The case for God is not a case of the God of the gaps

Posted on October 9, 2017 By

the god of the gaps

We don’t know how life came to exist, so let’s just give up and assume that God did it!” Atheists are fond of portraying theism as the God of the gaps,  or a means of filling in gaps in current scientific knowledge. But, quite to the contrary, what we currently know about biology leads inexorably to the conclusion that life was created by a mind (read: God). Geneticist Francis Collins, the leader of the Human Genome Project and currently the director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States, put it best:

There are good reasons to believe in God, including the existence of mathematical principles and order in creation. They are positive reasons, based on knowledge, rather than default assumptions based on a temporary lack of knowledge.

What is one of these positive reasons which is based on knowledge (rather than a lack of knowledge)? A good place to start would be the fact that the genetic code, the language of life, conveys meaning through symbolic representation, in a very similar manner to human language. And meaning is something which can only exist in the mind of a conscious and intelligent agent.

Atheism is grounded in the philosophy known as materialism, which suggests that all that exists is various arrangements of matter and energy. But if it were true that nothing exists except matter and energy, living things would be completely specified by their physical and chemical properties. Nowhere among such properties will you find a property known as meaning. Put another way, material things such as rocks, thunderstorms, or the chair you are sitting in cannot be about anything. Meaning is not a property of mindless matter and energy, and can only be assigned by a conscious and intelligent agent, period.

Many of the principles of human language apply to DNA, the language of life.

In the primary text on the application of algorithmic information theory to the question of the origin of life, titled Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Lifephysicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey explains how many of the principles of human language are also applicable to the genetic code, the language of life:

“Information, transcription, translation, code, redundancy, synonymous, messenger, editing, and proofreading are all appropriate terms in biology. They take their meaning from information theory (Shannon, 1948) and are not synonyms, metaphors, or analogies.” [1]

Symbolic representation is necessarily the product of a mind.

Symbolic representation, such as the complex set of instructions symbolically communicated by the genetic code, requires a conscious and intelligent agent. Such is the case because the meaning which symbols convey is entirely arbitrary, and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. For example, the letters C-A-T serve as a symbolic representation of a furry animal that purrs and meows only because the intelligent agents who created the English language arbitrarily assigned this meaning to this set of symbols. There is no physical or chemical relationship between these symbols and what they serve to represent, only a mental relationship.

This is further illustrated by the fact that a set of symbols can have entirely different meanings in different languages. Yockey (in Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life) eloquently explains this crucial point:

The messages conveyed by sequences of symbols sent through a communication system generally have meaning (otherwise, why are we sending them?). It often is overlooked that the meaning of a sequence of letters, if any, is arbitrary. It is determined by the natural language and is not a property of the letters or their arrangement. For example, the English word “hell” means “bright” in German, “fern” means “far,” “gift” means “poison,” “bald” means “soon,” “boot” means “boat,” and “singe” means “sing.” In French “pain” means “bread,” “ballot” means a “bundle,” “coin” means a “corner or a wedge,” “chair” means “flesh,” “cent” means “hundred,” “son” means “his,” “tire” means a “pull,” and “ton” means “your.”

In French, the English word “main” means “hand,” “sale” means “dirty.” French-speaking visitors to English-speaking countries will be astonished at department stores having a “sale” and especially if it is the “main sale.” This confusion of meaning goes as far as sentences. For example, “0 singe fort” has no meaning in English, although each is an English word, yet in German it means “0 sing on,” and in French it means “0 strong monkey.” [2]

The genetic code is a literally like a human language. This is no metaphor.

At this point, one can almost hear atheists shouting, “Suggesting that the genetic code is a language is only a metaphor, or a figure of speech! It is not literally true!” But, an entire school of thought in biology called biosemiotics considers language to be a primary lens through which living things must be understood, as Perry Marshall points out in his book Evolution 2.0. Marshall elaborates on the scientific reasons why the genetic code is a language in the most literal, not metaphorical, sense:

Rutgers University professor Sungchul Ji’s excellent paper The Linguistics of DNA: Words, Sentences, Grammar, Phonetics, and Semantics starts off, “Biologic systems and processes cannot be fully accounted for in terms of the principles and laws of physics and chemistry alone, but they require in addition the principles of semiotics— the science of symbols and signs, including linguistics.”

Ji identifies 13 characteristics of human language. DNA shares 10 of them. Cells edit DNA. They also communicate with each other and literally speak a language he called “cellese,” described as “a self-organizing system of molecules, some of which encode, act as signs for, or trigger, gene-directed cell processes.”

This comparison between cell language and human language is not a loosey-goosey analogy; it’s formal and literal. Human language and cell language both employ multilayered symbols. Dr. Ji explains this similarity in his paper: “Bacterial chemical conversations also include assignment of contextual meaning to words and sentences (semantic) and conduction of dialogue (pragmatic)— the fundamental aspects of linguistic communication.” This is true of genetic material. Signals between cells do this as well. [3]

It is a case of the God of what we know, not the God of the gaps.

The arrangement of symbols (such as letters) according to a language is not something that can be accomplished, even in principle, by unintelligent physical or chemical processes. Werner Gitt is a former Director and Professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig) and former head of the Department of Information Technology. In his book Without Excuse, he discusses the substitutive function of what he terms “Universal Information “(UI), as it relates to the genetic code, the language of life:

Universal Information is always an abstract representation of some other existing entity. Universal Information is never the item (object) or the fact (event, idea) itself but rather the coded symbols serve as a substitute for the entities that are being represented. Different languages often use different sets of symbols and usually different symbol sequences to represent the same material object or concept. Consider the following examples:

-The words in a newspaper, consisting of a sequence of letters, substitute for an event that happened at an earlier time and in some other place,

-The words in a novel, consisting of sequences of letters, substitute for characters and their actions,

-The notes of a musical score substitute for music that will be played later on musical instruments,

-The chemical formula for benzene substitutes for the toxic liquid that is kept in a flask in a chemistry laboratory,

-The genetic codons (three-letter words) of the DNA molecule substitute for specific amino acids that are bonded together in a specific sequence to form a protein. [4]

The substitutive function of the the symbols in a code or language is something that can only be set up by the activity of a conscious and intelligent mind because, again, what a set of symbols serve to substitute for is entirely arbitrary and cannot be a property of the symbols themselves. Symbolic representation is by necessity a mental process. As information scientist Henry Quastler put it, “The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” Biologists with less rigid ideological commitments to atheism (or at least more intellectual integrity) have been frank enough to admit the necessity of mind (a conscious and intelligent agent) in the origin of life. The Nobel Prize-winning, Harvard University biologist George Wald, although certainly not an ideological ally of theism, admitted the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium titled Life and Mind in the Universe:

It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.[5]

The genetic code is a language (because it utilizes abstract, substitutive, symbolic representation) that is very similar to a computer language. Microsoft founder Bill Gates writes, “Human DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any we’ve ever created.” Natural processes do not create anything even vaguely resembling a computer program. Gitt makes this point clear in his book In the Beginning Was Information:

…According to a frequently quoted statement by the American mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) information cannot be a physical entity: “Information is information, neither matter nor energy. Any materialism which disregards this will not survive one day.” Werner Strombach, a German information scientist of Dortmund, emphasizes the non-material nature of information by defining it as an “enfolding of order at the level of contemplative cognition.” Hans-Joachim Flechtner, a German cyberneticist, referred to the fact that information is of a mental nature, both because of its contents and because of the encoding process. This aspect is, however, frequently underrated:

“When a message is composed, it involves the coding of its mental content, but the message itself is not concerned about whether the contents are important or unimportant, valuable, useful, or meaningless. Only the recipient can evaluate the message after decoding it.”

It should now be clear that information, being a fundamental entity, cannot be a property of matter, and its origin cannot be explained in terms of material processes. We therefore formulate the following theorem. Theorem 1: The fundamental quantity of information is a non-material (mental) entity. It is not a property of matter, so that purely material processes are fundamentally precluded as sources of information. [6]

Atheism relies on mindless material processes to explain life. But the insurmountable problem for atheism is that such mindless processes can never account for the fact that the genetic code is a language which utilizes arrangements of symbols with arbitrarily assigned meanings…just like a human language. Much as the chemistry of the ink and paper that constitute a newspaper cannot explain the arrangement of the letters in the words of a newspaper, the chemistry of a DNA molecule cannot explain the arrangement of letters in a DNA molecule. Michael Polanyi, a former Chairman of Physical Chemistry at the University of Manchester (UK), who was famous for his important theoretical contributions to physical chemistry, emphasizes this point:

As the arrangement of a printed page is extraneous to the chemistry of the printed page, so is the base sequence in a DNA molecule extraneous to the chemical forces at work in the DNA molecule. It is this physical indeterminacy of the sequence that produces the improbability of occurrence of any particular sequence and thereby enables it to have meaning–a meaning that has a mathematically determinate information content. [7]

Like a game of whack-a-mole, mind re-emerges as the source for life among atheists

Indeed, it would be just as absurd to assert that mindless physical or chemical processes could write a newspaper article as it would be to assert that such processes could produce a DNA sequence. Ultra-elite atheist biologists such as Richard Dawkins, from Oxford University, (author of The God Delusion) and Francis Crick (famous as co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix) surely know this, which is why they hypothesize that life was brought to Earth by aliens in their spaceship. (Click here to watch a video of Richard Dawkins endorsing this hypothesis in an interview, and click here to read an article about how Crick endorsed this hypothesis in his book Life Itself). So, much like a game of whack-a-mole, mind re-emerges as the source for life even among the biologists most ideologically committed to denying that one mind in particular (God) created life. As David Berlinski sardonically points out, this is what Sigmund Freud was referring to when he spoke of “the return of the repressed.”

1. Hubert P. Yockey. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (Kindle Locations 128-129). Kindle Edition

2. Hubert P. Yockey. Information Theory, Evolution, and The Origin of Life (Kindle Locations 137-138). Kindle Edition

3. Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design (p. 167). Kindle edition

4. Gitt, Werner. Without Excuse, p. 73

5. Wald, George. Life and Mind in the Universe. Source: International Journal of Quantum Chemistry, Volume 26, Issue Supplement 11, 16 APR 2008

6. Gitt, Werner. In the Beginning Was Information (Kindle Locations 427-428). Kindle Edition

7. Michael Polanyi, Life’s Irreducible Structure. Source: Science, Jun. 21, 1968, pp. 1308-1312



  1. ResidentAtheist says:

    LOL. Love the cartoon. Sarcasm can be hilarious, don’t you think? It’s obviously sarcasm as we all know that miracles/supernatural doesn’t exist.

    Life was created by the mind of a god? That would imply that this god has a brain and this god has a body to contain said brain. I suppose we should establish what god this is before we start assigning attributes to it. Zeus, Odin, Thor or one of the many many other gods that man has created.

    It also assumes life had a start. Where is it written that life “started”? Where is it written that the universe had a start? Why couldn’t life have always existed as a natural by-product of an eternal/infinite natural universe? We know the Big Bang was not the beginning of the universe. Where would the original singularity have come from? You can’t get something from nothing. When I say nothing I literally mean nothing. We know there wasn’t any god(s) that created it. It is absurd to think that man could create a god that actually exists. The supernatural couldn’t exist in a natural universe. Looks to me like the only possibility is an eternal universe. Even an expanding/contracting universe would be eternal. Perhaps the expanding/contracting universe is the correct answer but unlikely. What would it expand into?

    Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth. – Arthur Conan Doyle

    Resident Atheist

    • God Evidence says:

      Resident Atheist,

      Suggesting that consciousness requires a brain stems from the philosophical stance known as materialism, and not a science. A better description of the human brain (metaphorically speaking) would be to compare it to a TV set. Just as a TV set does not actually produce TV shows, but only receives them, the human brain is a receiver of consciousness. Please go to about 2 min 30 sec into the BBC documentary titled The Day I Died to watch Dutch consciousness researcher Dr. Pim Van Lommel describe the brain in such terms.

      Frank Turek comments on how materialism (in which atheism is rooted) refutes itself by declaring that there are no immaterial conscious entities such as God or human souls, because consciousness is really nothing more than the activity of atoms in the brain:

      Atheist evolutionary biologist J. B. S. Haldane put it well. He wrote, “If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true . . . and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” He also has no reason to trust anything he believes, including atheism or evolution.

      Atheist Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, affirmed Haldane’s material view of reality. In what he called “an astonishing hypothesis,” Crick wrote, “The Astonishing Hypothesis is that ‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

      If atheism is true, he’s exactly right. But he didn’t see the problem Haldane saw. Perhaps Crick would have seen that problem if he had applied his hypothesis to his own work. Imagine if Dr. Crick had written this: “The Astonishing Hypothesis is that my scientific conclusions that I write in this book are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

      Physicist Stephen Barr reflects Turek’s above point about the self-refuting nature of materialism in Modern Physics and Ancient Faith. If humans are nothing but material brains with no soul, then human thoughts are nothing but patterns of nerve impulses in the brain. But how could a pattern of nerve impulses in the brain contain truth (or falsehood)? Nerve impulses can no more be true or false than the chair you are sitting in:

      “Cognitive scientists talk about neurons, for example. But “neuron” itself is an abstract concept that arose from the researches of biologists. For the materialist, then, even this concept of ‘neuron’ is nothing but a neurological creation; it also is a pattern of neurons firing in someone’s brain. If this sounds like a vicious circle, it is. We explain certain biological phenomena using the abstract concept “neuron,” and then we proceed to explain the abstract concept “neuron” as a biological phenomenon—indeed, a biological phenomenon produced by the activity of neurons. What we are observing here is the snake eating its own tail, or rather its own head. The very theory which says that theories are neurons firing is itself naught but neurons firing.

      …Why should anyone believe the materialist, then? If ideas are just patterns of nerve impulses, then how can one say that any idea (including the idea of materialism itself) is superior to any other? One pattern of nerve impulses cannot be truer or less true than any other pattern, any more than a toothache can be truer or less true than another toothache.”

      You write, “Where is it written that the universe had a start?

      Janna Levin, from the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University writes:

      “The universe had a beginning. There was once nothing and now there is something.”

      A universe with a finite past requires a beginning, which in turn requires a transcendent (or supernatural) cause. This is why our universe must be eternal for atheism to be valid. But Big Bang cosmology has shown that the universe is NOT eternal. In New Proofs for the Existence of God, Robert J. Spitzer (who was assisted by Dr. Stephen Barr of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware) reveals that:

      “Prior to Einstein’s publication of the General Theory of Relativity, one could have thought that supernatural design was completely unnecessary because it was believed (in accordance with Newton’s postulates) that the universe existed for an infinite amount of time with an infinite amount of space and an infinite amount of interacting content. Therefore, there would have been an infinite number of ‘tries’ [for randomness to produce an orderly universe] to bring about virtually any degree of complexity.”

      “Standard Big Bang cosmology totally changed these postulates, and reduced the total number of ‘tries’ in the observable universe to a very finite number…..This comparatively small number of ‘total possible mass energy interactions in the universe for all time’ revealed the extreme improbability of high degrees of complexity arising out of the universe by pure chance.”

      Further, this book also states that “David Hilbert (the father of finite mathematics) has given new probative force and depth to the argument for the intrinsic finitude of past time (implying a timeless creator) in his article On The Infinite.”

      Hilbert (among the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century) said:

      “The infinite [as in infinite past time] is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite…is solely that of an idea.”

      Many other contemporary mathematicians (such as mathematicians Frankel, Rotman, Kneebone, Zermelo, and Robinson) draw the same conclusion. Mathematicians Rotman and Kneebone state in The Theory of Sets and Transfinite Numbers:

      “The conception of an infinite sequence of choices (or any other acts)…is a mathematical fiction—an idealization of what is imaginable only in finite cases.”

      But rather than just taking some highly prominent mathematicians at their word, wouldn’t it be nice to understand for oneself just why infinite past time is mathematically impossible? Fortunately, the mathematical concepts herein are easily accessible to non-mathematicians. Below is an excerpt from The Case for the Creator by Lee Strobel and features an interview the author conducted with William Lane Craig:

      “Let’s use an example involving marbles,” he said. “Imagine I had an infinite number of marbles in my possession, and that I wanted to give you some. In fact, suppose I wanted to give you an infinite number of marbles. One way I could do that would be to give you the entire pile of marbles. In that case I would have zero marbles left for myself.”

      “However, another way to do it would be to give you all of the odd numbered marbles. Then I would still have an infinity left over for myself, and you would have an infinity too. You’d have just as many as I would–and, in fact, each of us would have just as many as I originally had before we divided into odd and even! Or another approach would be for me to give you all of the marbles numbered four and higher. That way, you would have an infinity of marbles, but I would only have three marbles left.”

      “What these illustrations demonstrate is that the notion of an actual infinite number of things leads to contradictory results. In the first case in which I gave you all the marbles, infinity minus infinity is zero; in the second case in which I gave you all the odd-numbered marbles, infinity minus infinity is infinity; and in the third case in which I gave you all the marbles numbered four and greater, infinity minus infinity is three. In each case, we have subtracted the identical number from the identical number, but we have come up with nonidentical results.”

      “For that reason, mathematicians are forbidden from doing subtraction and division in transfinite arithmetic, because this would lead to contradictions. You see, the idea of an actual infinity is just conceptual; it exists only in our minds.”

      And lastly, in 2003, physicists Borde, Vilenkin and Guth corroborated to formulate a proof that demonstrates that an eternal universe is not possible. It is known as the BVG theorem. Alexander Vilenkin is very blunt in regard to the implications of this proof:

      “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176).

      It should be noted that this proof applies to any proposed “multiverse” or “oscillating universe,” etc. in which our universe may be situated. Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow (the founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) echoes Vilenkin’s above comments:

      “The lingering decline predicted by astronomers for the end of the world differs from the explosive conditions they have calculated for its birth, but the impact is the same: modern science denies an eternal existence to the Universe, either in the past or in the future.“

      To explore this subject matter in more detail, please read this article.

  2. […] basis for the conclusion that life is the result of an intelligence (read: God)? As I discuss in The Case for God is not a Case of the God-of-the-Gaps, DNA, the language of life, conveys meaning through symbolic representation, in a very similar […]

  3. […] natural causes. I explain some of the logical reasons for my disbelief in posts such as The Case for God is not a Case of the God of the Gaps and Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without […]

  4. […] what is the evidence that evolution is actually the result of an intelligent cause? As I discuss in The case for God is not a case of the God of the gaps, the genetic code is a language in the most literal sense. This is no metaphor. An excerpt from that […]

  5. […] I discuss in The Case for God is not a Case of the God-of-the-Gaps, the genetic code conveys meaning through symbolic representation, in a very similar manner to […]

  6. […] claims that life resulted from unintelligent natural processes, for reasons which I describe in The Case for God is Not a Case of the God of the Gaps and Why Life Could Not Have Emerged Without […]

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