I happen to think that life, the universe and everything is almost completely a matter of entropy. Once you’ve had the big bang, the rest is energy gradients.
Entropy explains how life starts, evolves and ends – or organises, attenuates and dissipates if you prefer.
Many people don’t like that idea because of the mindbogglingly ginormous levels of chance required to arrive at a planet like earth, let alone a planet like earth with an advanced industrial civilisation necrotising its way across the surface. (I say, get over it. The universe is a big place and it’s happening all the time.)
Of course if we’re not random, we must be designed. And if so, there must be a designer – though for reasons unknown, he or she remains undetectable by human senses or any kind of physical instrument.
Conveniently, this designer, humans decided, is very like us. Well, depending on which tradition we’re talking about, he or she may be many-headed, animal-like or somewhat Greco-avuncular … including the curly silver hair, robes and sandals. Whatever, the Designer’s described behaviours in nearly every tradition fit a human pattern: protective, destructive, petulant, creative, inconsistent, forgiving, angry, nurturing, genocidal, and so on. Mirror mirror on the wall.
Is that right? It might be. But the usual line from the Designerists is that questioning who or what God actually is is borderline wicked. Conventionally, our our default approach to deity should be to exhibit the kind of abject humility witnessed in many species of social animals when an outsider is trying to gain acceptance to an existing pack or tribe.
Ours is not to reason why.
Too right it isn’t. Because if one is going to ask questions one of the first ones might be why, out of all forms of life on the planet God might possibly resemble, he or she would choose to conform to the characteristics of that Johnny-come-lately homo sapiens?
Why not sea sponges? They’ve been around for 750 million years. Or jellyfish (500 million years). Jellyfish are great survivors. Or better still, ants. Admittedly ants are a bit nouveau — being only 100-ish million years old as a species — but so far they’ve been way more successful than humans.
They’re simple, strong, organised and sustainable, which would seem to be a good set of starting criteria for a supreme being. Ants operate at a scale whereby something like 10 quadrillion (that’s 10,000,000,000,000,000) of them exist in almost every corner of the globe and would seem to be able to do so indefinitely barring some kind of asteroid-induced cataclysm or whatever.
Humans-‘made-in-God’s-image’, on the other hand, weren’t especially sustainable once we invented farming, and have rapidly squeezed ourselves into a bottleneck since unleashing fossil energy.
So if there was a god who, crucially, wasn’t interested solely in what mankind selfishly thinks is best for itself, it’s surely more likely that he/she/it is more like an ant than a human.
Enjoy the ride.