Re: [asa] Miracles and God of the Gaps

From: <>
Date: Thu Jan 22 2009 - 11:09:28 EST

Quoting Jon Tandy <>:

> I have also read about some
> medieval scientists believing (based on Biblical scripture) that God
> "literally" upheld the earth with his hand to keep it in orbit, prior to the
> discovery of the action of gravity, and that the theory of gravity somehow
> was believed to displace God from part of his role. I don't know how
> accurate this characterization is. What are some other cases in the modern
> history of science that specific "scientific" explanations have relied on a
> miracle hypothesis, as part of an otherwise natural scientific paradigm?

> The second part of the question is, what would (or did) science look like
> with miraculous explanations included? In particular, most scientists and
> in particular many TEs characterize "miraculous intervention" as a "science
> killer" and "God of the gaps". If the sole cause is supernatural, then
> science has to stop its investigation because it has no domain there. Is
> this really the case? I don't believe that it is.

One example, related to the gravity one you mention, might be the assumed
perfectly circular motion of the heavens. Prior to Galileo, inertia wasn't part
of any large explanation yet, so perhaps Greeks assumed that this is just the
way the world (& "the gods") work. Aristotle might have phrased it as "the
natural position or state" of such things --such as heavier things seeking the
lowest position as their most natural state. They also commonly assumed for all
objects that "at rest" was the most natural state. So perhaps the constant
motion of the heavens counted for them as something "miraculous", though I doubt
they would have used such a description, because for them the activity of the
gods & world were all part & parcel the same thing. (esp. since their gods were
merely part of the world.) So, ironically, perhaps the TEs of today actually
hearken back to a re-integration of thought that the ancients had largely
presumed. Francis Bacon then makes the distinction between appealing to natural
cause and appealing to the divine hand. Perhaps that was the birth of that
dualistic approach? But it isn't that TEs are trying to scientifically discern
where the hand of God might be. They already assume it is everywhere
--undetectable by tools of science. This is a theological assumption which is
quite happy to leave the scientific arena undisturbed in its pursuits (until
science is abused to begin making theological claims & assertions of ethics.)

More thoughts below.

Jon Tandy continues:
> Now for the third part. Most scientists, including TEs, decry the reliance
> on "miracle" because it undermines the process of scientific investigation,
> and creates "God of the gaps" scenarios of using God to fill in the gaps in
> our knowledge of the natural order. Yet the same TEs will rely on the
> doctrine of providence or quantum interaction as theological explanations
> that are just as "miraculous", although hidden behind our present inability
> to investigate. It seems to me that the doctrine of providence is just as
> much a "God of the gaps" explanation as other more explicit claims of
> miracle, as the recent conversation with Timaeus brought out.

..except I don't think most TEs are claiming that divine providence is any
scientific or natural explanation at all. They may claim it as a theological
explanation with theological support. So this makes it immune from the "gaps"
accusation since gaps refer to scientific gaps, not theological ones --right?


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Received on Thu Jan 22 11:09:40 2009

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