Arguing for God's existence may often result in accusations of reasoning from the gaps. The
objector will often accuse the theist of essentially claiming, "we don't know, therefore God." This
tends to be one of the most common dismissive objections that some atheists use online. This
isn't the strongest formulation of the objection, but it is certainly the most prolific; therefore, it is
Are all theistic arguments for God's existence guilty of God of the Gaps reasoning?
The argument is guilty of God of the gaps if it reasons: there is a state of ignorance concerning
the cause of some phenomenon, and therefore God is plugged into the gap of ignorance to
explain it (i.e., we have no idea what the cause of lightning is, therefore God is the cause of the
lightning). Although, in one way or another, the theist does believe that God is the ultimate
cause of all events inside of the universe, this isn't the reasoning being employed by the
proponents of any of the main arguments from Natural Theology that I am aware of. Here are a
few things to consider:
1. The reasoning utilized by the arguments is not, "there is no known cause of phenomenon x,
therefore it is best explained by g God." Rather, the reasoning is more accurately stated,
"based off of what we do know, g is a better explanation for x than m materialistic
naturalism." If one is arguing that given the available evidence, x is better explained by g
rather than m, that is not arguing from ignorance, but rather reasoning from the available
evidence to the best explanation.
2. The arguments from Natural Theology are philosophical. Some may be mistaken or
confused about the role that science takes in the arguments. For example, if one is arguing
for the truth of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the scientific evidence mentioned is used
as support of a premise in a wider philosophical argument that has theological significance.
In the case of the Kalam, the scientific evidence is not evidence for God, but rather
additional support for the second premise of the argument; namely, that the universe began
to exist. It is only in this wider philosophical argument that the science can be said to have
3. Some assume that science will one day explain away theistic arguments by naturalistic
mechanisms. It may be helpful to note that we are limited in our access to knowledge, and
as new information comes in, we ought to update our beliefs accordingly. But until then, we
are justified in making inferences to the best explanation. We can also note that the claim
simply begs the questions against non-naturalism by assuming that there is a naturalistic
explanation to be found. In other words, the claim is guilty of circular reasoning. In addition,
there is a sort of Naturalism of the Gaps reasoning being employed here. This is the same
error that the naturalist accuses the theist of making (i.e., we don't know, therefore
naturalism explains it). Finally, knowledge of what science will do one day in the future, is
regrettably, not something that is obtainable.
On a final note, I find that some atheists far too often will conflate "we don't know everything"
with "we don't know anything". It's as if it is a fallacy to infer to the best explanation of the
current available evidence. If it is claimed that this is some kind of fallacy, it remains difficult to
understand how it is possible to believe that biological evolution is true. Modern science
certainly hasn't revealed everything there is to know about biological evolution, however, for
those who embrace it, there is an inference to the best explanation of the evidence. If reasoning
to the best explanation is not a fallacy, then neither is reasoning to God's existence based off of
what we know.
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