Nope! "Someone" Did Not "Have To" Create All That There Is

When people seek to justify the existence of god by saying something like “someone had to create us”, I have to wonder where that question is really coming from. Is it coming from the understanding that nothing except intelligence can create life? Or is it coming from a limited frame of reference — one that is informed only by the conscious human experience?

Think about it. Why does the question involve a “someone” and not a “something”? What makes an actual personal god so integral to the fact of existence? The answer is nothing. We have perfectly good, scientifically validated explanations of how life works. No part of these explanations necessitates a “someone” to be involved.

Those unwilling to let go of their “someone” hypothesis often fall back on a rather weak “what else could it possibly be?” line of reasoning. This is known as an argument from ignorance, or at a later stage, an argument from personal incredulity. The response of course is that just because you can’t imagine what created life, the universe and everything, does not mean that we have to fall back upon “god” as the default explanation. For all we know, the answer might be something that is so completely beyond our ability to perceive that it does not even answer to descriptions like “intelligent” or “random chance”. The error here is to assume that we — the inhabitants of this small planet in the corner of an average galaxy — are in a position to come to any kind of certain answer about the origin to life and the cosmos.

Furthermore, the reason we define god as the creator of order has a direct link with the fact that we believe order is a real thing. In truth however, order is simply a label that we apply to certain happenings that resemble us and our view of ourselves. Our idea of order comes from things that are like us, phenomena that have persistence of structure or unity of theme. Until recently, our idea of life was something very much like us — oxygen-breathing, water-drinking, biological, and planet-bound. We still aren’t sure if viruses are to be considered dead or alive.

The universe is a cascade of patterns. Some of these patterns we consider orderly because they resemble us. Others we label “chaos”. There really is no tangible difference between order and chaos on a purely objective level. It is the human perspective that makes all the difference.

The argument that uses “order” as a justification for an intelligent creator is known as the watchmaker analogy. Here is how it goes: If, while wandering about, you find a watch lying in a forest, you will know that it did not just pop into existence. It had to have been made by an intelligent designer. The argument says that this is because the watch is an orderly mechanism (it is) and our assuming a creator is justified because order cannot emerge from random chaos without the efforts of an intelligent creator.

Here is the fault with the argument: If you were wandering about in the forest and found a rock, you would not assume it has been created. But the rock may be described as “orderly” — it has molecules that are held together by energy and it retains its shape and surface texture. It does not randomly get too hot or cold and it does not randomly get heavier or lighter. The same can be said of many orderly things which may be found lying about in the forest — a grain of sand, a plant, an insect, or even a dead bird. People who use the analogy should not get to apply the definition of order selectively.

The reason we assume the watch we found in the forest has a creator is not because it has order. It is because we have seen watches before. We know how watches are made, we know how they work and how much work goes into making them. That’s where our assumption about an intelligent creator comes from. If the watch lying about in the forest was discovered by someone who had never seen a watch (or any similar artificial product) before, this analogy would fail to work. As mentioned before, it is about our frame of reference as human beings.

We don’t have a similar frame of reference when it comes to the creation of the universe. None of us have ever seen a universe being created by a god. Nor have we personally created universes from scratch. We have also not created life. The safest thing to do would be to simply admit that we do not know enough, and it is possible that we would never ever know enough.

The universe may have come about in one of many ways. And one of these ways can certainly be “god” as described in one of humankind’s religions. But it is equally likely that cosmic teddy bears spawned the cosmos, or that a Level 5 intelligence accidentally spilled chemicals into a vat and our universe emerged from that reaction. Or perhaps it was sheer, utter random chance that brought into being all that we see around us. Putting all our eggs in the god basket despite being surrounded by such incredible possibilities reeks of intellectual and imaginative bankruptcy.