Sometimes, when I’m watching swallows swooping, or funny faced donkeys in a field, or just bumble bees buzzing around flowers, I’m completely astonished I can believe all this is here by chance. In those moments of wonder at the beauty and intricacy of our existence, I completely understand why humans are drawn to explanations that suggest everything is designed. It’s instinctive. And in the absence of any of our accumulated human knowledge, it would even be logical.
However, fortunately for us, we live in times when we don’t have to rely completely on our innate animal instincts to make sense of the world. We have lots of information tools to help come to more sophisticated conclusions.
Astronomers use giant telescopes to peer into the history of our universe, giving us insight into the miniscule significance of our planet and can give us good indications of the age of our solar system and how the universe itself was naturally formed.
Geobiologists study rocks and microorganisms to demonstrate that the Earth has changed significantly since it was formed billions of years ago.
Anthropologists and archaeologists study the remains of human societies through history and give us a picture of the myriad superstitious religions that have cropped up in every isolated corner of the world.
Historians interpret the documents and stories passed through generations, separating fact from legend, and propaganda from reality.
Psychologists study our brains and our behaviour, giving us insights into our childish need to assign agency, our craving for meaning and control, our fear of not existing – all of which have made supersitious beliefs powerfully seductive to us as a species.
Sometimes, when I see the opinion of the Pope being taken seriously, or women walking around with their full faces covered by fabric, or people streaming out of churches on Sundays, I’m completely astonished that so many people can believe all this is here on the whim of an invisible being. In those moments of head-scraching at the overwhelming evidence for a natural explanation for our existence, I can’t understand why humans are still drawn to explanations that suggest everything is designed. I know it’s instinctive. But we now live in a time when all our accumlated human knowledge clearly points to religions being nothing more than the refined product of superstitious ignorance. When, as a species, will we wake up? Will we ever collectively be able to shake off this powerful instinct that we hand from generation to generation?