During a lecture on cosmology, the professor was interrupted by a student who took particular offense at the complete lack of religion in the explanation.
“The world,” said the student, “It flat, and it rests upon the back of an elephant.”
“Oh really?” chimed the professor.
“Really,” replied the student.
“And what, may I ask, is the elephant standing on?” asked the professor.
“Why a hippopotamus, of course,” said the smiling student.
“And the hippo, what is it standing on?”
The student begins to look frustrated and says, “A turtle.”
“And the turtle?”
The student sighs and says, “It’s turtles all the way down.”
I like adding the hippopotamus to the story, because all good stories and jokes rely on the number three (bad ones, too).
This is an example of an infinite regression. My favorite infinite regression is the one for God.
“What created the world?”
“What created the sun?”
The Milky Way galaxy.
“What created the Milky Way galaxy?”
The Big Bang.
“What created the Big Bang.”
I’m not sure.
“Well, then clearly it was God.”
The end. What a tidy little proof for God. Except… what created God?
“God is uncreated.”
Why can’t the universe be uncreated?
Yeah, exactly. If something can just come about uncaused, then what would ever possess someone to simply name that step “God?” Is it so hard to just say, “I don’t know” and keep looking for the answer?
What we are witnessing are the last gasps of traditional religious cosmology, trying desperately to hold onto some small role in the process of creation. But to me, it’s just an invitation to make up any tale for God’s origin that you wish.
Where did God come from?
It was born of the Great Sky Bull.
Where did the Great Sky Bull come from?
It was wrought from adamantium by the Mystical Monkey of the Maroon Mountains.
Where did the Mystical Monkey come from?
Duh, it was cut from the thigh of the Kindly Rhino.
And the Rhino?
Coalesced from the steam of the Icelandic hot springs.
The Icelandic hot springs… how did they exist before the Kindly Rhino cut the Mystical Monkey from its thigh, which then wrought the Great Sky Bull from adamantium, which gave birth to God, which created the Big Bang, which created the Milky Way Galaxy, which created the Sun, which created the Earth, which is where the Icelandic hot springs are located?
Don’t you see… through the Kindly Rhino, all things are possible, even vicious cycles!
In the end, none of it even fits into Christian cosmology. There is no “Big Bang” in the Biblical creation myth which posits God as the central architect of creation. The sun and stars are created after water already exists on Earth, for crying out loud. Talk about anachronistic.
This must be a different god, not Yahweh. Yahweh is the Biblical god (or God, with a capital “G”), but the god people try to explain as “Nature” or “The Universe” itself are not the same being. They share none of the same characteristics beyond the title of Creator, and their methods are distinctly different. The claims of Yahweh do not in any way match up with the features and abilities attributed to this New Age, post-Enlightenment, Deistic figure.
More importantly, calling the universe a finely tuned watch and God the “the watchmaker” does nothing to explain creation. The universe is, in point of fact, not as complex as a watch, nor as regular (what watch is constantly expanding and changing, failing to keep accurate time as parts of it explode?). The universe is simple, a little chaotic, and highly unorganized.
God, on the other hand, is complex. The complexity of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being is so beyond the scope of human understanding that it approaches a complexity bordering on infinite. Saying “God did it” does not answer anything, it merely creates a question too complex to ever possibly be answered.
Someday, when we can explain in great detail and relative certainty the full nature of the Big Bang and its origins, there will be a new period of time and mechanism of action which we cannot explain. If there are religious people still around (and there’s every reason to believe there will be, so long as we are still human), I’m sure their God of the Gaps in Human Knowledge will retreat once more behind this new bunker of the unknown.
What a sad, ever-shrinking kingdom this lowly deity inhabits…