Infinity and the god of the gaps

Blog 20151223 Infinity and the god of the gaps

The march of science continues apace, ever pushing indeterminism into the dustbin of history. Traditional philosophy, developed during the feudal period, required frequent modifications as the outside world rushed in with its contradictory facts. Each ferment resulted in a philosophical split between conservatives and liberals. Fundamentalists persevered in cloisters and rural areas hidden from the radically opposed proclamations of science. Urban dwellers, forced to confront those new ideas about the external world, prepared the reforms, becoming religious moderates, if not agnostics and atheists.

We all need to get along to survive. Compromises were handed out all around. While evolution could be denied by fundamentalists, it had to be accepted by moderates who had to deal closely with it. Scientific and religious liberals agreed that the mechanism of evolution was neo-Darwinism, the proposition that genes and natural selection were required for evolution. The compromise eventually brought acceptance even by the Pope. Of course, readers know that the real, universal  mechanism of evolution is univironmental determinism (UD), the fact that what happens to a portion of the universe is equally dependent on the infinite matter in motion within and without.

Now to the “god of the gaps”… Readers also should know the Third Assumption of Science, uncertainty (It is impossible to know everything about anything, but it is possible to know more about anything). Stemming from our assumption of infinity, we realize that there always will be a gap in our scientific knowledge. As in the neo-Darwinism example above, this gap enables indeterminists to hypothesize immaterial “causes” for effects not currently explained by science. So, when cosmogony (cosmology based on the assumption that the universe had a beginning ) is finally defeated, we will be left with an infinite universe in which there will be an infinite number of facts and explanations still to be engendered. The fact that we can never eliminate this inevitable gap means that uneducated indeterminists are forever free to hypothesize a god, however tiny, to fit the resulting gap. Thus, while Infinite Universe Theory will apply yet another blow to indeterminism, it will not be decisive. As is well-known, there is a sucker (baby) born every second. Babies are born as neutral combatants in the determinism-indeterminism conflict. They slowly become determinists as they interact with the macrocosm (external world), becoming educated to its neomechanistic ways. To the degree that this education remains insufficient, they will be imbued with indeterministic assumptions that harken back to feudalistic times.

Many of the motivations for the “god of the gaps” argument are standard theology:
1.    A god provides, not only an explanation for things and events, it gives purpose to life. Thus, the purpose of a bird’s nest is to raise its young. Humans build homes for the same purpose. They also follow religious edicts to build communal homes on Earth and to prepare for a home in an imagined heaven.
2.   The realization that we will never know everything is as humbling as the universe is large. This necessary humility may be used by indeterminists to rightly confront classical mechanism, which was based on finite universal causality (the assumption that there could be a finite number of mechanical causes for an effect).
3.    Indeterminists have great difficulty understanding the phenomena they attribute to “spirituality.” This is because they do not adhere to the Fourth Assumption of Science, inseparability (Just as there is no motion without matter, so there is no matter without motion). Thus, when a person dies, indeterminists see the motionless body as devoid of the “spirit,” which has magically left for parts unknown. This particular form of the “god of the gaps” may be seen in regressive physics wherever matterless motion is claimed. Einstein’s “immaterial gravitational and magnetic fields” are classic examples.
4.    Indeterministic lessons held for long periods do not suddenly evaporate. Being forever in retreat, religion grasps onto any gap in knowledge in its attempts to survive. That is why coincidences play a significant part in such belief systems. We will never discover all the factors involved in a particular coincidence, often placing us in awe of the result. Survivors may ascribe supernatural powers to their coincidental success, while victims can say nothing about their coincidental demise.
5.    At this time, the premier gap argument involves relativity and Big Bang Theory. Just as Einstein’s immaterial fields have no material causes, the Big Bang has no material cause. These regressions in physical theory leave a huge, desperate gap into which indeterminists are free to insert their favorite gods. The removal of that gap will be a great achievement, even though we know that the “god of the gaps” will never die.  


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Beautifully written! The battle between Materialists and Idealists, Determinists and Indeterminists, et cetera, will be waged for eternity.

Westmiller said...

GB writes: "... the premier gap argument involves relativity and Big Bang Theory."

I don't see that in theological apologetics, maybe because the BBT is a mystical proposition.

What I do see is a claimed "gap" of knowledge about human action: what is the "ultimate cause" of people being good or bad? That's blended with the assertion that atheism is as much a "belief system" as theism, with no objective justification for naturalistic claims. To some degree, for "progressive physics", that's actually true.

Glenn Borchardt said...

I don’t know if you regard it as apologetics, but it seems clear that the Big Bang Theory is now part of Catholic dogma (http://thescientificworldview.blogspot.com/2009/07/what-is-meaning-of-curiosity-in.html). Philosophically, it fits right in with the cosmogony promulgated in Genesis.
As I have explained many times, science does not use the terms “good” and “bad.” Those are subjective terms defined by each of us for our own ends (e.g., to the rabbit, the fox is bad; to the fox, the rabbit is good). The causes of “good” and “bad” behavior are infinitely complicated, but none of them are grounds for the “Myth of Exceptionalism” (http://thescientificworldview.blogspot.com/2015/02/critique-of-tsw-part-27a-myth-of.html). It is true that atheism and theism are opposing belief systems. Because the universe is infinite, neither can be proven to be completely true, although theism is falsified every time a prayer remains unanswered. Your statement that there is “no objective justification for naturalistic claims” is clearly false. Without those claims, science would be impossible.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the big bang theory contradict the law of conservation of energy? We got all our energy from nothing, a singularity, which existed outside time and space. Some also predict heat death of the universe, which would also contradict the law as well.

Glenn Borchardt said...

Dear Anon:
You are correct. That was the loaded question I wanted to ask Hawking at his UC Berkeley talk on 20070313. Unfortunately, he was not taking questions from the audience. The Big Bang Theory is a clear violation of the Fifth Assumption of Science, conservation (Matter and the motion of matter can be neither created nor destroyed), which is otherwise known as the First Law of Thermodynamics. There will be no “heat death” of the universe, as that would be a violation of the Sixth Assumption of Science, complementarity (All things are subject to divergence and convergence from other things). "Heat death" is a misinterpretation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. See my paper on “Resolution of the SLT-order paradox.”