The Argument from Design
Responding to Objections, Part II
2. God of the Gaps?
The author of this piece from About.com summarizing the objections to the Argument from Design takes on the old "God of the Gaps" argument. Several things may be said in response to this objection.This is key: underlying nearly ever design argument, you'll find the assumption of ignorance of something and then the conclusion that since we don't know, then a god must be the proper explanation. Ignored is the question of whether or not an unknown and possibly unknowable god, using unknown and possibly unknowable methods, for unknown and possibly unknowable reasons, can ever be considered a rational "explanation" for anything. After all, it certainly doesn't provide us with much in the way of new and useful information. All that has happened is that our ignorance has been slightly reworded and not at all ameliorated. About.com: Agnosticism/Atheism, Argument from Design
First, I am personally willing to admit that there is some truth to the fact that God is in the gaps. It is not, however, the gaps of human knowledge, but in the gaps of naturalism itself. Christians do not believe, for example, that thunder is caused by God. Christians are perfectly satisfied with and wholeheartedly agree and accept the scientific explanations for the cause of thunder in a purely naturalistic realm. At the same time, Christians know that God is the cause of thunder. No, He doesn't cause thunder by beating on drums or bowling in heaven. We don't even believe that God reaches out of heaven and throws lightning bolts at the earth which causes thunder. Those are infantile notions of what Christians believe. But at the same time, we see God as being the ultimate cause of all of these things because the very universe that was put together by God is held together by his sustaining power. (Hebrews 1:3) Thus, it is ultimately God who causes the lightning to strike, even though he is not personally throwing the lightning bolts but instead is maintaining and sustaining the universe which allows for the striking of the lightning and the rolling of the thunder.
Having stated the foregoing, that is not to say that the Argument from Design is limited to this type of input from God. No, the Argument from Design states that the universe shows such design and elegance that it cannot have come from nature. This is the key to the response to this objection. In arguing for God's creative hand which is everywhere visible (Rom. 1:20), Christians are not saying simply that "we don't know how it happened, so it must have been God." No, we are saying "it could not have happened naturally, so it must have been an outside creator, and given the facts that we can deduce about this creator from the cosmos He created, He must be God."
Which approach to the question is being used by the author of the About.com article when he says: "underlying nearly ever design argument, you'll find the assumption of ignorance of something and then the conclusion that since we don't know, then a god must be the proper explanation"? Obviously, it is the first. But that isn't the argument being advanced. If Christians assumed that because something was unknown then it must have been God acting directly, Western science (which has its birth in the Christian west) would never have come into being. Why should it if everything unknown could simply be attributed to God? No, Christians have forever argued for God's creative hand, but have always looked first for physical explanations. If a physical explanation is found, then that doesn't bother the thinking Christian at all, nor does it make the Argument from Design any weaker.