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What is the ‘God of the Gaps’ Idea?

How Did Life Begin? (Continued)

There are many people who believe that science will never explain how life began – in their view, the first spark of life was created miraculously by God.

This method of combining science and religion is called “God of the Gaps”.

God of the gaps

The “God of the gaps” idea is the idea that God fills in the gap when there’s something we can’t explain … like how a bunch of chemicals might suddenly become alive.

You can see why it’s an attractive view. It not only explains why science so far cannot tell us all the answers; it also tells us why God is a necessary part of the picture.

A jelly fish in the Pacific Ocean – one of the Earth’s many millions of creatures. Which idea best explains how it comes to be here?

What religious scientists say

It’s not a popular approach with scientists who are religious. One reason why is that if there are gaps that are only filled by God then this means that there are some things about the natural world that are beyond science. quote openIf science keeps filling in the gaps, there will soon be nothquote closeing left for God.

Most scientists believe that everything in the natural world is open to scientific investigation.

So scientists who believe in God say that God engineered the universe to ensure that the ingredients for life would be here and that life would follow. And this, they point out, was no small achievement.

John Billingsley is a Professor of Engineering and a scientist who admires the ‘cleverness’ of the universe.

Professor John Billingsley

As an engineer, I enjoy taking things apart to find out how they work and how they were designed.

It is called ‘Reverse Engineering’. You often find that little features you didn’t even notice have a huge part to play in making the invention work.

It is fun to try Reverse Engineering the universe. And when you do, it seems to me there are lots of things which push coincidence a bit too far.

quote openAs you know, when water freezes, it becomes icquote closee and ice floats.

This is odd because most liquids become denser when they freeze. Water, however, expands as it changes to ice. And the result? When lakes freeze, ice does not gather at the bottom, but at the top, trapping a layer of warmer water underneath. This is a very happy ‘fluke’ of nature because it gives fish and other living things a chance to survive.

Scientists know why water is unusual and expands as it freezes – we can explain it with chemistry. That makes the universe even neater in my view. I’d be disappointed to find on investigation that our universe is held together with sticky tape. Instead I can imagine God as a “Cosmic Engineer” scratching His head and devising ways to things happen.

As I say, the more I look into it, the more interesting features I notice. What’s more I suspect that there is a host of other clues, right under our noses, which we’ll never even spot.”

PowerPoint presentation

© 2011 LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion)