Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Why "Look Around You" is not proof of god.

An argument I hear often for apparent proof of god is to 'look around you' and is often followed by something like 'how could all this get here?' or 'where did we come from?'. 

The point being that because we don't have full explanations for everything a god must be responsible. It is, of course, an argument from Personal Incredulity or an argument from ignorance

Of course this type of thinking has failed time and time again. In his short film 'Storm' Tim Minchin makes the point....

We can replace 'magic' with 'god' and it's still true and I feel it's important to note. There has been countless phenomena throughout time that started as a mystery but is now explained and not once - repeat NOT ONCE has that explanation turned out to be god. 

What we do have is a bunch of former mysteries that were attributed to gods that we now know are definitely not the direct result of gods. For example live in Greece a few millennia ago and you'd be thinking that lightning was the work of Zeus throwing it from Mount Olympus or his horse Pegasus bringing it across the sky. Others have thought thunder was the work of Thor or that an eclipse was a heavenly dog taking a bite out of the sun. We now know these explanations and dozens more like them are not valid. What we have now are natural, understandable, and - perhaps most importantly - verifiable explanations. 

We have moved past the 'I don't know, therefore god' phase of our existence. Since the development of the scientific method we now investigate until we find the answer. We make conclusions on what is observed and what is demonstrable. We don't, and nor should we, find it acceptable to say 'I can't find the answer to this mystery, therefore a god must be responsible'. To do that is completely intellectually unsatisfying. 

I cannot blame someone without modern investigative tools for not knowing what caused lightning. I can understand a primitive person thinking the sun was a god or that it literally traveled across the sky or even that it was something to be appeased with a sacrifice. These are the kinds of things I would expect people of long ago to think. Remember that not only did these people not know how certain things worked, they didn't know *how* to know. They observed and assumed with no investigation. 

Today though, things are very different. It's not good enough for a person to think a planet was just 'put' here. Thanks to our scientist friends and many, many decades of investigation we know how planets form and a god putting them there is not it. Mix cosmic dust, gravity, and a WHOLE lot of time and you'll get yourself a planet. Or a star for that matter. 

We also know that the circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ) or 'Goldilocks zone' is not narrow. We know that it's not a case of '10 ft closer and we'd burn, 10 ft further away and we'd freeze' as I've seen written as a Facebook status. This passage from on an 'evidence for God's existence' article is quite misleading and I suspect deliberately non-specific... 

The CHZ is measured in Astronomical Units. An astronomical unit is the mean distance from Earth to the sun. One Astronomical unit is 149,597,871 Kilometres (92,955,807 Miles). 

The CHZ ranges from approximately .725 astronomical units (108,458,455.75 kms) to 3 astronomical units (448,793,613 kms). 

So when the above passage says 'If we were closer to the sun we'd burn up' it's saying that for the Earth cease supporting life it would need to be closer than .725 astronomical units. What they're not saying is Earth could move 41,139,415 kms closer to the sun and would *still* be capable of supporting life. Similarly, when the above says 'If we were farther away we'd freeze' it means is that Earth would need to be more than 3.0 astronomical units away from the sun. This means the Earth could move a not insignificant 299,195,742 kms further away from the sun and *still* be capable of supporting life. 

In essence the passage in the screen shot above *is* accurate. However, they fail to tell you that the 'closer' and 'farther away' they speak of is actually a zone something around 340,335,157 kilometres (211,474,461 miles) wide. I bring this up not to highlight the misleading information in the screenshot but to show that the assumption that we are here because Earth is 'perfectly placed' is simply wrong. It is another example where lack of information was covered over with 'God did it' but further investigation showed that it wasn't quite the work of a god as first thought. 

This is the bottom line problem with the 'Look around you' argument. When I look around me everything I see (with NO exception) has either a verifiable NATURAL explanation or NO verifiable explanation as yet (note - Yet). The only time the god hypothesis is invoked is when a person (who already believes there is a god - it is never a conclusion reached from an unbiased investigation) cannot otherwise explain what they see. They cannot explain life - therefore god. They, of course, ignore all the work going on in the field of Abiogenesis. They cannot explain diversity of life - therefore god. They do this usually having heard of evolution but not really understanding what it is (if we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys!). I have had a person on twitter thank me for sending them links to evolution web sites and telling me that they didn't believe it previously because they had the wrong idea about it. 

It's not just events on a grand scale either. Take a disease such as epilepsy. Imagine living 2000 years ago and having no idea what epilepsy was, having no idea about medical science, but believing in the supernatural. If you were to witness a person having a seizure would you think anything other than some kind of supernatural event was happening? Possession by demons? Some kind of spirit trying to enter the physical realm?  These kinds of assumptions at that time, with limited information, would be understandable. But as is always the case, proper investigation shows once again that this is NOT a case of god did it. 

'Look around you' is lazy. It's intellectually inept. It's not just an admission that you don't have a verifiable answer, it's an admission that you can't be bothered searching for one. It's plugging a gap in knowledge with a phrase that answers and explains nothing. 

Thunder, lightning, mountains, orbits, diversity of life, ears, eyes, thumbs, eclipses, disease, spring, summer, autumn, winter, the moon, the sun, Earth - the god hypothesis fails time and time again. Given that the god hypothesis has never been the verified explanation for anything in the past, why make the assumption that it will be the verified explanation for anything in the future? Surely the logical and intellectually honest thing to do is to reserve judgement, investigate, follow the evidence, see where it leads THEN make a conclusion. 

So in summary, two points:

  1. Everything I see has either a verified NATURAL explanation or no verified explanation as yet.
  2. God has consistently failed as an explanation in the past, why make the assumption that a god will be the verified explanation for anything in the future? 

With this in mind, how exactly is 'look around  you' proof of god? Simply, it is not. 


  1. Great Stuff! Mind if I steal some of it during my debates with Fundies? I like the magic to explanations analogy very much.

  2. Very nicely put. Good work!

  3. some say "God" exist..but if i ask who created him they simple say "no-one" created if god can exist without being created by someone or something,why can't earth exist without being created?

  4. I believe there is a consciousness in all matter. For instance a tree knows how to become a tree. I believe in conscious design in all that God? I believe so. Religions fall short on Manyfronts. None of them satify my thoughts. It all comes down to what you percieve as God. If there is a reason for us to be here I believe it is to learn to live peacefully with each other and harmoniously with our environment. Will we become masters of our world? Our world can be vast if we can all work together.

  5. Sorry about any and all errors. My words are dust in the wind anyway.