Faith

Defending the Faith: Intelligent design vs. 'God of the gaps'

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  • Terry29 Gadsden, AL
    March 21, 2017 10:44 a.m.

    Faith in God is challenged for some by science. However, as science continues to reveal the nature of reality, faith in God can plausibly increase. Our vision of the elegance of the universe expands beyond unimagined horizons, and possibilities may be infinite.

    God gives us mysteries to figure out. The biggest mystery is how to tame the human heart without losing free will, because without solving this mystery, the human race will not survive. That’s where we’re going to need help.

    Science says It took 14 billion years for sentient, intelligent beings to evolve. We are now on the verge of designing ourselves. The true scientist must wonder what we will we look like 14 billion years from now? Is the concept of immortality, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence so hard to imagine?

    If it can happen, it already has!

    Incidentally, but pertinent to the human heart: the truth of the Book of Mormon is in how it makes life better, not whether there was a Jewish nation in the Americas (which got erased by natural forces and war, by the way).

  • Bro. Bob Melbourne, FL
    March 19, 2017 4:52 p.m.

    As some LDS Mormons understand that the creation was accomplished in aprox. 6 thousand years as we count time today. This world that was created for Heavenly Fathers children to experience the things of mortality was created by "Matter Unorganized". To members that have been to the Temple the word structure probably did not convey a very powerful meaning. Heavenly Father did not use the words "Unorganized Matter" which would have given a whole new meaning to the creation.
    His use and arrangement of the words "Unorganized Matter" meant matter that had previously been organized from "Worlds with out number have I created"..
    The true meaning is shown to those that are spiritually prepared. Some of the matter with corresponding animal fossils, etc, etc. came from worlds created eons ago. As these worlds finished their purpose they were unorganized. From these worlds our world was organized or created..
    To the LDS Church members i simply ask, when you go through the Endowment Ceremony, listen carefully to Heavenly Fathers words and pray for understanding. For members who have not a Temple Recommend, please prepare and get your affairs in order, that you may obtain.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    March 18, 2017 11:22 p.m.

    Contrary to "A Scientist's" assertion, Prof. Peterson offers neither a natural theology nor a teleological argument.

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    March 18, 2017 7:21 a.m.

    @ coltakashi

    "The 'God of the Gaps' notion assumes that there is a limited volume of potential scientific knowledge..."

    Please see A Scientist’s comment on this. He expertly identifies Peterson’s straw man (and with great style, I might add).

    His concluding comment about how JS saw god belief reminded me again of how curious it is that science is often the target of believers and their apologists. It's as if they see it as a threat or something.

    @ NoNamesAccepted

    "My belief in scientific results...is based much more on believing the experiences of others."

    So now applications of the scientific method are just "experiences?" But I guess you'd have to degrade the concept in order to meet the narrative that science is just a matter of faith too. Next challenge: How to make "religious claims differ by locale and are frequently mutually exclusive" and "science is science wherever you go" look like the same thing.

  • Michael_M Scottsbluff, NE
    March 18, 2017 3:30 a.m.

    @Ernest T. Bass
    Plant domestication happened independently of the Middle East in many other regions around the world. It happened in the Americas in more than one location. Today 60% of the variety of foods grown worldwide originated from the work of America's ancient people who were the world's greatest plant breeders. They did this by selective planting, not by grafting. Somehow that major contritubition to the world never gets mentioned in the Book of Mormon. A good book with more on this is "Indian Givers: How Native Americans Transformed the World" by Jack Weatherford

  • 2close2call Los Angeles, CA
    March 18, 2017 12:10 a.m.

    @Steve Warren "Lehi's family and Ishmael's family came from the Mideast, where grafting and olive trees did exist, so they would have understood the chapter. I'm sure they were capable of answering questions on the subject of olive trees. Those Nephites born much later would have been no more mystified by Jacob 5 than people born in America are mystified by cultural aspects of the Old Testament that are unfamiliar to us. Besides, the Book of Mormon itself states that it was written for our time, not theirs."

    In my opinion, you are quoting fallible men about their pontifications about God's will and nothing else. Please actually quote a perfect God or your comments are meaningless.

  • Steve C. Warren WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    March 17, 2017 10:10 p.m.

    @Ernest T. Bass

    It makes not the slightest difference to Jacob 5 if olive trees and grafting did or did not exist in America in 500-600 BC. The fact that Jacob 5 contains only the words of an Old Testament prophet strengthens its authenticity, because he would have been familiar with olive trees and grafting.

    Lehi's family and Ishmael's family came from the Mideast, where grafting and olive trees did exist, so they would have understood the chapter. I'm sure they were capable of answering questions on the subject of olive trees. Those Nephites born much later would have been no more mystified by Jacob 5 than people born in America are mystified by cultural aspects of the Old Testament that are unfamiliar to us. Besides, the Book of Mormon itself states that it was written for our time, not theirs.

  • coltakashi Richland, WA
    March 17, 2017 5:08 p.m.

    The "God of the Gaps" notion assumes that there is a limited volume of potential scientific knowledge, and that human science is quickly filling up that volume by claiming title to every element within that volume, which will "real soon now" leave no gaps in scientists' knowledge, and no place for the "god" who lives only in such "gaps" to exist.

    This is totally a conjecture without any scientific basis whatsoever. Furthermore, it is a theory that should be distressing for scientists, because their job is not to just preserve, teach and apply the body of scientific knowledge, it is their quintessential role to discover NEW knowledge. The notion that the body of work for scientific researchers is diminishing and will terminate in the near future is an attack on the entire scientific enterprise, even more than on "religion".

    In reality, every serious advance in scientific knowledge raises new questions and reveals new territory needing exploration. The recent theories of Dark Matter and Dark Energy show that 97% of the "known universe" is made of matter and energy that we cannot fully describe. The "gaps" in knowledge are growing--and science is needed more than ever.

  • NoNamesAccepted St. George, UT
    March 17, 2017 4:50 p.m.

    It is interesting to me that most who claim science proves there is no God are most often using science as a faith-based religion. They've replaced clerical robes with lab smocks, priests with scientists, faith in the Bible with faith in peer reviewed publishing.

    How many here who cling to science have personally studied math beyond college level introductory calculus? How many have personally studied college level organic chemistry, biology, astronomy, or cosmology?

    How many have ever, personally conducted the oil drop experiment? Or personally dropped a feather and a hammer inside a vacuum chamber?

    How many have ever conducted any experiment at the Large Hadron Collider?

    How many even make a habit of regularly reading the full published scientific papers as contrasted with media summaries?

    My religion is based on faith. But it is a faith of many, all but countless, personal experiences.

    My belief in scientific results (like most posters here) is based much more on believing the experiences of others. And this, even with undergrad and graduate degrees in a STEM field.

  • CMTM , 00
    March 17, 2017 2:08 p.m.

    RE: Ernest T. Bass. The Olive Tree is a symbol of Israel's Religious privileges.

    Romans 11:11-31 - Gentiles Grafted In v. -24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, ... to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, ..

    Gentile Believers have a Special Relationship with Jewish Believers. In addition to their special relationship to Israel, Gentiles who have been grafted in to the Olive Tree by faith in Christ among the natural branches, have a special relationship to the ‘Jewish believers in Christ’, who are the natural branches. The two kinds of branches in the Olive Tree Jewish and Gentile=(ethnos, black or white) believers in Christ. VS

    2 Nephi 5:21-22 The Lamanites were turned black through God’s disfavor. Later in 3 Nephi 2:14-15 when some converted and joined with the more righteous Nephite group, they were turned white. Whiteness in the BoM is associated with “rightness”.

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    March 17, 2017 1:46 p.m.

    @Steve Warren: I would love to see where Native Americans were grafting olive trees, vineyards or any other type of tree for that matter.
    Agriculture got it's start in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago. Olive trees and grafting didn't exist in the New World in 600BC.

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    March 17, 2017 11:57 a.m.

    Puzzling title: "Intelligent Design vs God of the Gaps" suggests contrasting the two concepts. But Peterson defends and conflates them, insisting we embrace a (debunked) "God of the Gaps" position because "atheistic 'scientism of the gaps' is a mere promissory note".

    He hopes we will overlook the fact that his invention of an "atheism of the gaps" is not only an absurd abuse of dialectic, but one of the crudest and poorest straw man arguments I have seen in a long time!

    No atheist/non-believer dogmatically asserts that, "someday, we’ll be able to explain every single mystery as the result of purposeless natural forces".

    Purposeless natural forces? Leibniz is rolling over in his grave, mumbling "non liquet"!

    All Peterson gives us here is a highly diluted, barely re-warmed, and very poor teleological argument. He ignores the withering arguments against Paley. But he also ignores Joseph Smith's complete (and wise) rejection of "natural theology".

    Instead, the Prophet insisted that knowledge of god is solely through revelation and "human testimony only". As such, it is difficult to see how Peterson's essay is a "defense of the faith" at all.

    Non liquet!

  • Steve C. Warren WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    March 17, 2017 10:07 a.m.

    Ernest T. Bass wrote: "As olive trees didn't exist in the Americas, and neither did grafting of branches for that matter, the whole allegory of Jacob 5 would have been lost on those who lived in the Americas at that time."

    Grafting has been around for thousands of years. Besides, Jacob was born in the Old World. He and his contemporaries were familiar with olive-tree culture even if they didn't bring it to the Americas. Also, the grafting, pruning, digging, etc., have broad application in horticulture, not just to olive trees and would have been perfectly understandable in America's agrarian culture in Book of Mormon times.

  • CMTM , 00
    March 17, 2017 8:14 a.m.

    RE: observator . Jacob 5:9, the branches of the wild olive tree, and graft them in. …
    Compare Romans 11:17 the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild ‘olive tree’ wert graffed in.

    Jacob 5:7. wither away, and we will cast them into the fire that they may be burned. Compare(John 15:6 )withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

    RE: Steve C. Warren . 2 of many JS use of the Bible in the BoM, and miss-use: , “Telestial world.”

    here are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial = (G.epouranial )is one, and the glory of the terrestrial=( G. epigeia )is another.(1 Cor 15:40 KJV ) Compare,

    (1 Cor 15:40 NIV )There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.

    The term “telestial” originated with JS’s use of the Latin Vulgate in the KJV.; it appears that he took the first two letters of “(te)rrestrial” and added them on the ending of “ce(lestial)” to create the new word, “telestial.”.

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    March 17, 2017 8:11 a.m.

    Well putting it all in context. As olive trees didn't exist in the Americas, and neither did grafting of branches for that matter, the whole allegory of Jacob 5 would have been lost on those who lived in the Americas at that time. Along those lines, vineyards didn't exist either.
    Also, how did Isiah get in the brass plates when most of it hadn't been written in 600BC?

  • Thid Barker Victor, ID
    March 17, 2017 7:49 a.m.

    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
    ― Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers

  • Hope & Faith give us strength Utah County, UT
    March 17, 2017 12:46 a.m.

    Daniel Peterson,

    I often enjoy your articles for my own sake, but just as often find little tid bits where I think to myself "yeah, that aint gonna convince no one". Sometimes I think the world is so far off it's rocker that there's little we can do to reason with people who are so accustomed to their own form of rhetoric that they just can't comprehend anything else. After all, the light shines and the darkness doesn't comprehend it. That said, this was a refreshing article. I felt you made the best case possible. Why? Probably because it's the very core case I've been making all my life.

    I never argue that I'm right and that others should just accept it. I just argue the very small claim, yet to big to fit through the ego of malice, that it is merely possible that I'm right. It is possible God is real. It is just as worth exploring as empirical evidence is, less our exploring the unknown be shaped only by the minds of those who think they know everything. But alas, so many egos just can't take admitting the possibility religion is valid.

    I got a good laugh on this: "astounding botanical coincidence" It could be a book title!

  • Karen R. Houston, TX
    March 16, 2017 9:51 p.m.

    "There's no guarantee that naturalistic science will ultimately explain absolutely everything."

    This is the "you can't prove my god doesn't exist" argument, which places gods in the same company as fairies, elves, and celestial teapots. We can't prove they don't exist either.

    But this is all that religion has in the wake of thousands upon thousands of scientific discoveries that not only refute religious explanations for natural things, but provide naturalistic explanations for why man has created gods and religions for as far back as we can see.

    So, no, there's no guarantee of science explaining everything. But when the scoreboard for the last several hundred years registers thousands-plus for one player and zero for the other, is it so unreasonable to have more confidence in the former?

  • 2close2call Los Angeles, CA
    March 16, 2017 9:01 p.m.

    Religion is definitely the God of the gaps. As soon as people can't explain something they attempt to make up stuff to explain it and say they "feel" it is right. That is the definition of all religions including the LDS church in my opinion.

  • TLMerrill Martinsburg, WV
    March 16, 2017 8:57 p.m.

    And in the recent past decades, hasn't there been a prophet named Zenos whose writing was found? Coincidence? Possible... but I doubt it!

    As far as anachronisms, do this: read the book. Get it in context instead of the filter of an anti-LDS bookstore. You might find out that the only untruths you're getting are caused by not going to the actual source. It's amazing that the Book of Mormon is one of the few books on the face of the earth for which it's considered in vogue to formulate an opinion without actually reading it.

    I dare you...

  • Vandelay Industries Salt Lake City, UT
    March 16, 2017 4:12 p.m.

    @The most noble Ernest T. Bass

    In Jacob Chapter 5, Jacob is quoting a prophet named Zenos. Zenos' words were on the plates of brass, and the plates of brass were brought to the Western Hemisphere by Lehi and the gang. Zenos lived in the middle east, thus HE would have known about olive trees.

  • Vandelay Industries Salt Lake City, UT
    March 16, 2017 3:52 p.m.

    @The Most Noble Enest T. Bass

    In Jacob Chapter 5, Jacob is quoting a prophet that is named Zenos. The words of Zenos were on the plates of brass, and those were brought over with Lehi and the gang. So that means that Zenos lived in or near Jerusalem, not in the Western Hemisphere, which means he would have known about Olive Trees.

  • Steve C. Warren WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    March 16, 2017 3:37 p.m.

    @Ernest T. Bass
    "Here's a fun fact: olive trees did not exist in the Americas at that point in history. Jacob 5 is in fact anachronistic, very much so."

    You are absolutely right. It is anachronistic to the Americas. But Jacob 5:1 attributes the whole chapter to Zenos, an Old Testament prophet about whom Jacob and others apparently were quite familiar and who would have lived in olive-tree country.

  • observator east of the snake river, ID
    March 16, 2017 3:25 p.m.

    "Here's a fun fact: olive trees did not exist in the Americas at that point in history. Jacob 5 is in fact anachronistic, very much so."

    Very interesting. The story only makes sense if it had been brought from a group that initially lived in a place where olive trees existed...

  • McMurphy St George, Utah
    March 16, 2017 2:56 p.m.

    All very interesting. Regardless of what facts and science may tell us, I still have no intention in abandoning -- The Devil made me do it.

  • EscherEnigma Ridgecrest, CA
    March 16, 2017 2:31 p.m.

    The author missed the big problem of having a "Good of the gaps". It cheapens God. Everytime something that was once Divine becomes explainable, people wonder what else attributed to God isn't actually Divine.

    There are two obvious strategies to forestall this. First, don't overreach in claims of Divinity, don't demands that God is involved in every little thing, and the room to have faith undermined is reduced. But that requires humility, admitting that not everything requires God.

    The second is to attack attempts to discover and explore. This is, traditionally, the path organized religion had taken. Galileo, Darwin, the Scopes Monkey Trial... It is not an honorable path, and does nothing to glorify anyone.

  • Ernest T. Bass Bountiful, UT
    March 16, 2017 2:00 p.m.

    @Steve C Warren:
    Here's a fun fact: olive trees did not exist in the Americas at that point in history. Jacob 5 is in fact anachronistic, very much so.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    March 16, 2017 1:21 p.m.

    @Steven C Warren "...all it takes is to point to a single verse (or a single chapter like Jacob 5) that could not have been written by Joseph Smith, and, suddenly, the reader is left with a strong assumption that the whole book is of divine origin."

    The BOM is a remarkable document. There's no getting around it.

  • Steve C. Warren WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
    March 16, 2017 12:28 p.m.

    Skeptic wrote: "Why not accept that the Book of Mormon may be an inspired allegory authored by the charismatic Joseph Smith who may have been a prophet in his own way and time."

    Have you read chapter 5 of Jacob? Yes, it's a boring chapter, but it is unimaginable to me that Joseph Smith or anyone associated with him could have written something like that in 1829.

    In fact, I happen to think that even if people see the Book of Mormon and its storyline as questionable, all it takes is to point to a single verse (or a single chapter like Jacob 5) that could not have been written by Joseph Smith, and, suddenly, the reader is left with a strong assumption that the whole book is of divine origin.

  • observator east of the snake river, ID
    March 16, 2017 11:53 a.m.

    "...a great Hebrew nation here in the Americas..."

    Please cite where, in the Book of Mormon, there is a "great Hebrew nation" discussed. The book claims that there are some large civilizations, but it does not make any claim that they are majority ethnic Hebrew.

    To make this claim on behalf of the book, you are presuming that the book **itself** states that no other people were on the American continent prior to the Jaredite landing. The book, however, makes no such claim (though some Mormons have). Your claim of a large ethnic Hebrew nation is a strawman argument, allowing you to dismiss the BofM out of hand. Call it the "ethnicity of the gaps..."

    "Geologic record vs biblical chronology. They both can't be right, can they?"

    Who said they had to be. I have no problem seeing biblical chronology as either symbolic and/or (very) incomplete.

  • Michael_M Scottsbluff, NE
    March 16, 2017 11:00 a.m.

    @marxist
    Some LDS members have tried to explain humans in the Americas prior to 6,000 years ago as hominids whose spirits were not spirit children of a Heavenly Father. Filling the gap by making ancient ancestors of American Indians soulless animals might work for some, it didn't for me. See the Meridian Magazine article "Were there Men before Adam and other Hard Questions" By William A. Dargan, April 2, 2014

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    March 16, 2017 10:21 a.m.

    Well here's a gigantic "gap." We have the geologic record. It is so established and verifiable as to be rock solid (pardon the pun). This encompasses migrations from Asia into the Americas about 10,000 years ago. But this cannot be reconciled with biblical chronology. What does a person of faith do with this?

    Geologic record vs biblical chronology. They both can't be right, can they?

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    March 16, 2017 9:24 a.m.

    Perhaps more appropriately would be for Dr. Peterson to address the issues of Mormon of Gaps. He continuously attempts to authenticate the Book of Mormon with the use of esoteric terms of chiasm, visions, willing witnesses, etc. These are all just debatable alternative facts, in today's jargon. The true fact, truth, and reality is that there never was a great Hebrew nation here in the Americas; as told in the Book of Mormon story. Ergo, how are all of Dr. Peterson other argument relative to the central theme of the truth of the Book of Mormon. It is a giant Gap of Mormonism. Why not accept that the Book of Mormon may be an inspired allegory authored by the charismatic Joseph Smith who may have been a prophet in his own way and time.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    March 16, 2017 8:35 a.m.

    Human impatience spurs us to get ahead of ourselves in finding answers. Curiosity to know things, to understand, are what make us human. We may never know all we aspire to know. But neither can we stop wondering and imagining.

  • John Marx Layton, UT
    March 16, 2017 8:34 a.m.

    From the article:

    "There’s no guarantee that naturalistic science will ultimately explain absolutely everything."

    I agree. There is no guarantee. But it certiainly is trending that way. Have supernatural explainations ever overturned natural explainations? Yet natural explainations have time and again overturned supernatural or mythitical explainations.