What is the God of the Gaps Argument?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, answers the question: What is the God of the Gaps argument?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Jasper

    I’m going to start using “insane invisible gerbil head” as my go-to explanation for things I don’t understand.

    How did the universe start? I dunno. Must have been the insane invisible gerbil head.

    Why do we have consciousness? Insane invisible gerbil head… nailed it.

    • yellow5

      Blasphemy. The cult of the Invisible Pink Unicorn will hear of this.

      We do not forgive. We do not forget.

      • Buckley

        Double Blasphemy!!! All Hail the FSM!

    • shuteme

      I can save you all from FSM and The Flying Pink Unicorn. Praise me in all media and send me your banking info. GodLessFucker

  • Peter K

    I think the God of the Gaps argument isn’t consciously used by most believers. It is something that we perceive in the way that they apprehend reality. It’s argument from ignorance. I think the problem is their starting point, and a lack of education, and a deep failure of comprehension.

  • the moother

    this.project.is.awesome

  • evodevo

    The theist position gets backed further and further into a corner as time, and knowledge, accumulate. With the advent of the scientific revolution, this process began accelerating exponentially. But you will never get a fundie to admit this – it has to do with logic.

    • Spuddie

      Anyone in the last 2 centuries using God as the go-to explanation for facts concerning nature and the physical world, has been either ignorant, delusional or dishonest.

  • viaten

    So God is just a place holder for future explanations. Or like caulk filling in holes or cracks until a something is repaired or replaced, like a theory.

    • yellow5

      No, because a theory in the scientific sense is well confirmed with observation and evidence and are consistent with scientific methodology. A scientific theory is not a place holder or mere idea – it is supported by evidence, it is reliable, it is confirmable and falsifiable, and it is comprehensive. It is able to be understood by any other scientist in that field of study.

      • viaten

        My point is that God is the place holder, not the theory, for what a theory doesn’t explain but where an explanation is desired. The theory is something that is repaired or replaced when new data is found and God is no longer needed, at least for the scientific gap being filled.

        • yellow5

          Wow.

          No. That isn’t how science works at all.

          • viaten

            Let me clarify some more. I don’t consider God a place holder for gaps in scientific understanding to be later replaced. My original post was meant to be sarcastic. In the religious mind, God conveniently fills in the gaps in scientific understanding (like caulk used wherever around the house, garage, etc) and then is reluctantly given up when the evidence for a new or fixed up theory is overwhelming.

            • yellow5

              OK, thanks, this makes more sense.

              I’ll take my sarcasm meter in for service tomorrow.

  • Paula M Smolik

    I can read faster than people can talk. Videos make me impatient.

    • baal

      ok, the videos are for a wider audience and a good many of them like to watch or listen instead of reading.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        videos are for a wider audience

        Baal says videos are for fat people.

        • baal

          wtf is wrong with you?

          • GubbaBumpkin

            baal fails to understand Teh Internetz.

  • Bitter Lizard

    “Let’s put God in that gap.” Good sign to start running from the priest, kids.

    • Spuddie

      LOL, ewww but LOL nonetheless.

  • Mitch

    It’s a lazy way to make a case for a deity, yes, but my big issue with the argument is that it kills any need for further exploration. If something happens because of god, what use is there in investigating? I don’t like it, Sam I Am.

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    With all due respect Hemant, albeit a longer video, I think Tyson’s “Perimeter of Ignorance” hits it home much more strongly.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMXHKixqOM8

  • Brad C.

    I like to respond that “God did it” doesn’t actually answer any of the important questions, it’s not actually making any usable claims.

    So, you claim that we need God to explain the origin of the first life on earth? Ok, fine. How did he do it? What organism(s) did he create first? Why? Was it a single moment of supernatural intervention that then evolved into all living things, or were there separate creation events? How many separate creations? Why do those separate creations look like they are related? What exactly happened next?

    So, you claim that God guided evolution through history as part of his plan to bring humanity into being? Ok, how did he do that? I mean, did he magically create the genetic mutations at each generation? Did he supernaturally protect the “chosen” in a population, and zap those he didn’t want to reproduce? How did he do that? Why would he allow 99% of all species in history to become extinct? How does that match with his plan?

    “God did it” is more than just a cop-out, its not even an answer. It just complicates the questions.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      So, you claim that we need God to explain the origin of the first life on earth? Ok, fine. How did he do it?…

      If they could tell us how, then in all likelihood we would no longer need the who. That’s pretty much the entire history of science.

    • Matt D

      I completely agree. Our civilization has been around for some time, and yet only now are we experiencing the possibilities of technology and science due to zealots preferring to live in a fantasy over truth.

    • Peter K

      Agreed, “god did it” begs more questions than it answers! I think the point in it is that it allows the believer to stop thinking and not have to face certain aspects of reality that they’d rather not deal with.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty
  • Blue Suede

    So is it a “lazy approach” to say God made a blind man see, lame person speak and medically impossible situations to occur that’s unexplainable by science? I’m still waiting for that day when man-made rationale cracks the code on how miracles occur, or how the “big bang” has any driving force to making men from intricate coiling codons piecing into perfect chromosomes because until then there is no explanation to that except God.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Hi Blue Suede.
      Yes it is the lazy approach, and you have just demonstrated several examples of it: It’s lazy to simply accept like a little kid stories from an Iron Age book claiming that a magical man made a blind man see and a lame person walk. It’s lazy to not demand clear, unambiguous proof or at least credible evidence of such claims both in the ancient past and in modern times. It’s lazy to naively assume that headlines claiming “miracles” in tabloids are legitimate, giving no documentation, no corroboration, no unbiased confirmation, no credible evidence at all that an absolutely otherwise impossible thing has occurred. It’s lazy to link the big bang with evolution, skipping 14 billion years in between and making no effort to understand all that happened. It’s lazy to say that for whatever you don’t understand, the only explanation must be your particular version of the thousands of proposed gods, all but one of which you have rejected. It’s lazy to be satisfied with that simplistic answer and not be willing to honestly say “I don’t know yet,” and have that not knowing drive you to work diligently to find out.

      It’s lazy to be gullible. It’s lazy to remain ignorant and try to make ignorance look like a virtue.


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