Monton on God-of-the-gaps Arguments focuses our attention on a popular anti-IDist slogan; the familiar God in the gaps characterization. Those using the slogan believe that the failure of the mainstream scientific community to produce empirical data supporting mainstream theories is attributable merely to a lack of knowledge which when eventually acquired will establish said theories. Often the theories in question are focused on the origin of life and for the purpose of this blog entry that will be the primary consideration.
In the comment section this remark appears:
There are theories that have withstood the test of time. Newtonian mechanics has been a valid theory for more than 300 years. Geometrical optics has been around even longer.
This is a good time to examine well supported scientific theories and take notice of a rarely mentioned feature of them which contrasts with origin of life ideas. Newton's first law of motion states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. I wish to emphasize that the subject matter to which the law refers- objects, motion, direction, speed and force- were all commonly observed phenomenon prior to Newton's formulation. People observed objects in motion, noted their speed and direction and were familiar with the concept of force and variations in its strength. Ascribing to the foregoing descriptive and predictable behavioral norms adds to our depth of understanding about that which we already had observed and whose existence was a foregone conclusion.
The same can be said about Kepler's laws of planetary motion. Celestial bodies were known to exist. Motion was inferred by changes over time in their positional relationships with each other. When Kepler analyzed the paths of planets he was focused on an observed phenomeon. By describing the paths as elliptical Kepler was specifying more precisely the nature of a given: planetary motion.
There are a plethora of examples available and all have the same common denominator- formulating specific information about known physical phenomenon as a result of the insight of a great scientist. The operative phrase is known physical phenomenon. Theists and non-theists alike presume that if something is observed in the physical world it can yield to explanations based on empirically generated data.
Contrary to the stereotying prevalent among theistic critics theists do not look at a hitherto unobserved cosmic phenomenon and think angels must be responsible. That type of nonsense has little relevance to anything other than hoped for atta boys from fellow mockers and scoffers.
Biology has a number of subdivisions correlating to known and observed physical phenomeon. Genetics informs us about inherited traits, cellular biology about the functions of cells, molecular biology about pathways, enzymes etc. We know reproduction occurs and know that cells exist. That studies shed light on these things is not surprising to anyone. Progress in these fields has been great. Gaps steadily filled. Again, no surprise.
Contrast these disciplines with origin of life studies. Despite the claims and the hype, research has yielded little in the way of identifying viable pathways to life. But while we saw objects in motion and noted the existence of cells, living organisms and much more, we have never observed life emerging from a lifeless environment. To hurl God in the gaps charges under these circumstances is to arrogantly presume that one's preconceptions about a process must be right. OOL is not a matter of fleshing out the details of what we can see or touch. It is based on that which we never see and touch. That adds a unique metaphysical component to the gap charge that is not applicable to Newton's or Kepler's laws. Monton's points merit another look.