It is not only theists who commit God-of-the-gaps fallacies (“I can’t explain it, therefore God must have done it”).
Stephen Hawking, in his new book ‘The Grand Design’ claims that there is no need to postulate a god who lit the blue touch paper and set off the Big Bang:-
Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.
Christians in Science and Technology has gathered a wide range of responses from eminent scientists, philosophers and religious leaders. One of the leading themes in these responses is that Hawking is himself guilty of god-of-the-gaps thinking.
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, comments:-
Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence…
Physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing.
Professor John Lennox says:-
What Hawking appears to have done is to confuse law with agency. His call on us to choose between God and physics is a bit like someone demanding that we choose between aeronautical engineer Sir Frank Whittle and the laws of physics to explain the jet engine.
That is a confusion of category. The laws of physics can explain how the jet engine works, but someone had to build the thing, put in the fuel and start it up. The jet could not have been created without the laws of physics on their own – but the task of development and creation needed the genius of Whittle as its agent.
Professor Eric Priest, FRS, asserts that
…to rule out a possibly important role for God is in my view unjustified. It is certainly possible that God sets up and maintains or underpins the laws of physics and allows them to work, so that being able to explain the big bang in terms of physics is not inconsistent with there being a role for God.
Dr Denis Alexander tackles the god-of-the-gaps problem head-on:-
The ‘god’ that Stephen Hawking is trying to debunk is not the creator God of the Abrahamic faiths who really is the ultimate explanation for why there is something rather than nothing. Hawking’s god is a god-of-the-gaps used to plug present gaps in our scientific knowledge.
Professor George Ellis, president of the International Society for Science and Religion, is quoted as saying his biggest problem with Hawking’s theories is that they present the public with “a choice – either science or religion.”
Professor Paul Davies, though not himself a theist, asks,
Can the multiverse provide a complete and closed account of all physical existence? Not quite. The multiverse comes with a lot of baggage, such as an overarching space and time to host all those bangs, a universe-generating mechanism to trigger them, physical fields to populate the universes with material stuff, and a selection of forces to make things happen. Cosmologists embrace these features by envisaging sweeping “meta-laws” that pervade the multiverse and spawn specific bylaws on a universe-by-universe basis. The meta-laws themselves remain unexplained – eternal, immutable transcendent entities that just happen to exist and must simply be accepted as given. In that respect the meta-laws have a similar status to an unexplained transcendent god.