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December 24, 2007



The problem with intelligent design is that it's still a "God of the Gaps" approach to religion. A people who can't explain that big scary flash of lightning and boom of thunder create Thor. Using that which we can't explain otherwise to prove G-d's existence is basically the same pagan mindset. As if the explicable doesn't evoke the divine? But the bigger problem is that by associated G-d with the gaps in our understanding means that His role shrinks as science advances.



Since I see that the issue of the "God of the Gaps" has been raised here a number of times recently, I would like to post an excerpt from a correspondence I had with a certain Orthodox scientist about a year ago on the issue of Intelligent Design – he is against it, and among other things, he brought up the objection of “God of the Gaps”. The following was my response.

The “God of the Gaps” argument is basically that since there are enigmatic phenomena that we can’t explain naturally, there must be a supernatural God or gods responsible. That is obviously a flawed NEGATIVE argument, basically a flawed process of elimination argument in which it was unjustly assumed that all natural possibilities were considered and eliminated, leaving only a supernatural one for which in fact there is no POSITIVE evidence of its own.
ID, though, maintains that the POSITIVE evidence for intelligent design seen in the Universe is itself what leads to the conclusion that there is an intelligent designer. The only process of elimination here is the argument that when all the marks of intelligent design, sophistication, order, planning and purpose are visible in a given situation, it is not only extremely unlikely, in a negative sense, that the situation came about accidentally or at random, but also, in a very positive sense, extremely likely that it did come about through intelligent agency.
Speaking about God, Science, and the courts [This refers to a previous part of the correspondence that dealt with the Dover Intelligent Design trial], the principle at work here is the very same one that applies to Forensic Science and the weight it carries in the US legal system. From the evidence visible in a given situation, Forensic Science can determine beyond all reasonable doubt that it was caused by intelligent intervention as opposed to having been a random occurrence. A death scene, for example, can show clear signs to the scientist that it resulted from an intelligently planned homicide rather than a natural demise, and the courts will not only accept such evidence as valid, but will do so to the point that they will even mete out capital punishment on the basis of it. Only when such evidence points to an intelligently designed Universe is it banned from consideration by the courts’ understanding of the First Amendment and the Science Establishment’s prejudice against Theism.
So, in its method and logic, ID is in fact a SCIENTIFIC theory, not a theological or philosophical one. The only thing theological about it is the indirect implications of its conclusions.
Yes, primitive religions have used the God of the Gaps logic to arrive at their idolatrous beliefs. But that has nothing to do with the issue at hand. As a believing Jew, I will not repudiate my belief in the doctrine of the coming of the Mashiah because Christianity misappropriated it to the wrong individual. Nor will I renounce my belief in the Return to Zion because of how that idea was perverted by the secular Zionists. Nor will I renounce my belief that God left His fingerprints on the Universe because some primitives have misread them.

Your claim that the argument from intelligent design “can prove that there is a God but nothing about His nature” is only partially true. It can prove that he is superlatively intelligent, purposeful, and good, and perhaps some other traits I can’t think of at the moment. But that is why Judaism is based on Divine revelation rather that philosophical speculation or examination of the Universe, although these might play some part in it.

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