Sunday, March 30, 2014

God May be a Vestigial Organ

There is a principal in science that also seems to work well for life in general. It's called Occam's Razor and, in its simplest iteration, says that the best way to describe how something works is to use only what's needed, nothing more. That means if something is not needed to solve a problem, then don't invent it. Don't go looking for cures for which there are no diseases. It's an anti-Rube Goldberg principle. It's not a law of physics, such as gravity or inertia, but it can't be ignored as it generally turns out to be true.

But I can almost hear some people asking, "But what about vestigial organs?" It is true; many animals have vestigial organs - parts of their body that have no use or that play only a minor role in anatomy. Some snakes have hip bones; so do whales. Humans have muscles to move the ear, but most humans can't do that. We also have a coccyx and wisdom teeth. So what's up with that?

The thing about vestigial structures in animals is that, although they may not have any use now, they once did. Our apelike ancestors, for example, had an elongated mouth and those wisdom teeth fit in there quite nicely. Without them, there would be too much gum space. The hip bones in snakes and whales obviously means that the ancestors of those animals had legs. So vestigial structures weren't invented by nature just to jam us up. They once had important uses, but are now in the process of being evolved out of the anatomy.

But Occam's Razor works just as well on a cosmological level. Astrophysicists and cosmologists have been working on the big picture for a long time. And they have come up with a number of plausible scenarios that would get us to where we are right now using only the laws of nature and physics. The debate now is over which of these scenarios best fits our observations of reality and which one is the most mathematically consistent. But what all the theories of our existence have in common is that none of them posits that God created the cosmos in six days, or even billions of years. There is simply no need to bring in God to accomplish what nature can do on its own just by doing what it naturally will do.

So, to bring God into the equation is unnecessary. It doesn't prove their is no god, but if there is a god, it violates the principle of Occam's Razor. There is simply no need for that hypothesis. So if in fact God does exist, I guess that makes him a vestigial structure in the cosmos. Except that, unlike our vestigial organs, he was never needed.

Sometimes we have to have a vestigial organ removed. Our wisdom teeth are usually the first to go. But if, say, an appendix gets infected, it needs to be cut out as well. When God becomes more trouble than he's worth, it's time to resect him as well. God has become the wisdom tooth of the universe. He causes people to act nutty and believe foolish things. In and of itself that doesn't affect the whole of society, but when the God believers become too nutty, they often affect policy in a negative way, such as when it takes away the rights of others or prevents certain rights from becoming established. In 2014, in America, it is finally time to remove that last vestige of our society - God. He is no longer needed to explain anything at all.

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