Quest for the Simplest Explanation

The history of the abolition movement in the West isn’t complete without William Wilberforce. His drive was instrumental in abolishing in Britain the slave trade in 1807 and then slavery itself in 1833. There’s much more to the story than just Wilberforce, of course, but the story wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging his work.

Martin Luther King has a similar position within the U.S. civil rights movement. The story doesn’t begin and end with him, of course, but the story wouldn’t be complete without noting his substantial contribution.

Or Gutenberg in publishing. Or Einstein in physics. Or Shakespeare in English literature. Or Charlemagne in the history of Europe. Perhaps their fields would now look to us roughly the same without them; perhaps others would’ve stepped in. No matter—these great leaders were central figures in their fields. You can’t explain the facts of the history of their fields without them. A history book without these figures would have holes, like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing.

Wait—how did the Slave Trade Act get through Parliament with so much opposition? Who gave the “I have a dream” speech? Who developed the theory of relativity? Did the printing press just poof into existence?

There aren’t partisans here, with some historians of science acknowledging Einstein (or Darwin or Newton) and others saying that these figures never existed. Historians might rate their importance differently, but that they were important isn’t questioned.

Now that we know what a central figure looks like, consider God, the central figure in reality. He’s behind life, the universe, and everything. No historical figure so dominates their field as God dominates reality—or so we’re told.

Imagine God removed from reality, like the story of abolition without Wilberforce, or an Einstein-less history of physics. Beyond a superficial summary, we simply can’t explain abolition without Wilberforce or the history of physics without Einstein. So what of reality can no longer be explained without God?


Admittedly, we have riddles at the frontier of science. How did abiogenesis happen? What caused the Big Bang? What causes consciousness? But surely the Christian’s argument is more than, “Science doesn’t have all the answers, therefore God.” And, of course, Christianity doesn’t have any better answers. It can repackage a scientific puzzle with “God did it,” but that explains nothing. Science continues to deliver while Christianity continues to not deliver, but even if science delivered no more, that would say nothing about God’s existence.

Have you heard about the recipe for making boiling water? First put a pot of water on a hot stove, then stir with a magic spoon (just once, clockwise), and then wait for the water to boil.

God is the magic spoon. He’s not necessary. He only complicates the explanation.

Invoke Occam’s Razor and drop both the magic spoon and God.

The problem with quotes on the internet
is that it is hard to verify their authenticity.
— Abraham Lincoln

Photo credit: Will Culpepper

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10 Skeptical Principles for Evaluating the Bible (2 of 2)
About Bob Seidensticker