or at least come up with a better objection, (2) Christians need to avoid arguments that do so they’ll stop using those arguments and switch to better ones.
False Cases Of God Of The Gaps
False Case 1: The Kalam Cosmological Argument
The Kalam Cosmological Argument seeks to demonstrate the existence of a transcendent Creator from the law of causality, and the origin of the universe. The syllogism goes like this:
1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2: The universe began to exist.
3: Therefore, the universe has a cause.
This is a logically valid syllogism since the conclusion follows from the premises via modus ponens. So the debate comes down to whether both premises are true or whether they are false. I have defended both premises in much depth in many blog posts on this website, my book “The Case For The One True God”, and in episodes 2 and 3 of The Cerebral Faith Podcast.
Space doesn’t permit an in-depth defense of the premises here. However, let me give a brief overview of the evidence. The first premise seems to me to the be most uncontroversial one, though if you’ve read my writings on the Kalam, you’ll know that some even try to disprove this one. There are three reasons to believe that everything has a beginning had something that caused it to come into being. First of all, to deny premise 1 is to assert that something can come into being without an efficient cause.2 But how is that possible? Nothingness has no properties whatsoever? Nothingness is the absence of being. “Nothing” is a term of universal negation. Since nothingness has no properties whatsoever, it has no potential whatsoever to bring anything into being. If there was ever a time in which nothing existed (no space, no time, no matter, no energy, not even angels or God), then nothing would exist now! This is absurd. If “Nothing” had properties, abilities, or potential of anykind, then it would not be nothing. It would be something. Because only something can have a property, ability, or the potential to do something. Secondly, if something could come into being without an efficient cause, then why don’t we see it happen more often? As Dr. William Lane Craig put in his writings “What makes nothingness so discriminatory? There can’t be anything about nothingness that favors universes, for nothingness doesn’t have any properties. Nor can anything constrain nothingness, for there isn’t anything to be constrained!”3 Thirdly, this premise is constantly verified and never falsified. Every time something’s origin is observed, we can see a cause or causes at work, whether that be the making of a sandwich, the making of automobiles, the building of houses, or what have you. We have a list of things the length of a CVS Receipt of things that came into being and had causes. We have no examples of things coming into being without a cause.4
Well, what about premise 2? Is premise 2 true? Science has been making the case for a Creator stronger and stronger within the past century. We now have scientific evidence that the universe is expanding, and if it’s expanding, it must have had a beginning. This is because if the universe continuously grows larger as time moves forward, then if you rewind the expansion back in time, the universe gets progressively smaller. Rewind the expansion far enough back in time, and the universe becomes no larger than the period at the end of this sentence. Rewind it back farther than that, and the universe shrinks down to nothing! The expansion of the universe was predicted in the early 1900s by the theory of relativity that Albert Einstein had developed,5 by two independent cosmological models by Alexander Friedman and George Lemaitre,6 and then was empirically confirmed by the red shifts of the light from distant galaxies by the American astronomer Edwin Hubble in 1929.7 The expansion, traced back in time, lead to the conclusion that the universe began to exist in an explosion-like expansion. This expansion-like explosion was derisively named “The Big Bang” by the scientist Fred Hoyle.8
Aside from the expansion, The Big Bang was confirmed in other ways. For example, he abundance of “light elements” in the universe supports The Big Bang Theory. Astrophysicists Deborah and Loren Haarsma explain thatthe abundance of “light elements” in the universe supports The Big Bang Theory. Astrophysicists Deborah and Loren Haarsma explain that “The third major piece of evidence is the amount of helium in the universe. The ordinary matter in the universe is about 75 percent hydrogen, 24 percent helium, and 1 percent other elements. Why this percentage and not some other ratio? … Even in a universe billions of years old, the fusion in stars happens much too slowly to account for this much helium. Using The Big Bang model, astrophysicists calculate that the conditions of the universe about three minutes after The Big Bang were very similar to the interior of a star and just right for fusion reactions. The temperature and density of the hydrogen gas allowed it to fuse into helium and into trace amounts of Deuterium and lithium. The calculations of The Big Bang model even make precise predictions for the relative percentages of helium, deuterium, and lithium that would be produced. The model predicts that about 24 percent of the gas would be helium, in agreement with what astronomers observe.”9
Outside of Big Bang cosmology, there are other pieces of evidence for the universe’s origin. The Second Law Of Thermodynamics, plus two philosophical arguments regarding the nature of infinity lend support to the premise that the universe began to exist. However, for brevity’s sake, I will merely defer the reader to my other writings on The Kalam Cosmological Argument.
Given the truth of the two premises, the conclusion follows logically and necessarily. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
This argument has been labeled a “God Of The Gaps” argument by many atheists. I would contend that atheists who call The Kalam a GOTG argument haven’t understood it. If they had understood it, they wouldn’t call it a GOTG argument. What is God Of The Gaps? Well, as I said at the beginning of this article, it’s when you plug God into the gaps of your scientific knowledge. In other words, it’s an argument from ignornace. It’s an argument on the basis of what you don’t know. But The Kalam Cosmological Argument, from beguinning to end, is 100% based on what we do know. It is based on positive arguments on what we do know from science and philosophy. We do know that “Whatever begins to exist has a cause” because nothingness has no properties and ergo cannot cause anything (2) If something could come into being from nothing, we would expect to see this happening more often and we don’t, and (3) this premise is constantly verified and never falsified. We do know that “The universe began to exist” on the basis of various lines of evidence for The Big Bang Theory, the second law of thermodynamics, and arguments against actual infinities existing and being traversed. So on the basis of all these evidences we know, we therefore know that the universe began to exist and that whatever begins to exist has a cause. The conclusion follows based on what we do know not on what we don’t know.
I suspect, however, that the GOTG accusation is not aimed at either of the premises nor the arguments that lead us to affirm them, but the conceptual analysis of the conclusion. What is that, you may ask? We cannot stop simply by arriving at the conclusion. We have to ask and answer the question “What properties must the cause of the universe have? And when you do a conceptual analysis, you find that the cause has several properties which, together, sound an awful lot like God.
What kind of cause could produce the universe? Before reading onward, ask yourselves whether I’m giving positive arguments on the basis of what I do know, or punting to God on the basis of what I don’t know. The attentive reader (of which many internet infidel types are not) will clearly see that I do the former, not the latter.
Since The Big Bang was the origin of all matter, energy, space, and time, the cause of the universe must be transcendent to matter, energy, space, and time. It must Spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, supernatural, and personal. Spaceless, because there was no such thing as space until this cause brought it into being. It cannot be inside of space if space did not exist until this cause produced it. It must be timeless, because time began to exist at the big bang. Again, the cause cannot be in time if there was no such thing as time until this cause produced it. It must be immaterial because material objects cannot exist in the absence of space, ergo it must be immaterial for the same reason it must be non-spacial. Non-spaciality and non-materiality go hand in hand. One cannot be a material object and be non-spatial. Likewise, something cannot be immaterial and take up space. The cause must be enormously powerful because it was able to bring the universe into being without using pre-existing materials. It must be supernatural because nature (i.e the universe) is what came into existence, and there cannot be natural causes in the absence of nature. It must be a personal agent for 3 reasons, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll only mention 1. It must be personal because it is immaterial. Why do I say that? Because of things which are immaterial, they can only fall into one of two categories; abstract objects (like numbers) or unembodied minds. But abstract objects do not stand in causal relation to anything. That’s part of what it means to be abstract. The number 7, for example, cannot cause any effects. Therefore, since abstract objects are causally impotent, the cause must be an unembodied mind. In conclusion, the universe was brought into being by a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, supernatural, personal mind. This sounds a lot like God to me!
Again, for the unattentive internet infidel, let me draw a picture. I am not arguing like this; “Well Mr. Atheist, you and your fancy pancy science can’t explain how and why the universe exploded into being out of nothing 14 billion years ago, so that means God must have done it.” What I am arguing is that the cause must be (1) Spaceless because the cause transcends space. X cannot be inside of any space if X is the cause of all space. (2) Timeless, because time began to exist at The Big Bang, (3) immaterial because there was no space prior to The Big Bang. 10 Since physical objects have mass and therefore occupy spatial dimensions, since X is the cause of all space, it cannot be a material or physical type of thing. (4) Powerful because it brought the universe into being out of nothing. Anything able to create whole universes without using any pre-existing material must have enormous power, wouldn’t you say?
Hopefully, you can see that The Kalam Cosmological Argument is not a God Of The Gaps argument, at least the way I and most Christian Apologists and/or philosophers of religion defend it.
False Case 2: The Fine-Tuning Argument
Over the last 50 years, scientists have discovered that the laws and constants of physics astonishingly come together in surprising ways to make the universe habitable for life. If these constants and quantities had been off by even a hair’s breadth, the balance would be destroyed, and life could not exist in the universe. For example, had the strong nuclear force been weaker or stronger by even 1 part out of a nonillion, the universe would have consisted of either hydrogen alone, or heavy elements in the absence of hydrogen. 11 If gravity had been stronger by 1 part out of 10^36, the stars would have burned up too quickly and too unevenly for life to form. If gravity had been weaker, the elements essential for life would never have been synthesized in the core of stars because the stars would have never reached a high enough temperature to ignite nuclear fusion. 12 If the ratio of the number of electrons to protons had been off by a little bit, electromagnetism would have dominated gravity, which would have prevented the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets.13
Astrophysicist Hugh Ross, in his book The Creator and The Cosmos said that the odds of the number of electrons to protons being just right is 1 in 10^37, and he used an analogy to help us get our heads around this huge number. He said to cover 1 billion continents the size of North America in dimes and to stack all of them up to the height of the moon (a height of about 239,000 miles), and to paint 1 dime red. Then blindfold a friend and ask him to pick out 1 dime. The odds that he would pick the red dime are 1 in 10^37. The same odds as the ratio of electrons to protons being just right. 14 The odds that these things could have come together by chance blows the human mind! It is far more reasonable to believe that the universe is finely tuned by an intelligent Creator than to believe that they took the life-permitting values by chance.
The argument for design based on the cosmic fine-tuning looks like this:
1: The Fine-Tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
2: It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3: Therefore, it is due to design. 15
This is a logically valid syllogism. The conclusion follows from the premises via disjunctive syllogism. I think the premises are true. The first premise is really not disputable because it’s simply a list of the possible explanations. The only potential objection to this premise I could ever think of is that it doesn’t exhaust the list of possible explanations. However, for one thing, no one has ever provided an explanation for the fine-tuning other than the ones listed in the premise. For another thing, if another alternative could be brought up, it wouldn’t premise one is wrong, just incomplete. We would, when faced with a fourth alternative, add it to the list and then consider it when we come to premise 2, which is where all of the debate lies. Space doesn’t permit me to explain why physical necessity and various versions of the chance hypothesis (e.g The Multiverse) are failures, so I defer the reader to my blog post “The Fine-Tuning Argument For God’s Existence”.
But is this a God Of The Gaps Argument? Many atheists have said so, both academics and laypeople. However, I don’t think it does. This argument takes the well established scientific fact of fine-tuning, and reasons to a designer as the best explanation. Inference to the best explanation (or abductive reasoning) is quite a legitimate way at arriving at a conclusion. When inferring to the best explanation, one looks at the pieces of evidence in need of explanation (in this case, fine-tuning), one examines the pool of possible explanations, and then one eliminates all of the unreasonable or untenable explanations until only 1 remains. If that one has adequate explanatory power and scope to account for the evidence, then that is the explanation you should go with. That is the explanation that you should conclude is most probably true.
The Fine-Tuning Argument does this.
Thing in need of explanation: the fine-tuning of the constants and quantities of physics.
Possible explanations: Physical necessity, chance, design.
Explanations that don’t work: physical necessity and chance.
One that does work: Design.
This is not God Of The Gaps reasoning. It’s abductive reasoning. To see the absurdity of calling The Fine-Tuning Argument a God Of the Gaps Argument, consider the following illustration that I took from J. Warner Wallace’s book Cold Case Christianity,16 Wallace says to imagine that you’re a homicide detective called out to a scene of a dead body lying face down on the floor. Wallace says that deaths always fall into one of four categories; natural death, accidental death, suicide, and homicide. Your job as a detective would be to figure out whether this is a homicide so that you can begin your job of tracking down suspects. If it’s anything other than a homicide, you as homicide detective, would have nothing to do.
Based on the fact that the man is dead and lying face down, you couldn’t come to a conclusion on which of the 4 categories this death falls into. But suppose we add more information. This man is not only lying face down, but he has multiple stab wounds in his back, there’s a knife sticking out of his back, he’s lying in a pool of blood, and a set of footprints lead away from the corpse. Could you determine what type of death this is now? Of course! This is not a natural death. No natural event if going to cause stab wounds to appear in a persons back, leave a knife sticking out, and cause footprints to lead away from the corpse. This isn’t an accidental death either. What? Did the guy accidentally back into one of his kitchen knives over and over and over again? Why didn’t he learn from his mistake the first time? Moreover, what about the footprints? Did this man go outside to smoke a cigarette before coming back inside, lying down on the floor, and passing away? This is absurd. So far, we’ve ruled out natural and accidental deaths. Well, what about suicide? This isn’t likely either. If someone were going to stab themselves to death, they would most likely do it through their gut like dishonored samurais did in feudal times. Not to mention that suicide wouldn’t explain the bloody footprints. We can safely rule out suicide.
Since the cause of death was not natural, accidental, or a suicide, you conclude that this man must be the victim of homicide. Homicide is the only explanation left, so it must be the right answer. Not only that, but the homicide explanation has the power to explain every fact at the scene of the crime. Now, you, as a detective, would laugh at anyone who accused you of committing the “homicide of the gaps” reasoning. This conclusion is not based on what you don’t know, but on what you do know.
False Case 3: The Local Fine-Tuning Argument
The Local Fine-Tuning Argument is very similar to The Cosmic Fine-Tuning Argument, so much so that pop level apologists often conflate the two. However, they are different arguments. The Cosmic Fine-Tuning argument has to do with the constants and quantities of physics. If these were off by a little bit, the entire universe would be uninhabitable. On the other hand, the local fine-tuning has to do with a plethora of different features of our galaxy, solar system, and Earth-Moon planetary system that has to be just right for life to exist here on Earth. This is no less important, but if there’s another solar system in another galaxy that doesn’t have these just right features, it won’t affect us, it will just prevent life in that particular region.
A lot of different features must be just right to have a local region of the universe inhabitable. A rotation rate of the life-hosting planet of the just right speed, a moon of the just right size, 4 gas giants of the just right size and of the just right distance from the life hosting planet, a sun of the just right type and luminosity, and the life-host planet must neither be too close nor too far away from its home star, and the list goes on and on.
A similar syllogism can be made to infer design from this as we did with The Cosmic Fine-Tuning Argument. It’s either due to physical necessity, chance, or design. But, if you’ve read Chapter 3 of my book “The Case For The One True God”, you’ll know that physical necessity is less plausible than it is for chance, and chance is tenable either. Contrary to popular opinion, the fact that the universe is a very big place does not guarantee that it will be teeming with life. But check out Chapter 3 of “The Case For The One True God” to get the arguments behind that claim.
Is this a God Of The Gaps Argument? No. Just as with The Cosmic Fine-Tuning Argument, we are making an inference to design as the best explanation and on the basis of what we do know. We’re faced with 3 options (1) necessity, (2) chance, (3) design. Option 1 and Option 2 are unreasonable explanations, but Option 3 is not. If God created the universe, He could certainly have ensured that all of these life requiring properties fell into place.
Again, to see the absurdity of calling this a GOTG argument, consider a man walks into his kitchen and saw the cookie jar knocked over. His little daughter says “It wasn’t me.” But he responds “Well, there’s only 5 possible candidates for who could have eaten all the cookies in the cookie jar. It was either myself, your Mom, your brother, your sister, or you. I know from personal first person perspective that it wasn’t me. Your mom is allergic to chocolate, so if it were her, she’d be swollen and in need of an epi pen. Your brother is away at college, so it couldn’t have been him, and your sister is only 2 months old. She couldn’t have been able to reach it. So it must have been you.” And the little girl responds “You’re using me-of-the-gaps reasoning, Daddy! You can’t say that I’m the one who ate the cookies just because you can’t think of another explanation. Do you even science, daddy? Lol” This man would most likely give his daughter a time out for sloppy thinking.
Something To Keep In Mind – Alternate Metaphysics, Not Alternate Physics
I don’t postulate God as an alternative scientific theory, but as an alternative metaphysical explanation for reality. I think the atheist and I will both agree on most of mainstream science. The Big Bang, how stars and galaxies developed, the fine tuning of physics, macro evolution, heliocentrism, etc. etc. etc. But I would say that God is a better metaphysical explanation to say, the origin of the universe than saying it came into being out of nothing, or is the result of a Mother Universe, or whatever. It’s a better explanation for the fine-tuning than chance.
Physics can explain what happened and how, but never why. This is where both theists and atheists must abandon physics and enter the domain of metaphysics. The existence of God is a philosophical topic, not a scientific one. Science can enter the discussion, but at the end of the day, the question won’t be settled by who has the more accurate equations.
I like how William Lane Craig puts it; “science offers support for premises in philosophical arguments leading to theistic conclusions.”
True Cases Of God Of The Gaps
I’ve often joked “For atheists, If God is the conclusion, that very fact automatically makes it a God Of The Gaps argument”.
That said, there are cases in which Christians do commit this fallacy, and it’s almost always when trying to refute evolution and/or establish special creation or Intelligent Design. The evidence for evolution is strong, but it won’t seem that way unless you see the case for evolution as cumulative. “
The strongest evidence, in my opinion, are the thousands of shared psudeogenes and endogenous retroviruses. Atavisms are also particularly compelling. Atavisms are “The recurrence of a genetically controlled feature in an organism after it has been absent for several generations, usually because of an accidental recombination of genes.”17 Stacked alongside the fossil record and homologous traits. When I read the literature arguing for Intelligent Design, they talked about Junk DNA, but all that was discussed (at least in the books I read, which were many, but not all) was that some of the so-called junk was found to have a function. And even then, the authors didn’t say that junk DNA was virtually useless in making proteins. From what I remember from “Deliver Us From Evolution?” by Aaron Yilmaz, the DNA only goes through part of the transcription process, but not all the way to make amino acids fold into proteins. But ID-ers argue essentially “Well, look at all the DNA called junk by the evolutionists that’s not considered junk anymore! If more research is done, we predict that all of it will be found to have a function sooner or later.” I for one think that that’s an unwarranted assumption. Just because some of the pseudogenes haven’t turned out to be completely useless, therefore, someday they all will? Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But it seems to me that this argument against psuedogenes/junk DNA being good evidence for evolution commits the same fallacy atheists sometimes make when responding to the Fine-Tuning Argument or The Kalam Cosmological Argument. What fallacy is that? It’s what I like to call “The appeal to possible future discoveries fallacy”. When used on cosmological arguments or design arguments, atheists say “Well maybe science will come along someday and prove that the universe didn’t have a beginning after all” and “Maybe science will someday show that a designer isn’t needed to explain the fine-tuning. Give science time. It will find an answer.” Why is this fallacious? Because of the fact that all scientific theories and data always have a possibility of being proven wrong – even if it’s only a microscopic possibility. We have to deal with the evidence we have now. Not evidence may or may not have in the future. Evidence that may or may never exist.
Additionally, it was never stated in any of the ID literature just how many pseudogenes are shared between say, humans and chimps. Thousands of pseudogenes are shared between chimps and humans.18 For God to miraculously create independent animals with genes that should be doing X but aren’t is strange enough, but then to make two independently formed creatures that share the vast majority of the same broken genes is just baffling. It’s exactly what you would expect though if animals A and B shared a common ancestor. Somewhere down the line, the animal had these genes when they were functioning. They broke at some point prior to the branching off of the individual species.
The problem is that many of the genes, we know what they’re supposed to do, and they don’t do it. Take the vitamin C gene shared by chimps and humans. It’s supposed to make vitamin C but it doesn’t.19 That’s why pirates out at sea get scurvy if they don’t stock up on fruit, and why chimps have gained the stereotype of eating bananas.
It’s not that geneticists don’t know what a gene does and therefore pronounce it useless, it’s that they do know what a gene is supposed to do this gene is supposed to do something, and it doesn’t do it, and they see this gene fulfilling its purpose in other animals. You only know something is broken if you know what its purpose is.
Now I know what a lot of my Christian readers may be thinking “Similarities don’t prove anything! This could just be a result of God using common design plans. Houses and trucks are both similar to RVs. They share traits with both. But that doesn’t mean houses and trucks evolved from RVs.”
I’ve used the common blueprint argument for years. The problem with it is that while it could account for homologous structures, it really strains at explaining the thousands of shared pseudogenes and ERVs. For example, why in the world would God create humans and chimps through separate miracles but not only put a broken gene in them, but the same broken gene (e.g the gene that’s supposed to make vitamin C) in both animals? Wouldn’t He know that this would lead scientists to conclude that we share a common ancestor? Darwin posited this on anatomical similarity alone? Why put unnecessary genetic evidence in there to muddy the waters further?
And why put non-functional egg-yolk making genes in humans, dogs, and chimps,20 who aren’t egg layers? The common design argument can account for some of the similarities (even some of the genetic) but it doesn’t plausibly account for all of them, and ergo the common design plan explanation falls short of explanatory scope.
The bizarre issue of atavisms (de-activating genes that are sometimes re-activated) is also completely expected on evolution, but a baffling anomaly on special creation. For example, a de-activating reptilian tooth making gene in all species of birds is exactly what you would expect if, as macro evolution postulates, that birds are modern-day descendants from dinosaurs.21 The same would hold for a de-activated tail making genes in humans. If the human and monkey share a common ancestor way back when, when the branching started, it deactivated in one lineage, resulting in apes and humans without tails. The lineage of the modern monkey had the gene continuously in the “on” position, so our modern day monkeys still have tails. Occasionally, a human baby will be born with a tail because the tail making gene had its “on” switch flipped by mistake. I just can’t make sense of this on special creation.
Top all of this off, the array of fossil lineages that, at a bare minimum, look like you’ve got species of animals going through change over time, 22 fossils of hominid skulls that are very similar but also very dissimilar from modern day humans, and the evidence from biogeography, and you’ve got one heck of a powerful cumulative case for macro evolution, common ancestry, disscent with modification or whatever you wish to call it.
“Multiple types of evidence support the theory of evolution:
- Homologous structures provide evidence for common ancestry, while analogous structures show that similar selective pressures can produce similar adaptations (beneficial features).
- Similarities and differences among biological molecules (e.g., in the DNA sequence of genes) can be used to determine species’ relatedness.
- Biogeographical patterns provide clues about how species are related to each other.
- The fossil record, though incomplete, provides information about what species existed at particular times of Earth’s history.
- Some populations, like those of microbes and some insects, evolve over relatively short time periods and can observed directly.”23
At the end of the day, the case for macro evolution is pretty overwhelming. That said, those who wish to cling to the view that God *poofed* individual creatures into being (either in a week, as YECs hold, or over millions of years, as OECs hold) try to poke holes in the theory by pointing out areas the theory has trouble explaining. For example, Casey Luskin of The Discovery Institute has a blog post on the website Evolution News in which he presents “The Top 10 Problems With Darwinian Evolution”.24 In this article, he cites “Lack of a viable mechanism for producing high levels of complex and specified information. Related to this are problems with the Darwinian mechanism producing irreducibly complex features, and the problems of non-functional or deleterious intermediate stages.”25 and “Natural selection is an extremely inefficient method of spreading traits in populations unless a trait has an extremely high selection coefficient;”26 Just to name a couple.
These arguments are true God of The Gaps Arguments. Complaining about the insufficiency of the mechanisms to produce the evolutionary tree does not mean that evolution didn’t occur. The mountain of anatomical, fossil, and genetic record don’t poof like the heroes at the end of Avengers Infinity War just because the currently proposed mechanisms for how macro evolutionary change occurs is insufficient. It certainly doesn’t warrant saying “God did it” in the sense of “Well, evolution is a failure. We’re back to independent miracles as an explanation.” Moreover, Luskin is acting like evolutionist scientists are unaware of these problems. They aren’t. While the vast majority of scientists in the scientific community except that evolution happened, they debate amongst themselves on how it happened. Can natural selection and random mutations account for it ALL? Certainly natural selection and random mutation can account for a lot. But maybe there are other mechanisms and factors at play that scientists have yet to discover. Maybe there are other natural mechanisms besides mutation and natural selection. Maybe God intervened in the history of evolution to overcome hurdles that nature couldn’t on its own. Even some scientists in the discovery institute take this position such as Michael Behe. Christian Philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig – perhaps the most influential Christian Apologist of the 21st century – accepts common descent but is outspoken on his skepticism of the currently proposed mechanisms. He says that in this video à https://www.reasonablefaith.org/videos/short-videos/william-lane-craig-on-evolution/ I don’t know if Craig takes Behe’s view on mechanisms or is simply agnostic about the whole thing, but the point here is that not knowing how evolution occurred does not mean that you cannot know that it occurred.
I see these kinds of arguments all the time, and they are true God of The Gaps arguments. To take a scientifically well-supported theory as common ancestry and say “Well, you can’t explain how this could happen apart from miraculous intervention, so it must have been the result of miraculous intervention.” does seem to me to be plugging God in the gaps of our scientific knowledge.
Let’s use the analogy of a puzzle. Let’s say you’re putting a puzzle together and you don’t have the box top. If most of the puzzle pieces are in place, you can be reasonably sure that it’s a picture of X. The fact that you’ve got 4 or 5 pieces missing from the puzzle would not invalidate your conclusion that “This is a picture of a horse” or “This is a picture of a monkey!” If it weren’t for the fact that the puzzle already has so many pieces in place, then perhaps appeal to special creation would be warranted.
You won’t have to look very hard to find these “Look at what Darwinism can’t explain” type of arguments being touted as slam dunks against evolution and, consequently, for creationism. They abound in the ID and creationist literature. Just Google “what good is half a feather?” I also can recall the claim that evolution can’t account for how binary gender arose. “Wouldn’t the males die out before waiting for their partners to evolve ovaries?” they argue.
We have looked at several examples of arguments for God’s existence that atheists claim are GOTG arguments. Not all of the arguments Apologists defend commit that fallacy, but it would not be correct to say that one of them do. Christians should be proponents of the former but abandon the latter.
1: Although I don’t think having natural explanations for lightning means that God isn’t in control of the weather. That’s a bad theological view N.T Wright likes to call “Theistic Epicureanism”. As Old Testament scholar John Walton points out in “The Lost World Of Genesis One” The biblical authors nor the Ancient Near Eastern world, in general, had a natural/supernatural distinction. There was just what God (or the gods) usually did, and then there were those things God (or the gods) did that was out of the ordinary (see “The Lost World Of Genesis One” – pages 20-21). We moderns call the former natural causes and the latter miracles. Now, I’m not saying we should go back to saying God literally pushes the sun over the horizon, but we should go back to giving Him praise for all things; both natural and supernatural, just as David, Jesus, and The Apostle Paul did. Job 28:25-27 says “When He imparted weight to the wind and meted out the waters by measure when He set a limit for the rain and a course for the thunderbolt, then He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out.” This is just one Bible verse among many that declares God’s sovereignty over the weather. We need not conclude that The Bible is wrong in saying that God “set a course for the thunderbolt” just because we can naturally explain lightning. “That’s Theistic Epicureanism, Patrick!” Moreover, if you adopt a Molinist view of divine providence, you can easily explain how God can work through natural processes.
2: I distinguish causes via Aristotelian Causation. The ancient philosopher Aristotle recognized that there are different types of causes. A “material cause” is the stuff out of which something is made. For example, a chair’s material cause is the wood gathered from chopped down trees. An efficient cause of the chair would be the carpenter who fashioned the chair from the wood. Another type of cause Aristotle identified was Final Causality. This is the teleology, the purpose or end goal of bringing something into being. In the example of the chair, the final cause would be the purpose of sitting. But for this discussion, only efficient and material causes need to be distinguished.
3: William Lane Craig, “On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason And Precision”, Chapter 4, David C Cook, 2010.
4: Unless the atheist begs the question in favor of the universe coming into being with no cause.
5: Albert Einstein, “Die Feldgleichungen Der Gravitation”, Sitzungberichte der Koniglich, Preussischen Akademie der Wissenchafen,” 25 November 1915, pages 844-847 (the following includes this reference); Albert Einstein, “Die Grundlage der allgemen\inen relatavitatstheorie,” Annalen der physik 49, 1916, pages 769-822 [Lorentz et. al. The Principle Of Relativity, pages 109-164
6: See the article “Important Scientists: George Lamaitre (1894-1966), https://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/scientists_lemaitre.html
7: Hubble, E. (1929). “A Relation Between Distance and Radial Velocity Among Extra-Galactic Nebulae”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
8: See “Fred Hoyle Dies At 86; Opposed ‘Big Bang’, but Named It”, by Walter Sullivan, August 22nd 2001, New York Times, — https://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/22/world/fred-hoyle-dies-at-86-opposed-big-bang-but-named-it.html
9: Deborah and Loren Haarsma, “Origins: Christian Perspectives On Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design”, Faith Alive Christian Resources, pages 168-169
10: I’m well aware of attempts on the part of atheists philosophers and science to try to argue that The Big Bang was only a relative beginning (e.g The Mother Universe Theory, The Oscillating Universe model, The Carrol-Chen Model), but these attempts don’t work. I explain why in blog posts such as “Q&A: Does The Cause Really Have To Be Spaceless, Timeless, and Immaterial?“, “Does The Multi-verse Explain Away The Need For a Creator?” and “Eternal Universe Models: Going For The Philosophical Jugular?” In these blog posts, I explain that even if, for example, the Big Bang were just the birth of a bubble universe from a much larger Mother Universe, that would only push the absolute beginning of all physical reality back, but it wouldn’t eliminate it.
11: Richard Swinburne, “Argument From The Fine-Tuning Of The Universe”, Physical Cosmology and Philosophy, ed. John Leslie (New York: Macmillian, 1991), page 160; Hugh Ross, The Fingerprint Of God, 2nd ed. Rev. (Orange, CA: Promise 1991), page 122
12: Lee Strobel, “The Case For A Creator”, Zondervan, Chapter 6, pages 131-132
13: Hugh Ross, “The Creator and The Cosmos: How The Latest Scientific
Discoveries Reveal God”, Page 146, NAVPRESS
15: I got this specific syllogism from Dr. William Lane Craig of Reasonable Faith.
17: Definition by Bing.com
18: See “Evolution of the NANOG pseudogene family in the human and chimpanzee genomes” by Daniel J Fairbanks and Peter J Maughan, June 12th 2006 — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1457002/
19: See “The Genetics of Vitamin C Loss in Vertebrates” by Guy Drouin,* Jean-Rémi Godin, and Benoît Pagé, Augutst 12th 2011. — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3145266/, see also “Is There ‘Junk’ in Your Genome? Exploring Pseudogenes” by Dennis Venema, December 30, 2011 — https://biologos.org/articles/is-there-junk-in-your-genome-exploring-pseudogenes
20: See “Is There ‘Junk’ in Your Genome? Exploring Pseudogenes” by Dennis Venema, December 30, 2011 — https://biologos.org/articles/is-there-junk-in-your-genome-exploring-pseudogenes
21: Matthew P. Harris; et al. (2006), “The Development of Archosaurian First-Generation Teeth in a Chicken Mutant”, Current Biology, 16 (4): 371–377, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.12.047, PMID 16488870
22: See https://www.britannica.com/science/evolution-scientific-theory/The-fossil-record See also “Evidence For Evolution (Article)” by Khan Acadamy –> https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/her/evolution-and-natural-selection/a/lines-of-evidence-for-evolution
23: Quote from “Evidence For Evolution (Article)” by Khan Acadamy –> https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/her/evolution-and-natural-selection/a/lines-of-evidence-for-evolution