Conclusion Driven Philosophy of Religion: Victor Reppert's God of the Gaps Argument

I wrote the book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. Christian apologist Reppert has not read it, and I don't expect him to, even after reading this post of mine where I explain why he should. Maybe others will. He recently put forth a God of the gaps argument which begins by acknowledging some sort of puzzling phenomenon that science cannot explain, which is supposed to lead to the existence of his sect-specific god. This argument is one example among many of conclusion driven philosophy of religion used in defense of Christian faith. It's Christian apologetics plain and simple, something taught by him as an instructor at two of Arizona's secular colleges, Arizona State University and Glendale Community College. Today's lesson, boys and girls, is to present this concrete example of what I mean when I say philosophy of religion must end.

This is Reppert's version of a god of the gaps argument:
(1) There is some puzzling phenomenon P which science cannot at present explain.
(2) If naturalism is true, then we should have expected science to have explained this already.
(3) Theism does explain P.
(4) Therefore, P is more likely on the assumption that God exists than on the assumption God does not exist.

God of the gaps arguments are often accused of being appeals to ignorance. But isn't it possible, somewhere along the way if not now, that our ignorance will prove to be itself naturalistically surprising? LINK.
I'm going to show one way to properly respond to arguments like this one. I'll not deal with it on it's own terms. I just want to highlight the fact that his argument is conclusion driven. It should be obvious to every non-believer on the planet. It should be obvious to every informed person on the planet. It should be obvious to every scientific minded person on the planet. Any conclusion driven argument should be exposed for what it really is, conclusion driven. Once exposed for what it really is the argument shouldn't be taken seriously until such time as Reppert presents an argument that isn't conclusion driven. When I say an argument shouldn't be taken seriously I mean we merely need to expose it as conclusion driven. It's probably the best we can do in many cases. Doing so is good enough, even though there's much more we can do.

Notice the kind of theism Reppert is arguing for, his sect-specific kind of Christian god, the one known in the English language as "God" with a capital "G", the Christian god in the Christianized English speaking world, and more specifically his evangelical god. For Reppert's argument doesn't conclude the Islamic "Allah" or the Jewish "Yahweh" or the Jehovah's Witness "Jehovah" exists, nor Zeus nor others. So we know Reppert is being parochial at best, excluding from consideration all other gods but his own from the get-go, as the conclusion of his argument. We see it first in his premises, since almost any god or religion provides believers with an explanation for the same kind of phenomenon under investigation, not just his particular kind of "Theism". Other Theisms such as Pan-theism, poly-theism, pan-en-theism, and even open-theism don't make the grade either. Reppert doesn't even offer any criteria to help exclude other gods and -isms as explanations, since any of them worthy of belief (an oxymoron) can be inserted as an explanation for the gaps in scientific knowledge. So Reppert's argument is obviously conclusion driven. He states it as if he made the case for X (his Christianized evangelical god) rather than Y (one or more nebulous undefined, as yet, supernatural forces or beings) which he really argued for. Non-believers must hold these uninformed apologists to what their arguments actually show, and reject any of their logically fallacious conclusions that go beyond the arguments themselves.

Reppert cannot retort in response that he has other arguments leading to his Evangelical Christian god (which I dispute), for I'm holding his feet to the fire of what the argument he presented should conclude, if correct (one or more nebulous undefined, as yet, supernatural forces or beings), not what he claims it concludes, if correct (his sect-specific god). I'm refusing to let him go beyond the argument itself. I'm pointing out it's obviously conclusion driven. At the very minimum he overstates his case. A whole lot. A huge whole lot.

Reppert's argument is obviously special pleading, one based in several cognitive biases including confirmation bias, what has been called the mother of all biases, except for that bigger unrecognized as yet, cognitive bias, faith itself. I've defended the claim that all Christian apologetics is special pleading in my book, How to Defend the Christian Faith: Advice from an Atheist, another book of mine Reppert has not read.

Since Reppert's argument is a case of special pleading based on being uninformed and scientifically illiterate, then philosophically minded non-believers are not adequately responding to him when treating his argument as a philosophical puzzle to be solved. They are granting way too much. They're allowing him to slip his Christianized god into the argument without arguing for it, or providing evidence for it, using a sleight of hand Houdini would be proud to witness. They are responding to ignorance with ignorance. I've seen some really important atheist thinkers/philosophers do this. I'm calling for this to end in the universities, and beyond that to the blogosphere and the streets. Since Christian apologists construct arguments from the conclusions up, due to a "faith that seeks understanding", atheist thinkers/philosophers should expose what they do for what it really is, special pleading based on conclusion driven arguments.

It's really a two-step process. Don't neglect the second step, which could function quite well on its own, without even dealing with such nonsense as Reppert's obfuscationist rhetoric substituting for an argument. The first step, as I just explained here, can soften believers up to consider the objective evidence though, since faith is an objective evidence stopper.

First we should expose their arguments for what they really are, conclusion driven special pleading based on confirmation bias, then secondly, we should force believers to consider the objective evidence to the contrary. Consider having believers read books like my anthology Christianity in the Light of Science: Critically Examining the World's Largest Religion, which is another book Reppert has not read.

When apologists want us to chase them down the rabbit's hole of definitions about words like "extraordinary claims" or "miracles", we should instead talk in terms of concrete examples, like the levitating threesome in the gospels, or an ass that talked, or Elijah's challenge to the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (I Kings 18), or the lack of objective evidence for petitionary prayer, or evolution and its implications, or a virgin who had a baby (in an era where other virgin births were believed) and/or resurrections. Anything less than this is doing less than the optimum. It's playing games with arguments. It's merely puzzle solving for the joy of puzzle solving, rather than following the wise advice of Marx, who quipped, the goal isn't to understand the world but to change it (paraphrased). It's to basically be an Uncle Tom to the majority who just happen to be the majority.