Monday, May 18, 2009

Do you believe in God? I’ll take either side …

Actually, this isn’t me speaking. It’s an eager UU teenager looking for a discussion! So maybe when I was a teenager, it was me. Now I sit back and listen to the shouting. As an official theology student, I find that the believers accept me as one of them, and I have lost status in the eyes of unbelievers. What interests me about both sides is their total certainty. Which is nothing new for believers! They’ve been killing unbelievers for centuries because they’re so sure of the rightness of their beliefs. In the past, to stay alive, atheists weren’t quick to broadcast their unbelief, but they’re as convinced as believers. In fact, they’re very like each other in their faith.

The faith of the atheist? Sure. Any atheist worth his or her salt will explain, will prove that God does not, cannot exist. Prove. And in fact, so can any Jesuit … and then the Jesuit can turn around with just as many proofs of God’s existence.

So what is this proof business? No matter which way you jump, faith props you up. Both sides often use the evolution of a fly’s eye to prove their points. “It didn’t happen by chance,” say many believers. “No, it evolved that way,” say many unbelievers. (Inset image: Drosophila eye, by Shirin Pocha.*)

In such an exchange, to these unbelievers, evolution excludes God, Q.E.D., and to these believers, God excludes evolution, Q.E.D. Why? Both sides assume definitions, and definitions by definition are limits. To a believer in this scenario I ask: if God can design a fly’s eye, why can’t God create evolution? Of an unbeliever I ask: what, exactly, about evolution excludes God? Each side draws an arbitrary line in the sand. Each side excludes the other — and it’s all based on faith.

*Shirin Pocha took the scanning electron micrograph of the Drosophila eye while a Ph.D. student at the University of Bristol, and wrote, "The structure of the eye, similar to many other insects, is termed a compound eye and is one of the most precise and ordered patterns in Biology.")

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