God of the Gaps.

I’ve always been fascinated by people who are incredibly smart and religious. To me they seem to be diametrically opposed as education goes up the evidence for God’s existence starts to come under question, usually to the point of pushing people to be either agnostic or atheist. For me it was mostly my distaste for the study of religion (I found it boring) and the ham fisted approach that my science teacher had to reconciling the Anglican school teachings with actual science.

For those both gifted and religious the most common explanation I get is the things we can’t yet explain come under the purview of a god or the God. I watched a video of an interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson recently that sums up why that approach is fundamentally flawed:

Taken to its logical extreme, as in as our knowledge approaches the limit of all we can ever know, God then can only exist in infinitesimally smaller gaps. Logically then the belief in such an entity seems irrational as God is then just an ever shrinking pocket of ignorance. You can of course neatly sidestep this argument by saying you fully believe in your faith regardless of what science says and I’ll neatly sidestep any argument with you on the matter because I’m sure neither of us will walk away happy from it 😉


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  1. Dave, the Gaps are pretty damn big. Even if humans could explain the nature of the universe from the big bang to now, that wouldn’t prove there was no god.

    Assuming a god, they could be outside the system, or simply unmeasurable by humans within the system. The greeks may have theorised the world was made up of atoms, but it would take mankind almost 2000 years before we could see or measure them. What’s to say that ‘god’, whether as a buddist spiritualist force or the grey beard in the sky or something else entirely, is also entirely unmeasurable by current technology.

  2. They may be big, but they’re closing. Indeed if science could explain everything from the start to the end of the universe there’s little room for gods to exist in, especially in the capacity which many religions describe. Either the definition of god becomes fluid enough as to be meaningless (the “fills in the gaps” argument) or you’re ignoring the evidence that says God didn’t do it.

    You get into a rather messy area when you have the notion of god existing outside the system we exist in. How was the creator created? Is it creators all the way down? Our ability to measure gods, however they are described in whatever religion, is irrelevant to the question of if they exist or not. So far the evidence for their existence comes from words written by other people (and seem to change radically over time) and the world around us appears to be increasingly rule driven. You can argue that it’s some kind of god that’s defining these rules but that does not explain why attributes that were once under god’s purview are now aptly explained by science.

    Or are you merely taking Pascal’s Wager? 😉

  3. Andrew,
    I take issue with what you are saying. Lets start with the:
    “that wouldn’t prove there was no god.”

    How about you prove there is one first? Until you can, until you can approach me with a shred of evidence or even a good hypothesis of God then I don’t want to hear anything you have to say about God/s. No, saying that a God can exist outside our system of experience is not good enough. That is not a hypothesis, it is a waste of all of our time.

    “Assuming a god”. Why? Why would I assume there is a God? Lets say that your mythical God does exist outside the human realm. It is something that we cannot understand, cannot even approach experiencing it. Then what the fuck is the point?

    Also, I take umbrage with you trying to pretty this up as a philosophical point but will not lower yourself to the simple and mundane point of this:

    Everything, absolutely EVERYTHING about every human religion since the beginning has been proven wrong. Every step of the way when the religious have hammered down the realm of critical thinking with the bludgeon of a god it has been proven wrong. This has forced all religions to mutate their approach so they could say “Ohh we said x but we now know x is wrong, so we actually meant y” repeat as necessary.

    You have now taken it to the most logical conclusion of “ohh x is wrong then I meant y” and you have set y in such a way as it can never be proven wrong by humans.

    That is bullshit.

  4. DaveK – “there’s little room for gods to exist in, especially in the capacity which many religions describe” That caveat is the money quote.

    Science is steadily invalidating the claims of humans who are of faith about the creation and organisation of the universe. But, even if the human race was 100% wrong in its claims of faith ,it would not be evidence that god did not exist. (Just as humans ignorance of gravity prior to Newton did not have any effect on whether gravity existed or how it operated).

    DaveW – You seem under the belief I’m a person of faith. I’m not. I’m agnostic, though view the world as an atheist (not only don’t I believe there is a god, I would find its presence, if anything like described by the monotheistic religions deeply immoral). However, I don’t think we can just dismiss the idea when we have no good way of measuring or testing it.
    Yes extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and yes, the onus of proof is entirely on the side of theists.

    But I’m not confortable saying that human ignorance of something (ie an inability to test in any valid fashion) is a solid basis for rejecting the existence of something. Human’s are ignorant, limited creatures in the scheme of things. We can test for things today that would have amazed people 200 years ago. We should not pretend that human knowledge of the universe is sufficient to rule out the existence of a god/spiritual force/realm.

    Until then, those claiming that there is no god, are making as untestable a claim as those saying there is definitely a god. Neither is something we can demonstrate or even begin to test for, therefore neither should be endorsed without qualification or caution. That is all I am suggesting. A little humility in our claims to know.

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