April 5, 2014

A Call To Explaining Order

One of the things that I have been thinking about lately is the accusation of "God of the gaps". Now, I don't think that this is true of theism in general. Theism concludes that God exists for philosophical reasons. I also do not think this is true of Christians in general either, for we usually conclude that God exists for personal reasons. However, I think this might be true of the ID movement, and I also think that it is a fair accusation of Creationism as well. Let me explain.

There are generally two types of causes*. The first is agent causation. This is when an intentional being decides to do or makes something. The other is process causation. This is that set of things and actions that are necessary (or simply that were used) to bring about a desired end. First instance, if I wished to talk about the agent cause of the Mono Lisa, that would be Leonardo Da Vinci. This is important since it can answer questions in terms of the Mono Lisa's purpose and influence. However, if I wished to talk about the process cause of the Mono Lisa I would have to discuss Leonardo's painting techniques, palette, model, etc. This is important if we wish to replicate the Mono Lisa or its style. The first question is of minimal importance to the forger, while the latter is of minimal importance to the historian**.

When we say that God created the cosmos, what we are proposing an agent cause, not a process cause. Meanwhile, science is only capable of asking about process causation and has no input in regards to agent causation. This is fair enough. So where is the accusation of God of the gaps?

I think it is with the lack of concern of process causation that I find in many Creationists and some ID people. It is certainly true that once we have God as an explanation, there is little need to have process causation because we can simply say that God did it. Atheists complain that this leads to scientific laziness on our part. And here is where I think at least anecdotally they have a point. In my experinence, Creationists and IDers (and no they are not the same thing) tend to be content with merely criticizing the alternate position. Even the YEC tend to be content with finding evidence which supports their position with little interest in exploring deeper issues and answering unanswered questions. And yes this is a problem.

But where I disagree with the atheists is that it doesn't have to be this way. I think the fundamental reason for it is because we tend to be on the defensive, so I don't think it is laziness. But it is something that we should think about, and actively avoid. Yes, OK, God made the universe, but how did He do it? We really don't know. Mind you, the atheist doesn't know how the universe came about either, so it is not like they are on better footing. But we should be interested not just in the agent causation, but also the process causation. How did God create the cosmos? What was His mechanism? Can we get more detailed than Genesis 1? I think if we are to be taken seriously, we have to start at least asking these questions.

* Here I am using the world 'cause' to mean something which exists outside of something else which brings that thing to be, whether it be an object or an action. I am not using the more general meaning of explanation of a thing. It is also important to note that my names here are informal, and not to be taken as typical.

**Note that I said "minimal importance" not "no importance".

No comments: