Just a Little Common Sense

For a life based on reason, ethics, literature and art.

God Done Diddit

with 4 comments

I want you to picture a guy, let’s call him Paul, walking into an urban police-station. Beaming, he proclaims that he knows what happened to the dead body that was found in the river five days ago; that he’s solved the mystery.
Let’s assume that by some random chance, or maybe out of desperation, the police actually take him seriously. So they ask him in, lead him into a room, sharpen their pencils, switch on the tape-recorder, and take a statement. This is how it goes:

PAUL: “You ready? Can I start?”
OFFICER: “Sure. Please tell us what you know.”
PAUL: “You see, he was murdered. Frank did it.”
OFFICER: “Frank… Frank who?”
PAUL: “Well, Frank of course. Frank Frank. Who else would I mean?”
PAUL: “…”
OFFICER (With disappointment at the realization that this won’t be the clue they’d been hoping for): “That’s it? That’s what you came to tell us?”
PAUL (Genuinely puzzled): “What do you mean? I told you what happened. What more could you want?”

We could imagine this going on indefinitely, but this little conversation is enough to convey my point. Merely tossing a name out there and proclaiming that a murder took place is not the same as truly solving the mystery of an unidentified body.
Yet, this is exactly how religious people tackle the question about the origin of our universe. They proclaim that it was “made”, and that it was “God” who made it. And then they lean back, satisfied with their accomplishment of having “solved” the mystery, gaze us a beaming smile, and react confused when we reject their “explanation” as preposterous and stupid.

To complete the analogy, let’s have Paul defend his thesis by proclaiming that it’s more likely Frank committed a murder than that the water of the river simply morphed into a dead body.
Theists frequently claim that, due to the apparent fine-tuning of our universe, it being made is more likely than it just coming into existence “by a giant explosion”. Of course, nobody ever said that a giant explosion was the origin of the universe, just like nobody at the police-department proposed that the body is actually magically transformed water of the river.
The Big Bang Theory is actually not about the origin of the universe: Like the police, we’re still pretty clueless regarding that mystery; like the police, it’s likely we’ll solve it eventually. What the Big Bang Theory actually is about is the early development of the universe: The theory states that the universe transformed from a very hot, very dense state to a less hot, less dense state, which is analogous to the police stating that it’s very likely the body they found was, at some point in the past, alive. It’s something we know beyond reasonable doubt. It’s something we can prove pretty much for sure.

What bothers me about all this is not that there actually are people like Paul out there, who really do not see the problem with the sort of oversimplified skyhook-explanation they give for complex problems.
What bothers me is that my analogy fails at one very important point: Paul the potential witness is regarded as a lunatic by society, and will probably find himself in a mental institution in the near future. Paul the theologean, on the other hand, is a highly respected member of society, gets invited by TV-stations to comment on enormously important political topics and has a huge influence on public opinion regarding an incredible variety of topics.

4 Responses

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  1. First time I’ve read your blog. Very interesting. Thank you for the analogy. I am a Christian and former atheist. Sometimes coming from a Christian perspective it is difficult to understand non-belief in God. You are right, simply stating that it was Frank or God is just not an adequate explanation and it is certainly not enough to persuade anyone. The more I learn about the world and science the more I am convinced God is real. I hope you don’t write me off as a lunatic. I look forward reading more of your posts. Please feel free to pick my brain or challenge me on my beliefs. I certainly do not claim to have the answers to everything but who does right?


    February 1, 2011 at 04:19

    • Hey Tracy,
      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment! I am very much intrigued by what exactly you mean by saying you are a “former atheist”. As “atheist” covers many things (per definition, well, everything that is not explicitly covered by “theism”), that might mean a lot of things, varying from “I used to be a convinced naturalist” to “I just didn’t care about religion and never thought about it”.
      Conversion stories are of great interest to me, I’d be very thankful if you’d be willing to share yours! I checked your blog but couldn’t find a search function, and your “about me” only states that you felt the call of God.

      Also, thanks for the invitation to pick your brain, I’ll most happily oblige :D It’s kinda hard to find people on the web who won’t resort to trolling and name-calling if even slightly questioned. I’m looking forward to this conversation.


      February 1, 2011 at 07:02

  2. Just stumbled across your blog, and while browsing, am quite impressed with the thought and content. Please keep it up, I shall be bookmarking, and have added to Facebook. Cheers. :)

    David Lally

    September 26, 2011 at 11:25

    • Hello David,
      Glad to hear you enjoy the blog. I’ll do my best to keep the posts coming :)


      September 27, 2011 at 01:15

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