Bill O’Reilly’s argument for the existence of God

When Fox News host Bill O’Reilly interviewed Richard Dawkins on his show, he opened by saying, “I think it takes more faith to be like you, an atheist, than like me, a believer, and it’s because of nature. I just don’t think we could have lucked out to have the tides come in, the tides go out, the sun go up, the sun go down. Don’t think it could have happened.”

A few years later, O’Reilly later made his mark on internet memedom when, in response to American Atheists representative David Silverman saying religion is a scam, O’Reilly said, “I’ll tell you why it’s not a scam, in my opinion: tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that,” inspiring such parodies as, “Bread goes in, toast comes out. You can’t explain that,” and “I speak into a camera and people give me money. You can’t explain that.”

When I first saw these interviews, I thought O’Reilly might have been joking, but he later defended his remarks. In response to someone pointing out that we know the tides are caused by the moon, O’Reilley said:

Okay, how’d the moon get there? How’d the moon get there? Look, you pinheads who attacked me for this, you guys are just desperate. How’d the moon get there? How’d the sun get there? How’d it get there? Can you explain that to me? How come we have that and Mars doesn’t have it? Venus doesn’t have it. How come? Why not? How’d it get here?

This sort of reasoning is often called “God of the Gaps” reasoning. Incidentally, Dawkins himself has helped popularize the phrase, and gives a good summary of it in The God Delusion: “If an apparent gap is found, it is assumed that God, by default, must fill it” (p. 125).

Many critics of god of the gaps reasoning focus on the bad effects of thinking that way. Scientists like Dawkins complain that it cuts off the search for other explanations, while theologians worry that if they rely on god of the gaps reasoning, they’ll be left without a god once science has filled all the gaps. But the real problem with gods of the gaps “arguments” is that they are barely arguments: believers like O’Reilly never bother to explain why their favorite gap must be filled by God, rather than any other random hypothesis.

O’Reilly’s response to his critics, quote above, is just as bad as his original argument, because he still hasn’t given any reason why God should be our default way of filling gaps. But it also exhibits another common pattern among believers: when an alternate way of filling a gap are proposed, they just move on to another gap, in apparent faith that if they keep demanding explanations for things, they will get to God eventually. The silliness of this way of arguing is obvious as soon as you ask, “okay, then, who made God?”

Now I’ve said I think there are no good arguments for the existence of God, but at this point some of you may be wondering why I’d waste time on such an obviously terrible argument. I have several reasons. First, critics of “God of the Gaps” reasoning are often accused of misrepresenting the arguments of believers. Those quotes (which anyone with access to YouTube can verify) show otherwise.

Furthermore, I know (from my own experience and talking to other atheists) that if you’re an atheist and if you’re in the habit of getting into arguments about religion, you will hear O’Reilley-esque arguments from believers fairly often. That arguments like O’Reilly’s are bad arguments isn’t obvious to the many believers who make them. In fact, I’d bet that there are more believers who are impressed by arguments like O’Reilly’s than there are believers who are impressed by the ontological argument.

So don’t tell me that asking “who made God?” doesn’t disprove the existence of God. It doesn’t, but it does expose the silliness of a popular way of trying to prove God’s existence. And don’t tell me that Dawkins, or Daniel Dennett, or whoever are being unfair by spending time on such terrible arguments, because there’s nothing unfair about dealing with arguments many people actually make.

Finally, I too often see arguments like O’Reilly’s from people who ought to know better. The difference between “sophisticated” believers, including professional philosophers and theologians, and people like O’Reilly, is often not that the “sophisticated” believers have better arguments. It’s that instead of saying “the tides” or “the moon” they say “the Big Bang” or “the laws of physics” or “morality.” But the arguments of “sophisticated” believers are just as worthless as O’Reilly’s if they don’t give any reason why the gap in question should be filled by their god.

  • Usernames are stupid

    The silliness of this way of arguing is obvious as soon as you ask, “okay, then, who made God?”

    Yeah. And then get ready to fill in your TrueBeliever™ bingo answer card with the following squares:

    * God doesn’t have a beginning, unlike the universe
    * God is “outside” of time, unlike the universe
    * God doesn’t have a maker/god is the maker, unlike the universe
    * God is supernatural, unlike the universe

    • greg

      I love your analogy. Thanks for the laugh.

    • http://skepticiality.wordpress.comhttp://skepticity.blogspot.com Lord Griggs[ IgnosticMorgan,InquiringLynn,Fr. or Rabbi Griggs, CarneadesofGa]

      All those special plead and beg the question, so we can ask what made and what designed Him! Silly that might be.

    • Mrs. Taylor

      And obviously He did not want us to know as we know from the start of all those things before the knowledge of good and evil !!! Nor will we ever be that smart as He is to figure how He existed all He wants from us is love thru obedience, give Him respect He loved us to create us :) Forget trying to figure out and get His protection because He gives His presence inside of you if you ask so you know He exists :)

  • Celeste

    The God of the Gaps argument always reminds me of that wonderful quote from Men In Black, “Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”

    • r3formed

      You know what’s great about that men in black quote?

      He’s talking about science.

      I am really beginning to abhor this ideological battle between the new atheists and those professing faith. You are all so blind to your own biases and philosophies. Open discussion is important not this silly banter it has devolved into. We all make mistakes in understanding and do not research things enough. For example:

      “evangelicals” (couldn’t think of a better word)

      We should never make God of the gaps arguments. They are logically unsound and take away from God’s glory. The randomness of us having a moon is much more effective than the argument Mr. O’reilly makes but that’s not the point I’m trying to make. You can’t assume all science is invalid because of your philosophical stance. Facts are facts and they exist for God’s glory not his detriment.

      New atheists

      Although a scientific mind is often expressed as being a proper stance for humanity I would implore you all to do a little more research when it comes to some of the claims made amongst you. Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens I place in the same category as Robert Tilton and most other televangelists. They distort the truth. Mithras for example is a terrible argument for anyone who understands history. What that cult practiced and what they believed is far different than what is said about them. If you don’t believe me do the research they didn’t do. The evolution of religion is just as ridiculous an argument as the god of the gaps.

      • Annatar

        “Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens I place in the same category as Robert Tilton and most other televangelists.”

        …Really? I think Bill Maher is a fairly smart guy, but he is a comedian first and foremost, so if you’re expecting a deep understanding of Plantingian logic (or whatever) from him you’re barking up the wrong tree.

        Richard Dawkins is a highly respected evolutionary biologist. He has made huge contributions to science (which, unlike theology, actually yields real, testable results), and his anti-religion arguments are always grounded in established science. He has no need to assert anything without evidence, because he HAS evidence, and when he doesn’t he is humble enough to say “I don’t know.” Contrast this with Alvin Plantinga, who has spent the last third of his career humiliating himself by trying to prove that evolution doesn’t cohere with naturalism, and whose other major efforts (FWD and Ontological argument) aren’t widely accepted outside of his own philosophy of religion circles (see Chris’ post on the Logical problem of Evil a few weeks back).

        Christopher Hitchins didn’t have Dawkins creds., but he was a highly respected, well-traveled, well-read journalist and a leading public intellectual.

        How can you compare those men to televangelists, who, more often than not, are caught exploiting the poor, the sick, the elderly and the gullible for money, and never have anything but their own convictions to go off of?

        It seems to me you’re complaining that Dawkins, Hitchins, etc. are merely bold enough to say what they think.

        • r3formed

          The comparison was in both sets affinity towards distorting truth.

          Your statements are demonstrative of the points I’m making. Plantinga and his vile example of the ancient Arian heresy are far from biblical teaching and his beliefs exclude him from Christianity, in my humble opinion. Your defense of your particular cultural subset, one could argue a religion in itself, is admirable.

          They, like all men, suffer from the same problem. We will gather to ourselves things that support our values and will refute things that are opposed to those values, even when evidence suggests otherwise. There are numerous examples of that throughout history and that is what that men in black quote is referencing. It is arrogant to assume your beliefs are the correct ones especially when points are made by most all in the new atheist cult that are glaringly opposed to facts and truth. The same can be said for myself and many other evangelicals. Maher has a public voice and makes statements as truth, regardless of his profession many people accept what he says as truth. Dawkins is a legitimate scientist and I applaud his passion, but it is disturbing that he perpetuates ideas like the evolution of religion (Mithras, Osiris, and others are examples of Christ before he existed) and that Jesus of Nazareth didn’t exist. Maher and Hitchens both perpetuate those ideas which calls into question everything they say. The bible says that they will be deceiving while being deceived so maybe it’s like the old saying, “if you say a lie enough it becomes truth”.

          I applaud their boldness I just wish they spent more time making sure their statements are correct. Their is this glancing over of history amongst the new atheists and those that claim to be apologists that is destructive.

          • r3formed

            Apologies are necessary. I had no idea who Alvin Plantinga was. I vaguely remembered a reference to Plantingian Arianism which is a belief that their are two ways to be divine. That the trinity contains a different divinity than the three aspects of the Godhead individually. In my little research thus far I have been unable to make that connection to Alvin Plantinga.

            It seems I should take my own advice and do more research before I speak. I tend to avoid “Christian” sources probably for a lot of the reasons you would but I will research him more now. I can not always prevent being wrong but I can work on ignorance.

      • http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com PhysicistDave

        r3formed wrote:
        >I am really beginning to abhor this ideological battle between the new atheists and those professing faith. You are all so blind to your own biases and philosophies.

        Oh, c’mon!

        Look, if you want to make a deistic argument for the possible existence of God based on our lack of understanding of the nature of consciousness and the possibility that consciousness plays a greater role in the universe than most scientists imagine… well, I doubt it, but who knows?

        But, the people we are generally addressing are people who actually believe in transubstantiation (!) or that Satan literally took Jesus up “into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world” (Matt. 4:8 – hint: there is no such mountain), or who think Jesus really rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and a foal simultaneously just because Matthew misread Zech. 9:9 (only he made this weird mistake of all the Evangelists) or…

        We are dealing with people who are the intellectual equivalents of adults who believe in fairies or that Obama is a space alien or that green M&Ms are aphrodisiacs!

        They expect to be treated as if their views were not ridiculously bizarre simply because they are still the majority in the USA.

        But what would really be bizarrely unconscionable would be to take these views seriously as if they were really worthy of respect.

        Religion is a “badge of group identity” and, like hazing rituals for a frat, the more bizarre religious beliefs are, the better they prove your loyalty to the group: why would anyone make such a fool of herself unless she really wanted to be part of the group?

        Have you followed the horrifyingly public emotional meltdown of Leah Libresco? Her crowning argument for converting from atheism to Catholicism is “I guess Morality just loves me, or something…” and then she equates “Morality” with God. Think of that!: not “my boyfriend loves me” or “my parents love me” but “Morality” loves me! Can you imagine any more bizarrely, horrifyingly poignant cry from a child who wants somehow to belong and be loved?

        Well, Leah has found a group that she thinks will love her – she’s become a Catholic: they’ve been “love-bombing” her for the last couple weeks. Be interesting to see how Leah reacts when the novelty wears off and the artificial “love” for the new convert dissipates.

        Religion is a heart-rendingly disturbing psychological and sociological phenomena. But, intellectually, there is no there there.

        Dave Miller in Sacramento

        • r3formed

          The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem in Matthew 21 is a great example of the gospels being written by men. This does not take away from my belief in the bible but affirms it. I would be concerned if all the gospel accounts were matching exactly. That would indicate collusion. It is clear that Luke referenced Mark when writing his gospel but for the most part they operated independently therefore the differences and supposed contradictions are easily explained. The concepts are far more important than the words and your getting hung up on secondary information that is irrelevant. I do not claim the bible to be without error just true, again I feel the mistakes and other things like the end of Mark affirm my belief by demonstrating the amazing manuscript tradition Christianity has.

          Your post illustrates the unfounded arrogance that exists in your camp. Do you really think that their are no Christian intellectuals? The problems you attribute to religion or at least the human involvement in religion is brazenly evidenced in your post! You behave the same way! Now don’t worry it’s not your fault, you’re only human.

          I agree with you about Leah. That is a dangerous situation but it does not serve as a good example of what the bible actually teaches. Her statements make it very clear that she does not understand the gospel.

          I will try not to lump all non believers into a category if you can try to not lump all “Christians” together. I know I can be guilty of that error as well.

          • http://homeschoolingphysicist.blogspot.com PhysicistDave

            r3formed wrote to me:
            >The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem in Matthew 21 is a great example of the gospels being written by men.

            r3formed, you are again not reading carefully, just as you failed to read carefully about Plantinga.

            I did not say this screw-up in the Gospel proved Christianity is wrong. I said that we are in fact constantly dealing with people who will not admit the screw-up at all – quite a different matter.

            r3formed also wrote to me:
            > Do you really think that their are no Christian intellectuals?

            Oh, I think there are far, far too many Christian intellectuals! No shortage at all. I think many of them are self-aware liars and con artists. I think all the rest are uneducated or simply stupid. But, no, I most assuredly do not “really think that their are no Christian intellectuals.”

            If you think I am being unfair, read Jack Good’s “The Dishonest Church,” an exposé by an “insider,” a Christian clergyman. And, ask yourself how many guys went into the Catholic priesthood not because of honest conviction but because of the opportunity it offered for illicit sex.

            Most of the defense of professional theologians and philosophers hinges on the claim that surely one cannot dismiss an entire profession as dishonest or misguided.

            However, it is a horrible error to assume that every profession is filled primarily with decent, honest people. This is obviously not true of: astrologers, Nazi prison camp guards, phrenologists, drug dealers, etc. And, I think there is abundant evidence to include “Christian intellectuals” in that hall of shame.

            Again, don’t take my word for it and don’t just rely on the constant scandals that pepper the news: read Rev. Good’s book.

            By the way, as I tried to indicate in my initial remark about “deism,” if you are a “Christian” simply in the sense that you think that, in some ways, Jesus was an inspiring person and some of his advice is worth following, I have no real quarrel with you. I did try to make clear that I was referring to those “Christians” who believe in a literal Resurrection, Virgin Birth, Incarnation, etc.

            Dave

        • jonathangray

          PhysicistDave:

          But, the people we are generally addressing are people who actually believe in transubstantiation (!) or that Satan literally took Jesus up “into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world” (Matt. 4:8 – hint: there is no such mountain), or who think Jesus really rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and a foal simultaneously just because Matthew misread Zech. 9:9 (only he made this weird mistake of all the Evangelists) or…

          “That such a giant intellect could live in such a tiny mind!”

  • echidna

    Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat,

    I really hate it when movies perpetuate false memes like this one.

  • Randy

    Ummm,
    I could be wrong on this one, but I believe Mars has a moon AND a sun…Just sayin.

    • troll

      Two moons, even. You can’t explain it.

      • josh

        What you can’t explain is the portal to hell that opened up on one! Take that atheists!

        • DSimon

          Nah, that one’s easy: all you need is 20 obsidian blocks. Actually, only 16, if you don’t care about the corners looking ugly.

  • echidna

    Sorry, Celeste, that came off a little snippier than I intended. I love the idea of the sweep of knowledge that the quote evokes. The idea that in Columbus’s time people thought the world was flat was propaganda.

    A quote from John Hannam:

    The myth that people in the Middle Ages thought the earth is flat appears to date from the 17th century as part of the campaign by Protestants against Catholic teaching. But it gained currency in the 19th century, thanks to inaccurate histories such as John William Draper’s History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874) and Andrew Dickson White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). Atheists and agnostics championed the conflict thesis for their own purposes, but historical research gradually demonstrated that Draper and White had propagated more fantasy than fact in their efforts to prove that science and religion are locked in eternal conflict.

    • Celeste

      No problem, echidna. I didn’t think you were being snippy. It sounded more like the airing of a pet peeve. I like the quote for the same reason you stated, that it promotes accepting that there are things we don’t yet know, and that’s okay, because maybe someday we will know them. I cannot understand what is so scary about that to the religious. To me, it’s exciting. I want to know what we’ll know next.

    • b9

      I seriously doubt regular people at columbus time knew the earth was round… unless you can show some polls done at that time.

      if a majority of the people in this century in one of the worlds most riches and powerful countries can deny evolution… then i have no problem imagining that 600 years ago regular ppl thought the earth was flat.

      • SAWells

        What we have is cosmological models from the time- i.e. the Ptolemaic cosmology – in which the earth is, yes, spherical. The Greek geometers worked out that the earth was spherical about two thousand years ago at least. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, thirteenth century, Dante passes _through the centre of a spherical earth_ (that’s where Satan hangs out!) and emerges in the antipodes, directly opposite Jerusalem. The standard Latin phrase for the world is orbis terrarum, the sphere of the lands.

        No, I don’t have a fucking poll for you. Sheesh.

        • justsomeguy

          There’s a difference between the wisdom and knowledge of an average person and the wisdom and knowledge of a highly-educated person. The highly-educated of the time would certainly be able to study various phenomena (terrestrial and celestial) and conclude that the earth is roughly spherical, but the average person would have nothing but their own observations… and, well, if you’re just walking along the road, it sure *looks* like a big flat expanse.

          Also: practicality. The earth’s spherical shape probably doesn’t mean much of anything to a society where most people will never travel more than 50 miles from the place they’re born. Odds are it would be a matter of intellectual curiosity more than anything; the same way I think about the curvature of space-time.

          And speaking of pet peeves: Columbus didn’t discover anything. There were millions of people (and millions before them) who were very much aware that there’s a continent where he landed. It’s kind of a hard thing to miss.

  • http://stripeyunderpants.blogspot.com/ silverbuttons

    Why, yes, Bill, I CAN explain how the moon and sun “got there,” and probably a bit of why Venus, Mars, and other planets are different than Earth. And I’m not even a scientist! I know these things because I actually paid attention in elementary school science classes.

    These concepts are not that complicated, and I don’t understand why creationist nutters have such difficulty grasping them. There are 10-year-old kids who are smarter than Bill because they read books.

  • sc_dc3fdcf0b9c1aa1eac1601e2d4785159

    Reminds me a bit of Phillip Henry Gosse, a 19th Century naturalist who’s scientific/cultural legacies are really wonderful nature watercolors, seawater aquariums and really bad, young Earth theology detailed in his worse than merely unsuccessful book, Omphalos, with the Prochronism hypothesis.

    Mr. O’Reilly is going to be remembered for having thrown away his integrity as a respected reporter for really bad ideas; bad though apparently lucrative ideas. Actually, he’s most likely going to be a footnote for having been the political commentator who inspired The Colbert Report.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

      Wait – O’Reilly used to have integrity as a respected reporter?

    • http://skepticiality.wordpress.comhttp://skepticity.blogspot.com Lord Griggs[ IgnosticMorgan,InquiringLynn,Fr. or Rabbi Griggs, CarneadesofGa]

      Lamberth’s the new Omphalos argument is that theists find divine intent whilst science finds none as the Coyne-Mayr-Lamberth teleonomic argument notes, so that they, with their theistic evolution-that oxy-moronic obscurantism, thereby contradict science instead of complementing it!
      Google both arguments for fuller accounts. Also Google Lamberth’s naturalistic arguments about God to see more argumentation that fully shows why we gnu atheists can declare that no God can possibly exist! Ti’s no need for our traversing the Cosmos [ the Metaverse, Megaverse,Multiverse,Polyverse]nor have omniscience ourselves; ti’s a matter of analysis.
      “Logic is the bane of theists.” Fr. Griggs
      “God is in a worse position that the Scare crow who had a body to which a mind could enter whilst He has neither! He is that square circle! No wonder He is ineffable!”
      “Life is its own validation and reward and ultimate meaning to which neither God nor the future state can further validate.” Inquiring Lynn
      Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth

  • Steven Carr

    REILLY
    Look, you pinheads who attacked me for this, you guys are just desperate.

    CARR
    I think this is called ‘reasonable dialogue’ by many believers, who see nothing wrong with abuse of people who can’t follow their arguments.

    Sophisticated theologians don’t resort to abuse. Instead they will substitute claims that atheists are lying to themselves, each other and the world by atheist lying about the fact that they do actually believe in the Christian god.

    Many believers think atheists do believe in God and are offended by the fact that atheists are therefore lying hounds. Would you trust somebody who lies all the time? Neither do they.

  • left0ver1under

    The gaps could also be likened to stairs. The religious blather that the steps are too big to go from one to the next. The steps could be so small that the stairway looks like a ramp, and they still wouldn’t be satisfied.

    The claim that each new discovery “causes a new gap” is ludicrous. Each new discovery means a smaller step from one evlotionary event to the next. They’re looking for a Zeno-like paradox (re: Achilles and the turtle) and they “think” it’s a rational argument.

  • Lukas

    Isn’t what he’s doing also a kind of post hoc rationalization? He asks why earth has a moon and tides, and argues that since we are on a planet that has a moon and tides, the moon and tides thus have to have been created for us. In reality, it’s the opposite; the fact that earth got a moon was a random event. That random event helped humans evolve to our current state. So current humans are a result of the moon; the moon wasn’t put there for current humans.

    Without a moon, earth would look different, and alternate Bill O’Reilly would ask “how come we don’t have a moon? If we did have a moon, we wouldn’t be where we are! Other planets have moons, but we don’t! Can’t explain that!”

  • Mike de Fleuriot

    The best response to the God of the Gaps statement is to enquire if the person making it is willing to keep quiet and listen to the actual answer. If they say no, then your job is done, otherwise explain why God of the gaps is incorrect and move on. If they interrupted, call them a liar and leave.

    We need to stop being respectful to people who are not willing to show respect. We have tried to show respect before and they have abused us because of it, no more I say.

  • Xenopuss

    “I seriously doubt regular people at columbus time knew the earth was round… unless you can show some polls done at that time.”

    Why would you doubt that? The curvature of the earth is visible, you can see it’s round. Every sailor must have known because he watched ships drop off the horizon and then come back every day. Columbus and the court that sponsored him simply assumed the earth was round. Happily, Columbus also thought it was tiny. If he had not made the mammoth blunder we would not have discovered the New World until much later.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003175111542 nedchamplain

    I enjoy it when “true believers” put their god in a box. The box keeps getting smaller and smaller until it becomes an insignificant speck.

  • csrster

    Aren’t you conflating “God of the Gaps” with “Argument From First Cause”? I admit there’s an overlap but they’re also subtley different. “God of the Gaps” is something that could be going on “now” because a deity could be, for example, manipulating quantum probabilities to cause directed evolution and we would never know. “First Cause” is necessarily cosmogonic, because it claims that one can construct a temporally-finite chain of causality.

    • csrster

      Also I should have said that I’ve never heard “God of the Gaps” used as an argument for the existence of a God. It tends to be more a theological argument (or strawman) for a type of God whose existence would be consistent with known scientific reality.

      • csrster
      • http://skepticiality.wordpress.comhttp://skepticity.blogspot.com Lord Griggs[ IgnosticMorgan,InquiringLynn,Fr. or Rabbi Griggs, CarneadesofGa]

        Cosmological and other arguments depend on the god of the explanatory gap: what is the real ultimate explanation,other than the personal one noted by Swinburne and WLC that He is that answer, but that is just another argument from ignorance. Aquinas himself believed in a divine creation due to the Bible, noting that even were the world eternal, it stills needs an ultimate explanation. But as [Google] the Flew-Lamberth the presumption of naturalism notes, natural causes and themselves are the ultimate explanation and necessary being and the sufficient answer.

  • Marcelo

    Since I’m not from the US I got to know Bill O’Reilly at first from random Youtube vids.

    I spent sometime thinking it was a SNL parody or something like that, got really disappointed when I found out that guy was for real.

    • mikespeir

      You didn’t mean “disappointed,” did you? You meant “disturbed” or “scared,” maybe? “Worried” for the future of a humanity that pays attention to such a nutcase?

      • Marcelo

        Yes, I might have made the wrong choice of words there.

        I just though it was a character disigned to make the extreme right look bad.

  • Bill Yeager

    Actually Chris I think you are somewhat off-the-mark with your interpretation of the ‘argument’ O’Reilly presents.

    Okay, how’d the moon get there? How’d the moon get there? . . .How’d the sun get there? . . .How come we have that and Mars doesn’t have it? Venus doesn’t have it. How come? Why not? How’d it get here?

    This sort of reasoning is often called “God of the Gaps” reasoning.

    That’s not God-of-the-gaps in any way whatsoever. That would imply that science did not currently have an answer for his questions so, therefore, he gets to throw his God in there. In reality, what we actually have with O’Reilly’s statements is absolute dipshittery in it’s finest form. The guy is too stupid to know a handful of basic facts about the Solar System. TBH, this level of ‘toast goes in, bread comes out – you can’t explain that’ idiocy from somebody who, not only has a job, but is paid to broadcast himself to millions of people, is beyond frightening.

  • Leo

    The guy is too stupid to know a handful of basic facts about the Solar System.

    That’s the thing, though. He’s still filling in gaps in his own knowledge, even if others have already filled in those gaps. And I would guess that if you educated him on those things, he’d (surprise!) move on to the next gap! After all, that’s exactly what he did when he was informed that his tide “gap” had already been filled.

    In other words, I think you are looking at this from too high of a level. Whether or not an argument is “God of the Gaps” does not depend on all of known science but rather on the knowledge of the person making the argument.

    • Leo

      …Meant to post this as a reply to Bill Yeager, FYI.

    • Kevin

      Yeah, it’s not even a God of the Gaps argument.

      Because we’ve closed those gaps.

      Heck, LaPlace closed the “tides” gap in 1783.

  • The Lorax

    The reason his statements have become memes is because they really are that foolish. They have passed beyond argument and went straight into the realm of ridicule, and as well they should.

  • mnb0

    Excellent piece – you are obviously on a roll. I am especially fond of your conclusion – that’s something I’m going to use.

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  • http://ignosticmorgansblog.wordpress.com LordGriggsSkepticGriggsyCarneadesHume

    Chris, Aquinas’s superfluity argument boomerangs on his five ways! Percy Bysshe Shelley implicitly uses it:” To suppose that some existence beyond, or above them [ the descriptions- laws - of Nature ] is to invent a second and superfluous argument to account for what already is accounted for.” And theists would beg the question should they then claim that that is a category mistake.
    I got that argument by way of van Inwagen’s on-line papers. He claims that God is no hypothesis, taking Him on faith. Faith is the we just say so of credulity; it begs the question and is an argument from ignorance. Now, McGrath claims that first theists get the evidence for God and then use faith for certitude, whilst haughty Haught claims that faith overwhelms ones entire being. I find both counter to the scientific attitude of relying on tentativeness. Their faith , then, reads like dogmatism after all,eh?
    Armstrong’s apophatic theology affirms unwittingly as it says that He is neither this nor that, such that He is incoherent. Cataphatic theology fails in that as we naturalists take away each of His referents, He becomes vacuous and then again that affirms ignosticism -my form anyway. My teleonomic argument alone eviscerates all referents depending on divine intent.
    My arguments make explicit what is in the naturalist literature.
    What do you opine?
    For the record.


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