Sunday, 12 February 2012

A bedtime story...

I wrote this story for the benefit of a young person who defends his continued clinging to a religion that teaches him that God was responsible for everything in the universe. The original post may be found here.

Once upon a time (all the best stories start that way), about 13.7 billion years ago, there was a disturbance in the space/time continuum. This disturbance caused a microscopic dot that was so small that it couldn't be seen to shudder and pop. Later, 13.7 or so years later, someone would invent a telescope that could see so far into the cosmos that he could map a picture of what the "pop" that his successors would call the "big bang" caused to happen, and it looked something like this:

Image
Source


For the next few billion years, it seemed that nothing happened but it did, all sorts of things were getting together, forming connections, giving each other their phone numbers, getting married, making babies and causing all sorts of things to become what science would call "elements" and matter. And out of this masses formed making lots of collections of these all of them collecting into neighborhoods, which we call "galaxies."

While all this was happening, the "matter" and the "elements' would get together to a degree that they would form a few properly formed bodies that travelled around in an ellipse formation around a bright glowing thing that later would be called a "star" which we know today as "the sun."

And this sun was the centre of a solar system, which is part of a greater system, called a galaxy where a little body of one of these, came to be known as earth; and the outer fringes of the galaxy where this "earth" grew was called by the people who would eventually learn this "The Milky Way."

As you can see, the "third rock from the sun" was the friendliest one, the one where all the elements happened to get together in exactly the right combination to form landmasses and huge bodies of water.



Source

All of this took about 10 billion years. A long time, but we're not aware of it because it all happened long before any of us were even a twinkle in our dad's eye.

Then around 3.8 billion years ago, the weather and the mess on the place where the water and land met caused some chemical reaction. The chemical reaction that happened caused a single cell of exactly the right elements to replicate itself. This happened over and over again. And as these cells replicated themselves they became more and more intelligent and more and more complex and they found different uses for themselves and made themselves into different looking things some of them ate each other and then they in turn were eaten by the others.

Then one day, the ones on the land started sprouting leaves, and because they needed to live, the unpleasant atmosphere on the land made them happy and because they were happy they breathed out making a more pleasant atmosphere from their waste.

This pleasant atmosphere attracted some of the things in the water to stick their head out of the water where they were constantly being eaten, they liked the air on the land so they came out found it was a nice place to live and they could eat the plants on the land and in eating the plants on the land, they made poop that fed the land, causing the plants to grow bigger right up to the sky, so it got better and better and friendlier for the creatures who ate the plants pooped food for the plants who breathed the carbon dioxide that the animals breathed out and, in turn breathed out the fresh air that caused the animals to become happier and bigger. But then some of them got bigger and bigger and they started to eat the smaller more defenceless ones until one day, there was a catastrophe and all of them were wiped out and they had to start all over again. This happened again and again over the next few billion years until finally there were huge animals that ate everything in sight. This went on for about 150 million years.

In the meantime, the land mass split up moved around and the huge animals that we know as the "dinosaurs" lived all over the planet. Then one day around 65 million years ago, a huge meteor came down from space and crashed into the earth causing a terrible catastrophe that totally killed everything on the earth land mass, causing the sun to be blocked out and causing an ice age. But under all the mess the meteor left behind, there were little animals hiding away, eventually they came out, with the babies that they'd learnt to make while they were in hiding. In turn these animals which came to be known as mammals split up into all sorts of different animals, one of which separated from its ancestors around 200,000 years ago, it changed as it learnt to use tools, to eat better food, to build shelters to develop into societies.

About 5,000 years ago one of these societies living in a lovely place where plants grew and there were lots of other animals to hunt, started planting their own plants in an organised way, and they figured out how to make other animals do what they wanted to do, they learnt to communicate with each other and how to make marks on pieces of clay to communicate further. They traded with each other and some of them put themselves over the others organising the others into groups of people who had to hand over some of their food and animals to them in order that they could explain to them the rules of the society and how everything around them worked.

Some of these animals who now began to see themselves as fairly important because of their ability to organise themselves moved away and in moving away they took the stories the people who took their animals and food from them with them, and they allocated the story telling to certain members of these societies, they named these people priests, and the people who told them what to do, they called kings. These priests and kings were afraid of the people who gave birth to their children, so they set them apart calling them "dirty" because they bled and when they gave birth they made a noise and bled for a long time.

But then the "priests" and the "kings" became powerful so powerful that they started scaring the people into giving them more and more of their possessions, and they fought other groups of people and made them work for them, stealing their women from them, and taking their possessions, and the more powerful they became the more oppressive they became and the worse their stories of fear became. They then invented beings that couldn't be seen, and called them "gods" told the people that the "gods" would punish them if they didn't do what they told them to do. These "people" created huge empires built on the backs of the gullible people who believed in their power and their gods, until they reached a point where a man became so clever he built a telescope that could show him where it all began, and another man worked out how the animals came to be the way they came to be, and atheism was born. These "atheists" began to explain to the gullible people that they didn't have to fear the "gods" because they were merely invented in ancient times so that greedy people could make them into slaves and that for as long as they trusted the greedy people who took their money, now promising them that they would live forever if they kept on paying money.

But by now, the story of the "gods" had become so entrenched in the society that they are held by the fear that if they let go of the gods, they would die and burn forever in eternal hell. But the atheists who are now able to explain everything except the "shudder" that caused that first little "pop" known as the "big bang" continue to beat down the "gods." Because for as long as the gullible people continue to believe in the gods, they will never appreciate the wonderful chance, the spectacular piece of luck that caused them to be able to experience this universe and their only chance to experience it.

And that's the truth, the truth is not the stories written by frightened people who feared people who were stronger and more powerful than they.

For the benefit of those readers who still cling to theology: learn, you will "pass this way only once." And when you're very old, you'll look back with regret at lost chances to experience this beautiful life that you, the winner of the sperm race have won for yourself.


Because I can't comment on my own posts, I want to add this from my friend "Thwoth" at www.rationalskepticism.org:

The true 'miracle of creation' is not that we exist, for we can say that natural circumstances led to our inevitable existence--we are here, this is a bankable fact--but that Mother Nature, by a casual flick of her fickle heel, has endowed us with the ability to acquire information and to understand it. That our understanding is less than complete is not in doubt of course, but this only serves as motivation to expand that knowledge and understanding and to grow into more than we were, as both individuals and as a species. 

Invoking the notion of the creator deity stymies that honest search for understanding, for if all questions about the nature of the real world, our place in it and our relationship to it, have already been answered before we even begin our enquiries, then why would we bother to ask the questions and seeking out the answers? If the answer is always and only ever 'God did it' then no question need ever be asked again, and all that would be required of us would be an obsequious parroting of authorities wishes, whatever they might be.

In the words of that great public defender of Darwin, his friend Thomas Henry Huxley, in putting aside the declarations, strictures and insistences of religious authority we eschew the convenient, simplistic, and self-serving explanations that would have us writhing in perpetual fire or gurning in perpetual, somnambulant bliss, and instead undertake "to follow reason and fact in singleness and honesty of purpose, wherever they may lead, in the sure faith that a hell of honest men will be more endurable than a paradise full of angelic shams."