Intelligent Design and the God-of-the-Gaps
Intelligent Design (ID) is supposedly a strong argument for the existence of a creator/designer/god. On the surface it doesn’t imply a specific god but each religion will use it to imply their own god. In America, which is predominately Judeo-Christian, the unwritten implication is the God of the Bible. The basic premise is that some things around us are so complex and work together so well that they must have been designed that way. This approach was popularized in the late 18th century by William Paley who used the example of finding a watch in the field. One would immediately recognize that the watch was designed and built by a maker. Paley looked at the world around him and determined that it was complex, like the watch, and therefore had a maker. Since Paley lived in the late 1700s, dying in 1804, he did not have the benefit of the scientific knowledge we have today. Yes, the universe, the solar system and life on this planet are complex but we have now identified natural mechanisms to account for the gradual build up of that complexity. Many Christian fundamentalists who want to believe that God created the world, man and all of the animals in 6 days, still cling to the notion that it took magic to make the world but this is an argument from ignorance. They don’t know physics, chemistry, biology, geology… the sciences that explain how we got here without the magic of supernatural intervention. The intelligent design argument is no longer convincing to (most of) those who are grounded in the sciences. There are a few scientists who still push the ID agenda, as one might expect in a population distributed across a bell curve distribution. These scientists rely on the God-of-the-Gaps argument. They will admit that science can explain A, B, C and D but since science hasn’t yet discovered the answer to X, Y and Z then X, Y and Z are what God did. At first they argued for things at the macro (visible) level. “God made the world with mountains, valleys, oceans. Natural disasters like storms, floods, earthquakes are acts of God.”. But science shows us that mountains and valleys are formed by tectonic plate movement, that canyons are caused by millions of years of erosion, that weather is caused by the heating and cooling of the Earth on both its daily and yearly cycle. No God necessary. So they went to smaller, harder to explain items. A popular one was the eye. Science couldn’t explain how the eye evolved so God must have designed it. Well science eventually explained how the eye and other body parts could evolve so the ID proponents went even smaller. Down to the molecular level. Science couldn’t explain how this or that biochemical molecule came about so God must have designed it. Science is currently in the process of answering that challenge and there aren’t many gaps left for God to fit in. Gods as creators and designers are unnecessary. That doesn’t prove that they don’t exist, but the design of the world and the life in it are no longer evidence for their existence. Without some evidence, why would I, or anyone, accept someone’s proposal that there was a supernatural being in charge of everything? In fact, in looking around at the world it appears that many things were not intelligently designed. The example that comes to mind first for me is the human reproductive system. If it were intelligently designed would we have miscarriages, still births, birth defects, and even on occasion the death of the mother? A God with infinite knowledge and infinite power couldn’t do any better than that? For his supposedly chosen species? There may be some religions whose gods are only semi-competent which would explain the haphazard world in which we find ourselves but I haven’t studied every religion to that extent so I can’t name them. Certainly the Christian concept of a masterful creator does not fit well with the results. The concept of Intelligent Design fails to convince me that things are intelligently designed much less convince me that there is a God. In the final analysis, the domain of the God-of-the-Gaps is so small as to be trivial or the god is so incompetent as to be unworthy of worship.