Look, you stupid bastards, you’ve got no gaps left!

Hey, Zeus!

Hey, Zeus!

Once upon a time, thunderstorms were not just scary and awesome, they were incomprehensible. They watered rich and fecund ground on which god memes could grow, fertilised by ignorance and fear. And grow they did. Zeus, Thor, Brontes, Jupiter, Xolotl, Set and many more were revered and feared for thunder.

Nowadays, thunderstorms still inspire awe, but not for the gods. Science (not revelation or scripture), has explained thunder pretty thoroughly. No longer need we fear that our infidelity caused the entirely natural buildup of static electricity in clouds.

The unassuming lightning conductor running up a church spire says more than the brash cross at its apex.

Of course, the discovery that the thunder-god apologists had been wrong all along didn’t deter the god memes. They just mutated, and colonised the next gap in our knowledge. With every generation, the ‘evidence’ for god became ever so slightly sillier, as its inspired revelators clutched desperately at the straws of other people’s ignorance. Invariably, they were found to be wrong, again. By the 19th century, thanks to Charles Darwin, even teleological arguments like that of Paley’s watchmaker proved unfit to survive, though there are occasional rumours of sightings in the troll-infested forests. One by one, arguments for the existence of god have fallen prey to selection pressures as reality competed for mindshare. It does rather make me wonder why anyone without a financial incentive might bother to carry on.

Carry On Cluelessly

But, paid and unpaid, they do carry on, not the slightest bit embarrassed by the incessant failure of their predecessors. Seemingly encouraged by the lack of competition from childish arguments that suggest there is evidence for a god, sophisticated apologists now paint themselves further and further into the corner as science gradually explains what they claim it can’t, or shouldn’t be able to.

And science doesn’t care in the slightest.

So now, when I ask theist why I should believe their god exists, the most common arguments concern the origin or fundamental nature of the universe or the nature of consciousness. Both are undoubtedly frontier towns on the plains of our knowledge. They present hard questions.

Yet I’m not inclined to be very impressed by arguments preying on our incomplete knowledge of these frontiers. The track record of gap-gods is so abysmally bad, that anyone who brings up consciousness, cosmological arguments, ‘fine tuning’ or a clutch of similar subjects will only ever make me think of the Black Knight:

Explain that, skeptics!

Explain that, skeptics!

If  your god (or the the Spiritual, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster) only exists in things that science hasn’t yet explained fully, such as consciousness or the cause (or lack thereof) of the universe, it may as well not exist at all. If your god mattered to the universe, we’d have found her by now.

No, Minister

Of course, the conclusion of a valid logical argument must follow from its premises. But if your argument for god is premised on the the fuzzy boundaries of our understanding, then the best you ought hope for from me is an agnostic shrug of the shoulders and a reminder that so far, every time science has filled your mysterious gap… there was no god there.

When Napoleon asked how Pierre-Simon Laplace could write an account of the universe without mentioning its creator, Laplace’s response was resonant: ‘Je n’avais pas besoin de cette hypothèse-là.’

Moi non plus.

William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig


2 Trackbacks

  1. By The Paths of the Seas « Eye on the ICR on September 22, 2011 at 20:18

    [...] Indeed, it is perfectly possible that crediting god for the origin of the laws of nature will go the way of the lightning soon enough. Also, as that edition of the book was published in 1855, 4 years be for the Origin of [...]

  2. By Theology: Dust to Dust – Dave The Happy Singer on September 25, 2011 at 16:09

    [...] course, I have no privileged insight to resolve the worries of today’s theologians. But since the track record of theology in explaining anything is so dismal, I’m not overly concerned. There’s another episode or two to come yet. [...]

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *


Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.