Among the metaphysically inclined, there is a strange concept know as ‘God of the gaps’. It’s source has been ascribed to 19th century theologian and preacher Henry Drummond. Does ‘God’ or ‘spirituality’ reside in the gaps in our scientific knowledge of the universe? If so it seemed as if God was doomed to evaporate like a puddle after a torrential downpour. The term has been utilized to compare the progress of scientific knowledge with the mystery that God or spirituality has often inhabited.
With the advent of science beginning in the 17th century, the ultimate mystery of existence has been steadily and progressively been replaced by scientific knowledge. A projection into the future would have pleased any hard-core atheist and skeptic. It was leading to an eventual disappearance of any ‘gap’ in understanding about the nature of reality and consequently the elimination for any need for a spiritual dimension to reality.
Such confidence in the eventual dissolution of any mystery or "God of the gaps’ in understanding was palpable in Western intellectual thought up until the twentieth century. The French cosmologist Pierre de La Place was asked by Napoleon why he did not mention God in his description of the origin of the universe. He famously repled, ‘Sire, I had no need for that hypothesis’.
The celebration of human reason over spirituality is apparently rather premature. The twentieth century introduced the powerful and perplexing concepts in physics known as relativity theory and quantum theory. Without venturing into their descriptions, it is quite clear to anyone who attempts to comprehend them, that they fly in the face of ‘commonsene’ understand of the nature of reality. Rather than eliminate mystery of the ‘gap’ they rather increase it.
The twenty-first century has offered very little relief from such mystery. Physicists have been unable to come up with the long desired ‘theory of everything’ to incorporate both relativity and quantum theory. The much vaunted superstring theory of the universe is offering more mystery than explanation and remains highly controversial
Even more stunning to many is the realization that all the known matter in the universe–galaxies, solar systems, stars, planets, people, molecules, atoms even subatomic particles represent only about 4% of the entire universe. The rest seems to be composesd partly of dark matter and mostly by dark energy. One small problem–no one know what they really are!
‘God of the gaps’ anyone?