Mindless God(s)

Creationism is, at it’s core, religion. Ignore whatever Kent Hovind had to say on the subject (because he’s an idiot) – it’s religion, through and through. There are a lot of different varieties of Creationism, ranging from Biblical literalism to Intelligent Design, but all of them assume the existence and actions of some sort of divine Creator. For most, this is explicitly the Judeo-Christian God.

If you think about it, though, the leap from ‘Creator’ to ‘this specific god’ is a pretty big one. There are only a handful of attributes necessary for any prospective creator, foremost the ability to kick-start the Universe; anything more than that should be carved away with Ockham’s razor; that this useful little tool is generally not applied is a clear sign that a Creationist not only believes in a Creator (sometimes on supposedly ‘scientific’ grounds), but a very particular one. I’ll go through a few of the most commonly asserted attributes to explain what I mean.

God is just like us. When people talk about ‘God’, they generally mean some sort of entity who thinks, feels and can communicate in a manner very much like humans, but with all of the dials turned up to eleven. Most gods are like this, from the Greek and Roman pantheons (whose gods were more like super-powered humans) right up to the Old Testament god of the Bible, whose various destructive hissy fits are all expressed in a very human-like way. Most modern Christians would have you believe that they worship a much more ‘rational’ supreme being, without all of the theatrics, yet still balk at the idea of a truly alien God. The justifications are many and weak, from the notion that a mindless or alien God couldn’t have created thinking humans (more on that in a bit) to bizarre assertions that an unknowable god couldn’t exist (this is one of the incredibly weak arguments used to justify Christian Creationism over, say, the Islamic variety). In the end, it all boils down to ‘I like my God a certain way’.

God thinks. A subset of the above, I’ve come across many who balk at the idea of an ‘automaton God’, or a God who simply creates a universe (or universes) and nothing else. The reason why this matters is that one of the few holes of ignorance in which God can still hide is the creation of the Universe, since we currently have no way of looking back beyond the Big Bang. If we suggest a god to explain why it happened, what attributes are necessary? Well, that it is capable of creating the Universe. Creationists will object, claiming that any entity capable of creating ‘all of this’ must also be able to think and reason, apparently forgetting how simple the primordial Universe actually was. (Hint: it sure as hell wasn’t filled with galaxies, and contained precious little majesty or wonder.) Which brings us to:

God did more than kick-start the Big Bang. We know how many of the structures in the Universe formed, and we know that these processes certainly didn’t require the involvement of any god. Even for those areas that we’re still unsure of – like how life first arose – we have a pretty good idea of how it might have happened, and there’s nothing stopping us from one day finding out for sure. Advances in science mean that we constantly learn more about how we think and why we’re so much more intelligent than any other animal on Earth, and we have great insight into the cause of many of the emotions and human attributes that were once thought to be God-given.

This doesn’t stop Creationists from claiming that God must be intelligent and rational (else how could he creat intelligent and rational beings?). The hidden presupposition here is that both of those attributes were instilled in us directly by God, rather than being a by-product of naturally evolved intelligence and cognitive abilities. Rarely if ever will you see a justification for this, but keep in mind that any ‘God can reason because we can’ carries with it a whole boatload of assumptions that should not go unchallenged.

Which brings us to…

God is good. I hate this argument. It’s one of the worst I’ve ever come across, consistently posed in such a way as to almost collapse due to how inherently insubstantial it is, yet I’ve seen respected theologians and philosophers use it with confidence. It states that, since morality exists, God himself must be moral. If you’ve digested what I said in the above two paragraphs, you’ll have spotted the flaw already; anyone who uses this line of reasoning is assuming that morality is not simply a human construct. Curiously, few Creationists address the question of where evil came from. (If anyone out there is tempted to say ‘Satan’, you may as well forget about having a discussion that even pretends to be worthwhile.) And what about greed? Or deceit? Or death? (Hey, that last one even exists independently of humans!)

What’s that? ‘The Fall’? Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know we were allowing fairy tales as justification.

God is male. Do I need to say any more?

There’s only one god. This one puzzles me; how can you know that there’s only one god? Even if we assume that a god is necessary to explain the Universe’s existence, why assume a single entity? A Creationist would probably claim parsimony, but given their absolute refusal to even consider multiple gods, it probably comes back to ‘Well, that’s what the Bible says…’

If Creationists want to be taken seriously and not be laughed at when they claim to be doing science, they need to stop trying to stick their Christian god where he doesn’t belong. A theistic explanation for the beginning of the Universe should start with assuming a god with only the minimum of attributes necessary to solve one problem at a time (the Big Bang, for starters), and extra attributes should never be added to explain that which already has a perfectly satisfactory naturalistic cause. You may find that God has far fewer gaps to hide in than you thought.

5 Responses to Mindless God(s)

  1. freidenker85 says:

    Funny you mentioned Hovind – I thought that guy was history. Anyone who’s willing to put money on a guy who’s going to spend decades in prison for being, regardless his creationist-crankness, a crook, is truly either a bigot, and idiot, or both (how about “bigidiot?” cha-ching.)

    Anyhow, the only form of creationism that I think should worry any science-favouring individual is Intelligent Design (regardless of his religious beliefs, and I wish to emphasize that, my atheism nonewithstanding).

    When you dig deeper into ID, you find out that the proponents of ID are doing something very dangerous, and to my idea, even though I’m not a US citizen – really scary. These guys are deliberately lying and misleading – and with the only apparent goal being political. They’re not trying to convince the scientific community at all, and as an avid follower of the evolution-creation debate, I’ve witnessed no serious attempt by any ID proponent to promote a scientific theory regarding biological origins in any scientific setting.

    I’ve seen lots of “peer-reviewed journals” that are all funded and are entirely reviewed and written by ID proponents. I’ve seen tons of propaganda, megatons of misinformation – but no actual attempt at science. If these guys were interested in developing a theory for the greater good of humanity, then I’d like to see how.

    Right now, the only thing I’ve found out about ID is that they’re trying, in semi-subterfuge, to be a part of a Christo-fascist coup that will allow sectarian super-power for (and this is important, because it should scare even certain Christians) – particular christians sects.

    The scariest part of all is that it took me a long time to figure out that ID was never about science or even about anti-science,

    it’s about politics – rich people trying to become even more powerful and more rich by using a mock think-tank to promote anti-scientific ideas.

  2. cubiksrube says:

    The idea of God having emotions, which you touch on here as well as the matter of his thoughts, was a big part of my abandoning the whole concept. Emotions are so demonstrably rooted in our physical, material nature: a sugar high makes you excitable, caffeine in your system makes you tetchy, smoking pot mellows you out, and a major head wound can turn you permanently into an entirely different person. The idea of an immortal human soul being so easily affected and swayed by chemical reactions in the brain raises a number of questions of its own, but God doesn’t even have neurons and synapses and glands and hormones. How could he possibly be anything like us? Thoughts and feelings would just have to happen in some other, magical, ill-defined way for him, which is another example of the weakness of the whole hypothesis.

    As a side note, regarding the various discussions over on Eric’s ironically named blog – those repeating circles start to look familiar and get pretty tiring before long, don’t they?

  3. forknowledge says:

    Yes, and it’s almost one in the morning here, which means I’m not likely to reply to whatever I see over there when I check in a few minutes. I might in the morning.

    With regards to emotion and personality, I see no reason to believe that they aren’t rooted entirely in physical/chemical actions in the brain. I’d like to know more about exactly how it works, though, and about how much scientists know of the exact processes. Memory is, I think, one of the few areas that are still largely mysterious.

    freidenker85:

    I’m not entirely sure that ID is the most dangerous form of Creationism. While Behe and his ilk are the Creationists with the strongest veneer of doing actual science, most Creationists among the general public seem to be the more ‘Biblical literalist’ variety. I also don’t think the ID-ists (IDiots, to use the popular term) are getting any papers published in reputable journals.

    You’re right though, they do give Creationists the idea that their crap is supported by mainstream science, which is not a good thing when you’re trying to shake them out of their ridiculous beliefs. I wonder what the anti-intellectual, anti-science brigade think of IDiots? That they’re perverting the cause, somehow?😉

  4. freidenker85 says:

    Listen, I’m not saying that the IDiots are dangerous because they’re more numerous. In fact, it’s quite likely that IDiots make a trivial minority in creationist populace. They are dangerous, however, because they’re an extremely well-funded, stealth right-wing political organization designed to impose sectarian values on America… If you’ve heard of the Wedge document, you’d know what I’m talking about.

  5. forknowledge says:

    Ah, okay. I hadn’t considered that the ID crowd are the well-funded ones.

    How much overlap do you think there is between a straight-up Creationist and an ID proponent? I’ve always gotten the impression that the IDiots are really Creationists at heart, attempting to give it a veneer of respectability. (Obviously things like the Wedge document back this up.)

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