Now it’s thought by many who are religious that we evolved. It turns out, they claim, that natural selection is God’s means of achieving his ends. Futhermore, that evolution was aided from time to time by God giving it a little nudge when necessary.
Now it’s thought by many people who are religious that the physical constants that physics has found in nature—the strong nuclear force, the weak force, Planck’s constant, the mass of the top quark, and so on—are all part of God’s doing. God is responsible for the narrow range of values for the laws of nature that keep our universe on the knife edge that makes life possible.
When we discover that the universe is 15 billion years old and not 6,000, and that humanity has been around for 100,000 years and didn’t start with Adam and Eve, they acknowledge (reluctantly) “yes, that’s right. That was God’s plan. Isn’t the breadth of God’s plan sweeping?”
It would appear that every conceivable discovery is interpreted as evidence of God’s existence and God’s transcendent power, knowledge, and goodness. And no possible developments in our empirical investigations will be accepted as counter evidence. It’s a sort of reverse conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theorist takes everything that happens to be more proof that the government is watching him. The fact that he can’t get any pictures of the black helicopters surveiling him just shows how stealthy they are. The fact that no one around him lets on that they are spying on him just shows how good they are at covering their tracks. The fact that we cannot find compelling evidence that links the CIA and the mob as conspirators in the John F. Kennedy’s assassination itself shows that the CIA and the mob did it because no one else could have so effectively concealed their scheme. But with God, everything we discover, including the fact that there appears to be no need to invoke any supernatural agency to explain any phenomena we analyze, is taken to indicate just how transcendent God is. Even the fact that the universe appears to be just the sort of place you’d expect if there was no powerful, knowledgeable, and caring supernatural being itself is taken to indicate that that sort of being has good reasons for making its presence completely undetectable.
In all seriousness, if God were to build the universe and then give us a book, a doctrine, and a religion with which to worship him, and if all of the remarkable things about God’s role in the creation and sustainance of the universe that believers claim are true, then wouldn’t we have expected to find some hint about them from God, from his religion, from his book, or from his believers before they were discovered by science? In every, science forges ahead through hard work, insight, and struggle, to discover some truth about the world. And then, after science has done all the heavy lifting, the religious dogmatists snatch the discovery, “Of course, we knew that all along because that’s a part of God’s remarkable creation. It all just suggests more praise to God’s glory for his universe.”
There remain many unanswered questions in science now. We aren’t sure about the existence of the Higgs-Boson, or the graviton, or the relationship of the gravitational force to the other fundamental forces. We don’t have a clear, developed picture of the origins of consciousness in evolutionary history. We don’t have adequate information to ascertain the prevalence of life in the universe at large. But presumably with time, hard work, and human ingenuity, we will find answers to all of these questions. So here is the challenge for the believer. If all of those future discoveries in science are going to be co-opted and neatly adapted to show that God is such a profound being, then we should be able to find some indicator of these mechanisms of God’s handiwork in religion, religious doctrine, or the words of God himself without science to do all the hard work. If the four fundamental forces—gravity, strong, weak, and electromagnetic—are all God’s means of constructing the universe, afterall, then why can’t we find any indication of that anywhere in any religious doctrine or tradition before physics discovered them. If evolution was the method whereby God brought life into the universe as so many Americans now believe, then why can’t we find even the slightest hint of it in any religious source or the word of God prior to Darwin’s hard fought battle with those same believers? If the intelligent design hypothesis about God’s interventions in evolutionary history is correct, then why did no religious source ever give any indication of it until the 1990s? If viruses, not evil demon possession, were the source of disease all along and part of God’s plan, why has religious doctrine always been so clearly in favor of demons? If the abundant amounts of apparently pointless suffering and death in the world has always been part of God’s plan to build moral character, then did we not get any indication that this was true from religious sources until after atheists like William Rowe in the 1970s argued that pointless evil is evidence that there is no God?
The answer should be obvious. With every new development and empirical discovery, believers (usually, after resisting the truth with all their might,) construct an ad hoc explanation that allows them to coopt that discovery and contort it into their worldview and use it to their advantage. That their worldview previously contained no indicators of what is now taken to be obvious because of what science has forced them to accept is conveniently written off as metaphor, discounted, neglected, or forgotten. “Adam and Eve? Oh, we never really believed that literally.” “The earth is only 6,000 years old? That’s so quaint—it isn’t what we really believe.” All of the ad hoc re-engineering and reverse conspiracy gymnastics in order to salvage an Iron Age ideology is gross intellectual dishonesty when it is clear that the space left for the God of the gaps is rapidly shrinking.