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The movie Expelled has generated a bit of discussion here and there around the net, and over the last couple of days I have taken part in a couple of comment threads on Samizdata on the topics of Darwin, evolution and design. And by design, I mean this thread, where the Intelligent Designer is assumed to be a human engineer.

I watched the trailer from the Expelled site, and was struck by the message given. At the beginning the scene is set by a schoolroom question – “How did life begin in the first place?” and the faked inability of the teacher to answer is used to propose – “Could there have been an intelligent designer?”

This approach is called The God of the Gaps; “I have no explanation for this observation, there is a gap in my knowledge, therefore it must be the action of God”.

I don’t know what the sun is, therefore it must be the god Apollo doing something divine. I don’t know what lightening is, therefore it must be God acting according to His divine nature. I don’t know how life began, nobody will tell me, therefore it was God.

To fall into this logical trap is dangerous, for every increase in knowledge requires the believer to acknowledge that room to accommodate God has been reduced. Pushed to its limits, the God of the Gaps argument, rather than affirming the existence of God, can be used to question the need for a God at all. I would certainly argue, given the failure of the God of the Gaps in the past, that those who use it demonstrate ignorance of both history and of scientific endeavour in all areas. Ever since Principia was published, the gaps, and the need for a God to explain them, have been steadily diminished.

From Doug Craigen, a Christian writer who “gets it” -

As tempting as it may often be, it is a mistake to consider the failure of science to explain something as a proof of God’s work. Such failures are nothing more or less than a demonstration of how far science has progressed, and a pointer to where some progress still needs to be made. Believing in a great creator means not doubting the quality of His creation. It is ironic that we often try to prove the existence of God by claims that essentially say He isn’t such a great creator.

Me? Personally? Well, a biology teacher who can’t answer the question “How did life begin?” isn’t much of a biologist or a teacher. While the matter hasn’t been settled there is no dearth of hypotheses to present. My favourite? I recommend Graham Cairns-Smith‘s book – Genetic Takeover: And the Mineral Origins of Life. Fascinating reading.

One Comment

  1. NickM says:

    “We have to keep science in a little box where it’s not allowed to touch God”

    Well, yes, the Theology Department will start screaming about demarcation. They might even go on strike with crippling effects for the country.

    I know Cat’s “God of the Gaps” line of thought well. We don’t know what dun it so it was God wot dun it. Yup, God is the reason I’m always losing my keys. He spirits them away at night.

    The whole point of science is to ask questions about stuff we don’t know about. If it was well known then what’s the point of reseaching it? ID is deeply disingenous. What possible scientific result can it return?

    Just this one. God dun it so don’t ask any further questions. That’s putting science in a little box where God (their God) says, “Nothing to see here, now move along”.

    Depriving (and that’s what they’re trying) biologists of evolution is like taking The Calculus away from physicists or the atomic theory from chemists.

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