In “God of the Gaps and Mind of the Gaps” I quoted Dan Barker writing the following in Godless:
“Many of these [theistic] arguments are reduced to a ‘god of the gaps’ strategy. At most, the theists might prove the existence of a current gap in human knowledge, but this does not justify filling the gap with their god. After all, what happens when the gap closes someday? The gaps are actually what drive science–if we had all the answers there would be no more science.” (Godless, 104-5)
In the discussion thread for the argument I posted a response to Jeff Lowder in which I explained my concerns with Barker’s comment more fully. (Admittedly, the original post was a bit cryptic, and intentionally so.)
So here is my follow-up:
First off, I’m going to replace Barker’s misbegotten reference to “their god” with the concept of a personal metaphysical explanation because very few arguments of this type appeal directly to a being like “The Trinity” or “Allah”. Rather, they point to a being that has certain properties consistent with what Christians (or Muslims) say about God.
With that in mind, Barker writes: “At most, the theists might prove the existence of a current gap in human knowledge, but this does not justify filling the gap with their [personal metaphysical explanation]. After all, what happens when the gap closes someday?”
As I read Barker here, he is saying that the theist is not rationally justified in appealing to a personal metaphysical explanation because that explanation might be shown to be false in the future.
And that claim presumably depends on the principle that for any philosophical explanation, if that explanation could be disproved in the future then that explanation cannot presently be rationally justified.
To be sure, I don’t know that Barker has a general principle in mind which under-girds his “God of the gaps” critique. But I am assuming he does to keep him from running afoul of the Golden Rule.
The obvious problem for Dan Barker is that he is hoist by his own petard. Atheistic accounts of reality help themselves to their own share of philosophical explanations that could be disproved in the future from which it follows that atheistic accounts of reality are equally unjustified and liable to the similarly opprobrious “Godless of the gaps” charge.
Since this analysis puts Barker in a very bad light, I’m open to other interpretations…