Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Which is Easier to Believe, that Life Was created by God or by Chance?

OK, this question gets asked a lot by theists in a lot of different ways. At its core, it’s simply a form of the classic “Argument from Design” that I addressed here:

But let’s look at this from a slightly different perspective, shall we?

Time and again, we see theists claiming that it is just too improbable or inconceivable to imagine that life could have originated “by chance” and therefore the most reasonable explanation is that it was created by the omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving and perfect God described by the particular religion of which they happen to be a member.

Unfortunately for theists, the life we see on earth is far from what we would actually expect to see if it were actually created by an omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving and perfect God, the way we would expect to see a finely crafted watch from a master watchmaker. Instead of perfection and fine craftsmanship, we see eyes that have blind spots, vestigial organs that occasionally burst open and kill us, cells that periodically start reproducing uncontrollably (cancer), a propensity for genetic flaws that cause all sorts of diseases such as Downs Syndrome and Tay-Sachs disease, a whole system that gradually breaks down as you get older, etc., etc., etc. So much for “fine craftsmanship,” eh?

And that’s just the human condition! Sure, it’s pretty amazing that plants and animals so closely depend on each other for survival and it’s so cool that bees are attracted to beautiful flowers who need the bees to spread their pollen. What a great design! How perfect! But then you also have the fact that there are parasites that have to lay their eggs in living hosts so their larva can hatch and eat their way out to survive. Not quite so beautiful and perfect. And then there’s the whole predator/pray relationship where some animals have to brutally kill other animals to survive (and the prey animals have to be brutally killed in order to not overpopulate and starve to death). And don’t forget that the rest of the animal kingdom also gets nasty diseases and suffer accidents and experience pain and agony. Oh, look — A Tasmanian Devil with face cancer:

[Where’s the perfect design in all of that?]

As a result, theists find themselves in the position of coming up with a whole bunch of additional justifications and rationalizations as to why life is so flawed when it was supposedly created by a perfect being, including one or more of the following:
  • All of nature used to be perfect before Adam sinned and caused the entire universe to enter a fallen state. Which means, what, God is a sadistic bastard who set up a system whereby ALL OF NATURE would need to suffer for the sins of one person instead of just punishing that one person?
  • God specifically gave us these flawed bodies to provide us with obstacles in life to be overcome or to test our faith or some other reason known only to him because he works in mysterious ways. And I guess all those cute, furry animals that die horrible agonizing deaths also have important lessons to learn as well, huh?
  • It doesn’t matter whether life is flawed right now, since life is but a twinkling of an eye compared to all eternity and we’ll all have perfect bodies in the next life.
  • “You are assuming the human body can be better designed under these circumstances. Maybe it can’t. You are also assuming it is not a work in progress. You can probably imagine the first watches were not fine tuned machines.” [An actual response I received from a theist, who apparently thinks an omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving and perfect being needs theists like him to make excuses for His shoddy workmanship and who doesn’t understand what “omnipotent” actually means.]
It doesn’t matter what your personal favorite justification is. The point is that, despite what theists claim, the evidence of our senses does not automatically give us reason to believe in the sort of God that most theists claim to believe in (omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving and perfect) and theists MUST tack on other conditions for which there is no evidence.

Naturalism (or “atheism”, if you insist), on the other hand, requires no such additional caveats and conditions and justifications to be believable. We know from observation that there are natural laws that govern how the universe works. And, although we may not have perfect knowledge of every natural law, there is no reason not to believe that those laws can explain every single observed phenomenon, including the origin of life itself.

So, which is easier to believe? That the natural world evolved to be the way it is — warts and all — due to purely the natural processes that govern the universe, or that the natural world was designed by an omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving and perfect God who, for some reason we can’t quite figure out, decided to make the world look as if it had evolved to be the way it is — warts and all — due to purely the natural processes that govern the universe? My money is on the former.

One final thought. To many theists, there are only two options — either life was created “by God” or else it happened “by chance.” And “by chance” apparently means completely randomly, entirely by coincidence, etc. This is a false dichotomy, however. “By chance” in this context simply means without being directed by any sort of intelligence, yet still according to natural laws that guide and constrain the outcome.

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