RR Excerpt #7: The Disappearing "God of the Gap"

This is excerpt #7 from The Reason Revolution: Atheism, Secular Humanism, and the Collapse of Religion, a short, FREE e-book available at Smashwords, Goodreads, and Amazon

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This is the fifth of nine posts describing "Reasons for Skepticism" derived from scientific discovery, not from wishful speculations about the supernatural. These will be followed by several "Reconciliation Theories" for bridging the growing chasm between science and religion.

5. The disappearing "god of the gap." The earliest deity was probably the sun, followed by the moon, then by additional gods controlling seasons, fertility, and other mysterious events. As science emerged as an alternative method of comprehending those mysteries, religious authorities eventually acknowledged that the sun was not a deity, that seasons are explained by planetary motion, that fertility is explained by biology, and other prior mysteries are understood without resorting to religion for explanation. No less an authority than Pope (now Saint) John Paul II declared in 1996 that, "Truth cannot contradict truth," meaning faith cannot contradict science.

The gap between scientific knowledge and the remaining mysteries has narrowed significantly. Within the past century, science has produced astounding insights into the nature of the world and the universe, further narrowing the gap to a small slice of the huge and baffling pie of mystery that confronted our pre-science ancestors as they sought to understand their world.

Yes, mysteries remain, but given the remarkable and accelerating progress made by science in debunking previously held religious "truths," is it not more reasonable to regard the remaining mysteries as natural phenomena that can eventually be understood by science, rather than continue to attribute them to some decreasingly necessary supernatural deity for which there exists no empirical evidence whatsoever?

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Comment by Loren Miller on August 22, 2014 at 1:02pm

It wasn't that long ago that there was just One Big GAP ... and god supposedly was accountable for all the phenomena in the world.  The problem came when curious men looked at some of those phenomena and started observing patterns and correlations.  Galileo pointed his telescope at Jupiter and discovered that something was orbiting IT rather than going around the Earth, and that it looked like Copernicus was right about heliocentrism.  Newton chimed in with laws of motion and gravity and developed the calculus to describe just WHY the planets' orbits were ellipses.  Faraday found a relationship between electricity and magnetism.  Darwin looked at variants of species and posited natural selection.

And over the last couple centuries, more and more curious men and women have explored, experimented and discovered, and that one big gap has broken and fragmented into smaller, less significant gaps, some of which in turn get filled in as knowledge enters to fill the ignorance.  As a result, the gods religions would have us believe have less and less wiggle room to breathe in.  More and more, humankind is learning that the universe runs on laws, and when believers insist on a place for their deity, we can answer as Laplace did:

We have no need of that hypothesis.

Comment by Joan Denoo on August 22, 2014 at 12:35pm

"God of the gaps" changes as technology changes. We could not see bacteria until we had the tool that can reveal it. We didn't know how sexual reproduction worked until scientists had the technology to identify all the different aspects of sexual reproduction. DNA, and evolutionary process are the same. The frontier right now is the notion of free will. fMRI reveals that decisions made seconds before becoming conscious can only be revealed by brain imaging. There is something in our brains or about our brains that is the decision maker, not consciousness, thus, individuals make decisions based on something more than being aware of making choices. 

Things that seem impossible to understand now will one day be common knowledge. 



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