The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Atheism 108 - We Have Better Answers Than 'God Did It'

God did it.  God can do anything.

It's the ultimate cop out.  The ultimate non-answer.  The ultimate trump card.

Whenever Religionists are losing an argument or are presented with any complex question that is unanswerable within the confines of their preferred sacred text, God's alleged omnipotence is always the default fallback position.  Always.  Given the fact that their allegedly omnipotent God can do ANYTHING, it doesn't matter how absurd, how nonsensical or how illogical their position actually is, God can do it anyway.

Perhaps the most vexing aspect of this non-answer, however, is that Religionists always present it as if it is definitive, as if they KNOW that God did it.  They present it as if it is somehow a meaningful, substantive answer.  There is an arrogant certainty in this non-answer that persists no matter how ridiculous and absurd their position actually is.

No geological or paleontological evidence of a global flood?  No problem - God simply covered his tracks and destroyed all evidence of his intervention. 
Geological, paleontological, biological evidence demonstrates that the world is actually billions and billions of years old and that complex life arose out of the process of evolution rather than out of God speaking?  No problem - God simply makes the geological, paleontological and biological evidence appear that way in order to test our Faith.  God can do that.  He can do anything, remember.

The reality is that Atheists have better answers than Religionists.  More importantly, when Atheists do not or cannot know an answer, we have the freedom to admit that we do not know rather than arrogantly insisting that an invisible sky man did it through some unknown and perfectly concealed mechanism.

Take the origins of life.

When queried on the origins of life, Religionists always circle back around to God Did It.  Either God Did It exactly as it is written in whatever sacred text the Religionist prefers, or God Did It through some unknown and unknowable mechanism that magically conceals any evidence of his intervention.

Atheists are not constrained by some ancient text written by bedouin shepherds and farmers.  We are free to actually look at the EVIDENCE and posit answers BASED on EVIDENCE.  And what does that evidence show?  It shows that there are natural processes in the Universe operating based on nothing more than the physical properties and principles of time, space, matter and energy that create sufficient chemical complexity for the origins of life.

No Atheist I have ever encountered has ever claimed to know the exact mechanism by which life actually arose.  But we have incredibly strong evidence for how incredibly complex organic compounds, polymers, amino acids, lipids, ribosomes are formed in nature.  No invisible hand of any designer is necessary to generate the building blocks of life.  It is readily accomplished through the simple expedient of generating an atmosphere similar to that of the early Earth, and generating energy in an aqueous environment.  We have known how to do this since the 60s.

Moreover, complex organic compounds, including amino acids can be found in meteorites such as the Murchison Meteorite (1969) that crashed in Australia.  This meteorite, for example, contains over 14,000 organic compounds and 70 amino acids NOT FOUND ON EARTH.  These complex organic compounds did not even require the presence of water to form - they formed in deep freaking space.    I suppose it is again possible that an omnipotent and invisible sky wizard could have created this specific rock with these specific compounds and sent it crashing to Earth just to fuck with us and convince us that organic compounds can form naturally, but why? 

We know how these complex compounds form.  We KNOW!  It isn't even a mystery.  We can replicate it in labs, we can see it in nature, we can find the freaking things in freaking meteorites from freaking space.

Religionists will respond, of course, that knowing where the precursors and building blocks of life come from isn't enough.  That it would be akin to throwing all of the pieces of a clock into the air and having them produce a working clock.  That life is so irreducibly complex that it is inconceivable that natural processes could ever produce life - that God MUST be necessary.  They, of course, don't know the mechanism - they don't need to - God did it and God can do ANYTHING.

Most Atheists will readily concede that it is true, we don't know exactly how the first living thing arose, but the evidence from genetics, biology and chemistry strongly indicate that God is not necessary.  Life did NOT simply pop into existence as Religionists like to argue.  It did not simply spring forth in a wealth of complex organisms.  The first living thing was likely nothing more than a self-replicating strand of RNA containing a few thousand base pairs.  To be certain, the likelihood of any given reaction producing a self-replicating molecule is incredibly, incredibly low.  This is why the likelihood that any given experiment is so unlikely to produce a living thing.

No intrusive human or divine hands are necessary to synthesize the amino acids and proteins that form RNA. We've known that since the 60s. Early earth conditions would have produced a global oceans worth of organic compounds based solely on energetic carbon chemistry in an aqueous environment.

Religionists love to say that 'DESIGNING' something in a lab is different from something self-emerging in NATURE. They're right. Designing something in a lab is FAR HARDER. The reason is simple. Even a very dedicated biologist can only run so many experiments. Combined, the human species as a whole has probably only run a few hundred million tests trying to get the amino acids, proteins and lipids to produce a self-replicating strand of RNA.

In NATURE, countless nonillions of organic compounds swirled about in an energetic aqueous environment combining and recombining for hundreds of millions of years which amounts to an unfathomable number of combinations. And only ONE of those uncountable reactions needs to produce a self-replicating strand of RNA.

Atheists may not be able to recite EXACTLY how the first living thing came about, but our explanations are based on evidence, on facts, on reproducible results - not ancient scribblings on papyrus.  Our answers may not be absolutely perfect - we recognize that - but our answers are infinitely better than mindlessly reciting that the invisible and omnipotent sky wizard did it.


  1. I love what you wrote and agree wholeheartedly. Ironically I used to be once upon a time one of those religionist who was content with the "God did it" answer..if the Bible said it I believed it a hundred percent but once I opened my eyes and actually examined everything I had once easily believed to see why I had believed those things I found I had no good rational answer or evidence for believing those things. So I did the only thing a rational freethinking person could do, I abandoned beliefs for which I had no reason or evidence to support it. It's actually been a liberating feeling knowing that it was ok to say "I don't know" when I didn't know. I'm glad there are people like you out here in the webiverse (sorta like the universe but on the web) and what I have read here helps me more than I could ever express in words. Thank you.

  2. Thanks Ping.

    I think a lot of us have similar stories - I did the same thing. At a certain point the suspension of disbelief just became too much for me - kind of like watching a really bad movie where eventually the inconsistency just ruins the whole story.

  3. My mother used to shut me down with the "god did it" non-answers and she's doing the same thing to my bright, inquisitive 10 year-old nephew.

    We're were packed in the car not long ago and he asked about how stars worked and planets were formed. I started explaining (as best as I could) and he was very interested. My mom interrupted me when I took a breath with her "God did it."

    I calmly but firmly retorted, "He didn't ask about religion. He asked about science." I continued my explanation and she shut her mouth. I've no intention of making the child an atheist but I'll be damned if my mom is going to keep me from explaining good science to him - especially when he asks!

  4. Good on you! I think that is a great response - respectful, but no nonsense. I'll have to use that.

  5. Recently I mentioned to a friend that my mother had been "dealt a sh** hand in life" due to her suffering with multiple primary medical conditions. In response, I got "the lecture" that God's will prevails, blah blah blah.

    I respect my friend's right to hold that belief, but not to tell me that my beliefs are invalid. We need to respect each others' rights to believe what we do. I don't appreciate being (figuratively) beaten with a bible when I disagree with the "God's will" viewpoint.