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God of the Gaps: How To Say “I Don’t Know”

“If the ignorance of nature gave birth to such a variety of gods, the knowledge of this nature is calculated to destroy them.”

Paul Henri Thiry d’Holbach, System of Nature

“God of The Gaps” refers to the mistake made by countless theists across the world from a vareity of different backgrounds; to fill the gaps in our knowledge about the origin of the universe and the origin of life with the cop-out explanation that is God.

If you sit down with theists and try to get to the core of why they believe what they believe, they often find themselves in this circular argument. I believe it stems from an inability to admit when they don’t know something – or, at the very least, an inability to seperate what they know about religion and faith from what they can’t explain.

The thing is, in science, you don’t get to do that. The default position isn’t what you want the outcome to be, but what you can reasonably determine to be true – and, if you can’t find an evidential explanation for something, your conclusion must be that you don’t know.

Learning to admit that you don’t know something is a fundemental part of being a skeptic. If you accept things before you have good reason to do so, your conclusions on a large scale will contradict oneanother – but God is an unfalsifiable concept. He is beyond our senses, beyond perception, beyond even our imaginations. How do you provide evidence for something like that? The truth is, you can’t. God could. But you?

The illusion that is christians arriving at faith through what they think to be reasonable arguments doesn’t make them rational. It doesn’t do away with the consistent use of fallacies to back up their claims about the universe and humanity. That’s why the scientific method is such a better approach to learning about reality than anything that religion draws from. Science can be cross-referenced, scruitinised, often replicated to back up the conclusions it reaches. Science has no bias, no agenda, and there is no one scientific opinion on anything.

That doesn’t mean everyone’s opinion is equally scientific, however – just that even within scientific circles things are up for debate all the time. The only difference being the people in question are all theorising, experimenting, and most importantly of all, using the scientific method. Their inability to agree on anything is similar to that of religious folk – only they don’t believe in things they don’t know to be true. They don’t claim what they know is unquestionably correct; and as a result, their findings, although often different from one other, strengthen their overall resolve and understanding of the unknown.

Admitting You Don’t Know Something Is The First Step

Most people hate admitting they’re wrong, even at the cost of their goals. Those of us who aren’t naturally stubborn are naturally gullible. As kids, we ask and ask away, curious about everything and steadfast about naught, in the hopes to learn as much as we can. The problem with that time of our lives is we’re also extemely impressionable. Our barriers for evidence are incredibly low, leading us to essentially believe anything adults say to us. Critical thinking is evidently a developed skill, and clearly not one everyone gets around to learning.

But, if you are interested in being a rational, reasonable person, you must outgrow this urge to believe what you want to believe. To in effect be a vessel for someone else’s toxic idea, a blissful preacher of deception. Believe only what you have good reason to believe – nothing more, nothing less.

Theists like to drag scientists from the 17th and 18th centuries like Isaac Newton through the mud as it’s understood he believed in a God as a direct result of the God of the Gaps argument.

“This most elegant system of the sun, planets, and comets could not have arisen without the design and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.

And if the fixed stars are the centers of similar systems, they will all be constructed according to a similar design and subject to the dominion of the One … And so that the system of the fixed stars will not fall upon one another as a result of their gravity, he has placed them at immense distances from one another.”

Isaac Newton, General Scholium

And in truth, Newton was wrong to make these claims. He truly only believed in a God because he couldn’t fathom any other explanation for the world he observed. What’s important to note, though, is that just because he came to the illogical conclusion that God is real when he should have claimed not to know, doesn’t make Newton any less of a magnificent scientist ahead of his time.

If Newton was around today, and we had the opportunity and time to take him through the modern understanding of physics, astronomy and the human condition, I have no doubt in my mind that he would come to an atheist perspective before long. That’s because although he hadn’t applied it to each and every question he’d ever asked himself, Isaac Newton had a genuinely formidable method of rationality and understanding of the scientific method.

It also just goes to show anyone is capable of making mistakes, or believing something that isn’t true. All the more reason to be skeptical of people making extrordinairy claims about our universe and the life within it.


  1. This post talks about the topic that I often discuss with my friends. I am surprised to see the synchronisation between our ideas.
    Thanks for the wonderful post
    Following your amazing blog right away 😄

  2. Pingback: The Struggle of Accepting Mortality - Secular Sanity

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