Monday, October 22, 2007

God Is My Hairstylist

I was sitting around the other day and one of my relatives was commenting on how curly her young child's hair was. "Where did you get such pretty curly hair?" asked the relative. "Say, 'God gave it to me'," instructed the mother.

I of course held my tongue to keep the peace, but it was another slap in the face to science that made me cringe. I took issue with the remark on two levels.

Sins of the Father
First off, I mean really, has it not become common knowledge by now that we get our physical make-up from our genes?

Practically speaking, most people say things like, "Oh look, he has his father's nose," and "I got this round ass from my grandma!". Yet it is also common to hear the occasional "God did it", especially when the question is deemed too hard.

The major issue I had with her remark is rooted in the grounds of teaching a child--one too young to even comprehend the answer--that they should respond to questions like that with an appeal to something called "God".

On page 340 of his best-selling book 'The God Delusion' professor Richard Dawkins talks about this activity as a form of child abuse:

Our society, including the non-religious sector, has accepted the preposterous idea that it is normal and right to indoctrinate tiny children in the religion of their parents, and to slap religious labels on them - 'Catholic child', 'Protestant child', 'Jewish child', 'Muslim child', etc. - although no other comparable labels: no conservative children, no liberal children, no Republican children, no Democrat children.
...Let children learn about different faiths, let them notice their incompatibility, and let them draw their own conclusions about the consequences of that incompatibility. As for whether any are 'valid', let them make up their own minds when they are old enough to do so.

A Gapping Problem
Now, I realize that not everybody understands how genes work, especially not this child. But by answering the question of 'How come your hair is curly?' with 'God' promotes a fallacy called the God of the Gaps (no, not the chain of stores).

For millennia, anything we didn't know we'd give credit to a god of some kind. What causes the rain? Why do we get sick? Where did the plants and the animals come from? Who created the Big Bang? These questions can all be answered with: God did it.

Even when we discover that rain isn't caused by any deity, but by the condensation of evaporated water, there are still more gaps in which people stuff god into: Where did the water come from? Who set up the rules to determine how heavy the water needs to be before it falls? Who made gravity?

God is just inserted into the gap as a non-answer that stops all questions from being asked. Once you silence yourself with, "Well I don't know, I guess God did it," you stop right there. You don't inquire any more about it. You stop caring about what the real answer is.

Why do some people feel that it isn't okay to answer something you don't know with 'I don't know'? The insufficient explanation of 'God' is a cop-out answer, because you must explain how and what exactly this 'God' is.

Like I said before, I know that not everyone understands or can understand the nature of the universe and everything it in. As we learn more an more about how things work--through the use of science--we close up more and more gaps for a god to hide in. One day, perhaps god will have no place left.

"From momma," would have been a more proper answer.


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