Sunday, April 15, 2012

God...? Or Science Of The Gaps?

The phrase “God of the gaps” is based on the premise that scientific discovery is slowly eroding away any basis by which our lives and existence can be explained through an intelligent designer. These gaps in scientific understanding, so it is implied, are the only remaining vestiges of man’s ignorance in which notions like superstition and supernatural beliefs can find refuge, and from that refuge exert influences on culture. Noteworthy however is the confidence found in the perspective that sees the idea of god and gods as simply “gaps” in real knowledge. The confidence is placed in the belief that science can and will eventually leave no refuge for religion and man can finally rest, assured that the days of interpreting life’s meaning and events according to a subjective template of make believe gods and goblins is fading into man’s collective memory. This, of course, is short sighted of the modern day scientist turned pontificator for such a mindset is oblivious of the inability of the scientist to remain objective in his own pursuits of knowledge.

The reality will ever be that it will be impossible to explain away religion. Science has answered difficult questions and in so doing has afforded man a more comfortable life as well as the ability to control certain aspects of his existence. While such advancements do create an allure to those who dream of science’s eventual ability to dispel notions of a “higher power”, these leaps have in reality only succeeded in misleading those who have placed their hopes in science for such ends.

One way of explaining this is by perspective. While it’s true that the number 10 is ten times the number 1, this is not the only truth about ten that should be considered. There are other perspectives. If these numbers represent knowledge and scientific advancement, then given the amount of ignorance that a tenfold increase in knowledge would have displaced, some may be apt to become haughty. But others with not so narrow a gaze will still see 10 as a hundred times smaller than a thousand, which is also true. Moreover, this will always be the case because each advancement in knowledge still succeeds also in creating an exponential increase in questions. Conclusions drawn from these advancements, whether they be, “look at what we now know”, or “look at how much we now realize we don’t know”, will depend largely on a naturalistic verses theistic perspective. One begets confidence in Man, the other an awe of the Creator.

The naturalistic viewpoint that sees only a material world is really narrow and small, no matter how large the naturalists interprets his little cocoon to be. This leads to an unfounded confidence by man in man’s ability to answer all questions, even questions that science will never be able to answer. In the end his discoveries becomes a runway of sorts for an ill-fated flight into a different realm. Science simply cannot slip the surly bonds of materialism. Once the science that gave us electricity, the automobile and cell phones begins to venture into the realm of morality it immediately runs out of runway and crashes into the chasm of subjective preference. It does not fly, indeed it cannot, for if we are constructed of something so amoral as “chance and molecules” we are by nature only machines made of material; and material is amoral. The reality of this reality, of course, is nothing new. It was pointed out quite well millions of scientific discoveries ago. It goes like this:

“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

Simply put, the person who sees the world solely through a materialistic lens is half blind. He can see gods as gap fillers, but he can’t see science as a gap maker. He can chide those with much wider horizons as narrow minded, but he can’t see the constrictions naturalism has put on his own views. Because of his unsubstantiated conclusions based on theories that morphed, more religiously than scientifically, into fact, his own gaps are not only larger than he realizes, he doesn’t seem capable of noticing them gaping before him. Like his “religious” counterpart, his view, though he vehemently denies it, is based more on hopes than science; the chief of these being that there is no eternal being to which he is accountable, and if there is, it is silent… and benevolent.

To peek past the thin veil of so called “science” is to apprehend the root issues that bellies the religious like credulity prevalent in this age. That root issue is good old-fashioned political power. The truth is that ultimate liberty is at stake when it comes to determining what is right and wrong, what is and is not acceptable behavior and what will and won’t be the ultimate reference point from which morality is measured. An open minded perspective therefore will reveal that the existence of a creator, to which all men are ultimately accountable, is simply unacceptable on a personal self-centered level; and there’s simply nothing scientific about that. Such an entity simply puts too much of a damper on chasing after the lusts of the flesh and so it therefore must be rejected on the best grounds available. It just so happens that right now, in this technologically advanced era, those grounds are in the realm of science; even if it has to be make-it-up-and-change-it-as-necessary-to-accommodate-real-discoveries-and-the-policial-template science.

With this in mind it might surprise many that some of the political shenanigans, like those taking place right now in response to an academic freedom law recently passed in Tennessee, that pass as science actually find more in common with the religions they malign and reject than they do science. Worse, like some of the beliefs held in some religions, many scientific theories believed to be true based on political necessity, have grown hard over time themselves. They, in a politically charged and institutionalized environment like the current American education system, become therefore unassailable in the minds of those who have put their faith in them. Their faith has then blinded them to the fact that their theories draw nourishment, not as much from empirical science as plain old political bullying.

It cannot be overcome that answers based on anything that cannot be proven or disproven by science is not science. It is religion. Such a religion, under the guise of science, begins its argument based on assumptions, one of which is that its belief in the nonexistence of a creator is rock solid. Or, on the flip side, it believes that the world as we interpret it with our five senses is all that is and so is all that can be known. Since there is no way of knowing ultimate truths in ways that satisfy both empirical science and the atheistic scientists, it therefore stands to reason that when these scientist accuse religions of filling gaps with the very thing they themselves are filling them, these scientist are simply projecting onto others their own methods and beliefs: the belief that others are filling gaps with nonsense. The accusation can just as easily be made that some of what passes for science today is nothing more than “science of the gaps”. A more opened minded approach might foster a more humble assessment of the limits of man’s knowledge by concluding that man can never know if he can know all that can be known. Perhaps then he can then realize that not only at some point, like it or not, he is operating on faith, but also that the transition has occured.

One of the more blatant examples of “science of the gaps” can be seen in the so called multiverse theory. This is a theory that basically suggests that the exquisite design of our universe… exists merely because there are an infinite number of universes and we just happen to be in one that appears to be designed. (1) Another theory along these lines is called “Punctuated equilibrium”. This is an evolutionary theory that exists, not as much as a result of research but rather because of the lack of evidence for evolution in the fossil record. As one person aptly put it, “it is like saying that elephants must run through our living room very fast because we never see them”.

These are but two theories that qualify as science, not on any scientific bases but because they reject a designer to whom the theorist might owe a reckoning. The case could be made that its only purpose is to bolster other theories that new discoveries are having the effect of weakening. The fact is that there is just too many ingredients in some “theories” that simply cannot withstand the rigors of real science but are nevertheless needed for political purposes and so remain.

Some of these theories morph into accepted fact over time by undergoing their own process of evolution and so develop more of a religious air about them because of their bases in faith. Political, as opposed to scientific, terms like “consensus” are then adopted in this evolutionary process to prop up theories since there is disagreement within the scientific community on the trustworthiness of the theories. When has anyone seen the word “consensus” used to support the idea of gravity, or the periodic table? The very word “consensus” comes through the door hauling baggage stuffed with politics. The fact is, if questions remain among those within the discipline, ignorance remains; and so should open minds. It should be remembered that ignorance in its own right is not a bad thing but a thing to be conquered; that is unless one has ordered his life around ignorance posing as fact. In that case it is the questions that must be defeated, and ignorance defended by all means.

So it comes about that antitheses to politically accepted scientific theories are rejected, not because of the scientific method, but rather according to a system of beliefs. Gone is the typical open minded curiosity that should be resident in the scientist. Belief, now posing as science, has morphed into religious fervor that has solidified theory into fact. This belief turns with its politically motivated self-righteous wrath against all who imply that the theory may not, after all, be true. Dr. Dave Pilbeam, speaking along these lines, lends some insight to this as he aptly wrote considering such mindsets:

“...perhaps generations of students of human evolution, including myself, have been flailing about in the dark; that our data base is too sparse, too slippery, for it to be able to mold our theories. Rather the theories are more statements about us and ideology than about the past. Paleoanthropology reveals more about how humans view themselves than it does about how humans came about. But that is heresy.” (2)

So how do humans view themselves? I would say, in a word: “Autonomous”. Yes, that is our ever and always goal by any means necessary, even if it means becoming slaves; a thing at which man has proven himself especially adept.

To be sure, and let me state, we are today the benefactors of scientific theory. But it is not anti-science to assert that there remains the necessity that science keeps itself corralled in the arena of science. If it is possible to test theories to render them true or false then all must be willing to accept that which is true, even the scientist. But when the ramifications of a theory are as profound as those that are based on theories that clearly exist for the purpose of dispensing with objective truth and an ultimate law-giver, let us not close our minds. Let us not muffle and oppress by outlawing opposing views without basis. In conclusion, while it is reasonable and logical that no humble person should deny that gaps exist in man’s knowledge concerning both our material and spiritual world; it is neither reasonable nor logical to throw stones at another man’s “gaps” when one’s own are made of glass.

1. From Eternity Matters

2. Conservapedia


Stan said...

While it's certainly true that science (originally conceived as "thinking God's thoughts after Him") can answer a lot of questions about our material universe, it is absolute nonsense to suggest that science, in the end, can provide all the answers. That's because science is about what can be measured. So, if "truth" is defined as "that which corresponds to reality" and "reality" includes things like "morality", "love", "intuition", or even "history", we find that reality includes a host of things that cannot be measured. Moving science out of "measurable" to "all answers" isn't clever; it's blind faith.

Anonymous said...

Citing Conservapedia is only one (admittedly small) step below citing the men's bathroom wall graffiti.

Susan said...

Thank God for my simplistic FAITH that believes "In the beginning God....." period. On that I hang my hat, my life and my hereafter.

Dan said...

See Stan, there you go. You summed it up better in a paragraph than I was able in a very very long blog post.

So true Susan.

Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

Anonymous said...

I find it funny how desperate Atheists are to disprove religion. For all this talk about 'non-belief' they really seem to become excited when they believe another nail in the God coffin has been discovered. New discoveries are treated as whole refutations, as if God's existence hinges on the natural world.

For the most part, science is irrelevant to God, mostly for the reason Stan gave. But I am begining to realize God's existence is as impossible to disprove as his non-existence is to prove.

I smell a new post.

Neil said...

Great points. The Tennessee topic is illuminating.

The allegedly science-only crowd lives under the fallacious premise that you can use science to prove that you should only use science. That's circular reasoning.

Re. Conservapedia's veracity -- I don't use the site regularly, but I'd wager that it is at least as accurate as the mainstream media.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dan said...

You got your little dig in. If you have something to say to Neil please follow the link to his sight and say it.