11. Natural religion.
God jumping around redesigning the world every hour
When I see a tree twisted out of shape by the winds on
an exposed rocky hillside, and compare it to a tree in a
sheltered grove rising straight up, I am not moved to
see that comparison in ethical terms.
One tree does not seem to me better that the other, more
good or in a moral sense more successful, than the other.
Similarly when I look at other species, lizards and
ants and wild mamals. or any of the other oddities of
which nature abounds with some design changing every
minute – what a challenge this represents to a deity.
Is the more complex ‘better’ than that which is simple.
Is there one way to measure complexity?
Is a monkey better than a lizard?
Or a canary than a snake?
Not to mention the multitude of Insects in the
rainforests and the extinct species of mastodon or
early horse or whatever.
Any rough observation of nature – even that classical
one that we are born, we live, and we die –
leads us, when we fully realize that we die,
to realize that our living is part of a process,
not primarily a part of a judgement by some idea, or
some abstract pinciples, or by the God of a book.
So any observation of nature has to involve some notion,
even if only a crude one, of a process of selection and
change – of evolution in the broadest sense of the word
– not evolution as progress, but as change involving
local conditions and selection making the complexity
and occasional weirdness (to us) of the results, that
our lives and species are in a process of constant
(if not continuous) change.
This is not a commitment to any very specific theory
about genes and evolution, or the relation of chance and
adaptation in evolution, but simply an awareness
that the patterns of species that we see are far too
complex to be the product of a personal “God” –
a “God” making individual decisions about individual
creatures, or species, or events.
For this is the popular, if not the theological,
Christian notion of God – and “His” relatives in some
other religions. This notion of an individual making
specific individual decisions about the world has
If we accept the complexity and change in the world
before our eyes then this idea would entail a weird
image of such a God rushing and jumping about
redesigning the world of species repainting the picture
every day and hour, with no time left for anything else.
A “God” co-equal with the existence of the very world of
nature itself. A God of diversity and oddities, and
indeed of evolution itself.
If any of this is relevant, then we clearly have to do a lot more in making clear to people the many different parts to a conception of “god”.
By the way, looking at a number of sites supposedly discussing but
actually advocating a specific set of arguments about “intelligent design” I notice that NONE of them have any possibility of comment
or feedback. Some open “scientific” discussions those are.
Some may wish to look at the website
Thoughts On God, Politics and Man