Logical Fallacy 11: God of the Gaps in Science and Faith

"I can't understand this so God did it."

I like what Iron Chariots says about this argument: It is a form of non sequitur, since the hand of God is posited without proof and often with complete disregard to other possible explanations. In a nutshell, this is an argument from ignorance. But ignorance is never an argument for something. It just means we don't yet know the cause of something.

This is Part 11 in a series about Logical Fallacies. We are going through one fallacy at a time. There are many types of fallacious arguments. I’m going to try to explain them with examples then find ways to help you refute those arguments when they occur. Please comment or email if there’s a particular fallacy you want me to tackle, or if you have success with refuting an argument using a good technique you can share.

I want to share this video of a talk by Neil deGrasse Tyson from 2006 is about 38 minutes long. He talks about the god of the gaps throughout scientific history, intelligent design and then about Stupid Design. Highly recommended watching:

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist who brings passion to science and scientific literacy. Tyson has written several books.

I've shared the Stupid Design part before (where I reproduced most of his slides in the article for your convenience) , but the god of the gaps part in the beginning is also very interesting.

The God of the Gaps argument is one of those, that when confronted with it, vexes me. In my experience when someone sees their god in things they don't understand, I have found that person to be bound by lazy acceptance of easy answers to complex questions, their minds tightly closed to critical thinking and wonder in the natural universe.

How to Refute:

I usually don't try to argue with someone who sees god in everything they don't understand. It's almost always futile. To make matters worse, as I wrote about before, we naturally justify our false beliefs in any way we can, so many people fortify their belief in their god through confirmation bias or just plain resistance to any new information, just to name a few.

I might mention that science closes the gap more each day, and maybe add a few studies I've heard about that are amazing.

"I'd rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned."

Sources used:


  1. I was sure I had seen that before, but a few minutes into it, I realized it was a different, yet similar speech he had given.

    Anyway, you can't argue with any theist if you don't point out their argument from ignorance. Every single argument for the existence of God, barring maybe the ontological arguments, can be boiled down to argument from ignorance. As soon as someone proposes that God is the answer for something without first proving that there is a God to do these things, they are simply saying, "I don't know how else it could happen, so God did it."

  2. Speaking from experience online it seems to me that people who defend some form of God of the gaps also tend to try to either pull scientific theories down to hypotheses or to elevate their own "hypotheses" to theories. Particularly as a way of saying "God of the gaps is just as good any scientific explanation."

  3. That's so true, Frans! I find that immensely irritating.

  4. What did I just read?

    Stop talking preacher talk. Seriously, it doesn't make you smart, and it doesn't impress us. You didn't really read the article, did you? In fact, that is just a copy paste job isn't it? It is hardly relevant to the article posted.

    You started off with two postulates... yet, postulate number 2 had nothing to do with anything. You did not tie it in. You could have just left it out and your argument would have been none the worse... it might have even been better.

    You also state that we've never found evidence for him because nobody has searched for it... Which is, incredible. You mean the billions of people doing just that aren't really searching for him?

    But here's the big flaw to your argument... your premise does not fit your conclusion.

    You state that god doesn't interfere often, because that would "cripple" us and he wants us to be master of our creation.
    Therefore he's god of the gaps (you kind of just skipped any evidence and just posted nothing but conjunction and poorly thought out ramblings).
    Yet, by claiming he's the god of the gaps, you are thus claiming he is behind everything in the end, that all gaps lead to him...
    Meaning he interferes constantly, "crippling" us as so you say.