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7.14 Arguments from Ignorance

Eugenie Scott, along with Glenn Branch and other critics, has argued that many points raised by Intelligent Design proponents are arguments from ignorance. In the argument from ignorance, a lack of evidence for one view is erroneously argued to constitute proof of the correctness of another view. Scott and Branch say that Intelligent Design is an argument from ignorance because it relies on a lack of knowledge for its conclusion: lacking a natural explanation for certain specific aspects of evolution, we assume intelligent cause.

Intelligent Design has also been characterized as a “god of the gaps” argument, which has the following form:

  • There is a gap in scientific knowledge.
  • The gap is filled with acts of God (or Intelligent designer) and therefore proves the existence of God (or Intelligent designer).

A god-of-the-gaps argument is the theological version of an argument from ignorance. A key feature of this type of argument is that it merely answers outstanding questions with explanations (often supernatural) that are unverifiable and ultimately themselves subject to unanswerable questions.