The Disappearing God

April 13, 2011

This blog is accompanied by an image of the Crab Nebula. The creation of the Crab Nebula corresponds to the bright SN 1054 supernova that was recorded by Chinese and Arab astronomers in 1054 CE. This nebula is about 7,000 light years away. No religion would have ever told you that.

There have probably been around 20 or 30 supernovas within 40 light-years of us during the past 5 billion years. Several of those supernovas supplied their elemental remnants to the cloud of dust that congealed to form our solar system. Elements heavier that iron, such as gold and uranium, are formed from the intense heat of a supernova explosion. You are made from such explosions. No religion would ever tell you that either.

In rough estimates, there are 7*10^27 atoms in a 50-pound human body, ninety-nine percent of which are oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon.  A typical adult has about 2 x 10^19 gold atoms in their body =  20,000,000,000,000,000,000. That's 20 million trillion gold atoms. All of these gold atoms are older than the solar system – many of them are at least 10 billion years old, created from long-ago supernova when the Milky Way galaxy was young. In another sense, your body is entirely made of things as old as the entire universe, since the protons, neutrons, and electrons that make up your entire body came into existence a few minutes after the Big Bang. What you are is as old as the universe, about 13.7 billion years old.

Furthermore, your elemental parts will survive to be reincarnated into innumerable more life forms until the Sun and the Earth die a cold death a few billion years from now. But that won’t be the end for your atoms. Nearby supernova will shock and stir the dusty remnants of the solar system and new solar systems will form around this neighborhood 10 or 15 billion years from now. If life is as easy as biologists are coming to think, some of your atoms will make up the bodies of newborn life-forms living on the new planets of those future solar systems. Indeed, this recycling and re-birth has probably already happened to make you. Many of your atoms may have been part of alien organisms that lived on some long-ago destroyed planet from a much earlier solar system billions and billions of years ago.

Religion tells you that what you see around you must have been the intentional design of a god. Its so easy to explain things with a god! Its so hard to understand how the world and the universe came about by blind natural processes. Yes, its hard to understand how nature works, and its hard to understand why our universe has precisely the laws that it does. But saying “God did it” only enjoys the illusion of an explanation. Science has been able to keep on explaining more and more of nature without any need to resort to a divine power, and it is reasonable to expect scientific success to continue. Anyone who claims that they know where science must stop in frustration and go no further is making a foolish claim. History is full of religious believers who all seemed to know that God’s hand must have done something that science hadn’t explained yet. But betting against science in the long run is a foolish bet. As far as we can positively tell, it is endless nature out there to explore.

It is religion, and not atheism, that is claiming extraordinary knowledge about God beyond the actual capacities of any human being. Religion always expects God to start where science happens to stop. But that God has been retreating for two thousand years from the mountain tops and from the stars and retreating right out of the natural universe as science has marched forward. Why should an all-mighty God have to retreat before science? Doesn’t that show you how religion actually doesn’t have any positive knowledge of its own to provide to make the world more understandable? Science is showing us how to best survive and flourish on the planet that we emerged from. Religion by itself would have never led us up into the stars. And into the stars we will go, if we survive long enough.

But our journey won’t be easy, no thanks to God. Doesn’t the way that 99.99999999% of the universe is absolutely inhospitable to any kind of life show you that it wasn’t made for anybody? It is easy to imagine how a universe could have been more intelligently designed, with less wasted space and energy and more hospitality for life. This universe looks about what you’d expect from a haphazard natural process that flung matter and energy everywhere and forces all that stuff to obey blind uncaring laws. Our bodies look that way now, just the product of uncaring natural processes, and so does our planet, and the solar system and all the galaxies. Thanks to science, the whole universe we inhabit is starting to look that way too, as just one universe among innumerable universes endlessly and blindly created by basic physical laws.

Anything that once looked like good evidence for God as we gazed around in our dark ignorance has disappeared in the light of knowledge. And God has disappeared from our sight too.


#1 L.Long (Guest) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 at 6:13pm

But your argument proves g0d!
99% of the universe is inhospitable.
But here we are on this very specially created world made by g0d for US!
It is easy for them to twist the facts to suit their delusion.

#2 Karl (Guest) on Wednesday April 13, 2011 at 8:46pm

Thank you for a perfect summation about it all!

#3 Kenneth (Guest) on Thursday April 14, 2011 at 12:02am

L. Long,

You clearly haven’t the slightest idea of what constitutes a proof. I wouldn’t, for example, go so far as to say your argument ‘proves’ your delusion; let’s just say it’s a strong indication in favor of it.

#4 Val Eisman (Guest) on Thursday April 14, 2011 at 6:32am

Amazing that people who don’t believe in God also known as secular humanist should devote soooo much energy to discussing God and disproving a God’s existence.  I cannot think of a more irrelevant subject for secular humanism at this time given our current social, political and economic conditions.

Members of this organization seem solely devoted and preoccupied with fighting the religionists.  Luckily, most of the thinking people in our society are preoccupied with relevant issues like nuclear power and global warming—two important issues CFI religiously avoids in favor of the trite and mundance.

Really, who really cares about how old the molecules in our body are?  You’re so out of touch you probably don’t realize that humankind probably wont’be around in another 200 years for it to even make a difference.  But keep on while Fukushima keeps leaking and the US War on Terror expands to even more continents dropping its dirty plutonium bombs as it goes along.  Now that’s a scientific fact that is verboten in CFI. LOL!  How long these radioactive elements are going to last on earth in and the universe. 

Yes, let’s stick tightly to the abstract and irrelevant.  Makes for ice bedtime reading for those who want to cozily insulate themselves from the important issues of our time known as the human experience.

#5 L.Long (Guest) on Thursday April 14, 2011 at 8:05am

Well Kenneth you fully misread my post.
I am not a g0d-bot as a real g0d-bot would not even need that much proof.
I was trying to show how even strong evidence can be twisted and added to a pick of delusion to suit a position.

#6 Larry Clapp (Guest) on Thursday April 14, 2011 at 8:35am

John Shook sayeth:
> Its [sic] so easy to explain things with a god! Its [sic] so hard to understand how the world and the universe came about by blind natural processes. Yes, its [sic] hard to understand how nature works, and its [sic] hard to understand why our universe has precisely the laws that it does.

Wow, normally people say “it’s” when they mean “its”; you’ve taken the opposite approach here.

Val Eisman sayeth:
> Members of this organization seem solely devoted and preoccupied with fighting the religionists.  Luckily, most of the thinking people in our society are preoccupied with relevant issues like nuclear power and global warming—two important issues CFI religiously avoids

You’re obviously not reading the same Skeptical Inquirer Magazine that I’m reading.

Also, I recommend you Google “Atheism and the “Shut Up, That’s Why” Arguments” (I’d post a link but the text below says “guests may not post URLs”).

Here’s an excerpt:

> QUESTION: Don’t you have anything better to do? Why do you keep talking about atheism when (the economy is tanking, there are wars, people are being tortured, the planet is overheating, etc.)? How can you think this is important? Why do you expect anyone to pay attention to it?

> ANSWER: Ah, yes. This is what I call the “How can you talk about blowjobs when people are dying in Darfur?” argument.

> Okay. First of all, A: People are multi-faceted. We can think about, and talk about, many different things at once. We can talk about global warming, and cute cats. We can talk about Afghanistan, and the history of surrealism. And we can talk about the tanking economy, and whether or not God exists. Not everything we talk about has to be the Major Social Issue of the Day. If we only ever talked about the terrible state of the world, our heads would explode. We need a little variety.

> But more to the point, B:

> Atheists think religion is a major social issue. Atheists—many of us, anyway—think religion is one of the major sources of social upheaval on the planet. From sex and science education in the U.S. public schools, to the violence and chaos in the Middle East, we think a lot of what’s terribly wrong with the world would be better—not perfect, but better—without religion.

> This isn’t trivial. Treating it as trivial is just an attempt to get us to shut up.

(Maybe this’ll get through:

#7 Larry Clapp (Guest) on Thursday April 14, 2011 at 8:39am

Hah, the rest of my post did not, in fact, get through.  But there was just one more paragraph:

So, Val, I won’t tell you to shut up—that’d be ironic, eh?—but I will say that I think you’re dead wrong.  Especially since you don’t actually, you know, *address any of the points* raised in this post.

#8 gray1 on Monday April 18, 2011 at 9:30am

The article is a little disappointing in that it stresses inductive reasoning and speculations (not denigrating either quite valid scientific processes) through the benefit of hindsight to stress “where’s a god?” but leaves the table wide open as to where the future might go as we continue increase our knowledge base and (yes) actually continue to evolve both mentally and physically. 

As our conception/perception of a comparatively modern “the” God compares with more ancient cases of “those” gods such things have continued to evolve from their original constrictions and ideals for the most part just as quickly as they no longer serve their intended social or even individual purpose.  If I were God that would be my own plan. (Insert smiley face here.)

My contention is that with a little more effort the title hereto might just as well have been “The Appearing God” or even “The Evolving God/gods” should we dare to project those very same scientific observations forward along the obviously exponential knowledge base/processing curve.  My guess is that at some point whatever it is we previously tried to define as God or gods will pop up, whereupon the question of timing has been made moot.

“God” has forever been about trying to understand the unknown, not the known and the last time I looked we still had plenty of material to work with in this respect even after categorizing as much as 90% of the observed universe into a “dark” folder. Answers always beget more questions, hence the ineffable God remains simply a moving target, not an extinct one.

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