Monday, November 14, 2005

The origins of the phrase "God of the gaps"

The Sarkar Lab WebLog finds the author, a chemist and member of the "Evangelic domination" of Christians, who was asked to deliver:
a course of lectures, the object of which lectures shall be to show the mutual bearing of science and theology upon each other, and to prove the existence and attributes, as far as may be, of God from nature.
Staple this speech to some creationist's forehead:

When Descartes located the soul in the pineal gland, all was well until the real purpose of this gland was discovered. Then there was no room for the soul, and people began to doubt whether there really was such a thing. What is more, even when it was there, it was hard to see why it was not subject to familiar physico-chemical laws. It was just the same when Newton, trying to apply his splendid discovery of the law of gravitation to as many different problems as possible, and finding that although it would deal with the motion of the moon around the earth, and the earth around the sun, it would not deal with the spinning of the earth around its polar axis to give us night and day, wrote to the Master of his Cambridge College, Trinity: 'the diurnal rotations of the planets would not be derived from gravity, but required a divine arm to impress it upon them.' This is asking for trouble. For as soon as one possible scheme is devised whereby the planets might conceivably have obtained their angular momentum, the 'divine arm' ceases to be needed; science has asserted its ownership of that much new territory.
Coulson treated science as a tool for discovering revelation. Don't force concepts of religious faith into science, it doesn't work.

I'm trying to explain this to Revka and her gang, with only limited success.

Update: Turns out there's an older reference. Henry Drummond, from 1894 [my emphasis]:

There are reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of Nature and the books of Science in search of gaps -- gaps which they will fill up with God. As if God lived in gaps? What view of Nature or of Truth is theirs whose interest in Science is not in what it can explain but in what it cannot, whose quest is ignorance not knowledge, whose daily dread is that the cloud may lift, and who, as darkness melts from this field or from that, begin to tremble for the place of His abode? What needs altering in such finely jealous souls is at once their view of Nature and of God. Nature is God's writing, and can only tell the truth; God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.

If by the accumulation of irresistible evidence we are driven -- may not one say permitted -- to accept Evolution as God's method in creation, it is a mistaken policy to glory in what it cannot account for. The reason why men grudge to Evolution each of its fresh claims to show how things have been made is the groundless fear that if we discover how they are made we minimize their divinity.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.