Knowledge up, god down

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A "god of the gaps" diagram[1], suggesting that the origin of life from chemicals, heat, and electricity is the last "gap" or receding "pocket" of god.[2] The historical trend being that as knowledge ↑ increases, belief in god (and metaphysics) ↓ decreases.

In quotes, knowledge up, god down (LH:2) refers to the 18th century arisen postulate that the use of god and metaphysics, as explanatory tools, decreases in direct proportion to the gain or increase in knowledge, particularly in the areas of "nature" (Holbach, 1770) and "mechanics" (Boulainvilliers, c.1710).


In 467BC, Anaxagoras, after studying a fallen meteorite, deduced, based on knowledge of this "evidence" in respect to related data in respect to stellar movements, that the sun was not a "god", aka sun god, Apollo, or Helios, but rather a hot glowing fiery rock of some sort.

In 438BC, in Greece, a law was passed, aimed at curtailing Anaxagoras-like thinking, which stated that “society must denounce those who do not believe in the divine beings or who teach doctrines about things in the sky”.[3]

In c.1500, when people began to come out of the dark ages, and in the various enlightenment periods to follow, particularly French enlightenment, followed by English enlightenment, and possibly some day "American enlightenment", people began to discern the view that with gain in knowledge came less reliance on god, god baggage, scientific god synonyms, and or metaphysics, etc., as an explanation of phenomena.

Knowledge ↑ yields god ↓ metaphysics ↓

The following three similar knowledge of mechanics / nature increase ↑ is proportional to metaphysics / god decrease ↓ quotes:

“Our earth, our skies, everything contributes to the formation of species. The uniformity of organisms is not surprising, because all animals and plants are formed under the same circumstances; but it must be true that in the same measure as our knowledge of mechanics will increase, the necessity of metaphysics will diminish and when one is perfect the other will be zero, that is to say nil.”
— Henri Boulainvilliers (c.1710), “Origin of Beings and Species”; cited by Philipp Blom (2010) in A Wicked Company (pg. 19)[4]
“If the ignorance ↑ of nature gave birth to such a variety of gods, the knowledge ↓ of this nature is calculated to destroy them.”
Baron Holbach (1770), The System of Nature (pg. 174)
“If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature is made for their destruction.”
Percy Shelley (1811), The Necessity of Atheism (pg. 38)[5]

Shelley's quote is uncited; but we know he read Holbach's System of Nature. The Boulainvilliers quote appeared anonymously in France first; presumably Holbach read this.

Gap | Pocket

In 1880s, going forward, the knowledge up, god down idiom, began to be referred to in terms of gaps or pockets; the following are representative quotes:

“Into every gap they [priests] put their delusion, their stopgap, which they called ‘god’.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1885), Thus Spoke Zarathustra (pg. 220)
“There are reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of ‘nature’ and the books of ‘science’ in search of gaps — gaps which they will fill up with god. As if god lived in gaps! What view of nature or of ‘truth’ is theirs whose interest in science is not in what it can explain, but in what it cannot, whose quest is ignorance, not knowledge, whose daily dread is that the cloud may lift, and who, as darkness melts from this field or from that, begin to tremble for the place of his abode? What needs altering in such finely jealous souls is at once their view of nature and of god. Nature is god's writing, and can only tell the truth.”
— Henry Drummond (1894), The Ascent of Man (pg. 333)[6]
God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance.”
Neil Tyson (2011), “Interview: the Moon, the Tides, and why Neil Tyson is Golbert’s God”, Jan 20 [7]

End matter


  1. God of the gaps –
  2. See: abioism.
  3. Hecht, Jennifer. (2003). Doubt (pg. 10). Publisher.
  4. (a) Boulainvilliers, Henri. (c.1710). “Origin of Beings and Species: Fruit of an Imperfectly Retained Conversation” (“Origine des etres et especies, fruit d’une conversation retenue imparfaitement”), Rivista di Storia della Filosofia (1994), 1:169-92.
    (b) Note: Blom says that his quote appeared in an anonymous publication; but cited Boulainvilliers in quotes.
  5. Shelley, Percy. (1813). The Necessity of Atheism and Other Essays (§: Necessity of Atheism:Revised and Expanded (Note to Queen Mab), pgs. 31-44). Prometheus, 1993.
  6. Drummond, Henry. (1894). The Ascent of Man (pg. 333), Lowell Lecture. Pott.
  7. (a) “Interview: the Moon, the Tides, and why Neil Tyson is Golbert’s God” (YT) (Ѻ), The Science Network, Jan 20; NakoMaru, 2011.
    (b) Neil Tyson – WikiQuote.

External links

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