(Let’s join a quiz show in progress)
Quiz show host: “What is inside of the black box on the table?”
Quiz show host: “No, I’m sorry that’s incorrect. There’s nothing inside of the box. See?” (Lifts box and there’s nothing inside)
Quiz show host: “Next question. Who is standing behind the curtain?”
Quiz show host: “No, I’m sorry that’s incorrect. It’s my wife standing behind there. Come on out honey and show yourself” (loud applause)
Quiz show host: “Final question. What is printed all over my under shorts?”
Quiz show host: “No, I’m sorry that’s incorrect. The correct answer is little pink flowers. I was in a hurry this morning and I grabbed them out of the wrong drawer. Sorry honey.” (looking at wife)
Quiz show host: “Mr. Preacher. You’ve missed every question on tonight’s show. Why is it that you answered every question with God?”
Preacher: “Because all of my life I’ve been taught that when there is something that’s not known, the answer is always God.”
The moral to this story is that if a person doesn’t know the answer to a question, it’s a lot less embarrassing to say “I don’t know” rather than jump to the conclusion that their favorite God has something to do with it.
In the past, gods have been invoked to explain rainfall, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, physical illness, mental illness, eclipses, the outcome of battles and wars, etc…
This attributing god(s) to the mystery of unknowns is known as worshipping the “God of the gaps” (gaps in understanding).
Of course today we know better and look back with some pity and amusement at people jumping to such conclusions. But ironically people are still making the same mistake with today’s unknowns such as the origins of the universe. To many religious people, the answer is automatically the same as it has been for thousands of years: whatever god or gods they happen to believe in were involved.
As a discipline, scientists have learned to courageously leave a question mark where it belongs. It’s a lot less embarrassing that way.