Christian: “I believe that God is the ultimate cause of the universe.”
Atheist: “Why would you believe that?”
Christian: “I believe that there are certain things that science can’t explain, and God is the most reasonable explanation for those things such as the ultimate origin of life.”
Atheist: “Hold on a minute. That is simply the God of the gaps. You don’t have an explanation, so you simply plug God in. I believe in science. One day there will be no more gaps and you will not have any more reason to plug in God.”
This may seem to be rather simplistic, but you’d be amazed at how many times this general line of reasoning comes up even from such prominent speakers as Richard Dawkins.
In a sense, the atheist is right. There are certain things that we do not understand, and we do take it by faith. For example, we believe that God is the uncreated Creator. It is technically impossible to prove that scientifically, and it is equally as impossible to disprove that statement.
However, there is a very interesting presupposition made by the atheist that needs to be taken into account.
The atheist is making the claim that there is a naturalistic explanation for everything. That is a large assumption that is on very shaky philosophical ground.
For one thing, it implies omniscience. In order to know that there will be a naturalistic explanation for everything in the universe, you must have knowledge of everything in the universe. By admitting that there are still gaps, this argument undercuts itself.
It also presupposes that the scientific method itself is the only valid way to discern truth about the physical world. However, how do we even know that? We can’t test the validity of the scientific method by testing it using the scientific method. However, if the scientific method is the only way to discern truth, then we cannot prove that the scientific method is true. That is absurd and circular, but it is the logical conclusion of making that type of absolute statement. Science cannot be the only way of determining truth.
However, the largest issue here is that even though the accusation of the God of the gaps is being thrown at the Christian, the atheist is actually committing that fallacy. Because we do not know exactly what happens, we believe that there will be a naturalistic explanation for it. Any gap in knowledge must be filled by science and there cannot be any supernatural. There is no way to prove that science fills every gap as has already been established, but for the naturalist, that must be the inevitable yet problematic assumption. If there is nothing outside of the natural, then the natural must explain itself rather than believe that there was outside intervention from the supernatural.
As much as atheists want to say that they go wherever the evidence takes them, by presupposing that everything needs to have a naturalistic explanation and eliminating the supernatural, they are committing the argument from ignorance also known as the god of the gaps. Why can they make claims about things that they truly do not know yet assume to be true without being accused of that fallacy?
That is not the pursuit of knowledge but rather the defense of a belief system that doesn’t want to answer questions.