At the end of the day, something existed by chance

One of the most common issues with the theory of evolution is the difficulty of grasping that our lives and consciousness came about “just by chance”, as a result of random fluctuations or movements within the universe. Even if one believes evolution IS true, we still impose the burden of meaning onto it: it could not have happened just by chance. We cannot bring ourselves to believe that we, who hunger so deeply for personal meaning, came about just by accident or chance.

This argument is variously presented, “an explosion in a printing shop creating a dictionary”, or “a tornado in a junk-yard creating a Boeing 747”. All of these and similar arguments can be summarised into one label:

“Crane” Arguments

The idea is that the complexity, profundity, consciousness (or whatever property you want) of human beings could not have occurred purely randomly or “just by chance”. And so we invoke a “crane” — something higher/taller than us, to explain our existence.

That’s all good and fine. Let’s go with that for the moment. We were created by God, our Heavenly Father, and He is the ultimate “crane”, that explains our existence and gives it purpose and meaning.

The next step in this discussion is so trivial and predictable that I feel silly even saying it, but:

“So how did God get there?”

Mormon theology teaches that “As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be.” (Lorenzo Snow). Other theists or Christians have big issues with that — I’m not really bothered by that. “Why not?” — really it’s just as plausible as any other theological argument.

The real question is, if God had a God, and He had another God, and so on, then we hit an issue of infinite regress. It never ends. That is Mormon Doctrine actually: (yes, incidentally Hymns are a GREAT place to claim formal doctrine :P)

“If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
Do you think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?

Or see the grand beginning,
Where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation,
Where Gods and matter end?
Methinks the Spirit whispers,
“No man has found ‘pure space,’
Nor seen the outside curtains,
Where nothing has a place.”

(If you could hie to Kolob, incidentally “Hie” simply means to “move quickly”, in case you’ve never looked it up before :- ))

Well, now we have a problem. Sure, there is no beginning. Sure, there is no end. Sure, no first creation, no beginning of Gods.

The ultimate Boeing 747 problem

Maybe you see the problem here.

  1. Sure, we didn’t arrive here just purely by chance.
  2. And sure, God didn’t.
  3. Neither His God, nor His God, and so on.
  4. In fact, none of the God’s got here by chance.
  5. But the infinite regress itself got here “just by chance”!! The infinity of God’s got here “just by chance”
  6. The “everlasting to everlasting”, time never ends, time never starts, all of this got here “just by chance”.

And so at the end of the day, “something”, got here just by chance. At some point or another, a working Boeing 747 arrived, “just by chance”, out of “nothing”? Out of “something”? We don’t know. The point is, something got there “just by chance”.


My short poem / anecdote The Ant God explores the limitations of our understanding. With that in mind this article only has one suggestion:

We shouldn’t resort to the Boeing 747 argument. The Boeing 747 argument is the ultimate boomerang — if we throw it out to combat “we didn’t arrive here just by chance”, sooner or later it will come spinning right back at us and we’ll be forced to say “oh, but we just don’t know”.

Better to just start with “oh, we just don’t know” in the first place, instead of using “man’s reasoning” to create the Boeing 747 argument, and then having it come back and bite us, and then scrambling to quickly abandon “man’s reasoning” when it reaches its limits.

“We just don’t know”.

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