Won’t the progress of science make the God-of-the-gaps redundant?

by Chaitanya Charan dasMay 17, 2014

When religionists point to the many things that science can’t explain and say that this proves the need for God as an explanation, won’t such a God become redundant when scientific progress explains those things?

Answer Podcast

Transcription by- Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta

Question- Won’t the progress of science make the God of the gaps redundant? Often there are things that science can’t explain, so therefore we need God to explain those things. But as science progresses and explain those things then there will be no need, no room for God left. So if God is the God of the gaps, that means God is needed to fill in the gaps in scientific knowledge then won’t such a God become redundant and prove to be falsified when the gaps are filled by the progress of science? For example in the past people may have attributed occurrence of disease, the cure to the anger etc. to the grace of God. But now we know that it is caused by germs. When germs are removed disease goes away. So now there is no room for God left in medicine.

Answer- God as is explained in the Vedic scriptures and at large in the world’s great theistic traditions is not the God of the gaps. He is the God of everything. That means we don’t just refer to God as a explanatory alternative to science. We are not using God, at least that is not the way in Vedic scriptures; Bhagavad Gita says that:

na tad asti vinā yat syān
mayā bhūtaṁ carācaram (BG 10.39)

There is nothing that can exist without God.

mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ
sūyate sa-carācaram
hetunānena kaunteya
jagad viparivartate (BG 9.10)

Krishna says that material nature works under My supervision and by its law things are created and destroyed.

There are two important points to recognize over here that God is not an alternative to science’s explanatory power. God is the foundation for science’s explanatory power. Let me repeat. God is not an alternative to science explanatory power. That means we are not saying that because science can’t explain these things therefore we need to believe in God. No. God is the foundation of science’s explanatory power. How is that ? We need God to explain why science explains. For example, science may explain that Newton’s law of gravitation, that every particle of matter attracts every other particle of matter with the force that is directly proportional to the masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance. Now why does this law act in this way? Why do the laws of nature exist the way they are? Science would not be able to progress if the universe were not rational. If the universe were completely disorderly, irrational, unpredictable, irregular then science would not be able to investigate and explain because science involves observing a finite sample of things and inferring general principles and applying those principles to the far vaster reality beyond the examined sample. If there had not been consistency in the behavior of nature, science would not work. If there were  no underlying rationality and consistency the behavior of nature, there would be no science. And science itself has no explanation, why the nature is rational? Why the reality around is rational? Why it is intelligible? There is no explanation for that within science. That is the foundational assumption of science that reality is rational. Why is it rational? If everything has just come only from a disorderly explosion and it has evolved over millennia, then why would matter itself organize itself in patterns which are intelligible to the human mind, which are intrinsically reflecting a rational order. Why would that be? For that science in and of itself is not having any answers.

This is an assumption in science and that assumption is based on the foundation of God’s intelligence. The law of gravity operates because God has made it like that and that’s why when Newton discovered the law of gravity, he did not see the law of gravity as an alternative to God. He did not see science as an alternative to God. He saw that this law of gravity, he saw that the whole universe has been arranged, solar system and its planets are moving by the masterly plan of the Lord. So therefore the important point to recognize is that the pioneering scientists did not see science as an alternative explanation to God. They saw God as a foundation of all explanations. It is because the universe is organized by the will of God, that’s why we are able to understand this and we are able to come up with scientific explanations. So we are not proposing a God to explain what science can’t explain. Actually the scriptures talk about a God whose existence and plan explains why science explains.

Now there is off course another point to this that the human perception is limited. And therefore what is considered as a valid scientific explanation today may well turn out to be an invalid scientific explanation or incomplete scientific explanation at least. Aristotle’s idea of perfect spheres and how the planets should be moving in perfect circles and many of his ideas were falsified by Copernicus, Newton and the group of scientist who brought in the age of enlightenment in the Western history. So at that time Aristotle’s ideas were considered to be the main stream science. Similarly Newton’s idea of gravitation, they were proven to be limited subsequently by Einstein’s relativity theory as well as by Planck’s and others quantum theory. So again that means, there is another point over here, that will science necessarily fill all the gaps? It may well happen that as we fill gaps we find that further gaps are coming up. What we thought we understood, we will realize that we have not understood.

There is a book written by a scientist called “From certainty to uncertainty”. He describes that how at the turn of the twentieth century, Lord Kelvin had said, practically science has understood everything now and future generation of physics will have no work to do except for just filling in the details. He was satisfied with Newton’s explanation of the world but relativity and quantum physics exploded on the scene and today scientist are profoundly confused at a fundamental level of what even matter is. Most of matter is filled with empty space and most of the universe is filled with dark matter and dark energy. So matter itself has become a puzzle. That’s why it is said that “from certainty to uncertainty”.

So the second point which we often talk about is the finiteness and fallibility of human perception and human cognition which make science also an imperfect endeavor. So saying that science is a imperfect endeavor is not the same as saying that science is invalid and it is not same as saying that because science can’t explain we need God. It is yes, whatever extent science come up with explanations, those explanations can be valid with in there context and to the extent they are valid we can use them. But the important point is that the finiteness and the fallibility of human perception make us prone to error in gaining understanding. And therefore assuming that our current understanding is the conclusive understanding is a monumental error. So that’s why saying that God is no longer required because science has explained this-this-this. That is wrong at the second level also. Our current explanation may well be wrong. And we may come up with another explanation.

So we are not talking about the God of the gaps, we are talking about God of everything. We are not talking about God as an alternative to science’s explanation; we are talking of God as a foundation of all explanations. We are talking God as the explanation of why science explains. And he remains the unchanging foundation explanation even when science explanations may keep changing. So God exists as the foundation of the cause and effect that is there. So we find out some connection with cause and effect and we propose laws and theories to explain those causal connections.

But why are there causal connections at all? Why does this cause lead to this effect? So Newton may quantify gravity, but he doesn’t explain the origin of gravity. So why does a cause-effect connection that if something is released, it falls on the ground? Why does such a thing happen at all? Why does gravity exist at all for it to happen?  So science may give us the connection of cause and effects but God is the foundational cause by whose arrangement this whole cause-effect system is created. So the more science progresses, the more science will find cause-effect connections and the very existence of cause-effects itself can point to the super intelligence of God who has created the system of cause-effect. Scientific progress far from falsifying God or making Him redundant, the very progress of science rests on the rationality of the universe and the rationality of the universe has no satisfactory explanation of the reductionist materialistic world view. The very progress of science and underlying rationality and intelligibility of the universe are all based on the foundational reality of God as a fundamental explanation. Scientific progress, whatever knowledge it comes up with, it will further demonstrate the super intelligence of the glory of God. And far from making God redundant, it will provide us abundant evidence for God’s existence. Thank you.

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan das
  • Ranjit Sinha
    July 17, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Hare Krishna prabhu, PAMHO !

    Great and very nice explanation of the cause of all the causes – is Lord Krishna.Thank you very much and I would be referring in some of my articles as well as PhD research.

    Hope to get an opportunity to serve you sometime,

    Hare Krishna !

    Ranjit Sinha

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