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Sunday 12th December 2004

There's been a story in the papers for the last couple of days about some lifelong atheist who has now come out to say he thinks he may have been wrong and there is a god after all. This has been delivered by the journalists as an embarrassing volte face, as if the academic in question (I don't have his name to hand and I can't be bothered to look it up) had asked to become Archbishop of Canterbury, like some kind of six years down the line Stewart Lee.
Firstly, I don't really understand why we give people such a hard time for changing their minds, surely it is worse to stoically refuse to ever alter an opinion, whatever evidence is thrown at you. I think changing your mind shows an open mind and a lack of personal arrogance, which you'd think people might admire. But instead it's seen as weak flip-flopping and people would rather laud someone like Hitler, who at least stayed consistent, however wrong anyone else might have thought he was. Of course there is always more pleasure in it when someone has been quite vociferous and single-minded their whole life and then says, "Oh no, sorry, I fucked up", but then in a way that makes their recanting all the more admirable.
Secondly and more importantly, it's not like this bloke is saying he's seen the light and become a Christian. In actual fact he just feels that DNA proves there must be some governing hand as it is too intricate and impressive to have just turned up on its own (and that's just my precis and not necessarily exactly what he thinks, but it's the gist of it). So it's not a massive shift and surely any atheist has to accept that however flawed our current religions are, there is at least an outside chance that we're all a tiny cog in some experiment or accident caused by some intelligent being.
Personally I disagree with the ex-atheist's new stand-point. This is not a million miles from the religious argument that the world is so amazing and the chances of all things being in the right proportions to create life so unlikely that it must have been created by a god. The fact is that if things hadn't been right then we wouldn't be here and just cos something is very, very unlikely doesn't mean that it is magic or divine. It is very, very unlikely that an individual person will win the lottery, yet each week someone does. They could feel that they had been divinely selected, but that would ignore the fact that another 10 million or so people were not. More likely to be about probability than a cosmic choice, or surely we'd see some pattern of people with need winning, rather than rapists. If you look at the winners of something like that then it is random selection of the kind of people who buy a ticket. If it was always Christians, or indeed always rapists then you might have some kind of point.
I may have mentioned this before on here, but my reply to Christians who say that the world is proof that there is God, because something so amazing couldn't just exist on its own is to say, "What do you think is more amazing, the world or God?"
They will have to say God.
Then I will say, "And do you believe God just existed without having to be created?"
They will have to say yes to that or deny their faith.
Then I can say, "So if something as amazing as God can just exist without being created, then surely the world, which is rubbish in comparison could equally just have existed without creation."
Then they will see that I am right, renounce their faith and decide to worship me instead.
Similarly just because DNA looks so amazing and manufactured doesn't mean that it necessarily is.
But there is something appealing in the idea that we're all just a computer programme or that some alien species is coming down to earth and creating new creatures by meddling with the DNA computer code that they created. Indeed, if we were all just tiny cogs in some kind of cosmic game of Civilisation II, played on an ethereal computer by a petulant alien teenager then it would certainly explain the total mess the world was in. But it's not like this is a new idea. I think it pretty much happened in every episode of the original Star Trek series.
And yet it's good to keep an open mind and accept that investigation into DNA might eventually bring us face to face with the spotty, wan face of a wanking god (like Enki the Sumerian god that I mention in Talking Cock. Maybe this is all true after all). I suspect that if the human race is still here in a thousand years time and science has been allowed to flourish and move forward that they will be laughing at pretty much everything that modern day theorists are putting forward, from Stephen Hawkings with his superstrings to David Icke and his giant lizards.
I shouldn't be at all surprised if David Icke came closest though.

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