The end of god-3: The death of the Ultimate Creator God

(For previous posts in this series, see here.)

In the previous post, we saw that the idea of the Personal God was dead on the grounds that believing in such a god required one to abandon rationality and the God of the Gaps was dead on the grounds that advances in science have successively closed so many of the gaps that believing in such a god has become somewhat of an embarrassing exercise, requiring one to find refuge in a new gap whenever an old one gets explained by science. The decreasing number of credible gaps has resulted in most religious apologists abandoning this god as unworkable.

This left only the Ultimate Creator God, with its underlying assumption that complex things required a more complex creator, as a viable hypothesis.

Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, arriving in the mid-nineteenth century, was the first major scientific theory that destroyed the need for both the God of the Gaps and an Ultimate Creator God when it came to life’s complex systems. In its more modern form of the neo-Darwinian synthesis, which incorporates genetics and molecular biology into natural selection, this theory shows that once a replicator that is capable of reproducing or copying itself with fairly high fidelity using the raw materials available to it in its environment comes into being, however simple and primitive it might be, it will be inexorably driven by the laws of natural selection to ever more complex forms of replicators (the DNA molecule being one example of a complex replicator), eventually resulting in the complexity and diversity of life that we now see all around us. (See Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene for a clear explanation of how that happens.)

Thus with the arrival of Darwin’s theory, it was possible to understand how life systems could evolve from simple forms to more complex forms under the dynamic of natural laws. This dealt a serious blow to the Ultimate Creator God.

This major advance in our ability to understand the existence of life’s complexity and diversity without invoking a designer was followed by modern cosmological theories, developed in the mid-twentieth century, that have shown a similar process at work in the non-living world. We are now beginning to understand how a universe that began as a simple soup of quarks and gluons became, over time and under the influence of natural laws, the vast and complex universe of stars and galaxies that we now have. This growth from simplicity to complexity was again driven by purely natural laws acting on purely material elements without any need to invoke some kind of external intelligence supervising and managing the process.

I am by no means asserting that every question concerning life and the universe has been answered. What I am saying is that we now have powerful new theories that are evidence-based and provide a framework for investigating and ultimately answering the fundamental question of how complexity can arise.

Thus the modern twin theories of the neo-Darwinian synthesis and big-bang cosmology are now available to convincingly destroy the chief argument of religious apologists for the existence of the Ultimate Creator God, that there was no credible alternative to postulating that there needed to be an ultimate creator to bring about complexity

This is knowledge that earlier atheist philosophers did not have but could only hope to one day attain. As Richard Dawkins said, “An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: “I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn’t a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.” I can’t help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” (The Blind Watchmaker, page 6)

Hume’s hope has now become reality. We now have very good scientific explanations for such questions and it is the scientists among the new atheists, such as Dawkins in the field of biology, Victor Stenger in the field of physics and cosmology, and Daniel Dennett in the fields of the mind and consciousness that have made the case for the death of the Ultimate Creator God most forcefully.

Of course, it has to be conceded that religious believers can still claim that since science has not as yet convincingly demonstrated how the big bang or how the very first primitive replicator came about (although some speculative solutions have been proposed for both those problems), that it is at least logically possible to attribute these two things to a god. So in a sense, scientific developments have forced religious apologists into a corner and required them to merge the God of the Gaps and the Ultimate Creator God into one, into a kind of God of the Ultimate Gaps, this god serving purely as a sterile answer to questions about the origin of the universe and the origin of life.

This God of the Ultimate Gaps is one who has acted only twice in the entire history of our universe, the first time to start the universe and the second and last time to create the first replicator, before handing in his retirement papers for good. While religious believers can claim, if they wish, that such a limited-action god is logically possible, such an austere and remote god is a far cry from the chummy Personal God favored by most religious believers. Trying to bridge the gap between the God of the Ultimate Gaps favored by sophisticated theologians and the Personal God favored by the general public has been a thorny problem for the religious community.

The plain fact is that science, while it cannot totally eliminate god as a logical possibility, has for all intents and purposes made god redundant.

Next: The end of god due to other causes

POST SCRIPT: Baxter, the Wonder Dog

Ok, so Baxter may not actually be a wonder dog, but he is still a terrific one. He is now two and a half years old.


The end of god-2: The death of the Personal God and the God of the Gaps

(For previous posts in this series, see here.)

In the previous post, I discussed the three theories of god: Personal God, God of the Gaps, and Ultimate Creator God.

The arguments advanced in favor of the Personal God theory have little intellectual merit and are proffered as evidence only by those who already want to believe. People who believe in such a god are in the grip of powerful emotions and are not going to be swayed by rational arguments. People who argue in favor of such a god or believe in the literal truth of the Bible have essentially declared that they are rejecting science and logic and reason as the basis of their belief.

The Personal God causes all kinds of problems for rationality. It is not a serious theory and sophisticated theologians, who appreciate that the idea of an activist, interventionist god creates more theological problems than it solves, tend to dismiss it. Thus we can consider this god to be dead as a serious intellectual proposition, although it is still believed in by a large number of people. I am not going to spend much time arguing against the existence of the Personal God because people who believe in such a god are not doing so on the basis of any argument and hence arguments against this god will have no effect. For example, how can you argue with someone who says that she had a vision in which god spoke to her or a near death experience where she visited heaven?

What about the arguments for the Ultimate Creator God and the God of the Gaps?

The arguments in favor of these two gods (which I discussed in an earlier post) do have some intellectual merit and the more sophisticated religious apologists use them to underpin their faith. These arguments have been the foundation of religious apologists starting from ancient days, through Bishop Paley’s watchmaker analogy, down to the current intelligent design creationism. While these arguments are by no means conclusive, for a long time there did not exist any credible alternative models or theories or conclusive arguments or evidence to refute them. Hence these arguments by religious apologists for the existence of god were tenable (at least in principle) and thus seemed plausible enough to be held on to without seeming to be irrational. Atheists always had the option of rejecting them as sterile explanations without any content and while many did so, they were not able to refute them.

That is no longer the case. There is no question that we now have powerful new arguments against the existence of the Ultimate Creator God and the God of the Gaps that were not available to the earlier generations of atheists. They arise from the rapid advance of modern science.

The most obvious casualty of these advances in science has been the God of the Gaps. Those things that were once thought to be so amazingly complex that they could not possibly have come about by natural causes (the eye, wings, the colors of butterflies, etc.) are now routinely explained by biological theories and their origins and workings are no longer deeply mysterious, though these things are still marvelous and awe-inspiring to behold. The gaps where this god resided have become increasingly narrow and is so threatened with extinction that more sophisticated theologians have abandoned this god because of the embarrassment it causes. In any high-level discussion involving the existence of god (see for example The God Delusion Debate between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox), it is quite common for religious apologists (Lennox in this case) to start with a disclaimer that the god they believe in is not a God of the Gaps, since they know that advances in scientific understanding have made such a god an endangered species.

But although formally disclaiming such a god, some still try to sneak it in under a different name. Intelligent design creationism, by suggesting that certain microbiological phenomena are too unlikely to have occurred by the laws of biology and thus must have been created by a designer, is invoking a God of the Gaps, even if the gap it appeals to is so tiny.

But given that sophisticated religious apologists are shying away from admitting to a belief in a God of the Gaps, we can assume that that god, like the Personal God, is also dead, at least as a serious proposition worth debating, although it still has some believers.

The demise of the Personal God and the God of the Gaps as viable candidates leaves standing just the Ultimate Creator God. But as I shall show, here too significant new developments in the theories of evolution and cosmology have dealt devastating blows to its credibility and it is these developments that have laid the intellectual foundations for the powerful arguments of the new atheists, arguments that were not available to earlier generations of atheists.

Next: The death of the Ultimate Creator God

POST SCRIPT: True sporting behavior

As I have said before, I am well and truly disgusted with the lack of graciousness, the downright boorish behavior, that occurs in professional sports.

This heartwarming story shows how people should approach sports. (Thanks to Jesus’s General.)