Monday, March 10, 2008

God-of-the-Gaps Reasoning

Evolutionists frequently criticize those who believe in supernatural interventions in our natural world for subscribing to the God-of-the-gaps position. Theists are accused of crediting God with a miracle whenever we can’t explain the natural causation for some phenomenon. Evolutionists rest in the confident assurance that eventually all questions will have a naturalistic explanation. They claim we just haven’t had enough time to figure things out. They say, for example, “We haven’t found enough fossils. But when we do, the mysteries will be solved.”

In my discussions with both naturalistic and theistic evolutionists, this God-of-the-gaps accusation has been made many times. In 2005 I had a lengthy exchange with a well-known professor of ecology and evolutionary science at a Midwestern university. He said, “Science…does not revert to supernatural explanations of the unknown. Rather, it prefers to wait for tomorrow’s research discoveries to turn more bits of unknown to the known.” He went on to expand the idea that scientists should NEVER give up seeking naturalistic explanations for nature’s phenomena. It’s a theme I’ve heard over and over.

Theologian Ken Samples recently made the following points in his article in Connections entitled “God-of-the-gaps…or Best Explanation?” Let’s review the highlights of his argument. Since only physical and material explanations are allowable in science, the supernatural is ruled out a priori. The future will explain all reality. This is called the argumentum ad futuris fallacy (accept this because future evidence will support it). Samples says, “Ironically it might even be called ‘naturalism-of-the-gaps’ reasoning.”

Samples states that “most sophisticated Christian theists don’t engage in a God-of-the-gaps form of reasoning. Rather, Christian scholars appeal to God as an inference to the best explanation… The abductive form of thinking yields only probable truth.” We’ve discussed abductive reasoning in the last few posts, pointing out its importance as both a starting and ending point in scientific discovery. If naturalistic scientists exclude abductive reasoning whenever theistic options are offered, they may also be rejecting the possibility of truth discovery. Some theistic scientists are currently developing scientific models which leave open the possibility of theistic explanations. It is a new approach, going beyond merely pointing out weaknesses in evolutionary theory.