I must introduce myself. I am the God assigned to oversee the stars and planets in what humans call the Milky Way. I am a delegate from the Godship Central Committee, whose headquarters are so far away that tiny human minds cannot comprehend it, so don?t try.
A word of explanation is necessary, otherwise, being human, you will never get the point. I am a regional God in a vast network of regional gods. My task is to put a planet in a suitable spot, make sure that life develops in a natural way, and then leave it be. I normally never intervene. If life starts naturally, as it eventually did on Earth, that?s it. I?ve done my job and can resume my watching brief over the galaxy and report to the Godship Central Committee on a routine basis. On the other hand, if for some reason life on a planet fails to develop then we scrap the planet. Zap! Whoosh! From time to time Gods change or rotate. I am your Current God. I?ve been thinking of my eventual retirement. I rather fancy Tuscany.
My story is of course everlasting. But for the purposes of these reflections, I have to go back to just before your Reformation. You can imagine at that time the situation on Earth, and particularly in the Roman Catholic Church, was an inter-stellar scandal. The corruption! The greed! The violence! People were being burned, tortured and killed in the name of God. My friends and colleagues on the Godship Central Committee were shocked.
At the time the supervisory God of the Milky Way was my predecessor (he is now retired and living in a retirement home in the galaxy of Urea). He had originally fixed the planet Earth in its galaxy and was getting on in years by the 15th century. The Central Committee was constantly conducting reviews, worrying about the immoral chaos presided over by successive Popes. We never normally intervene in the minutiae of planetary life, but, when my predecessor came up with no ideas, the Committee appointed me on special assignment to try and knock some common sense, decency and morality into humans on Earth. It was an unusual assignment and a bit like sending a competent manager in to rescue a sink school where discipline has vanished.
To tell the truth, this was a come-down. I was happily overseeing a delightful galaxy, where the living creatures got on together in peace and harmony. It was a key job, much sought after. Anyway, I was assigned the Milky Way galaxy and with it the Earth. Believe me, it was amazing. You?ve never seen so much ignorance, misleading propaganda and imaginative explanation for the creation of the planet in all your life!
The first thing that puzzled me when I arrived was the number of people who honestly thought there was only one God. This is of course preposterous. In this sector of the universe alone there are a billion stars, not counting planets. How can anyone imagine that the universe can be run by only one God? You have to laugh. One God per galaxy is, as they say, an ?irreducible minimum?.
Generally speaking though, humans worshipped the most colourful bunch of local Gods you can imagine, with no relationship whatsoever to reality, attributing to them totally unrealistic abilities. By the time I arrived on the scene squabbling had become even worse, with various grim protestant sects emerging and full-scale religious war in Europe. I preferred the Catholics. At least they had a sense of humour, with their three Gods in one and angels on pins. Many of the others eventually went to America.
The second thing that struck me was the inflated idea humans had of their abilities and importance. In all the galaxies and planets I have visited I have never encountered a more self-regarding bunch. They believe they are special. There is one sect that believes they are uniquely chosen by their God above all other living creatures. Let me tell you, we learned our lesson a long time ago - - allow any group of creatures to believe that they have a special relationship with the Gods and in two minutes they are lording over everyone else. No way!
These people on Earth could not agree as to whether there was one God, many Gods or no Gods at all, what they did, and where they resided. Nor did they have a clue about the meaning of their own wretched little lives. One of the very few philosophers to get it right was Epicurus, who thought there were Gods out there somewhere, but they had other duties and interests and did not interfere with humans and their lives. He was indifferent to them, and I have to say we are normally indifferent to you, too. Epicurus was smart. Most other philosophers got it wrong, the more wrong they got it the more prestige they earned, which is typical of humans. I?m thinking Aristotle, mainly.
So anyway, I arrived to sort out the mess on Earth and concluded that the only way of handling the situation was to inspire a hands-off Enlightenment. Note the word inspire. It is absolutely against Godship rules to try to micro-manage, especially on an individual basis (see Godship Instruction Manual Chap. 239, xxxxivpdq, Year 1b230m).
We had done this before with other recalcitrant planets. It?s all about education. If you promote education they tend to start thinking for themselves. This comes as a revelation, because the powers that be want to do their thinking for them (this is still so in flat areas of the United States). It was no good going to the ancient, priest-ridden universities where they learned only abstruse theology (mostly bunkum), so I sowed a few seeds of enquiry and scientific fact around the more enlightened squirearchy and left on vacation.
On my return I found to my joy that Galileo had done his work, Newton was busy and a whole crowd of budding scientists were ?discovering? previously unknown facts. Very gratifying. They caught on quickly. The real breakthrough came later when Darwin came up with the Origin of the Species. They?ve cracked it, I thought. At last they understand life on the planet. Now maybe another truth will sink in - - that after all they are no more than rather sophisticated apes (and not nearly as smart as some of the apes I?ve encountered on other planets), that there is no extra-terrestrial something-or-other out there watching over their pathetic little lives and organizing a pay raise for them or an idea for their sister?s birthday. That realization might not stop them killing each other, but at the least they will achieve wisdom and acquire some humility. Perhaps.
Alas. I am not often wrong, but truly there is nothing as superstitious or dystopian as the mind of the human. Faced with the implicit denial of a God interested in their personal affairs, humans riposted with a particularly irritating idea they thought rather clever:
This is an attempt to dress superstition up as science. I used the word ?preposterous? above, and I will use it again in this context. You will recall that my predecessor was responsible for watching over the Milky Way and making sure that the Earth had the right conditions to support life. ?Watching over? are the operative words. This God (for reasons of loyalty I will not quote his name) couldn?t even put the planets in sensible places, let alone design a double helix. Look through a telescope and you will see what I mean - - there are planets all over the place in this galaxy, but few that can sustain life.
In short, were you to meet my predecessor you would agree that the idea of him designing anything more complicated than a wine glass has to be out of the question. The whole idea, grasped by Newton, was that the process of evolution is natural. Natural selection is just that, natural. It takes a very long time and the outcome varies. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn?t. We are not perfect and we are not omniscient and omnipotent. Were we omnipotent, we would have made humans perfect. There would be no war, no unnecessary killing, no jealousy, hatred, crime, lying and all the rest. No, we are just working Gods.
The fact is that there is no such thing as "intelligent design? because we couldn?t design life if we wanted to. My experience shows that, even if a God succeeds in encouraging living creatures to think for themselves, there is often a conservative backlash. It?s hard to keep life decent and honest once it has developed. All we are there for is to facilitate life, not design it. We put the planet in a good spot, like you put an egg to hatch under a chicken. Then we leave, hoping that the chicken doesn?t tread on the egg.
What these reactionaries are unaware of is the fact that we Gods are stretched to breaking point. Even if we wanted to be in you hearts, your heads and in your understanding, we haven?t got the time. You have to comprehend the sheer size of this universe and all the other parallel universes. My colleagues are out there, arranging new galaxies, suns and planets to fill in the expanding space of an expanding phalanx of universes. If we don?t do the job one of our competitors will come along and do it for us. I?m sure you are familiar with the concept of the competitive filling of vacuums, all too real in our case. Don?t imagine that Darwin was parochial - - his theories apply even a billion light years away. Amazing, isn?t it? So even if we could sit down in a lab and design human body parts we don?t have the time.
Intelligent design, indeed!