We have all been impressed by those magnificent videos which reveal the extraordinary capacities of animals, insects, plants and those literally extraterrestrial creatures that live in the depths of the ocean. It continues to blow my mind when I see spiders spin their geometrically perfect webs, when I see a small reptile catch its prey with its long, lightning-speed tongue, and when I see gorgeous, innocent-looking plants devour insects that no one warned were crypto-cannibals.
Recently, and I guess for the first time (I never said I was quick), I noticed something I’d missed in films of posh equestrian events, highlighting the skill of both horse and rider in effortlessly and elegantly jumping over quite formidable obstacles. What struck me was the way the horse folded not only its front legs as it sailed safely over the bars, but the way its back legs – which by definition are behind it, like the hurdle, out of sight – folded at just the right moment as well. Then I realized that we humans also do some pretty ingenious things with our bodies and never think about them.
Take walking up steps, or skipping jauntily down them, or – less spectacularly than our equine friends – jumping fences. We don’t have to look at our feet; they just find the place we should put them, all by themselves. Better still, I began to marvel at our extraordinary capacity to throw a ball, in both cricket and baseball, and send it sailing into the stumps for a wicket or the catcher’s glove for a strike. Same in bowls, whether of the British, dignified, silent, lawn variety, or in the bedlam and noise of a bowling alley. It is particularly impressive when somehow we succeed in downing the only remaining pin after the frustration of not blasting all ten the first time. The Basque outdoor game with veritable cannon-balls is every bit as impressive. Closer to home, soccer and rugby, golf and basketball provide equally mind-blowing examples of our ability to get a ball to do our will. All this could be summed up with the following question : “How can you explain a Tom Brady successful Hail Mary pass ?”. Answer : “You can’t”. (Our American readers may not agree but at least they understand the question.)
How on earth does a human, animal or insect brain, or a plant’s nervous system (?), succeed in such exploits ? The accuracy in the firing of an arrow or the tossing of a grenade also makes me wonder. After all, artillery sights are adjusted mechanically to assure the correct trajectory of the missile, from, say, my specialty the 3-inch mortar, based on the mathematics that went into making them. But how does a cricket-bowler, a baseball-pitcher or a grenade-thrower manage to achieve the desired trajectory, have his arm muscles take into account his eyes’ perception of the exact position of the target, and succeed in getting the given projectile to strike exactly where he wanted it to strike, without the aid of mathematics and sighting equipment ? If ever you’ve wondered about such quasi-miraculous achievements, you probably take them for granted or dismiss them with a vague remark you don’t really understand about eye-hand coordination.
So what’s the point ? Well, for many people, all this surely suggests the intervention of an “Intelligent Designer”. I mean, who taught the horse or gave it the instinct to fold its back legs to avoid those bloody logs which it can no longer see ? Could Nature, of itself, through evolution, give us the capacity to send cricket-stumps’ bails flying through the air, or to lob our grenade smack-center of a machine-gun post and blast it and its crew to Kingdom Come ? The reason I believe that Nature rather than some imagined “Intelligent Designer” is responsible, is that I find it makes eminent sense that it developed such capacities in animals and plants to assure their survival. While Neanderthals had only rocks and spears and later Homo Sapiens more sophisticated weapons like bows and arrows, they both developed necessary skills in taking aim and hitting targets that allowed them both to kill dangerous animals and to put meat on the table. No need for some imagined “God”, supposedly “Up There”, and conveniently totally invisible and mute (except when it thunders) to explain the mystery. But at the end, and even the beginning, of the day, atheists can readily understand why many people take the intellectual short-cut (or cop-out) and believe in a God who, they imagine, made it all happen.
At the time of writing, as the Big Island of Hawaii is literally cracking up and shooting lava and toxic fumes into the air, the alleged existence of such a hypothetical God creates more problems than it solves (Why would God make, or let, such a thing happen ?). “Creation” is far from perfect, though its track-record is pretty impressive. We can’t do a damned thing to stop, or even slow, the lava-flow, but the Babe Ruths of this world somehow learned to connect their bat even with a treacherous curve-ball, managing to swing at just the right moment to send that hunk of leather into or over the stands. Bloody extraordinary, when you think about it. But however the Babe did – or some of us do – it, however those nags clear the hurdle, don’t give God the credit for it, anymore than the blame for what’s happening in Hawaii.
P.S. This is Post 773. My book, “From Illusions to Illumination. The Itinerary of a Franciscan Priest from Catholicism to Atheism” contains 227 “Reflections”, pre-posts if you like, predecessors to those in this Blog – which is an extension of the book. That makes ONE THOUSAND in all ! I could call it a day, pack it in, and shut down my computer (“Finis coronat opus”). But while I live – and am compos mentis – I’ll post. After all there are people from many different countries who read this Blog every single day. Not many usually, but as long as you do me the honor, I’ll keep encouraging you to recognize the blindfaithblindfolly of Religion. My self-published book, BTW, broke no sales records, but it costs 20 euros. The Blog, on the contrary, is . . . priceless !