Monday, 29 June 2020

God of the Gaps

Julien Musolino in the soul fallacy says:

Thanks to Fox News celebrity Bill O’Reilly, the logic of god-of-the-gaps argument has become viral. During an interview with David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, O’Reilly challenged his baffled guest to explain how the tides so predictably and regularly go about their business. “You can't explain that!” O’Reilly told Silverman. But if you assume that God exists, as O’Reilly says he does, then everything makes perfect sense and you can understand how the tides work.
Some people (known as “pinheads” in the anchor's colorful jargon) informed O’Reilly that we do know how the tides work, and that we have known for more than three hundred years. Undaunted, O’Reilly posted a clip on YouTube in which he pushed the argument one step further. Fine, he concedes, the gravitational pull of the moon explains the tides. But where did the moon come from? (For an amusing parody demonstrating the existence of mail fairies using O’Reilly logic, YouTube is also an excellent resource—because you can't explain the superb regularity with which the mail gets delivered, and if you can, you sure can't explain where the mailman came from.)

The mail analogy is a very poor one - or at least it is if one is attempting to mock the notion that any type of "God" or metamind could be responsible for the predictability of tides. The "superb regularity with which the mail gets delivered" is, after all, due to conscious agents with an end in mind. So, if anything, the analogy suggests the regularity of the tides is also due to some conscious agency with an end in mind.

People might object that in the case of the tides that we know this is due to the existence of gravitational force. However, this buys into a certain conception of physical reality that it is constrained to behave as it does due to innate physical causes such as gravitational force. But this goes beyond what we can legitimately infer. Physical reality exhibits patterns, those patterns can be captured via mathematical equations. And, ultimately, that's all that physics deals with. I go into detail about this here. Indeed, physics has absolutely nothing to say about such a suitable conception of "God". I try and illustrate this here.

Granted this conception of God is not a God of the gaps one. But did Bill O’Reilly actually state that he was defending such a conception of "God"? I would imagine not. The God of the gaps is a silly one as I address here.

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