Thursday, 12 February 2015

God Needs Darwin To Help Him Create Evil?

Few people can be unaware of the hysteria Stephen Fry caused recently in Christian circles, and not just with the fundamentalist with obvious mental issues. Even supposed 'moderate' Christians waded in to tell us childhood cancer was all our fault and their creator god can't be held responsible for the evil it creates. How it's all to show us how much it loves us and just to remind us all just how disgusting and unworthy we are of its love and lucky that it loves us so much in spite of our loathsome unworthiness.

Of course their hysterical over-reaction to Fry's simple little point is understandable, given their sensitivity to the point made by Epicurus in about 300 BCE:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Epicurus – Greek philosopher, BC 341-270

As I showed in Why Your God Doesn't Exist and as we can see, from this entry in the peer-reviewed Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, despite the mental gymnastics of religious apologists, they have never been able to come close to refuting its simple truism. They know very well that evil exists and evil cannot exist in the same Universe as an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent god. The observable presence of evil utterly refutes the existence of such a god. If the god they worship exists it is indistinguishable from an evil one.

They also know that the 'problem of evil' has driven many a devout Christian down the road to unbelief. This is very much a 'not in front of the children' question for Christians and Stephen Fry committed the crime of talking about it in front of the children.

Briefly, Stephen Fry had been asked what he would say to the supposed Christian creator god if ever he happened to meet him. Fry's reply mentioned bone cancer in children, amongst many other things and Christians have been queuing up on Twitter, Facebook and other social media to explain how childhood cancer, like children being blinded by parasitic worms is just their god's way of showing us it loves us and how we should all go down on our knees everyday and thank it for being such a kind, caring and loving god. And of course beg it to give cancer to someone else's children, not ours.

The best they can do is to try to accommodate this logical inconsistency and the need to hold two mutually contradictory views of their god simultaneously by redefining 'evil' so it means 'good' and 'capriciously mendacious vindictiveness' as 'love'. Like an abusive spouse, apparently, the Christian god tells us it's our fault that he has to hurt us to teach us a lesson and so his abuse is all our fault.

But leaving aside what this says about those who imagine this is what a loving father should behave like and that this mendacious, capricious, vindictive and sadistic little god is worthy of praise and worship, let's follow through the logic of this a little and look at why cancer in children, and cancer in children for that matter is such a challenge for medical science. Why is it proving so difficult to come up with the proverbial 'magic bullet' cure, or even a vaccine against it like we can with an increasing number of diseases caused by bacteria and viruses?

The problem is the genetic nature of cancer in the first place. Cancers are caused when a mistake in the replication of DNA produces a runaway proliferation of cancer cells which the body doesn't recognise as foreign cells because they aren't; they are the body's own cells which have gone wrong. Of course, there are myriads of causes of this mistaken DNA replication such as smoking, genetic predisposition, even, in a few cases, viruses but the result is basically the same.

Now, as we saw in the BBC 2 programme, Can You Cure My Cancer?, this evening (apologies if this programme isn't available outside the UK), although we have made enormous strides in chemotherapy and can even sometimes try out various drug treatments on mice given the cancer being treated, very often, early success in shrinking the tumour slows down and the tumour remains static for a while. It may even seem to disappear completely being reduced to maybe a handful of cells. Sadly, and frustratingly though, the cancer may return and may have developed resistance to the drugs.

So, how does this happen?

Quite simply, by Darwinian evolution. The DNA of cancer cells is inherently unstable and so subject to mutation - which is why the cancer developed in the first place. The drug treatment has created a selective environment which kills off the cells which are more susceptible to the drugs but leaves those which have a mutation giving them resistance. The only recourse is to try out different drugs and hope this time they will knock the cancer cells out completely before they can evolve new resistance.

This is, of course, classical Darwinian evolution at the cell level - what oncologists call somatic evolution. Drug therapy versus cancer (or is that medical science versus cancer?) is a classical Darwinian evolutionary arms race.

There is no mystery here for anyone who understands genetics and evolution; what is a mystery however, and one creationists need to explain, or think about why they can't, is why their vindictive little god needs to use Darwinian evolution - something they insist is impossible - to help its agents of punishment (or as fundamentalists would call it, a message of love). These are supposedly sent to punish us for some imaginary wrong that it has never been able to come to terms with and for which it, so its adoring fans tell us, once even had its own child murdered because of his rage at this imaginary sleight and inability to control his own temper despite his omnipotence, and yet this 'omnipotent' god needs a perfectly natural process to make it work and overcome human medical science.


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