Do we live in a world with a god? There are many reasons to reject that idea (part 1 here).
Let’s continue our survey with the next clue that we live in a godless world:
It’s easy to see the evolutionary benefit of physical pain. If you touch something hot, you pull away quickly and minimize the damage. If you touch something sharp, you learn to avoid that. If your leg still hurts after an injury, you give it more time to heal. If you’re climbing over rough ground in a way that scrapes your palms or knees, you adapt to protect yourself.
These examples are pain that you can do something about, but what about chronic pain? There’s no value in pain from cancer, headaches, phantom limbs, and many other kinds of injury or illness. This kind of pain is gratuitous, and it doesn’t push the patient to take steps to avoid or reduce injury.
Evolution explains this nicely, but it’s not what you’d expect in a world with God.
God is the most powerful being in the universe, and yet Christians want to protect him from honest criticism. Praise for his good actions is fine, but we can’t condemn anything that we find bad. As if he were a baby, we must tiptoe around the drunk driving accident that killed an innocent teenager or the tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people. God is good no matter what he does (or allows to happen), and mankind gets any blame.
Whether you get what you asked for in prayer or you don’t, God’s failures to deliver as promised in the Bible are reframed as life lessons or tough love. “God is good” is assumed up front, and any evidence is shoehorned in or ignored. The worship of a real god wouldn’t need to reject troublesome evidence (more here).
See also: When Christians Treat God Like a Baby
The Bible makes clear that the universe was created for man. Unlike other living things, man was made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26) and was given authority to rule over “every living creature” (Gen. 1:28). We read something similar in Psalms: “You [God] have made them [men] a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet” (Psalm 8:5–6).
Just to eliminate the possibility that the Bible was just talking about this planet, with God having other plans for living things elsewhere in the universe, note that the Bible’s cosmological picture is completely earth-centric. From the vantage point of the earth, there is the sun, the moon, and a bunch of cute little points of light that were literally little (for example, “The stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind” in Revelation 6:13). The earth is clearly the focus of this universe, and Man is the purpose.
Earth is a Petri dish, and all sorts of organisms grow here, both good and bad. Along with butterflies, puppies, and robins, the earth has cholera, Ebola, and smallpox. Parasites like guinea worm, malaria, and hookworm. Famine, drought, and crop failure. Genetic diseases. Natural disasters.
Life doesn’t look like it was created by a Designer. God could’ve custom-designed each species for its niche, and yet we find sloppy, imperfect instructions that point to common descent. Each species is a variation on its ancestors, and the record of these variations is evident in the DNA. Sure, God could’ve designed life on earth in a way that mimics how evolution works, but there’s no evidence for that. All evidence points to evolution. (More)
The apologist may respond that a huge, old universe is necessary to create life-giving conditions on earth, but the evidence doesn’t point there, either. First, it’s nature that needs second-generation stars to create the heavy elements that we need for life. God can just use magic like he did in the Genesis creation stories. (Which, by the way, is the problem with the fine-tuning argument. Nature would need conditions to be in a life-permitting range. God is omnipotent and has no such constraint.)
Second, just one galaxy is enough, and our universe contains roughly 200 billion galaxies. Cosmologist Sean M. Carroll argued that you’d predict none of this extravagance in a God World. He said, “Everything we know about physics tells us that none of those other galaxies is necessary to explain what we have in our neighborhood here” (video @46:55).
An apologist might try to salvage the God hypothesis by saying that God just made a galaxy-making machine and stepped back to let it do its (excessive) work, or God made life as variations on a theme, leaving unintentional clues that evolution was the cause instead. But these are just excuses to save the God conclusion. God is unnecessary.
Continued in part 5.
that the reason for [the universe]
is to let us be here?
— Sean Carroll
Image via YJ Jeon, CC license