"Reconciling" science and theism. A perspective from a non scientist

“God of the gaps” is an attempt to communicate to the debater that they are using a logical fallacy.

Is naturalism of the gaps a logical fallacy?

Of course.

Pursuing a natural explanation for a phenomenon is not a logical fallacy, however.

As I think that claiming something as evidence of design or evidence of God (a creator) is not. We all come to conclusions based on the preponderance of evidence.

The ID argument is based on evidence of an intelligent cause.

It is a logical fallacy when your claimed evidence is a lack of a known evolutionary pathway.

Then why is it that all we see are arguments against evolution?

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I’ve never experienced any angst over such questions. Curiosity – sure, but never any angst.

I have never felt any need to appeal to naturalism.

My view is that we should attempt to explain what we can explain, and admit that anything else remains unexplained.

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I’m going to join this conversation on the side of @T.j_Runyon and @Mlkluther … the cosmological argument is not a “god of the gaps” argument. A “god of the gaps” argument is saying “we have no explanation for this, therefore God did it”. The cosmological argument reasons “there is an explanation for the universe (all of nature or physical reality), the explanation for the universe can’t itself be part of the universe (and therefore is non-physical or supernatural), therefore God exists (or some supernatural being with the ability to create the universe).”

Now, you can object to the cosmological argument. For example, by denying the premises are true: you could deny the principle of sufficient reason (everything that exists has an explanation of its existence) or you could say that the universe satisfies the PSR the same way theists say that God does (by existing necessarily). The theist, of course, will argue in return that those are not good alternatives. But merely because there are possible objections to the cosmological argument does not make it a “god of the gaps” argument - anymore than the existence of objections to evolution or abiogenesis make those “naturalism of the gaps”.

What if the best explanation, or (in the case of the cosmological argument!) the only possible explanations in principle, are supernatural ones?

Weakness of the alternative mechanism is not the complete explanation but it is part of what is evaluated. You need to gather evidence that the mechanism we are proposing is capable of what we are observing. Evidence that the alternative mechanism is not up to the task is fair game.

You are proposing the actions of an omnipotent and omniscient deity which is why the God of the Gaps fallacy is so problematic. It can fill any hole in our knowledge.

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I think this is probably the best route for the naturalist. Maybe that it holds true within the universe but not necessarily for the universe as a whole

If the argument was only about gaps in knowledge that is true.

The theist’s rebuttal to this objection will vary depending on which version of the cosmological argument is in view. But say it is this one:

  1. Everything that exists contingently has a cause.
  2. The universe(=all of physical reality) exists contingently.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause (which thus has to be outside of all of physical reality, and therefore supernatural, as well as able to create the universe, so we can reasonably say this cause is God).

Premise 1 is a version of the PSR, and good defenders of the cosmological argument will give you reasons you should accept it. (I have some here.)

Premise 2 is the one you are suggesting we don’t have good reason for. But, the necessary existence of the universe would be completely arbitrary - it means it literally wouldn’t be possible for any other kind of universe to exist: every possible universe would have to have the same laws of physics (and possibly even the same initial conditions) as our own. Because of this arbitrariness, Premise 2 seems more reasonable than its negation.

(It is less ad-hoc to say that God exists necessarily, since he is metaphysically more simple than the universe, and has no arbitrary properties. And that is how the theist avoids the regress.)

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Fair enough. Perhaps angst isn’t the only experience of the issues raised. However, you know that such “existential angst/curiosity” has been widely (I hesitate to say universal, though nearly) experience of human beings across culture and time? “Existential angst/curiosity” has been the driving force behind much philosophy and art in human history. Whatever the motivation may be - angst/curiosity, other…it is a driving force on many a human’s experience. It seems that for many humans through history to leave those existential questions unanswered is unsatisfactory.

Would you say that an unintelligent and impersonal quantum field is God if it caused our universe to exist?


An “unintelligent and impersonal quantum field” can’t be the cause of the universe, because a quantum field is something physical, and is therefore part of the universe, and nothing can be the cause of itself. (And yes, that includes God. God does not cause himself to exist; rather, he exists uncaused.) If a quantum field existed necessarily and thereby explained the existence of the universe, that still wouldn’t make it God, just a necessarily existing physical thing.

If something supernatural, but unintelligent and impersonal, were the cause of the universe, then that still wouldn’t be God (though certainly some people would call it such). And no, that doesn’t make my earlier comment special pleading, because for brevity’s sake I was not including the full range of reasons we can infer that the cause of the universe is a personal mind, not some kind of impersonal force.

In my own blog posts on the cosmological argument (starting here) I readily admit that the cosmological argument alone only gets you to some kind of supernatural, universe creating being, which may be personal or impersonal. I leave it to other arguments for God’s existence to fill in the picture (with Occam’s razor to reason that the beings referred to by such arguments are one and the same).


It gets you to that there is a cause, with characteristics which lie entirely outside our understanding of reality. What’s more likely: by fumbling around we’ve managed to hit on the actual nature of the cause (and one which just happens to have our best interests at heart) or that we simply don’t understand anything about it?

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There’s an unjustified naturalistic presupposition in both of your implicit assertions here: one, that something immaterial/supernatural is entirely outside of our understanding, and two, that our “fumbling around” and discovering a morally good deity is intrinsically unlikely. The probability of both of those statements is highly dependent on whether or not God exists.

Not that it really matters, anyways, because the relevant properties of the cause of the universe just fall out of what is logically required for being a cause of the universe, quite simply.

Let’s see if that holds up. What causes a cloud to form? It forms from moisture in the atmosphere along with changes in temperature and pressure. Those are all parts of the universe, and yet they are capable of causing a cloud to form. Your argument is clearly false.

I also don’t see why a quantum field of some sort could not have produced our universe. Could you explain that?

That seems like a better approach to me. I think we can all agree that something caused the universe to come into being, but that simple statement can’t tell us what that something is.

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