Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Explaining the 'god of the gaps' strategy

Very often, when debating/discussing the profound wonders of life and our universe, a believer will use their god to explain the currently unexplainable. This is known as "god of the gaps" strategy. 

A religious person who is ignorant to how something works will exclaim, "God did it!" One of my major problems with religion is it often teaches us it's virtuous to be satisfied with not understanding things and to not question them. 

We can see this lazy attitude throughout history. There was a time when humans didn't understand why the sun appeared and disappeared each day. They knew the sun gave them life, so they gave it all kinds of deity names, attributes and mythology. And whenever there was a solar eclipse, they would scream at the sky to scare the moon away. 

When it thundered and lightning streaked across the sky, we thought the gods, such as Zeus, were angry with us. Turns out, it's just the weather.

When people had schizophrenia or some other unfortunate mental ailment, doctors used to drill holes in the cranium to let out evil spirits. And when someone died inexplicably, god must have been angry at that person, or it was his time and god wanted him.

We've come a long way since those days, but in some respects (religion) society still suffers from such delusions. Whether it's Islamic extremists who irrationally believe Allah wants them to kill anyone not like them so they can be martyred and have 72 virgins in heaven, Christians who truly believe the earth is 6,000 years old and dinosaurs walked with humans like in the Flintstones, or evangelicals who believe natural disasters are god's way of eliminating lesbians and other heathens, some people refuse to accept scientific fact. This is where the "god of the gaps" strategy often comes in. 

As science discovers more and more answers, there are fewer places for a god to hide or to do his "miracles." When Darwin (and Wallace) recognized all species ultimately came from one common ancestor through mutation and natural selection, it shook the very foundations of religion. For centuries humans believed god created everything, Adam and Eve and all living things simultaneously. But now we know otherwise. The earth is 4.5 billion years old, the universe is 13.7 billion years old, and humans are cousins of all things and didn't just magically appear. They evolved over millions of years.

So, to cling to their theology, believers look for "gaps" rather than facts in modern science and discovery. When fossilized records show the gradual evolution of humans, creationists say there are no transitional fossils, when in fact there are thousands. And when you show them a transitional form or fossil, they ask for the next one, as if to say they will never be satisfied with the results, creating two more gaps every time a new example is found. They can't wrap their heads around geological time, so they think scientists are hypothesizing that two apes gave birth to a human. This type of ignorance and denial is grotesque and close-minded.

Richard Dawkins, in his bestseller, The God Delusion, writes: "It is utterly illogical to demand complete documentation of every step of any narrative, whether in evolution or any other science. You might as well demand, before convicting somebody of murder, a complete cinematic record of the murderer's every step leading up to the crime, with no missing frames. Only a tiny fraction of corpses fossilize, and we are lucky to have as many intermediate fossils as we do. We could easily have had no fossils at all, and still the evidence for evolution from other sources, such as molecular genetics and geographical distribution, would be overwhelmingly strong."

In fact, the minute any of these creationists can find a fossil that doesn't belong in its proper place in the geological stratum (or geologic column), scientists will gladly say the whole theory is hokum. But creationists can't produce one, and they never will, because they are lazy, they aren't even looking and evolution is fact.

A scientist who is ignorant to how something works will exclaim, "I don't know!" This is the beauty of science. It's OK to not know the answer; it's not OK to say, "We don't know, therefore god did it."

Temporary uncertainty is vital to the process; we don't have to insert a god for instant gratification. Matt Ridley wrote, "Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on."

We need answers, otherwise we'd have a life expectancy of 25 years, no electricity, no medicine and we'd all be barking at the moon.

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