Comfortable and Furious

From The Mailbag: The Why Not God for Everything Edition

Q: If God created everything on Earth and in the sky, why does science say it is evolution and not God’s creation?

I’m afraid that the question as phrased is a bit unanswerable due to the fact that it contains both an incorrect premise and an irrelevant conclusion. It’s sort of like asking somebody whether or not they have stopped beating their spouse, which includes the premise that the person actually has been beating their spouse, if you know what I mean.

First of all, we have no good reason to assume that “God created everything on Earth and in the sky” in the first place, so that’s a counterfactual premise right there. And, keep in mind, the following do not really constitute “good reasons” to accept this premise as true:

  • The result of being told from birth by their parents and members of their cultural group that one particular god is the One True God™ and that one particular religion worshiping that One True God™ is the One True Faith™. Which, of course, means absolutely nothing as far as evidence goes, else every single believer of every single faith would be equally justified in claiming that they had evidence that their god and their faith were true while everybody else’s god and faith were wrong, which is a logical impossibility.
  • Stories written hundreds and even thousands of years ago for which there is little (if any) supporting evidence (archaeological or otherwise) and plenty of contradictory evidence
  • A belief that if a prophecy written in one part of a book is said to have come true in another part of the same book, that this somehow means it actually came true instead of just meaning that somebody claimed that it did.
  • A post hoc reinterpretation of passages contained in their holy book done after a particular scientific discovery is made that lets them claim that, despite the fact that plain language of that passage either has nothing whatsoever to do with the scientific discovery or else is just plain wrong, this passage somehow miraculously matches that scientific discovery exactly (if you interpret the language just right, ignore the bits that clearly don’t agree, and squint really hard). Strangely enough, however, there never seem to be any instances where somebody figured out the “correct” interpretation before science made the discovery.
  • Lots and lots of anecdotal stories from people, both ancient and modern, who claimed to have had “miraculous” experiences, ranging from direct encounters with divine beings to inexplicable healings (never the restoration of a severed limb for some reason, though) to things as mundane as finding their lost car keys after praying for help. Aside from the fact that many of these stories might be outright fabrications, and aside from the fact that “inexplicable” is not the same as “miraculous,” and aside from the fact that these events never seem to be repeatable in any consistent manner, and aside from the fact that accepting these stories as “evidence” of the divine means ignoring all the instances where prayers were not answered, once again we are faced with the fact that if such stories were actually considered evidence of the divine, then it would mean that there would be simultaneous evidence for the gods worshiped by completely different religions, since they all tell miraculous stories to support a belief in the existence of their particular god. And, once again, that would be a logical impossibility. Either these types of stories are reliable evidence, in which case all gods and all religions are simultaneously true (despite the fact that many claim that they are the One True Faith™), or else this evidence isn’t reliable after all. And since the first option leads to a logical impossibility, the second option must be true.
  • Personal spiritual witness. Sadly, the same exact logic applies here. People of different faiths worshiping different gods all claim to have the same sorts of personal spiritual witnesses, and if the same evidence can be used to prove completely conflicting results, it’s not good evidence. Besides, personal spiritual witnesses are wholly subjective to the person having them, which means that there’s nothing clear and obvious for atheists to “deny” since they aren’t the ones who had the experience. To an atheist, its just another anecdotal story.
  • A conviction that if “science” cannot currently explain one or more aspects of observed reality, whether it be how the universe came to be, the origin of human consciousness, the complexity of DNA, etc., the only possible explanation is that the particular god worshiped by that particular theist (and not the gods worshiped by other theists, of course) is responsible for it. And it doesn’t matter how many things science eventually is able to explain – there will always be something that theists can point to and say, “Well, what about that? Huh? Huh? Huh?” Again, however, this is not actually evidence of any particular god. It’s just one big “Argument from Ignorance” that doesn’t even demonstrate that the particular god the theist worships could even possibly exist, let alone actually does. You can’t argue that your god is a “more probable” explanation for something until you can first demonstrate just how probable the existence of your god is in the first place. And, I’m sorry, but once you start talking about gods that supposedly exist “outside of time and space” (whatever the heck that means) and that are composed of “pure spirit” (whatever the heck that means) and are simultaneously all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving (despite the inherent contradictions of such a being given all the suffering in the natural world), I’m afraid you’ve already lost that battle.
  • Flawed pseudo-logical arguments that attempt to prove some general concept of some sort of supreme being (not the actual specific god worshiped by anybody, mind you) by relying on carefully crafted definitions and unwarranted assumptions. Even if it were true, for example, that the universe had a “cause” of some sort to exist, that doesn’t mean that this “cause” is necessarily a god and certainly not the particular god you happen to worship. And just defining the particular god you happen to worship as “the most perfect being imaginable” and then claiming that a god that exists is more perfect than one that doesn’t, doesn’t mean that this definition actually reflects reality, any more than defining god as a chair means that the god actually worshiped by anybody must exist.

Second of all, although the observed scientific fact of evolution (and the theory of evolution that is the best, most well supported explanation for that fact) does demonstrate conclusively that the diversity of life here on Earth is due to well-understood and wholly natural processes that do not require the involvement of any sort of deity, evolution and the theory of evolution really have nothing to do with the creation of the Earth itself (let alone the sky).

A better, more easily answerable question on this subject would be as follows:

If science can explain most aspects of the natural world, including the formation of the Earth and the stars and the diversification of life on Earth, why do religious people insist that the particular deity they believe in is responsible for it?

And the answer to that question, of course, is a combination of factors including, but not limited to:

  • Upbringing and cultural peer pressure [What a shock that so many people born in Arab countries just happen to be devout Muslims, while so many people born in India just happen to be devout Hindus, and so many people born in predominantly Christian countries just happen to be devout Christians, eh? And they all are somehow 100% convinced that they are correct and everybody else is wrong.]
  • Wishful thinking and self-delusion [Nobody wants to believe that death is the end, that wicked deeds might go unpunished, that our suffering is for naught and that our lives have no “special” purpose.]
  • Ignorance [“God did it” has been used as an explanation for everything from what makes thunder to where did the universe come from.]
  • Gullibility [Even smart people can be fooled into believing things that aren’t real. Witness the number of otherwise smart people who believe in homeopathy or chiropractic, for example, or who are convinced that 9/11 was an “inside job” or that vaccines cause autism.]
  • Lack of Education and/or Sheer Stupidity [This really doesn’t apply to most people, but it’s impossible to have an extended conversation with a Young Earth Creationist without coming away with extreme doubts as to their basic education and/or intelligence.]
  • Greed [Talking about those who pretend to believe in God as a way of fleecing gullible souls from their hard-earned money. Yeah, those guys who start “mega” churches so that they can live in million-dollar mansions, drive sports cars and have private jets are really living the lifestyle preached by a certain carpenter who lived 2000 years ago, aren’t they?]

Written by Barry Goldberg. Please follow him here for some more great answers to dumb questions about God, atheism and evolution



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