Saturday, July 6, 2013

God Is Not The Answer

This post is considerably shorter than my usual posts since the point I wish to raise is a very simple one. I want to address why god is never the answer to any question about reality, and why anyone truly interested in understanding the world would never be satisfied with that sort of answer.

Imagine that a friend of yours has you over for dinner one night. For the main course he serves you what is hands down the greatest London broil you have ever had. Being a foodie, you ask your friend to please tell you how he made it. “My great grandmother made it” is his odd reply. This is odd for two reasons: 1. His great grandmother is dead 2. Even if she were alive, it still doesn’t really answer the question you asked. As a foodie, what you want to know is HOW the food was made, not by WHOM was it made.

                When a theist attempts to answer any question about reality with “god did it”, “god must’ve done it”, or even better “how else can you explain it, if not for god” they are doing the same thing. First of all, as far as I know there is no god, secondly that doesn’t answer my question. Whether it is the beginning of life, the source of the big bang, or why some people inexplicably recover from life threatening diseases, while others inexplicably drop dead, “god” is never the answer.

                Any question that falls under the reality/science heading is a “how” question, therefore a “who” answer is ill suited. If I want to know how life first arose for example, saying “god did it” doesn’t help me at all. Unless of course you could give me a sensible description of how god did it, in which case who needs the god part of your answer?

                The philosophical term for this sort of fallacy is the argument from ignorance. Summed up, the argument from ignorance is “we don’t know how this works therefore… [insert any nonsense here]”. It must be one of the most absurd fallacies ever, yet people keep making it.

                As always, if you are truly interested in how reality is how it is, turn to science, it’s your best hope, it’s an honest attempt at the answer, and its accuracy is impressive.

                “God” is not the answer, nor can it ever be. 


  1. I think what people mean when they respond with "god did it" is that it is inexplicable how it happened, thus it must have been done via a god/supernatural power.

    1. First of all, thanks for your response. Secondly I would like to address your point with two different approaches.

      Firstly, if something is described as "inexplicable", that is usually more of a statement about the speaker than the phenomena. Calling something inexplicable either emphasizes their lack of knowledge of the explanation, or their lack of imagination to come up with one. That is not to say that every person must be able to explain everything, but to claim that since you cant explain something therefore it is inherently inexplicable borders on megalomaniacal, and is at the very least a mistaken approach.

      Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I would like to point out that the point you raise is classic "argument from ignorance." The first half of your statement is a statement of ignorance (which in certain cases is the only honest position), however you then go from there to; therefore god... therefore supernatural... therefore whatever.

      You cannot go from "I don't know how" to "therefore I know that..." that is classic argument from ignorance. If you don't know, then you don't know; if you do know then you do, but your ignorance cannot lead to a statement about anything other than your ignorance.

      I hope that I have made my point clear, but in case I haven't please feel free to respond.

    2. Shunah - you have hit one nail on the head. Many "Jewish" or "Non Jewish" proofs of god fall into this category.

      Some call it the god of the gaps. But you have added important insights as well.

      For example one jewish proof for god is jewish survival (whatever that means) implies a god. But there are many other plauasible explanations or maybe it was just luck. Why has the rat survived despite numerous attempts to eradicate it ? I know it must mean there must be a god of the rats.

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  3. I grew up as an atheist,became religious in my early twenties, tried different religion, converted to orthodox judaism.
    But now in my early forties,after long research and deep doubt,I realizerealize that God and the evolution theory go very well together.
    The Rambam himself said that if someone thinks that science contradicts Torah, it means that this person has no Torah or no Science. Only people who take the Torah,meaning the written Torah literally can not accept this fact.

    1. Hi, out of politeness I feel compelled to say "I hear what you're saying" but in reality, no, I have no clue what you are on about. I would recommend that you read my posts entitled "Can Judaism Be Reconciled With Science" (spoiler alert: the answer is no). I would go further and say that one of the chief goals of this blog is to make that point.

      In response to your Rambam quote, I want to raise two points:
      1. The Rambam lived hundreds of years before science came around.
      2. It has been my experience that those who attempt to reconcile Torah and science usually destroy at least one (if not both) of them. It is like forcing a round peg into a square hole, it doesn't work without destroying at least one (or both) of them.