Re-examining this God of the gaps

It’s not at all uncommon to encounter any number of agnostic non-believers (no, really – there are such folks), apparently up on all the science, but who are still unable – in good conscience – to tic that last box as confirmed atheists.  Who default to an almost truculent allusion to that old ‘God of the Gaps’ – nobody’s checked under all the beds – argument.

300x371 Archimedes of Syracuse  287-212 BCE_captioned

First off, I’d like to suggest there are actually two, distinctly different, God of the Gaps at work here.  And a certain amount of confusion occurs, when we mistakenly conflate the two.

Archimedes famously declared “Give me a lever, a fulcrum, and a place to stand, and I will move the world.”  While my aim is much more modest, I should like to offer anyone who could use one, a lever, a fulcrum and a place to stand, in order to separate these two God of the Gaps, in your own mind.

The classic God of the Gaps, is the one originally attributed with explaining all those unknown – and at the time, unknowable – forces of nature.  Who has subsequently been pushed-back by advances in science, and our ability to explain vast numbers of those things that were formerly conceded to this God of those gaps in our scientific understanding.

Make no mistake about it, this Theory of God was given standing – and a chance to prove itself – right along side all those other truth claims, that presumed to explain – in principle – how the laws of the universe, and everything in it, worked.  It was treated no different from those claims of the ancient  alchemists, who proposed the world – along with all the people and animals in it – were made up of various humors, and invisible ethers.  Until proven otherwise, one theory was just about as good and serviceable as the next.

However, this idea of ‘serviceable’ is what eventually gave the high-ground to those scientifically determined forces of nature, that really are at work in the universe.  Modern medicine is founded on the science of biology.  And ethers have simply never been shown to exist.  Likewise, this classic God of the Gaps has been pushed back – and out – along with ideas like humors and ethers, as former stop-gaps in our knowledge have fallen to scientifically determined, empirical fact.

The fact that such mistaken truth-claims, about the forces at work behind the very laws of nature, can actually be tested – and proven false – obviates any need to prove that this God of the Gaps does not exist.  It is enough to show those claims formerly attributed to this one, have consistently been proven false.

Which brings us to that second God of the Gaps I mentioned.


However, this one
is not as amenable to being held up to the light of day.  And that’s because this God of the Gaps is the superstitious holdover, found haunting the tortured imaginations of men and women everywhere.  Sometimes even in children.  Right along with ideas like ghosts, and goblins, Big Foot, and the Loch Ness Monster.  Not to mention, crop circles, little green men from mars, sprites and fairies at the bottom of the garden.  But reaching deep down inside, and touching on fear buttons that make us deeply uncomfortable at times.  But who’s locus falls patently within the Gap defined by that space between our ears – where we all have one.

But, again – make no mistake about it.  This God was surreptitiously installed, at about the level of a computer virus – almost from birth, in most of us – as part of our cognitive schema.  Through cultural exposure and clues deduced, it gets assimilated at about the same level as language and gender schema.   And, as it turns out, this is the hardest gap most people will ever encounter, in attempting to rid themselves of their own superstitious chimera.  Because it requires accomplishing a major paradigm-shift, at the level of that ingrained cultural schema I’m talking about.

Folks are rarely able to simply – and suddenly – switch boats, where religious belief has been allowed to handle the ethical and spiritual cargo, and do most of the heavy lifting, all their lives.  In fact, those that eventually are able, typically go through a gradual process of weaning themselves from the religious superstition and psychological need for proclaiming – for instance – Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  Before they can ever move on to the more psychologically expanded, philosophical notion of Deism.  In it’s most classic form – pondering a universe, created by a God, who has none-the-less left us to our own devices.

And, Lord-knows, men have created an untold number of psychological, religious, and superstitious devices, quite on their own.  But they’ve also discovered how to find empirical evidence, for determining scientific fact.  And a method for assuring its perpetual progress, that also incorporates an on-going process for the discovery and correction of any errors.  It’s called The Scientific Method.

But, getting back; it is a process – of gradually dusting off, re-examining, and transferring one’s spiritual and psychological truths – from one boat to the other – that some few are eventually able to cast off the store lines from their Christian, Jewish, or Muslim, mother-ships.  And take up the oars, in moving off, towards those more unbounded personal discoveries, to be found in deism.

“The terrible thing about the quest for truth – is that you find it.”
– Remy de Gourmont


In fact
, it is during this time that many come to understand a number of universal truths, that have always surrendered themselves to the ultimate tenacity of mankind’s need to know.  And to eventually even discover that most disquieting of all truths:  That God is – and always has been – an invention of our own psychological need.

The fact that – like children – we can desperately wish for there to be a God – a heavenly father – to give order to, and make some sense out of, this world – and our existence in it.   But which makes it doubly hard to clearly see – and ultimately accept – our own role and responsibility for this life.  For finding, and giving meaning, not only to our own lives, but in extending meaning and value to the lives of people everywhere.  Along with a decent regard for all life forms, and the very health of this planet.


To grow up
, spiritually, to our collective role as caretakers of this earth – and each other – while realizing we are just another step along the way.  Understanding that we are responsible for determining whether our attitudes and actions support human growth and progress, or whether we abandon ourselves to hedonistic and corporate myopia and apathy.  Especially concerning those people and philosophies that would view human life, and this planet, as temporal, temporary, and not worth worrying about.

Make no mistake about it, to tic that last box – the one that says I am an Atheist – is to have attained a certain spiritual maturity and responsibility.  For oneself, and for the fate of all life on this planet.

'14 MAth footer, Bk

 

16 thoughts on “Re-examining this God of the gaps

  1. Agnosticism is about knowledge, theism/atheism is about belief. Someone can be agnostic and still be either atheist or theist. Agnosticism is not somewhere between atheist and theist its on a completely different scale. As an agnostic I believe that science does not provide us with the tools to determine if god exists therefore we cannot know. I do not believe god could be hiding in the gaps (of any description) if gods exists and created this universe and us then why would we assume we would be able to prove/disprove their existence using science which is limited to the laws of this universe that was created. Incidentally I am also a polytheist, I chose to believe in many gods. I do not propose to understand their nature, they could be mere unconscious archetypes (I imagined them) or all powerful beings beyond comprehension. Science aims to explains how the universe works not why. That is why no genuine scientist has ever conducted an experiment by which to prove/disprove the existence of god, the question just isn’t reliant. I also have a degree in physics so I know a little about science and the scientific method. You hold up science and claim it confirms your beliefs, you fail to understand agnostic beliefs yet you claim they are wrong and atheism as the ‘truth’, how is that any different to every other religious fanatic?

    Like

    • You point to some excellent bones of contention, sumegoinvicte. But 1st, let me say I come from a fundamentalist background. One I quickly abandoned to became more of an agnostic deist. With some of the same codicils that you’ve expressed.

      And 2nd, because I see it as a matter of personal spiritual growth (yes, it’s possible for an atheist to acknowledge our spiritual nature) I don’t typically make a contest out of where anyone happens to be, on their own personal journey of discovery.

      But lastly, I too have questioned some of the calls for certitude, made by some atheists, which I will speak to when I reprise my own explanation – for how I personally came to know there is no God – in my next post. (Please allow me a few more days to put it all together.)

      Like

      • I totally believe it is possible for an atheist to acknowledge their spiritual nature should they chose too. I don’t thing spirituality is dependent on a belief in the divine.

        I’ll look forward to reading your post.

        Like

  2. A question I have is what sort of evidence for God could possibly exist that was *not* just another gap. What I mean is if there was some allegedly supernatural phenomenon that we could actually explain, would we not call it natural? So the only things we can call supernatural are things we cannot explain naturally – gaps. But we might be able to explain them in the future.

    Does my question make any sense? What I’m trying to define is what would count as “supernatural” to me. I complain that I have no evidence for the supernatural, but I’m not sure what that would even look like.

    Any help in clarifying my muddled thinking is appreciated. Thanks!

    Like

    • I think the question should be what evidence for god could possibly exist? It seems strange to me that anyone would believe that any evidence of God could exist, whether or not god exists. But then I would say that I’m agnostic! The way I see it, if God created the universe exactly as he wanted it then he wouldn’t have to use paranormal means to manipulate that universe, he could do it using the rules he created. If god had to use laws other than those natural to the created universe that would suggest he made it wrong. For this reason, whilst I believe in gods I do not believe in miracles (or paranormal). There is no way to find god because god is intimately connected to the natural universe, and we are bound by the laws of that universe. In that way god isn’t hiding in what we don’t know, god if he exists is actually hiding in everything we do know. Science doesn’t try to prove or disprove the existence of god. It just isn’t a relevant question for science. Science can tell us how to make a nuclear weapon, it doesn’t tell us anything about the morality of possessing/using such a weapon. Science can tell us a lot about the physiology of falling in love, but can tell us nothing of the experience. Likewise science can tell us how the universe was created but it can’t tell us why. Some questions can’t be answered by science and whether or not god exists is one of those questions. Theologists, philosophers and drunk people can tell us more about the existence of god than can science. I find this extremely difficult to explain; I hope somewhere in my ramblings I made sense.

      Like

      • “It seems strange to me that anyone would believe that any evidence of God could exist, whether or not god exists.”

        That’s just another fall-back position, comprised of circular logic. That is, if nothing else, mighty handy to throw out there, isn’t it?

        My point to you would be, what evidence for flying faeries, unicorns – or even big foot – could exist, given the codicil that they are able to remain undetectable to man, because, you know – they are “supernatural beings?” And, what is it that made your mind alight upon THIS PARTICULAR supernatural being, in the first place? Because it was ‘a thought’ that presents itself – like UFO’s – to the minds of men? Whoooooah!

        My own feeling – if there actually were a God, actively testing us.? it would be to find those few who WOULDN’T lay aside their intellectual skepticism, in the face of superstitious imaginations, in surrendering up to unsupported superstitions, their credulous, self-serving, minds.

        Like

        • Faeries, unicorns and everything else you mention are most definitely claimed to live within and interact with this universe. Making it more likely they could be observed by science.The divine doesn’t necessarily have to exist within this universe, if a deist is correct the divine could very easily exist outside of our universe and have absolutely no interaction with it. Therefore there would be no way for science to observe the divine. That’s just one example of how the divine could exist and not be observable by science, there are more I can think of and likely many many more I couldn’t.

          The logic isn’t in anyway circular, nor is it justification for the existence of the divine. If you look at the scientific method, something you claim to value, you will see that science cannot prove/disprove the existence of the divine. For a detailed description of why see my post from today. You should have a ping back as I’m assuming you would prefer I don’t post a link here.

          For now consider there are some things science cannot ‘comment’ on. Science can tell us how to make a nuclear weapon but nothing about the morality of using it. Science can tell us much about the biochemical and physiological nature of love but nothing about an individuals subjective experience of love. Science can tell us how the universe was created but nothing about why (not even that there is no reason). Likewise science can tell us nothing about the nature or existence of the divine. Science is an extremely useful tool but like all tools is only useful in a narrow range of situations.

          My belief in the divine is not rational, it isn’t any more rational than a belief in unicorns, UFO etc, I don’t claim it is There is one big difference, at least for me; I chose to believe in the divine!

          Like

        • “My own feeling – if there actually were a God, actively testing us.? it would be to find those few who WOULDN’T lay aside their intellectual skepticism, in the face of superstitious imaginations, in surrendering up to unsupported superstitions, their credulous, self-serving, minds.”

          I had that exact same thought a few months ago… Of course, we have no evidence for this kind of God either. It would be quite ironic, though, wouldn’t it.

          Like

        • “My belief in the divine is not rational, it isn’t any more rational than a belief in unicorns, UFO etc, I don’t claim it is There is one big difference, at least for me; I chose to believe in the divine!”

          This sounds at least consistent to me. I’m assuming you are a Deist, then? To me, Deism is possible but irrelevant. Why do you choose to believe in the divine? What difference does it make for you?

          Like

        • sumegoinvicte, Possibly the biggest reason I hold the skepticism of atheism on a much higher plane than anyone’s religion, is it makes it possible to discern and ‘know’ reality from pure fantasy. And what you are relating here is just that: Pure fantasy.

          But echoing charles, what difference does holding such a ‘belief’ do for you? If it’s good for anything at all, perhaps you could tell me, Can the dust – from a fairy’s wing – bind up a wound from the horn, of a unicorn?

          Atheists – or, more properly, ‘skeptics’ – don’t believe in any of the stuff you mention, astrology, numerology, crystal power, or any of a whole list of things. Many apparently on your list of things you believe are “out there.”

          Now, pardon me. I just remembered nobody’s making me respond to your inane platitudes. Buh Bye!

          Like

    • charles, Forgive my lateness in getting back to you, personally. (I’ve had a few real ‘fires’ to flap out, and I needed the extra time to reflect of your question.) You are, of course, correct – that there are no supernatural ‘proofs’ for God, in existence. And, in fact, there never really have been.

      There are no supernatural items in evidence pointing to any existence – let alone the proof – of God. All there has ever been, are those areas in science – and our own understanding – that have been conceded to ‘God,’ by those all too quick to concede anything outside the locus of their own understanding, as requiring an other-worldly, superstitious answer. Nothing muddled about YOUR thinking, Charles.

      Like

      • No problem. Thanks for the reply.
        I think the view I am settling on is this: (1) A deistic God is possible, but irrelevant since we cannot know anything about that kind of God. (2) The Bible makes claims about God that are either inconsistent or do not match my experience of trying it for a very long time (in particular, prayer for guidance or any other kind of intervention). (3) I’m still open to being wrong about my skepticism of Christianity, but have no idea what would convince me it is true. I assume God knows what would convince me, though, if God exists.

        Like

        • Excellent points. And, BTW, most Deists let go of the idea that Jesus was the literal Son of God. And see his forced seat at the godhead – making up the third part of that Divine Trinity – as the product and process of the Christian apotheosis of Jesus, to God-like status. (And I’m speaking about many of the earliest, most outspoken Deists, like Paine, Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Mills, among others.)

          In fact, still a treasures in anyone’s library (or Kindle) today:
          – Thomas Paine’s “The age of Reason.” (1791)
          – About the Holy Bible, by Robert G. Ingersoll (1st published in 1894)
          and of course,
          – Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.”

          Like

        • I added the first two to my reading list. Been working my way through Origins slowly. I finally understand why so many admire Darwin. So many people today seem have this odd notion that scientists came up with evolution in order to prop up their atheism. Darwin was a Christian who just followed the evidence where it led.

          Like

        • The one thing that first voided most of my views on organized Christian religion – across the board – was the realization that the Holy Ghost is an all to human phenomena. Not the exclusive property of those sects claiming sole ownership. And, in fact, I have “felt the spirit,” when dwelling on a number of things – many since becoming a confirmed atheist. Which is to say, I was so inordinately moved – while reading On the Origin of Species – that it was, in fact, a very spiritual experience for me. Please see my latest post, for why so many of us have remained in the dark for so long, about evolution. https://modernatheist.org/2014/08/26/defending-darwinian-evolution/

          Like

  3. Charles, I’m not a Deist, its just that a deistic example is much easier to explain and understand in terms of why science can’t be sure if a failure to detect the divine was a result of no divine existing or or simply sciences inability to detect the divine. Personally I am a Theist I believe that the divine does interact on a personal level with the universe they just don’t need to violate the laws of nature to do that therefor are undetectable. However I am agnostic an therefor think that it is impossible to know anything about the nature or existence of the divine so it is possible the divine if they/it existed was deist.

    Donnie, If you think that Atheists are any better at differentiating fact from fantasy you are deluded. Psychology teaches us that. Everyday in some small and some large ways you delude yourself, everybody does. In fact the ability to do this is somewhat necessary for good mental healthy.

    I don’t believe in any of those things you mentioned only the divine (I don’t even really believe in life after death). As you asked I will try to explain what benefit that has for me. When I look deep within into my heart and mind I find I believe. That belief is strongly and deeply rooted, perhaps as a result of my early conditioning, who knows, the reason is irrelevant, it simply is my reality here and now. I believe. For a long time I chose to ignore that belief, bury it because my rational mind told me it wasn’t possible. That denial of my feelings created a conflict within my conscious and subconscious mind. Dealing with that conflict requires time and energy and gains me nothing. Instead, now, I accept my belief and give it a form that is acceptable to me, that enhances my life instead of damaging it (as both Christianity and Atheism had done). I accept that the belief is not rational and not grounded in science etc but then neither is the most beautiful or inspiring art work yet it still has worth to the human psyche. Therefore there is no longer conflict. When I sit and meditate upon for example Ares god of War (civil order, anger, anger controlled, courage, cowardice, strengthen etc) I learn about myself, I learn to experience and accept my anger buried deep within. I learn to tap into the strength and courage within but accept that sometime I will react as a coward, I’m only human and that’s just fine. I am able to integrate parts of my psyche I would rather deny. that helps me to become a better healthier person. Now perhaps you would say that I am just doing that, perhaps I am, but my belief in my gods and goddesses is what allows me to accesses that, to have the courage to do that. Its not easy to face a traumatic past and allow the feelings, feelings that are often branded negative or bad etc to surface. That is just one example of how my belief helps me, there are many but perhaps the most importantly way my belief has helped me is giving me something to have faith in when I just couldn’t have faith in myself, and that’s probably saved my life.

    Like

Comments are welcomed.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s