Why I’m Pretty Damned Sure God Does Not Exist – Part 1

Posted: April 18, 2010 in Evolution, Existence Of God, Religion, Science
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Either there is or there isn’t a God. It is a yes or no question. Something cannot half exist, it must exist or not. The answer to the question has huge ramifications on everything we know and it is a question humans have probably been asking since we learned to talk. Almost everyone I know has an opinion on it and it comes up countless times when people have had a few drinks! As I have declared myself an atheist I feel I should clarify where I stand. I’m writing this to record and share my opinion on this fundamental and unavoidable issue.

There are literally millions of people in the world who disagree with me. I can safely say this without having even written that much yet! So let me just get this out of the way. I’m not a philosopher, neither do I have a degree in ‘Biblical Theology’, I’m not a biologist or a particle physicist. I have no intention of fully explaining the process of evolution, those who do not understand it can find a wealth of information on it. What follows is not a PhD paper and will likely not have covered every angle of possible logic nor will I cite everything I talk about . I may be wrong, I do not assume I ‘have all the answers’. It merely stands as my observation of how the world appears to be. Not surprisingly this article has turned out to be pretty long so I have split it into a few smaller parts and will publish them over the next few days. But hey, if this was a subject you could comment on in a few lines then we’d have it all figured out by now!

‘God’ is a human creation. It is a name we have given to the imagined creator of the physical Universe. It is the result of humans asking “how did we come to be here?”. Humans have attached many characteristics to God, such as being just and fair. One of the biggest being the notion that he/she/it has to be served and that he/she/it rewards or punishes good and bad behaviour.

God is universally viewed as the creator of the Universe, the being responsible for the existence of everything we know. God is therefore superhuman. This is the definition according to most religious believers, and it is this definition I will use.

I feel the need to separate God and religion at the outset. Religion is all of the added characteristics humans have attached to God. Religious rules, texts, customs etc are all irrelevant when contemplating the existence of God. What I am concerned with, therefore, is whether any evidence can be found for God’s existence. I am not concerned with what any supposed God might like or dislike, whether he/she/it wants me to marry before I have sex, or whether to force my wife to cover her body from head to toe.

I’m avoiding getting into deep philosophical epistemology here but will simply state that I am aware I cannot claim to ‘know’ there is no God. However, I feel I can state that based on all available evidence; taking reference from the whole range of information and scientific discovery available to me at the present time; that I’m pretty damned convinced there is no God.

What follows is every single argument for the existence of God I’ve ever had put to me. There is not a single time where I’ve debated this issue that the points put to me have not been some variant of those I’ve written about here.

The Universe Must Have Been Designed

The first, and to me the most frequently used, argument is that the Universe must have been designed. I’ve had this put to me by militant creationists and hippy agnostics. Many people feel the natural world is too well suited to its environment and is too complicated, intricate or beautiful to have happened for no reason or by chance; that if it didn’t happen by chance it must have been designed with a purpose. Proponents of this argument say that the complexity of the design shows forethought and so must be the product of a ‘mind’. That ‘mind’ is what you call God.

This whole argument relies on the assumption that complexity must be the product of a ‘mind’. The argument from design presents you with limited options. It forces you to make a choice between a world where everything happens by chance and a world where everything was designed with a purpose. The design advocates use the word ‘chance’ to create an image of a world without God as one of disorder. They then claim that as the world contains order, this order must come from God. It is a complete misunderstanding of the very fabric of evolution which provides a very good explanation indeed as to how the natural world appears to be designed. Evolution is the process of natural selection. It is not an ‘anything goes’ world of complete chance. It is a series of minute improvements over millions of years which results in a complex object. Had we the ability to travel back in time we would no doubt be able to observe creatures which were not so well adapted to their surroundings. They would appear to to be badly designed.

Other people have said to me that for the Earth to be in just the right location with the right conditions for life to exist is evidence of design. That if the Earth was tilted differently or closer to the sun we couldn’t be here. They then go on to reel of a list of the many other minute tolerances in the conditions we need to survive. This, they say, could not happen by chance! The sheer number of variables that have to come together for the conditions to be perfect must require intelligence. To me, however, it’s a slightly narrow minded position. It is true that the conditions for life as we know it, consisting of the diverse collections of living things on Earth, have minute tolerances. It is also true that if you changed the conditions, even by a small amount, many living things could not survive. But we only have knowledge of our immediate solar system. We are aware of only ourselves. We cannot take it as given that for life to exist conditions must be like Earth. The Earth is one planet in a galaxy of billions of planets. The Universe contains billions of galaxies. Those odds suggest there could be billions of Earth like planets. Given the sheer size of the Universe it’s not improbable that other planets exist with life bearing capabilities. In fact to me it is more improbable that Earth is the only one. I find it hard to follow the logical path that just because the conditions are perfect for us it must have been designed. If these are the conditions we need then it’s not surprising that we’re here is it?

The tolerances and the fine balance of life in no way implies that it must have been designed. The entire design argument projects human like qualities onto the larger Universe. It basically says “because we have designed complicated things it must mean all complicated things are designed”. It is totally ludicrous and completely illogical.

Tomorrow I will comment on the argument that without God we have no morals.

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