Intelligent Designer Or Sadistic Mad Scientist?
Life is replete with structures and systems that give every indication of having been cobbled together by an incompetent tinker. Examples of some of these suboptimal and jury-rigged designs are listed and discussed here and here. Furthermore, a number of biological survival strategies appear to have been spawned straight from the pages of some ghoulish horror novel. See here for discussion of some of these ghastly parasitic interactions.
Creationists (including most intelligent design advocates) contend that the God of the Bible was the sole architect of all basic life forms. When confronted with the problematic designs and grotesque life cycles discussed in the links above, many creationists attempt to rationalize these irregularities in terms of the after-effects of the so-called “Fall” of Adam and Eve. As they explain it, God originally created life in a perfect state that later degenerated as a consequence of the first couple’s inability to resist temptation. If this is an accurate portrayal of events, then what implications does such a scenario have regarding God’s character and His attitude towards those He is said to have created?
The Bible asserts that God, in His various manifestations, is omniscient (Job 34:21; John 16:30, 21:17; and 1 John 3:20). As would be expected of any god worthy of the title, this omniscience is said to include the ability to foresee the future (Isa. 44:7; Dan. 2:45; and John 16:13). However, if God is truly prescient, then He would have known in advance that Adam and Eve would ultimately “Fall” to His temptation and sample the forbidden fruit. After all, He could not have been all-knowing as the Bible claims, and not have been knowledgeable of EVERYTHING that was going to happen to Adam and Eve during their lives. It also follows from His precognitive abilities, that He would have had prior knowledge of all the various structural defects, diseases, and diabolical parasites that He would later visit upon the objects of His creation as a consequence of His pre-arranged “Fall.” Therefore, if the Bible can be taken at its word, God constructed His test subjects (predestined to succumb to temptation) with the future degradation and corruption of His handiwork fully in mind. (Not to mention that the first couple would not have had a clear understanding that they were committing any transgressions until after they had eaten the magic fruit which was, according to the Bible, their first exposure to the concept of good and evil.).
Assuming that God is the omniscient, omnipotent creator He is cracked up to be, He brought His human prototypes into existence knowing full well that they would not be able to resist the temptation He would ultimately place before them. (By definition, it is impossible for an omniscient being to be surprised by anything.) And, if He was in complete control of the creation process, then He must have purposely designed the hapless duo from the very beginning to fail His loyalty test. (Either that or He was incapable of producing individuals who could avoid such temptations – in which case He is not omnipotent.) But why give Adam and Eve a rigged test and then, when they failed it, allow all manner of evil to enter into their lives? Why not let them off with a sever reprimand and a requirement for them to stand in the corner for a while? Why would a loving God purposely introduce evil into a world (Isa. 45:7) which, according to the Bible, had been in a state of perfection until the first couple flunked His test? (See footnote for more discussion on this topic.)
So here we have a deity creating individuals who (He knew beforehand) could not live up to His test standards. Then, with justification that only a True BelieverŌ can pretend to fathom, He saw fit to punish them and all their descendants in perpetuity for their pre-ordained weaknesses by (among other things) inflicting on them (and other members of the animal kingdom) various anatomical deficiencies, diseases, and parasites – many of which are extremely debilitating, painful, and/or life threatening.
Such a creator might be intelligent. However, it flies in the face of common standards of decency to deny that He also possesses traits analogous to those of a sadistic mad scientist. Creationists may be satisfied with using the “Fall” to rationalize the imperfections in living things we see today, but they have yet to explain how this attempted rationalization squares with the Bible’s claim that God is merciful, gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness an truth. (Exod. 34:6) Nor have they made a convincing case why anyone should feel obliged to worship a creator who exhibits such disdain for those He brought into existence. If they insist that God’s behavior is consistent and above reproach, they need to spend more time reading their Bible. (See also Good God??)
The design irregularities discussed in the links above are readily explicable in terms of evolutionary processes. Creationists can attempt to explain away such anomalies in the context of the Bible only by engaging in irrational doublespeak and tying themselves into theological knots.
Some creationists will undoubtedly counter with an argument that goes something like the following: “If people were not confronted with choices that are both good and evil, there would be no way for God to conduct a true test of their inclinations to make the proper free-will decisions.” This simplistic sophistry fails to reconcile the evil-God, good-God dichotomy for several reasons. First, as discussed above, an omniscient being, such as the God of the Bible, cannot conduct a fair test of free will even if He wants to. Such a deity knows precisely how everyone is going to behave throughout his/her entire life before he/she is born. Second, this argument fails to explain why any God worthy of anyone’s respect would want to deliberately tempt and test the objects of His creation, even if He could. Is God so bored and ill-tempered that He can find nothing better to do with His spare time than to dream up temptations to try to trick us into committing sins so He can fill the vacancies in hell? Third, how do natural disasters and disease fit into this equation? How does an earthquake, plague, typhoon, tornado, wildfire, hurricane, mine explosion, tsunami, parasitic epidemic, drought, land slide, flood, famine, etc. that can kill many hundreds of innocent victims put those people to a fair test? How did the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center put the occupants of those buildings to a fair test? How does childhood cancer put a child to a fair test? Only someone who has forsaken all vestiges of critical thought could be impressed by the argument that such God-sanctioned suffering represents a reasonable test of free will. Fourth, even if adverse consequences and suffering (i.e., evil) were somehow related to free-will choices, why must the repercussions be so pervasive and severe? Couldn’t God have achieved roughly the same results by setting up a test that was considerably less traumatic for the examinees? Wouldn’t a loving God have gone out of his way to develop a more humane screening procedure? And wouldn’t it be expected that the punishment meted out by a kind-hearted God would be something more merciful than forced exposure to the everlasting agony of the flames of hell?
Another defense of the
existence of evil sometimes heard from creationists goes something like this:
“Since God did not want humans to act like robotic droids, He provided us with
free will. In order to make free will possible, there must be both good and
evil choices from which we can select. Without evil in the world to provide
an alternative to good, genuine free will could not exist and we would all
behave like mindless automatons. Without free will, life would be
unfulfilling and boring as
If they make that argument, it is then appropriate to ask them, “Will there be evil in heaven?” If they answer in the negative, then it is also appropriate to remind them that, according to their own argument, there can also be no free will in heaven and all those who go there will be preprogrammed drones destined for an eternity of boredom. They may respond by claiming that things will be different in heaven and that God will be able to give his heavenly guests the gift of free will without introducing any evil whatsoever. After all, they are in the habit of reminding us, “With God, all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26 and Mark 10:27) And if they use that ploy, then ask them why He didn’t create heaven on earth in the first place instead of purposely designing an interim world full of evil (Isa. 45:7) and destruction (Isa. 54:16) that brings so much misery into our lives. Ask them why a perfect and merciful God would create an imperfect world wracked with evil, suffering, and pain when He had the wherewithal to do it right from the beginning. And ask them why God has made life miserable for so many of His created beings, in the here and now, if he really didn’t have to.
As a last resort, some apologists, when confronted with the dilemma of the coexistence of an omnibenificent God and an overabundance of evil, fall back on the time-honored cop out: “Although God’s behavior may seem strange to us, we mere humans cannot expect to understand the divine purpose of such things. God works in mysterious ways that are beyond our meager powers of comprehension. Thus, we should grin and bear it and not question anything He does.” Well, mental institutions are full of people whose behavior seems strange to us and who “work in mysterious ways” that are beyond our comprehension. However, most people do not see this as an admirable quality. Quite the contrary. They view it as a serious character defect – especially when the strange behavior involves inflicting pain and suffering on others. Why should God be held to a lesser standard? If God had wanted us to be obsequious, unquestioning pawns, why did He create us with inquisitive minds that are capable of critical thought? If lobotomized robots is what He wanted, presumably He could have easily produced them. If our ancestors had failed to ask questions about “God’s mysteries,” we would still be living in the Dark Ages – burning “witches” at the stake, exorcizing demons to cure disease, most of us dying at the ripe old age of forty-five, and swearing on a stack of Bibles that the earth is flat and located at the center of the universe. (Obviously, we still have a ways to go though. Some have yet to come to grips with the fact that the biblical creation story has the same evidential support as a flat earth located at the center of the universe - NONE.) If God has nothing to hide, wouldn’t you think He would welcome questions from the audience?
In the final analysis, free will and the notion of inscrutable mysterious behavior are incapable of absolving God of His penchant for inflicting suffering on His subjects. Apologists will have to come up with some other excuses to account for His obvious mean streak.