I’ve no idea why this thought should crop up now, but I recall being asked several times by religious folk why I would choose not to believe in a god. Often their question is something like “Why believe that everything you see around you was created by random chance, when it would be so much more wonderful to think that someone created it all just for us?”
I disagree completely.
Isn’t it more wonderful to think that at some point, billions of years ago, everything we know was just an unimaginably tiny, unimaginably hot and dense energy field? That within seconds, it coalesced into quarks and leptons and other stranger things, that those quarks became protons and neutrons, then on into hydrogen and helium atoms?
Isn’t it more wonderful that a simple force like gravity drew those atoms together into huge balls of gas, so hot and dense that they ignited and became shining beacons visible from the far end of the universe? And that they eventually exploded, scattering heavy atoms far and wide? And that those atoms – oxygen, carbon, iron, even as heavy as uranium – gathered around another newly-forming star, clumping together into big balls of rock, one of which happened to be in just the right place around just the right kind of star to sustain liquid water on its surface?
Isn’t it more wonderful that after a billion years of volcanism, asteroid impacts and boiling, toxic atmospheres, somewhere in that water, a bunch of molecules lined up in a pattern on the surface of some clay and became the first proteins? That these chemicals strung themselves together in molecules so complex they could contain the code for their own reproduction? That they became so much more complex still that they could encode the information to generate a cell, a microscopic blob with a membrane that means it can keep conditions inside itself different from those outside?
Isn’t it more wonderful that over millions or billions of years, they developed gills so that they could extract oxygen from the water, and gain their energy from that rather than directly from the sun? That after yet another unimaginably long time, some of them went on to develop legs that would allow them to colonise the land?
Isn’t it more wonderful that millions of years ago the Earth was ruled by giant lizards, and that that isn’t just the plot of a science fiction movie but the real history of our planet?
Isn’t it more wonderful that 14 billion years after the first quarks formed, we stand here today? For all that we are vulnerable, disease-ridden, selfish and fond of killing each other, we alone have the medical knowledge to understand ourselves, and we alone have brains advanced enough to contemplate themselves. We alone understand biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics. We alone have telescopes to study distant stars, and we alone have built spaceships that we have thrown out beyond our solar system into the cosmos beyond.
And is it not more wonderful still that we may not be alone in the universe, that amongst the billions of stars and maybe trillions of planets, there could be other creatures like us – or even that the universe could be swarming with life; great civilisations spanning the distant galaxies.
But an omnipotent MacGuffin that made the Earth just for us? That’s not all that great.