"God Of The Gaps" refers to using holes in our understanding of the universe as an argument for God. It is rejected by modern creationists, as it is by Christians generally.

However, the only people who invoke a ‘god of the gaps’ argument are evolutionists knocking down creationist straw men; creationists actually appeal to what we do know about chemistry, biology and information theory. (Lael Weinberger - Harmony and discord)

Creationists do however support the Irreducible Complexity argument, which says that there are systems which require multiple components to work together for the system to have any productive function at all. So for example, they have argued that the eye is irreducibly complex, and cannot have evolved.

But this seems to me to be very similar to a God Of The Gaps argument. "If a system has 20 components, we might be able to remove 10 of them and have it still function, but we don't know how it could function with only 9. Therefore God."

Isn't this a kind of God Of The Gaps argument? How have creationists addressed the similarity between these arguments?

The basic concept presented by Dr Behe is that of ‘irreducible complexity’. A system that is irreducibly complex is one in which precise components work jointly to perform the basic function of the system. It also means that if any part of that system were to be absent or removed, the system would cease to function. Therefore, any step to simplify an irreducibly complex system would result in a non-functional system. This presents an insurmountable problem for the Darwinist. If one alleges that all systems evolved by gradual addition to previously functioning systems, how does one explain a complex system that would not perform its basic function if it were missing even a single component? (Robert T. Mitchell - Darwin's Black Box)

The traditional conception of step-by-step major evolutionary change has the supposed advantage of reasonable probability for each step while suffering from the disadvantage of being incapable of producing the necessarily simultaneous changes (hence irreducible complexity). ... It almost seems as though evolutionists are invoking these hopeful mini monster mechanisms as an act of desperation. In any case, the giant chasm that remains between the observed tiny changes, on the one hand, and the speculated large-scale evolutionary outcomes, on the other, itself attests to the validity and force of the argument of irreducible complexity. (John Woodmorappe - Irreducible complexity: some candid admissions by evolutionists)

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    Your description of the irreducible complexity argument contains the clause "but we don't know how it could function with only 9." I don't see that in the actual arguments you quote; their position seems to be rather that "it can't function with only 9" or maybe even "we know it can't function with only 9", not "we don't know ...." Commented May 9, 2019 at 17:37
  • @AndreasBlass Right, but how can they truly prove that it can't function with 9? That's my point. To the best of their knowledge it's irreducible.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 1:37
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    I think they mean 'cannot function without this part' in a similar way to atheists who claim, 'there was no ark of Noah' or 'it's not possible.' You can't prove there isn't a red Sharpie floating so many light years away in space. But let's face it, that's impossible for all intents and purposes. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 10:44

4 Answers 4


Fair question. But your construction of the IC argument doesn't quite capture its essence. IC doesn't say "We don't know how it would work with only 9, therefore God." Rather, it says, "This complex system is fundamentally non-functional without multiple interdependent parts, therefore all these parts had to emerge simultaneously, therefore the mechanism of gradual evolution cannot explain its emergence."

The canonical example of an IC system is the snap-type mousetrap. The system consists of a baseplate, a swinging hammer bar, a spring, and a trigger, all four of which must be working in tandem for the device to be considered operational. The IC adherent does not say "We don't know how to make a simpler mousetrap, therefore its a miracle." The argument is much more precise. They say, "This particular model of a mousetrap could never be functional with fewer parts. The manufacturer could not sell a discount version of this device with only 2 of the parts and call it a 'simplified mousetrap'. It's not a mousetrap if it is incapable of trapping mice."

So, if there are biological systems with comparable complexity, IC argues that gradual evolution is an insufficient theory to explain them. So, yes, these systems represent "gaps" that must be explained. Whether you put God in those gap is up to you. But naturalistic darwinian evolution -- by definition -- can never fill those gaps.


"Isn't this a God of the gaps argument?"

I'm going to answer this in a way that reveals the soft underbelly of the counter argument, along with showing that ultimately - it's not about what we know, it's about what we believe.

If you were examining a system and decomposing that system you get down to component parts that if you take them apart, that subsystem cannot function as a "part". For example if I deconstruct my smart phone, it has sub components, screen, touch sensor, microprocessor, mother board, battery, etc.

even at this level - if I just have a microprocessor, does it do anything on it's own? If I just have the touch screen, can it do anything functional on it's own?

If I go another level, I get the chemical composition to make glass, the silicon inside of the microprocessor and the gold from the motherboard.

These components and the chemicals that compose them on their own don't do anything. They have to be arranged in a specific and intelligent manner to produce a desired output. The same is true for the chemical arrangement inside of every cell, inside of you and me.

If you remove one component, the cell dies.

What we understand about the cell today makes it to me that what Paul spoke was of God.

Romans 1:20 NKJV - For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

You can also see this in the comments from those in the camp that believes in goo to you evolution. How many times have they told those they're teaching, "ignore the appearance of design".

If design is apparent in examination, it's not just an appearance, it's reality.

That being said, I lately lean toward Hebrews 11 ->

Hebrews 11:1 NKJV - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

If evidence of God's creation is not transparent enough to you, it's not for God's lack of transparency - just as Paul states in Romans 1. It's not that God has left gaps in His grand design, to hide himself from those who are seeking in self cleansing humility and repentance.

If you are seeking God in repentance, you have faith in that which is not seen. If it took evidentiary upon evidentiary to bring someone to repentance, than they have a faith in what they can see, not faith in the unseen.

That's a foundation built upon sand, upon the precepts of men - not on the word of God.

  • I'm not sure this answers the question. First, it's not true that if you remove one component from a cell, the cell dies. It simply functions differently. Maybe a large set of components need to all work together for a cell to accomplish a particular function, but other cells do exist without some of the components in that set--they just don't accomplish the same function. See here, e.g., for a discussion of the components of the bacterial flagellum: newscientist.com/article/… Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 20:32
  • That, unfortunately, is exactly what "God of the gaps" is: What is taken to be evidence of God's work by one generation is shown to have a natural explanation by the next. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 20:33
  • The last section of your answer is good, because we shouldn't be relying on holes in scientific knowledge to see evidence of God in the first place. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 20:34
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    Actually science has not and will never explain the origin of life without God. That “gap” will never be filled. Conveniently this all important “component” is taken as a given. (I don’t accept a God of the gaps which implies an evolutionary pathway and hence an old earth creation heresy, thereby contradicting Scripture. God created it all in those six literal days.)
    – Autodidact
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 12:37
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    @BruceAlderman absolutely - but the point in my answer was that faith ultimately is faith because it's hope in the unseen. I do believe and have seen that the evidence absolutely points to a created universe, this is why the more we learn about it, the more the secular world turns to even larger lies. Such as the multiverse, which can never be proven - or that we are living in a simulation. This is the go to answer now, because of the improbability of our created universe. BUT - faith is hope in the unseen. We must be rooted in that, not evidence. Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 14:38

This is a good question and deserves a better, more complete, answer than I attempt here. This is just a stab at one particular answer.

What do we actually "know" about anything, and how do we "know" it? In the discipline of mathematics we can know things and prove them. In spelling English words we can know how to spell them and prove it to eacn other, provided we agree on a particular dictionary as the final arbiter. It might just be that we pick a dictionary which has a spelling mistake for the word in question, so maybe we need to have more than one dictionary - the best of three dictionaries? or the best of five? The more dictionaries which agree on the spelling of the word in question the better. What if ten dictionarys agree, can we then be certain of the spelling? The point is that for us to agree together, we first would have to agree on what is the final authority. This would stop any argument but we might just all agree together and yet still be wrong.

In the science of the real world, what do we really know? Do we actually know for certain the sun will come up tomorrow morning? Can we prove it, with the kind of proof that would be as satisfactory as say a proof in mathematics?

In truth, all scientific observations are based on the balance of probability.

When Michael Behe writes about irreducible complexity it is disingenuous of atheists to require a level of proof which is beyond what is normally expected in other aspects of scientific enquiry. If a thing is irreducibly complex, on the balance of probability, then that is a valid, worthwhile scientific observation, and ought not to be dismissed out of hand simply because we do not yet have enough knowledge of this field of enquiry.

How do we know there are not huge gaps in our knowledge even in trivial areas of science? If we were to dismiss an observation simply because our knowledge is lacking in a particular scientific field, no scientific progress is possible.

Observations, and scientific theories based on the balance of probability are valid scientific obervations and theories, which deserve better treatment than to be dismissed out of hand.

Anecdotally/observationally, there seem to be a lot of irreducibly complex systems in living things, and one cannot help the feeling generated that they are the rule rather than the exception. If that is so, then it is even more reason that Michael Behe's approach is a valid one.

The trouble with the atheist's ridicule with the cry "There you go again, its "the god of the gaps" theology!" is this: the atheist forgets that there are some gaps where God is the correct answer. Even though God may have been inserted in gaps on some occasions in the past for which science has subsequently found a rational answer, it is important to remember that some gaps only have a supernatural explanation. Inserting "God" where there is a gap in scientific knowledge is not necessarily wrong.

OK, now shoot me down!!

  • OK first, there really are no irreducibly complex systems in living things. Michael Behe's two primary examples--the blood clotting cascade and the bacterial flagellum--have been shown to be only moderately more complex than similar cellular systems found in other organisms. It's not a stretch to see how a single mutation in each case could have possibly led to the formation of these systems. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 20:44
  • Second, "God of the gaps" theology means inserting God as an explanation for things science ca't explain. The flip side of that is, if science does find an explanation, then God is no longer needed as the explanation. The real solution is not to reduce God to a scientific hypothesis in the first place. Rather than looking for God's handiwork in the bacterial flagellum or the blood clot cascade, look for it in everything, including things that also have a clear scientific explanation. Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 20:48
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    @BruceAlderman "there really are no irreducibly complex systems in living things." - Are you saying scientists have looked everywhere and this is now a proven fact? Commented Jun 7, 2019 at 22:22
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    "Are you saying scientists have looked everywhere and this is now a proven fact?" No, I'm saying everywhere scientists have looked, they have found answers--including the areas Behe claims are the best candidates for irreducibly complex systems. Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 7:20
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    @BruceAlderman - "It's not a stretch to see how a single mutation in each case could have possibly led to the formation of these systems" - We will have to agree to differ: for me, finding a structure in species X, slightly less complex, with an entirely different function, does nothing to explain how an irreducibly complex structure can arise in species Y. It doesn't sound reasonable to me at all. But there is insufficient space here for protracted discussion, for which it is not intended.... Perhaps put up a question to draw out a defence of theistic evolution or similar? Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 16:45

That is an interesting comparison.

Irreducibly complex assumes you know the components it takes to make up a functional machine, biological or otherwise. It’s not necessary to know it’s function but it is necessary to know it’s a component. You cannot account for something you don’t know exists.

Not knowing how it works doesn’t seem to be a problem, it’s sufficient to know if that component is necessary or not.

The argument being that if it’s only 9 components therefore God, is not the argument per se because whether it’s functional or not the evolutionist argue a gradual increase in components. Behe argues that a non-functional gradually evolving machine like a flagellum is very taxing on the organism and makes it very unlikely to survive. He also argues the evolutionist line that ”if you don’t use it, you lose it”, except apparently when it’s on a pathway to become a functional biological machine over an incredibly large time span and large number of reproductive cycles.

There is a very obvious problem with evolution in that DNA and proteins need to coexist, be compatible and correspond identically for there to be functionality and reproduction. Removing the nucleus still allows the cell to live. But by no means will it reproduce. So it’s evolutionarily not viable. That makes it irreducibly complex, you need proteins to read the Genome and you need the genome to produce the proteins and more genome from preexisting genome.

And we need all components for certain biological machines to function at least a little, but especially the all important component without which nothing functions, LIFE.

It is a fact that a biological machine without life though all components are present does not function. That doesn’t mean it functions differently, it fails to function at all.

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:16-17‬ ‭

Conveniently the component of life is taken for granted as a given. But it’s not a given. Abiogenesis to biogenesis, inorganic to organic life has never been demonstrated. So the god of the gaps lies with the non-creationists, they have many gaps that they have filled with chance and probability, despite the numbers being astronomically improbable, one in, greater than the supposed number of atoms in the universe several times over. It’s a god of sorts that creates something out of nothing but that doesn’t seem to matter.

  • Perhaps your answer was marked down because some of it is a bit sloppy.. (eg cell wall = brain?? and "proteins without instructions don't function"...what do you mean? no protein has any instruction... if you are not sure, remove it.) I've marked you up because the general idea is good. I esp like the evolutionary-god of the gaps idea. Every blessing. Also the last 2 paragraphs are not needed.. its too argumentative? Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 17:01
  • I can include a link to papers on the cell wall acting as the “brain” of the cell giving instruction to the function of the cell. It has been accepted that the “brain” of a cell is the nucleus however when cells continued to function with the nucleus extracted scientists were forced to look for another command center in the cell. As for the last two paragraph let me reread them in light of your comment and see the merit of your comment... I suppose I can remove the last two paragraphs giving you primacy, maybe you have better wisdom than I in the matter and I’ll submit.
    – Autodidact
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 17:13
  • re cell wall - brilliant. Add the link... re last 2 paras, take em out, they are not needed.. if you get so many -ve votes your answer might be removed altogether. Though the point of these 2 paras is taken, it isn't the place to make the point, they serve no purpose here. Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 17:17
  • I’ve decided to reword that portion because I don’t remember where I found that information and frankly I can make the point without it. @AndrewShanks
    – Autodidact
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 2:06

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