Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Brief Essay on the God of the Gaps Fallacy

God of the gaps arguments are often used by religious believers to assert their god exists. Such arguments often have the following form.

1. Human knowledge does not include X.
2. It is impossible for X to be caused or explained under naturalism.
3. Therefore, God did it.

The believer's burden of proof for premise 1 is to show that the relevant scientific literature does not include X. The believer must show an exhaustive survey of the relevant scientific literature to support their first premise. Any failure to show a dearth of knowledge dooms the argument.

In order to validly make premise 2, the believer must have omniscient knowledge of all natural phenomena to rule out any possibility of natural causation. This neither the believer nor any other person can do, for human beings are not omniscient. Conceptually, the Uniformity of Nature is secure. No instance of a supernatural explanation supplanting a natural cause has ever been observed. The converse, however, has been witnessed many times. The history of science is the history of sweeping away superstitions, of showing alleged supernatural explanations to be not even wrong. The context of supernaturalism is not the context of reality. Fantasies of gods, demons, angels, spirits, magic, fairies, incorporeal beings and such can neither be right nor wrong, for they are not part of or even related to reality. (Additionally, it is amusing to note that by making premise 2, believers blaspheme their idea of God by predicating they are omniscient. Comparing their minds to God or asserting they are God constitutes blasphemy.)

Even if the first two premises were sound, the conclusion would not follow. Under a supernatural worldview, there are an infinite number of invisible magic beings or other causes that could be responsible for a given phenomenon. Most religionists actively seek to gloss over this uncomfortable fact of their worldview. Their feeble protestations notwithstanding, the preeminent standing granted to the primacy of consciousness and mere alleged possibility renders any "god of the gaps" conclusion Non Sequitur.

Despite the obvious irrationality of this type of argument, religious believers continue to predicate their assertions at least in part thereupon. Why? If what they believe is so believable, then why do they believe by faith what is propped up by obvious and ostensively fallacious arguments? Blank out. Could it be that what the religious believer claims is not actually believable?

What does it mean for something to be believable? The primary definition of believable is "to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so".

What does it mean to say that something is the truth? The first three definitions of truth are:

1. the true or actual state of a matter:
2. conformity with fact or reality; verity: .
3. a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle, or the like:

For something to be believable human beings must be able to have confidence or reliability that the given proposition is the actual state of the matter that is in conformity with the fact of reality in the sense of a verified and indisputable objective event. What must the religious believer do in order to be confident that what she believes is actually believable – actually in conformity with the fact of reality? The believer, if she is to be honest with herself, must accurately compare her faith propositions with actual reality and accept only those propositions comparing favorably. But if the believer does not need absolute proof of being right in so doing, then she need not be concerned that any proposition she believes "true" be only probably in conformity with the fact of reality. By accepting as absolutely true propositions that only probably compare favorably with the fact of reality, is the believer not disrobing the primacy of existence of meaning? In so doing the believer is finding a back door to a primacy of consciousness fantasy and thereby reversing the proper epistemological subject-object order of her own consciousness.

With a subject of thought-object of thought reversal in hand, it then becomes child's play to hold god of the gaps arguments as valid and sound reasons to believe. By ascribing a probability of truth to god of the gaps arguments, the believer inculcates a sense of correctness for her propositions and justifies ignoring any lack in comparing correctly with reality. This vivifies her subject of thought-object of thought epistemic reversal. Self-purposed feedback loops tend to reinforce themselves on each run. A hysteresis effect ameliorates such feedback, yet as the loop progresses, the facts of reality dim. For that reason, it is vitally important for human beings to ground their cognition to the metaphysically actual and accept only that which is demonstratively in conformity with fact or reality. Thus lack of knowledge should lead us to be skeptical of the claims of god believers.

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