Monday, 22 December 2014

Why 'God' is a bad hypothesis.

Gods and goddesses have been the proposed hypothesis for many events. From the early days of thinking a god was directly responsible for throwing lightning across the sky, creating thunder with his giant hammer, or exploding a volcano unless appeased by a virgin sacrifice, some god or another has been thought to be behind many natural events. 

Without exception this hypothesis has failed. We know no one throws lightning bolts from atop Mount Olympus. We know Thor isn't banging his hammer to cause thunder and we have an explanation for why volcanoes erupt and lack of virgin sacrifice isn't one of them. 

Few, if any, people these days think a god or goddess is directly responsible for things like those listed above but the 'god of the gaps' has yet to disappear entirely. 

The god of the gaps now survives in two main areas. The first is specific personal events such as so called miracles - for example having a person survive a collapsed building or an infant surviving critical surgery within hours of its birth, as well as minor interventions like finding a set of lost keys, passing a test, or nailing a job interview. 

The other area in which the god of the gaps survives is the two remaining great unknowns - life, and the universe. 

We don't know exactly how life was started on earth - so God did it. We don't know exactly how the universe started - so God did it. Or so religion would have us believe.

What the religions keep to themselves though is that the 'god did it' response has never been successfully demonstrated. Not ever. Not once. Conversely the 'god did it' response has only ever been disproved. 

This quote from Sam Harris comes to mind: 
"I would challenge anyone here to think of a question upon which we once had a scientific answer, however inadequate, but for which now the best answer is a religious one"
I also like this quote from Tim Minchin: 
"Throughout history, every mystery ever solved has turned out to be...not magic"
This is true whether that magic is a faith healer, psychic, clairvoyant, or a 'god'. 

To expand on this it's true to say that everything that has an explanation has a natural explanation. No exception. Everything we observe has either a natural explanation or no explanation yet. There is nothing where the demonstrable, testable, observable explanation is supernatural.


Any time the supernatural is touted as the reason something happens or happened, people remain sceptical. And with good reason. 

All explanations supernatural are a cop out. They are actually not really explanations at all as they get us no closer to knowing what really happened. Saying 'god did it' explains an event no more than saying 'a wizard did it'. 'God did it' and 'it appeared out of nowhere' have identical explanatory power. Tell a rational person that a painting fell off a wall because a ghost knocked it down and their response will be something like 'what really happened?' That's because reality and the supernatural are two different things. 

There is no good reason to think the supernatural exists anywhere but in the human imagination. 

God is what people say when they don't know the actual answer, can't think of the actual answer, can't understand the actual answer, or refuse to accept the actual answer. 

The god hypothesis is a bad one. It has a zero success rate and explains nothing. 

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