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'God did it' explains nothing

Posted by Ben on Thursday, September 01, 2005 | Permalink

Richard Dawkins is one of my heroes. Intelligent Design is one of my bugbears. There is frankly no chance on earth that I'd fail to link to an article by the former (and Jerry Coyne) about the latter. Even the title - One Side Can Be Wrong - warms the old heart-cockles. It can't be said enough, that sentence: one side can be wrong. The answer doesn't always lie halfway between two extremes.

In an article full of excellent points, there's one I want to highlight:

...there is a hidden (actually they scarcely even bother to hide it) "default" assumption that if Theory A has some difficulty in explaining Phenomenon X, we must automatically prefer Theory B without even asking whether Theory B (creationism in this case) is any better at explaining it.

Why is God considered an explanation for anything? It's not - it's a failure to explain, a shrug of the shoulders, an 'I dunno' dressed up in spirituality and ritual. If someone credits something to God, generally what it means is that they haven't a clue, so they're attributing it to an unreachable, unknowable sky-fairy. Ask for an explanation of where that bloke came from, and odds are you'll get a vague, pseudo-philosophical reply about having always existed, or being outside nature. Which, of course, explains nothing.

Comments [ hide comments ]
Damn you, I had just starting writing a virtually identical post on my other blog!

There's no justification in teaching ID to kids along with proper science. Give them two ideas, one very much based in fact and the other based on mythology, then let them make up their own minds . . . right . . . so should maths teachers tell people that 2+2=4 or possibly 2+2=5 and they can make up their own minds?

On a slightly different note, there was a scary story in last weeks Weekend magazine about Accelerated Christian Education if you missed it. Brought to my mind the phrase "you will be assimilated".
Tim, 01.09.2005, 11:51pm #
amen amen amen -- praise be -- hallelujah etc..
It was a great article, especially because of its philosophical rigour - It's the seamless resort to fallacious logic the 'Intelligent' Design advocates resort to which Dawkins so brilliantly debunks..
broke, 04.09.2005, 8:34pm #
im not an athiest but a agonostic. there are at this time those 2 explanations for how the world came to be as it is but one is more scientificaly sound than the other. one of the worst things about intellegent desing is that it gives "belivers" a foothold in the scientific community. why is this?

science is a system to derive facts. religon is faith in something without solid evidence it is very dangerous to begin mixing these imagine if a scientist just stated that his theory was fact without any solid evidence he would be disgraced by the scientific community and thats what intelligent design is a theory and not that solid a one at that darwins theory of evolution has much more weight behind it.

i have no deffinate beliefs but i have a opinion that is flexable to whatever proof there is thats all anyone should need proof of something happening. ill shut up now. peace love and karma guys.
neill, 09.09.2005, 3:56pm #
I label myself an agnostic, not because I believe that god is actually possible, but because I cannot rule it out any more than I can any other wholly unproven phenomenom. Politically, we all come across as more acommodating as doubters than non-believers. No real difference, but I think it scores points among the ignorant masses.
Eric, 11.09.2005, 12:35pm #
God is the explanation. The invisible intelligence that permeates everything in in this universe. God is within, and accessible to all. Get quiet, and meditate, and you will hear God's beautiful voice.
Mr X, 14.09.2005, 11:59pm #
You know, I think I just heard God's beautiful voice... he said, "Buy low, sell high".

Seriously, what's wrong with looking at things the way they are and saying, "Huh, how about that! Look at what happened." Why the need to saddle reality with an "invisible intellegence that permeates everything"? Why not two invisible intellegences? Why not 10 while you're at it? Why not a whole choir of beautiful voices? I mean, if your going to make stuff up to placate some emptiness in your life, GO for it!

There's plenty of wonders to see in the world and a lot of things to do before you're gone. Stop meditating and look around. You might like what you see.
Todd, 15.09.2005, 1:14pm #
Hello Todd,
unfortunately he doesn't give me good advice on stocks. Unfortunately, it's been buy high sell low.
I don't medidate all day, usually only half-hour. In the silence, in the gap, you can connect to God.
The spirit world is different than the physical one. You can't measure it with your instruments or understand it with your logic. I value your beliefs, and do not wish to impose mine on yours.
Tim, Ben, use your website to promote spiritual growth. No atheist I've spoken to is against spiritual growth.
Mr X, 16.09.2005, 12:27am #
Mr X, instructing Tim on how to use his website is most definitely off-topic - posts about intelligent design and 'god' failing as an explanation, please.
Ben, 16.09.2005, 9:05am #
The gist of the discussion here is wondering why people fall back on an "unknowable sky-fairy" to explain things. I fail to see a distinction between an "unknowable sky-fairy" and an "invisible intellegance that permeates everything". Why either should be the fallback explanation for anything is beyond me. It sounds like wishul thinking no matter what kind of prose you frame it in. You can dress a pig to the nines, but it's still a pig.
Todd, 16.09.2005, 7:49pm #
Lovely to hear another non-religious voice. This article: might have you nodding approvingly too. Keep up the good work!
BiB, 20.09.2005, 12:36am #
oh, mr.x is back.

i still argue that the "intelligence" that fucks up left and right is a flying spaghetti monster. there's jsut as much proof to support god or flying spaghetti monster.

i just see the invisible undead magical sky man as an easy excuse for the unkowing becuase they're too lazy to ponder it themselves, and instead obey the book.
Shaggy, 06.10.2005, 5:06am #
Its as simple as this....

A long long time ago when man could actualy think. There were no rules, no morals and everyone did as they pleased theft, murder ect was not a bad thing but part of nature.

then one day some guy decided it was not a good thing to see his whole family murderd and his farm burned down. He scratched his head and thought to himself "how can i stop this from happening?", "i know, i will make up a story"

so he set off on a journey. on the way he told villagers and settlements of how the guy who made us all talks to him and tells him to tell the people that they must obay his messages or they will live an afterlife in a fiery hell.

word got around about this so called messenger and he was summoned to the welthiest and most powerfull warrior of the tribes. The warrior said to the messenger "you tell the people of this land there is one mightier being than me" , "that it is wrong for me to murder and take what i want". "off with your head"

"wait wait" the messenger pleaded "the holy one has spoken, he says you must make the people of your land build shrines and pay homage to you oh great warrior. the warrior liked the idea. word got around and soon everyone was sweating and working together. eventualy after some time pictures were drawn and then writing of a language. The warrior and the messenger got together and wrote a book, using the messengers messages and bits that the warrior liked to rule his new kingdom.

Times changed wars were fought in the name of the book. Few people thought about this and disagreed but where quickly silenced.

After thousands of years man has eventualy been able to sustain his own morals and set rules for a productive society but the messenger and the warriors book can still not be removed.

It was so beliveable and brainwashing then and it still is now.

i missed a few points id like to have said but i think u get the message.. ps im shit at telling stories
we are real, 11.10.2005, 4:10am #
ID is a true waste of thought.
This fake mythical shit
just poisons all people,I just had to cut loose a fake associate due to
this God crapp.We all know that there ain't now or never was a Gawd !!!!
Fuck God, 11.10.2005, 10:22pm #
Remember! Follow the Gourd!

Intelligent Design fails the old favourite of "Occam's Razor" - it's not the simplest explanation of the observed phenomena, you can simplify it by taking out the whole "there is an all powerful intelligent designer who sat down one day.." bit. Nuff said.
Some One, 13.10.2005, 7:33pm #
ID/creationist class:

part1 - lecture: god created everything

part 2 - test: who created everything?

part 3 - answer and grade: god did. everybody gets an A.
kmisho, 02.11.2005, 9:50pm #
I am not an expert in evolution or an expert in intelligent design but I do have a few questions about evolution.
1. If we humans evolved throughout millions of years to what we are today; why do we still have apes?
2. Why are the things that we apparently evolved from still around?
3. Am I a decedent of a rock or a rock a descendent of me?
4. Why did I evolve millions of years ahead of dirt; did we (dirt and I) not evolve from the same thing?
5. What was the original thing or entity from which evolution begin?
6. What will humans, or dirt, or rocks, or fish, or water, or air, or fire, evolve into next?

Please, teach me something about the origin and future of life. Don't talk about the changes in life that evolution outlines; which, by the way, can be either progressive or regressive both in the physical and intellectual.
Axis, 17.11.2005, 5:50am #
Hi Axis

1) Either because we (and other apes) are a splinter group from one type of modern ape that hasn't evolved a great deal since that split, or a splinter group from one type of ape that has now evolved into a modern species, or all apes are descendents of a now extinct species. This question is like asking why, if Americans originally came from England, are there still English people?
2) Not sure I get the question. Natural selection doesn't work towards a goal, an organism that made a good living millions of years ago and has faced little evolutionary pressure since is likely to be fairly similar to back then. Any splinter groups that faced new evolutionary pressures would most likely end up very different to the original species.
3) Have you given birth to a rock? If not, we've already crossed out one possibility.
4) Dirt doesn't evolve.
5) Couldn't say for certain, there are a number of abiogenesis theories, look 'em up.
6) There's no way of saying, as I said, evolution doesn't have a goal. What appears in retrospect to have been slowly worked towards is actually the result of adaptations to current environmental pressures. If we applied an artificial pressure to a certain species, we could make some educated guesses as to what would happen, but that's about it.
Ben, 19.11.2005, 7:24pm #
No, it'¬Ęs not. English People are still people. Apes are apes. Moreover, all the talk about splits and some groups evolving faster then others suggest an original group of apes. Where did they come from? Basically, if you are going to explain the origin of life and the origin of the universe via evolution, you must explain the original thing/entity from which all things evolved from. Then, if you tell me that as groups split, some evolve faster then others, should we not be able to explain whether we come from rocks or rocks come from us? Or are you going to tell me that rocks and dirt do not evolve? If you are, I agree. So, where do they come from? How did they get here? You see, God created rocks to always be rocks and apes to always be apes and you and I to always be you and I. Thus, evolution only explains why you and I as humans are not exactly the same. Evolution only works within species. Apes can evolve into stronger or weaker apes. Humans can evolve into stronger or weaker humans. But to suggest that we and everything that exits was once, well, nothing and know we have evolved into what we are while other things have not; it's silly. So, if evolution is true, while you may think that my question about dirt is funny, it would mean that dirt is a descendent of us or us of dirt.

Look, I believe that the argument about God and other believes about the origin of things has two simple options. Every single argument ever formulate will take you back to these two options.

Option One: There always was something which has always existed and will always exist. That something is what we call God. Note: How something always was and always will be is a hard concept for me to understand or get my thoughts around it but my only other choice is option two, which I don't agree with. Then this something (God), created everything else to function as it does. Which, if you don't mind me saying; it's astonishing! Wow! God gave us the ability choose him or to question his supremacy and his existence.

Option Two: At some point, unknown to you and I, there was nothing. Personally, I do not have the intellectual capacity to fathom what nothing is. Then from that nothing, something came into being (God would only know how no, that would require option one to be true). Then from that which first came to be out of nothing, all other things evolved; water, earth, fire, air, dirt, rocks, monkeys, plans, you and I, into what things are today. Then, you may be correct; you and I may have come from monkeys. But then it's necessary that monkeys came from nothing.

You choose. Either something always was and it created all that is or nothing ever was but eventually it came to be, which then evolved into all there is. Arguments and answers are meaningless.

Philosophers, theologians, professors and everyone else who has an option, myself included, will never be able to explain either one; At least not in this life. But if option one is correct, then we may know the answers in the next life. On the other hand, if option two is correct; then we will never explain it.

So, to be honest with you, I am not out to change your option about there not being a God. You must choose. However, I would like to invite you to dig deeper into the life of Jesus. I was once and atheist with many questions and since Jesus got a hold of my life, no one has come any closer to answering the questions. As a matter of fact, life itself has not changed much. However, my outlook on life, the peace in my heart, the person I am, how I treat others, where my priorities are, the freedom I have, and many other things have changed. I still don't fully understand it but it's larger than life. Jesus answered the deepest questions of life to me personally. Jesus answers to each one of us personally. My life's problems, concerns and happiness are personal to me and so Jesus deals with me personally. Jesus is not the God that I wanted but He is the God that I needed. Jesus is not a God that gives you what you think you need or agrees with what you want him to agree with; He is a God that understands you better then you understand yourself and gives you what you did not know you needed. So, just when you think He has done you wrong, you realize that He knows best and you fall on you knees thanking him for not lessening to you. At times, He tests you and pushes you to the limits of you understandings and makes you grow as you never have before.

No one needed to prove to me that Jesus is the Son of God. He needed to prove it to me, which He has. However, He does not force anyone to venture out into the beauty of knowing Him. He wants this to be your choice. And even more than that; He wants that to be you deepest desire. It's like love; if you pay someone to tell you that they love you, they will. But if someone loves you by choice, no money is worth such love. Jesus, in the same way, wants you and I to choose Him; for what kind of relationship would we have with Him if he forced us to choose Him. You see; if Jesus walked up to you today and told you that He is GOD; you would not believe Him. If you asked Him to prove it to you and He did, you would find every argument possible to deny his proof. But He won't because He wants you to discover Him. He wants you to search for Him. He wants to have a personal relationship with you. All of your life, He has been searching for you. One day when you choose to look for him, you will run right into Him and your life will never be the same. Believe me; the fact that you spend time arguing against God will only bring you closer to discovering Him.

It's late, can't see what I am writing.
God bless.
Axis, 20.11.2005, 8:53am #
Axis said:"You see; if Jesus walked up to you today and told you that He is GOD; you would not believe Him."

Wouldn't anybody in their right mind? History is full of nefarious characters that said they were god. The vast majority were liars. Why wouldn't any modern-day 'messiah' be just as unlikely to be telling the truth?

And then Axis says:"Believe me; the fact that you spend time arguing against God will only bring you closer to discovering Him."

Why should I believe you? History is full of shady characters knowing what the future holds. The vast majority were wrong. How are you any better than them?

Axis also says repeatedly:"He wants..."

Axis, do you have a personal line to what the almighty wants with me? History is full of narcissistic characters who espoused to others that they knew what 'god' wanted.The vast majority amazingly wanted exactly the same things 'god' wanted. It often included a lot of bloodshed on the part of non-believers. Is your god so powerless that he can't tell me what he wants personally?

AccursedAtheist, 28.11.2005, 4:25am #
Among the evidences for evolution, there is all the morphological stuff, [EDIT]
benelailax, 22.12.2005, 7:36pm #
The essential problem with ID is that its proponents cannot come up with one solid example of anything that is not better explained by evolutionary theory.
benelailax, 22.12.2005, 7:05am #
benelailax, I recently took a fundie to task for copying the work of others without linking or supplying a credit. Your comment about vestigal structures was similarly copied straight from another website without credit, so I've edited it. I appreciate the comments, but please keep them original. Thanks mate.
Ben, 22.12.2005, 7:41pm #
My apologies.
I knew I had it from somewhere, but couldn't remember the source. No excuse, though, I should've at least used quotation marks.
benelailax, 22.12.2005, 7:45pm #

I'm jumping in late here but i just have to address a couple of your points.

"...if you are going to explain the origin of life and the origin of the universe via evolution, you must explain the original thing/entity from which all things evolved from."

the theory of evolution is not necessarily meant to explain the origin of the universe, all existence, and all life therein. What it does is examine the physical evidence and fossil records left on the earth to describe the origin of SPECIES. It works like this: Let's say I have documents, photos, heirlooms, etc to give you a history of my family. If I only have evidence to go back a given number of generations (but the evidence is solid) it would be absurd for you to tell me that my family history is false because i cant produce evidence to show how all creation began. Understand?

Darwin never set out to find the very beginning, that will probably not happen in your lifetime or those of your great grandchildren. Darwin was showing us the course we followed to become as advanced as we are by looking back ONLY AS FAR AS THE EVIDENCE WE HAVE ALLOWS US TO SEE. Darwin would have written "Origin of All Existence" if that had been his intent. This is a fundamental principal that religious people cannot grasp and therefore use to try and argue against evolution. The fact is you don't know anymore than any human being that ever lived or, ever will live, how it all began. It is ABSOULTE LUNACY to suggest that you do simply because it is written in genesis (which contradicts itself throughout). That is the truth, isn't it? Despite what you believe you know nothing, nor does your pastor, nor did the men who wrote the bible, nor did Constantine when he hand picked which books would go into the new testament you accept as fact.
devouthumanist, 23.01.2006, 1:12am #
axis states,

" suggest that we and everything that exits was once, well, nothing and know we have evolved into what we are while other things have not; it's silly."

Ben's statement about English still living in UK couldn't be a better illustration. You see, you're forgetting one IMPORTANT FACT. Migration.

If we'd all stayed in the same place, we'd have simply driven the lesser apes into extinction and there would be no apes as we know them today. But we know that our ancestors didn't stay confined in one part of the world, that's why there are fossils everywhere on the earth. It's why the french speak french, why the chinese speak chinese, why black people are black people, etc.

Let's go back in time for a moment. Let's say our tribe is suffering from a shortage of food and decides to move on. Now, let's say half goes east while the other migrates west. What do you suppose would happen over time? The two halves would become separate tribes altogether, no longer resembling each other as closely as they once did. If not, we'd all be japanese or eskimos or whatever.

This isn't even science, it's just common sense.

The only alternative you're left with is that GOD scattered us across the globe to keep us from collaborating to build another tower of babel.

So which is it? Are you sensible or absurd in your thinking?
devouthumanist, 23.01.2006, 1:23am #
axis states:

"God gave us the ability choose him or to question his supremacy and his existence."

axis axis my poor axis. let me help you out here.

first of all: if god is real, then the idea that you have any choice in anything is an illusion. You see, god is supposed to be all knowing, all seeing, omnipresent, omnipotent, etc. If god were all knowing, god would know (before you were born) whether or not you would be a believer. God would know from the beginning that i wouldn't believe in him. So why create a non-believer, compel him to believe, then punish him eternally for not believing in a silent god.

If god is real, there is no free will. If god is real, all of creation operates according to his plan and there is no changing his plan. This includes all of your thoughts, actions, and emotions. This means that it's all predetermined, my disbelief in god is god's own creation as is your belief in god. If god loves me and wants me to believe rather than punish me eternally in the hell he created for me before i ever existed, why isn't it in his plan? Hardly seems just and kind. The fact that I can choose whether to believe or not is an indicator that everything does not go according to plan, meaning there is no plan.

If god created everything, he also created the sea of evidence that disproves his own existence which means he either cannot exist or is either cruel or insane.
devouthumanist, 23.01.2006, 1:45am #
axis states:

"He does not force anyone to venture out into the beauty of knowing Him."

On the contrary. It's either believe or burn in hell eternally. You and i are mere mortals. It is impossible for us to fathom the meaning of eternity. Were god real, he should know that.

So its:

"I will make you a life and death creature, unable to understand the world except as it relates to you. I'll allow countless atrocities to be committed in my name. I'll create convincing evidence that i don't exist and blame that on the devil (that i created).

I'll give you a rational mind, but compel you not to use it. I'll give you a beautiful physical form, but forbid you from enjoying all that i created it to do.

I'll create a universe that you'll spend your all-too-short lifespan trying to find some surface understanding of but won't even come close. And in this EXTREMELY SHORT lifespan (relative to time itself) you must grow, learn, survive, procreate, contribute something to society, get sick, grow old, suffer, and die.

If after all that, you still don't believe i'll punish you until the end of time (which theoretically has no end) even though you understand nothing outside of the 70 or so years you had to figure it all out."

Did I get it all?
devouthumanist, 23.01.2006, 1:57am #
This blog entry is quoted and footnoted in Richard Dawkins's new book The God Delusion.
Josh, 03.10.2006, 9:40am #
Whatever you think about this, the blog comment we are discussing right now was quoted in Richard Dawkins' book 'The God Delusion'. And that is quite an honour--a blogger has been published in a ground-breaking and wildly popular book by an expert in the field. Kudos.
Kathy, 23.10.2007, 3:58pm #
Dawkins references this thread in "The God Delusion".. kool

womoma, 31.10.2007, 12:06am #
omg, i know this person!
Mike J, 19.01.2008, 6:23am #
My name is David Edward Oliver and I think religion is Bullshit. I belong to church, but I only attend for fellowship I seriously doubt anyone actually believes this shit so I'm crazy so what can I do, so are you!"
David Edward Oliver, 17.09.2011, 9:39pm #
I completely agree that religion is bullshit. Unfortunately, it is very adaptive, which is why it has not yet died out. However, with the communications revolution currently in progress, it may be that the days of religion are numbered. I only hope I live long enough to see it die and be replaced by an age of reason.
Anon, 19.10.2011, 10:31pm #
if you all need to fight god, ok, but putting things out here on the net is childish. links against god? not cool. but, i will say one thing for sure, you can not disprove jesus existed, that is fact, you may not think him god, but he lived, and that is who i believe in. he did die, it was recorded, and after that it is also recorded that people saw him, and i dont just mean in the bible or on the net, but in writen documents by people who were his enemies, it is therefore not their religion and so it can be believed they were not only not biast for him, but biast against him, so they had to be extreamly convinced to document it. this is proof enough for me that he is god.
navellint1989, 17.08.2012, 3:52am #
did they see jesus after he died? or did they claim it? did he really die before hand? or did he fake it.

I have to say you should think some more about that. Specially since everything before modern times that happened out of the normal, was always misconstruded.

In short stop being a moron.
Science is the real God, 21.08.2012, 9:03pm #

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