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Stephen Meyer Debunks the “God of the Gaps” Objection

David Klinghoffer | @d_klinghoffer

A vacuous yet often heard objection to intelligent design decries ID as a “God of the gaps” argument. Here, Stephen Meyer requires less than three minutes to show that the complaint rests on a failure to understand a basic feature of the theory of ID.

Yet the point comes up again and again. The group BioLogos, for one, in promoting theistic evolution, starts this way in answer to what they call a “common question,” “Are gaps in scientific knowledge evidence for God?

God-of-the-gaps arguments use gaps in scientific explanation as indicators, or even proof, of God’s action and therefore of God’s existence. Such arguments propose divine acts in place of natural, scientific causes for phenomena that science cannot yet explain. The assumption is that if science cannot explain how something happened, then God must be the explanation. But the danger of using a God-of-the-gaps argument for the action or existence of God is that it lacks the foresight of future scientific discoveries. With the continuing advancement of science, God-of-the-gaps explanations often get replaced by natural mechanisms. Therefore, when such arguments are used as apologetic tools, scientific research can unnecessarily be placed at odds with belief in God.1 The recent Intelligent Design (ID) movement highlights this problem. [Emphasis added.]

No, that is wrong, as Meyer explains. It’s a topic elaborated, among many others, in the vast yet sprightly new volume, Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, of which Dr. Meyer served as one of the editors.

May I add a further observation? If you don’t mind, ID is not an “apologetic tool,” as BioLogos puts it. It’s not a “tool” at all, except in the scientific sense, as a heuristic, a methodology for getting at the truth about life and about nature. It’s not a “tool” to use on people, to keep the kids from getting rowdy and disbelieving what their teacher says in class. This misunderstanding is common to theistic and atheistic evolutionists: they think too much in terms of winning recruits or keeping troops in line, rather than finding out what’s true, wherever the quest may take you.

Please, refrain from using a “tool” on me. I don’t care for that approach in a religious or a scientific context, and I can’t help but think many others, of whatever spiritual community or of none, must likewise find it patronizing.

It’s the difference between being treated as a child, or treated as an adult. That may be ID’s greatest strength — it speaks to us as adults — and one of the biggest turnoffs of theistic evolution.