Thursday, September 6, 2012

On coincidence, creation, and really pretty flowers

[Note: Please know that I'm not trying to disparage or put down anyone who does believe in a god or gods; I'm simply articulating my own viewpoint and why it appeals to me personally. Any friendly counter or debate is, as always, perfectly welcome.]

When two old friends who haven't seen each other for years meet on a street corner because they agreed ahead of time to meet there and catch up, there is nothing particularly striking about it. However, when the same two friends randomly bump into one another on the same street corner, without any prior arrangement, it suddenly becomes remarkable — that's the potential stuff of romance novels or Hollywood movies.

In the same way, if you are working from the premise of an omniscient, omnipotent being who can just point a finger and go "BAM! Universe!" then in a way, everything about that creation loses some of its enchantment. Of course things are amazing — if you are an all-powerful being who can make things however you damn well please, why would you bother making anything lame?

On the other hand, when you start from a premise of more or less random chaos, and then look at the world we have now, it's quite frankly astounding. Think of all the processes that had to come together in exactly the right way at exactly the right time to create the trees and plants in a tropical rainforest, the adorable housepets we film and put on YouTube, the gorgeous array of stars in a clear night sky. Think of all the physical, chemical, and biological machinations going on for thousands and thousands of years that took us from being apes poking things with sticks to being modern humans with complex societies, brains capable of speech, extensive abstract thought, and unparalleled potential for creativity and innovation.

If your favorite flower exists because an omnipotent being said, "Hey, we need some more color up in this place — ZAP — new flower!" then of course it's lovely, because why would it be anything otherwise? An omnipotent being has no reason to create mediocrity. But if that flower exists because somewhere down the line, a dozen or so generations ago, two different random species happened to be growing next to one another and got cross-pollinated, creating that exact shape, shade, and scent that makes the flower so beautiful to you — isn't that amazing? The wind could just as easily have been blowing the other way, and then the flower wouldn't exist. Isn't that something to appreciate and be thankful for?

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