“God of the gaps” is a pejorative term used to describe the naive beliefs of creationists who interpret gaps in scientific knowledge as evidence of the existence of God. Richard Dawkins wrote: “Creationists eagerly seek a gap in present-day knowledge or understanding. If an apparent gap is found, it is assumed that God, by default, must fill it.” Even theologians such as Charles Alfred Coulson have criticised the use of the God of the gaps argument: “There is no ‘God of the gaps’ to take over at those strategic places where science fails; and the reason is that gaps of this sort have the unpreventable habit of shrinking.”
I, however, believe in the God of the Gaps. It is not true, as Coulson argued, that “gaps have an unpreventable habit of shrinking.” Gaps in our scientific knowledge have not shrunk. Rather, the more we have discovered about the universe, the larger the gaps have become. And there is no evidence to suggest that the gap will ever diminish further, but will likely continue to extend into infinity. Physicist David Deutsch wrote:
“Never before in the history of human thought has it been so obvious that our knowledge is tiny and our ignorance vast…Our world, which is so much larger, more unified, more intricate and more beautiful than that of Eratosthenes (an ancient Greek mathematician) and which we understand and control to an extend that would have seemed godlike to him, is nevertheless just as mysterious, yet open, to us now as his was to him them. We have lit only a few candles here and there.”
The Gap Is Widening
After Isaac Newton introduced his laws of physics, secular humanists got cocky. They began to think that everything in a materialistic universe could be boiled down to a handful of universal laws. Today, some physicists and mathematicians work tirelessly on finding a “Theory of Everything” upon which we would be able to predict and understand all phenomenon in the universe.
This arrogance was lambasted by William Blake, who famously depicted Isaac Newton as a giant nude hunched grotesquely over a scroll, who, with “vegetative eye” was blind to the spiritual wonders of the world around him. However, Blake shouldn’t have been so hard on Newton. The truth is that Newton worshiped the God of the Gaps. Near the end of his life, Newton, the greatest of all scientists wrote this remarkably humble statement:
“I don’t know what I may seem to the world, but, as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
It would take centuries for secular humanists to begin to admit just how correct Newton was in this epistemic humility. Today, scientists know that the universe we can see and measure accounts for just 5% of the matter in the universe, the rest being something we call “dark matter” of which we know nothing, having never perceived or measured it. This fact alone demonstrates that life in the 21st century is objectively more mysterious than medieval life, with its forests full of fairies and goblins.
60 years ago, Alan Turing, the inventor of the computer, predicted that within a few decades, artificial intelligence could rival human intelligence. This optimism was predicated upon the “Computational Theory of the Mind,” a philosophy which posits that the human brain is simply a complicated machine, one which could be replicated by a powerful enough computer.
Today robotic engineers recognise that Turing’s timeframe was hopelessly optimistic. Modern robots are little more than updated 18th century automatons. They haven’t even begun to express anything like consciousness. A computer’s computational ability might might help it win a game of chess, but it has not won by thinking like a human. Humans don’t win chess games through mere computation. And robots cannot compute their way to consciousness. Human intelligence arises through a mysterious process scientists call “emergence,” as billions of neurons in the brain collaborate with one another, like the ants in a colony, each neuron individually “stupid” and uninformed, an on-off switch, responding to some stimuli or other. How these trillions of neurons come together to create intelligence remains, for now, an impenetrable mystery.
The Beginning of Infinity
In his book, The Beginning of Infinity, physicist David Deutsch argues that mankind has only just arrived at the beginning of what could become an infinite expansion of human knowledge. It is in the nature of infinity never to arrive at a final destination. We will always be at “the beginning of infinity.” There is no utopia of perfect knowledge, nor will we ever hit a barrier to which no further progress is possible. Deutsch posits two universal truths: 1. There will always be problems. 2. Problems are soluble. The moment we solve any problem, we discover that a whole new set of problems is born of from the answers we discover. Each of these problems is soluble in turn, but each solution leads to new problems. This process continues infinitely.
This infinite expanse of potential human knowledge is where I put my God of the Gaps. God is not there as an explanation for that infinite expanse, but rather as a description of that infinite expanse. What more perfect definition of God could exist than the idea of mankind’s infinite potential, so glorious in its abundance, so loving in its promise, so joyful in its optimism? God dwells in the infinite. Or rather, He is the infinite, and He invites His children to join Him in a path of eternal progression.
- Does the God of the Gaps argument paint God into an increasingly small corner as scientific knowledge gradually uncovers more and more explanations for the mysteries of the universe?
- Or does the gap widen with each scientific advancement, as David Deutsch posits, leaving more and more room for an eternal God?
- Is human knowledge and potential infinite, or bounded? Is there a limit to how much a human or a God can know?
- What do you think of the idea of God being a “description” or broad conceptualisation of the mysteries of the universe, rather than an “explanation” of those mysteries?