Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
Epicurus, Greek Philosopher, circa 341-270 BC
Religion thrives on ignorance and whithers under the illumination of knowledge.
In ancient times man needed god in order to explain all the things he did not understand.
So why did the sun rise each morning? Because god made it come up. Why are there so many animals all different from each other? Because god made them that way.
In modern times we have more knowledge so there is less that people can give god credit for but some people still try. For example, they might say they don’t understand how the wide variety of species came about, thus they say it is intelligent design, ignoring the evidence for evolution. They might not understand what caused the big bang, therefore god made it happen. This is a common enough belief held by many people but one that has flaws.
By definition, the god of ignorance is a shrinking god. As we learn more, we understand more and there is less to give god credit for. Thousands of years ago people praised god every morning for making the sun come up again. Today we understand celestial mechanics and so god doesn’t get credit for making it come up. His role has been progressively reduced until now all we could plausibly give god credit for is the initial bang which started things.
If there is something we don’t understand then saying that “god did it” is lazy and fails to push the boundaries of human knowledge.
Evolution seems to be a natural consequence of the way things work. When something arises that works better than the current system it is more successful and therefore it proliferates. Even the big bang has theorists doing research on what happened before the big bang. These are not impossible questions that will never be answered.
These are not guesses, they are theories backed by observation.
I have often wondered why religious people object so strenuously to the theory of evolution? The theory of evolution has a simple elegance which makes you think ‘yes I can see why this has to be true’ but many religious people say ‘oh it’s just a theory, it has never been proved’ the implication being that because it is only a theory it is in some way invalid. Saying that ‘theory is not fact’, is correct but religious dogma is not fact either.
The terminology used in scientific circles is confusing to many members of the general public and does science no favours but it is necessary.
A hypothesis is a theory which has no supporting evidence. Once it has some supporting evidence then it becomes a theory. If there is a lot of experimental or other evidence to support the theory it is still called a theory, even when it is generally accepted as being true. Scientists try to keep an open mind and to say that something is proven closes ones mind to the possibility of ever changing ones views on that subject in the future and so in science everything is a theory.
For instance Newtonian mechanics was a well accepted theory for three centuries and it had huge quantities of supporting evidence but it was still just a theory. It is a good thing that scientists didn’t close their minds on this subject because it turns out that Newtonian mechanics is incomplete, it accurately describes the motion of bodies traveling at slow velocities but if they travel very fast then Relativity starts to change the way they behave.
For the religious dogmatist to dismiss something as just a theory strikes me as being very strange because what they are trying to entice people to believe in is less than a theory, the religious texts I have seen do not have any supporting evidence whatsoever therefore they fall into the classification of hypothesis and speculation, not theory. However we are expected to accept them on faith (belief without proof). The people who put forward these hypotheses are so certain that they are correct that they need no proof.
On a superficial level it seems that a very old planet Earth, and constantly changing species, any one of which might become the dominant species is at odds with their literal interpretation of the Bible, so religious people object to it on those grounds.
But I think there’s more to it than that, evolution argues for a universe of flexible rules and constant change, whereas religion argues for a universe of fixed rules with no change. I think that this is the basic reason why religion’s followers have not appropriated evolution as being the mechanism by which god shaped life on Earth. They find change extremely disagreeable. However pretending that something is the way you want it to be does not make it so.
The god of ignorance will always be there. As we discover new knowledge, we will also discover new questions. The god of ignorance will always occupy that unknown place. He will never completely vanish. However he will continue to get smaller and smaller and less important.
Why would I even want to believe in a god whose importance shrinks daily?