Once again, I find myself explaining something that should be fairly well understood by people, and it just isn’t. I’m going to explain… explanations. Here’s where it starts. I say something like “the theory of evolution explains the diversity of life”, and the religious person says “god explains the diversity of life.” Only it really doesn’t. At all.
To understand where I’m coming from, let’s break this down to the simplest form and then build it back up again. Say it’s your first day of school as a kindergartner. The teacher writes on the black board:
Seven times twelve is eighty-four.
The teacher then turns around and “explains” to the class, the reason this is correct is because of math. Math explains it. That’s it.
Now, in this example, the teacher is providing the correct answer. But they obviously haven’t actually explained anything. To actually explain something, you have to go off of what you know. So we start with counting. We teach kids to count apples or pies or chairs or whatever. Then we teach them addition. Count this many over here, and this many over here, and when you take the one group and add it to the other group, the total number in the group is what we call addition. We have now explained addition.
Now take a row of things, and next to the row add one column of the same number of things. You can add the sum of each row, or you can multiply the number in the row by two, which is the number of columns. Then add another column and multiply by three, then four, etc. Now we’ve explained multiplication.
The difference between the first method and the second method is that the teacher is referencing something known. If you can understand counting, you can understand addition. And if you can understand addition, you can understand multiplication. But you can’t understand multiplication if you don’t yet know how to count. It is a worthless explanation, which is to say it doesn’t explain anything.
But here’s the important thing to remember. To the small child, multiplication may seem like magic. You could have just as easily told them you arrived at the answer by magic. You see 5 columns of 8 dots each, and *poof* Forty! Magic. That is, until you EXPLAIN it to them. Then they understand it. If you don’t come out of the process understanding how the thing works, then it wasn’t explained well enough.
Now, the understanding of the process is really the important bit. Without that understanding, you actually don’t know what’s going on. And without that understanding, you don’t know if the person is correct. I could just as easily tell a class of kindergartners that five times five is 17. They wouldn’t know any better.
This extends in to all facets of our lives. There is an explanation for why your car works, and it isn’t “because it’s a Chevy”. That is a worthless explanation. There’s an entire discussion that needs to be had about pistons and crankshafts and valves and stroke cycles and a bunch of other stuff just to explain the very basics of what makes a car work.
And even worse, if you don’t know even the most basics of what makes a car works, you are going to be very gullible when the mechanic prescribes an expensive fix. If the mechanic says your car doesn’t work because the block rotator is cracked, run. Run, and never give them a penny of your money.
This is why “God” is not an explanation. Nobody knows if god is a block rotator or a broken valve. (The first is completely made-up, and if you know anything at all about cars, completely ridiculous. The second is a real thing and a real problem that does happen.) We can’t know which one god is, because there is no explanation. Without an explanation, we are gullible to believe it.
The difference between “god” and “evolution” is we DO have an explanation for evolution. We can take what we already know about sexual reproduction and build upon that concept, with each step well researched and evidenced. We DO have an explanation for near-death experiences. We take our understanding of brain function, and build upon that concept, with each step well researched and evidenced. We DO have an explanation for morality. We take our understanding of social species, and build upon that concept, with each step well researched and evidenced.
To date, god has not been an explanation for anything. Inserting god into the conversation doesn’t help us understand, it just assigns a name to the concept of not knowing something. Do the math on that. God= not knowing. It’s funny, but it’s also true! Religious people will literally say this. “I don’t know how it happened, praise God!” Yes, you’ve just equated your god to ignorance.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the hypothesis of “supernatural.” I only mention it to say, I don’t give a flying f**k about the supernatural, and here’s why. If your god has any interaction with this world in any way whatsoever, then there should be an explanation for that. If your god created the world, answers prayers, records your deeds, and speaks to you, then there should be an explanation for that.
When I was five, I could be tricked into thinking that just mentioning something was an explanation. Santa Claus. Magic. God. Blinker fluid. But I’ve grown now, and I’ve put aside childish ways. I need to understand to be an adult. I need to understand how my job works, how my car works, and how relationships work. Invoking the name of ignorance is worthless.
The Spartan Atheist