Everything is so complicated… It must have been designed? Calling bullshit on having a higher power.

A couple of weeks ago I was taking a break outside the office block (which happens to be situated in a shopping mall) when I bumped into a guy who regularly attends NA meetings at the place where I did an outpatient program recently.

Some background info for anyone new here… I had two conditions with which to comply before reunification of my son from foster care back to me could proceed:

  1. Take part in a court-approved outpatient program. (SANCA – I did a program at a place called Phoenix House)
  2. Take part in a parenting course. (NICRO)

(The “parenting course” was actually a generic diversion program for “offenders”, that is for people with criminal records. My ex and I got there via a letter of recommendation from Social Development, and were the only ones there who didn’t have criminal records to clear, or probation officers, or any of the things that the other attendees had. We were the only ones who had not been arrested or tried for any crimes. The course was run by a lazy social worker who split the people into groups and let them come up with their own answers to vague questions. It wasn’t very useful. It did not address that, for example, the underlying reason for many of the other attendees crimes was actually addiction – It almost always is, by the way. I won’t mention that course again.)

Thanks to not being able to clean up successfully for a long time, I only started those courses long after I was given a court order with those conditions. (But I have complied and now my son is in the last six months of foster care. I will be clean for two years in September, and I have no doubt that I will remain clean for life. I do not believe in “Just for today”.) Also, I only started the outpatient program when I was already about 17 months clean. That is, it was a formality. I did the program and took what I could from it, especially from the therapy sessions, but I only did it because I had a piece of paper saying that I needed to do a program. NA and the 12 steps had nothing whatsoever to do with my success in staying clean (although to be fair, I did learn some important lessons through therapy and it did help me).

Anyway, this guy I bumped into still attends those meetings about three years after his own (inpatient) treatment. So he was not impressed when I told him that I don’t go to those meetings anymore. I’m tired of this argument, so I won’t go too much into it now, but the bottom line is that I do not buy that addiction is a disease that must be treated with a spiritual program, and I do not buy that I must remain in treatment for life to manage a disease that I don’t believe exists. I especially don’t believe that I must reach out to a higher power that doesn’t exist. I do believe that people who insist that my view is wrong have fallen for the No True Scotsman fallacy, where they convince themselves that the program is the only way to stay clean, and therefore anyone who didn’t make it using the program was not working the steps properly or not truly in recovery. They tend to assume that anyone who leaves the program is not going to make it, and also that any time they themselves fail, they weren’t working the steps. Often such people are in and out of the program for many years, never fully taking responsibility for their choice to use drugs (because it’s a “disease”), while simultaneously blaming themselves when the program doesn’t work. (“I wasn’t working the steps.”)

He didn’t take issue with any of that argument… No, he didn’t even comprehend it. He stopped listening at the point where I said that I don’t believe in a higher power.

He walked up to a potted plant standing there in the parking lot. Then he pointed at the leaves, and asked me “Do you believe in photosynthesis?” And that was it. That was his whole fucking argument! As if knowing that the process of photosynthesis exists automatically necessitates a belief in a creator. The mechanisms of photosynthesis are so complicated, they must have been designed. Really? I see a large leap of faith there, between photosynthesis and the need for a god.

I’m not going to include links to evolutionary science, or explain it in detail. But a layman’s understanding of evolution, this layman, who finished school in 1989, is this: Genetic mutations take place on a cellular level, because the process of replicating DNA is imperfect. Random little changes happen all the time, and most of those changes are insignificant. But changes that happen to increase an organism’s ability to survive tend to get carried over to their offspring, which then has a survival advantage over organisms that haven’t evolved those same traits – this is called natural selection.

These changes take millions of years and many generations, and are always ongoing. There is no direction in evolution, so some evolutionary paths end up nowhere, perhaps in extinction. The effect of all this is that things can start out really simple and gradually become incredibly complicated… Single-celled organisms evolve to two-celled organisms, then multicellular organisms; simple water-creatures develop regions of cells that are sensitive to light, which evolve to being better able to detect contrasts between dark and light, which evolve into slits, which evolve into simple eyes, and so on. No doubt photosynthesis evolved the same way, in some simple organism which was a common ancestor to all the plants on this planet today. These things take so long, we can not even imagine time on that scale. (Yet ironically, we invent a god who will save us or punish us for eternity. Eternity. Do you even know what that means?)

Evolution explains complexity very well, as opposed to the alternative. Your alternative, which is that this was designed, essentially says that God waved his hand and a fully formed plant, with photosynthesis already working as it is now, just appeared out of nothing. Let there be plants! And poof! Plants exist!

Not only that, but the idea that one can’t accept that these things evolved, gradually over millions of years, but can accept that some magic being, capable of creating not only those plants, but planets, suns, all animals and all life, was just always there, makes no sense at all. The argument that all these things must have been designed because they are so complicated, or beautiful, or functional, essentially defeats itself. “It couldn’t have just evolved. It couldn’t have just come out of nothing” you say, then make a straw man of evolution as if evolution claims that it does, then follow that with an assumption that a being capable of creating those things just exists! Thus you explain “magic” that you don’t understand with magic that is equally beyond understanding.

Yes, science can’t explain how life evolved from inorganic to organic, living cells. But evolution can and does explain how simple life forms evolved into the complex life forms that we have today. There are fossils going back millions of years and the theory of evolution is not in contention. Only crackpots doubt it, as there is plenty of scientific evidence for it. There are still many questions that science hasn’t answered, but the answer is not that it was all created by some magic being that was always there, and believing this just because some primitive people wrote their ideas down thousands of years ago is delusional.

When faced with the question of why not to accept evolution but to accept that this almighty creator capable of creating everything was always there, a theist recently answered the question (in a discussion group I belong to) with “because He is God”. In other words, he believes in God because he believes in God… He has been indoctrinated into an unfalsifiable belief since childhood, and no amount of reason will ever allow him to consider that the belief may be wrong.

Also, basing my entire life, my sobriety and my recovery, on a reliance on this fictional, imaginary friend, is not something that I am stupid enough to do. It insults my intelligence whenever anyone expects me to do so. You can have your stupid 12 steps and your imaginary friend, admit that you were powerless over your addiction and that your life had become unmanageable, and I will carry on calling out the bullshit.


About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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2 Responses to Everything is so complicated… It must have been designed? Calling bullshit on having a higher power.

  1. Evolution is harder to understand then wave a magic hand. Some people gravitate to the lazy magic idea, rather than look for truth or evidence.

    Gratz on the staying clean part!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jerome says:

      It gets to me though, when they scoff at the idea of evolution, and make sweeping statements creating straw men of evolution that impose on it the idea that everything came from nothing. Yet the alternative that they believe in does not question where this super-being came from. So they expect us to answer a question that they can’t answer themselves.

      Besides the pet hates post, I have another post in my head, further dissecting a silly argument I read last night, essentially a non sequitur… copy and paste scientific jargon, make some vague statements and then claim it is evidence for intelligent design. It’s the same argument as the photosynthesis one, dollied up to look like something more, and the person making it then wonders why nobody refutes his points. Meanwhile his points are irrelevant, refuting the scientific jargon is unnecessary because the leap of faith took place in his head between the science and the conclusion which did not follow. So it’s a case of start with your conclusion that god exists, look for evidence that supports it (selection bias), then frame that “evidence” in such a way that it supports the preconceived conclusion, without being aware of the huge leap of faith between the evidence and the conclusion, which does not follow.

      But I don’t have time to write now. I shouldn’t even be commenting here… must get on with my work.

      Edit… (Here I go again, writing yet another looong comment that could just as well have been a post in the first place.) I forgot to mention, I find it amusing how people who believe look at the world and see “works of God”. Recently I posted a meme to facebook, which contained two images – a picture of a Bible and one of a Spider-man comic. With text “Proof that God exists. Proof that Spider-man exists”. I posted it with snarky comment “I hereby accept Spider-man as my personal saviour.” One girl responded with “I don’t see the works of Spider-Man anywhere.”

      I find that enlightening, as it reveals something very broken in the logic of many theists. Look at something complex, or beautiful, and see “the works of God”. It takes a huge leap to go from beauty to God, and requires a mind indoctrinated with the belief that God exists and created all things. Yet they don’t see this illogical leap. And then sometimes post nonsense to FB and other places as “evidence of God”. I still haven’t figured out the best way to express this, but I find it quite fascinating.


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