You’ve probably heard the term “God of the Gaps” before. If not, another phrase used for this concept is the “argument from ignorance.” This is basically an anti-theist argument which tries to make theists look like wishful thinkers.
The main premise is that the anti-theist claims that believers will give the credit to God for anything that they can’t think of a natural explanation for. Essentially, they like to make it look like we just throw up our hands when we can’t find a reason for something and just claim that “God did it.”
While this is a wildly inaccurate representation of the facts (in most cases) there is something else I think which gets overlooked by those who accuse us of arguing from ignorance. That is that the question of theism or atheism seems to be the only time that this methodology gets employed.
You’ll probably want an example, I imagine, for further clarification. How fortunately that I have one!
In listening to how police detectives do their work, I find an interesting parallel to how many of us approach our belief in God. We essentially take what evidence there is available to us and attempt to come up with the explanation that best fits the evidence.
For example, if a body is found lying dead on the floor, there are many possible explanations for this. Could be natural causes, choking, poison, murder, accidental death or a whole host of things. Now, if we had more evidence, such as a pool of blood around the body and a bullet wound in the back of the head, that tends to rule out many of the other possibilities, making them implausible.
Now, imagine the detective in a case like this were to identify some suspects and find enough evidence to justify formally accusing a particular suspect of the crime and bring him/her to trial. Then imagine the defense attorney saying, “Well, your honor and ladies and gentlemen of the jury, just because you can’t think of any other explanation as to how this tragedy occurred, I believe you are unjustified in accusing my client of murder as you have not ruled out every single other possibility. For example, perhaps there was a secret alien race hidden, undetectable, in orbit around our planet and is trying experiments on us and setting up just these types of scenarios to study how we would react and, in fact, they are the ones responsible for the victim’s murder and staging things to seem as though my client was responsible.”
I’m pretty sure there aren’t too many people who would buy that explanation. But isn’t this essentially the same thing? In both cases, those who claim to believe any given cause to a particular event or body of evidence are simply basing this belief on only the plausible explanations that they can imagine happening. There are, if one is imaginative enough, probably an infinite number of other possible scenarios that have not only not been tested for and eliminated, but not even thought of.
Yet, in the absence of disproving an infinite number of alternate possibilities, we draw conclusions every single day about the facts of situations based on only two things…the evidence we have and whatever explanation that we can imagine which best fits the evidence.
Essentially, belief in God is not an argument from ignorance. It is an argument based on the evidence and leading to a conclusion that best fits the facts. Has every single possible scenario been considered? Well, given that there is a potentially infinite number of possibilities, no. However, as it stands, there has been no alternative explanation offered for thousands of years. Therefore, I’m pretty comfortable with the conclusion. How about you?
Grace, love and peace.