Argument from ignorance

a.k.a. God of the gaps, Godidit!, Wishful thinking

The Argument from Ignorance is basically a naked assertion: God did it. That's it. Epitomized by the popular American bumper sticker:

God did it.  I believe it.  That settles it!

Premise:

Take virtually any aspect of our natural world that we don't fully understand (or that both the theist and his audience are not well-informed on), and you'll find a someone claiming God is at the end of that dimly-lit tunnel. Why is there cancer? What causes HIV? Why do people die? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did that tsunami wreck Indonesia? How did the Red Sox win the World Series? It's God's will. What is the meaning of life? To serve God. Why should we act morally? Because God says so. How did so-and-so survive that horrible accident unscathed? It was a miracle. How did life originate on Earth? Godidit! The Argument from Ignorance is the doorway that lets God into any and all claims.

Critique:

This isn't so much an argument as it is an unsubstantiated opinion. This claim is made in virtually all other arguments for the existence of god. The theist proposes a scenario that cannot be adequately explained by science or our current level of knowledge, and "fills in the gap" with God. Whenever we don't understand something, we use God as the universal excuse to explain anything unknown.
Obviously, in earlier days, with less universal knowledge, God was more prevalent. As our knowledge expands, these "gaps" become smaller. The battle over evolution is a desperate attempt to widen this ever-tightening gap that theists have claimed is evidence for the existence of God.
The irony is that many claims theists make which create these gaps are ones that could be answered with science and reason. The "morality argument" is a good example. People have been told that without God there are no moral standards and therefore God is the true source of morality. These moral constructs can easily be explained without invoking the supernatural, but because of peoples' ignorance and conditioning, it's easier for them to conclude: it's because of God.

The argument from Ignorance is the "glue" for all other claims. So the other claims create a scenario where there is something "unknown" or "unexplained" into which the notion of "God" is arbitrarily inserted. If the reader can't offer an immediate legitimate explanation, the Argument from Ignorance suggests by default, God is the answer.

An Argument from Ignorance occurs when one makes a positive claim based on a lack of information. Basically, the claimant assumes that since something has not been proven false, it is therefore true. But you can't make claims without reason or evidence. All a lack of information can tell you is that you do not know. A claim's truth or falsity depends upon supporting or refuting evidence for the claim, not the lack of support for a contrary or contradictory claim.

The weakness of my argument does not imply the strength of yours - Sigmund Freud 

An argument from ignorance often is merely an expression of one's desires and little more. The Skeptic's dictionary calls it "Wishful thinking".


See also

Last updated by Nelson Feb 12, 2009.

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