Quote of the day: Robert G. Ingersoll #5

Here The Great Agnostic describes the ungodliness of natural selection. The excerpt, like others I’ve given, is from his 1872 essay “The Gods“, and once again, like Jesus, Ingersoll speaks in metaphor.

Would an infinitely wise, good and powerful God, intending to produce man, commence with the lowest possible forms of life; with the simplest organism that can be imagined, and during immeasurable periods of time, slowly and almost imperceptibly improve upon the rude beginning, until man was evolved? Would countless ages thus be wasted in the production of awkward forms, afterwards abandoned? Can the intelligence of man discover the least wisdom in covering the earth with crawling, creeping horrors, that live only upon the agonies and pangs of others? Can we see the propriety of so constructing the earth, that only an insignificant portion of its surface is capable of producing an intelligent man? Who can appreciate the mercy of so making the world that all animals devour animals; so that every mouth is a slaughter house, and every stomach a tomb? Is it possible to discover infinite intelligence and love in universal and eternal carnage?

What would we think of a father, who should give a farm to his children, and before giving them possession should plant upon it thousands of deadly shrubs and vines; should stock it with  ferocious beasts, and poisonous reptiles; should take pains to put a few swamps in the neighborhood to breed malaria; should so arrange matters, that the ground would occasionally open and swallow a few of his darlings, and besides all this, should establish a few volcanoes in the immediate vicinity, that might at any moment overwhelm his children with rivers of fire? Suppose that this father neglected to tell his children which of the plants were deadly; that the reptiles were poisonous; failed to say anything about the earthquakes, and kept the volcano business a profound secret; would we pronounce him angel or fiend?

And yet this is exactly what the orthodox God has done.

According to the theologians, God prepared this globe expressly for the habitation of his loved children, and yet he filled the forests with ferocious beasts; placed serpents in every path; stuffed the world with earthquakes, and adorned its surface with mountains of flame.

Notwithstanding all this, we are told that the world is perfect; that it was created by a perfect being, and is therefore necessarily perfect. The next moment, these same persons will tell us that the world was cursed; covered with brambles, thistles and thorns, and that man was doomed to disease and death, simply because our poor, dear mother ate an apple contrary to the command of an arbitrary God.

34 Comments

  1. Bruce S. Springsteen
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    That’s from 140 years ago,from the most popular American orator of his day, and today we are still making this point to people who are hearing it for the first time. What happened to the freethought movement?

    • gbjames
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      As chronicled by Susan Jacoby, after the Scopes trial, the freethought movement got complacent believing that religious fundamentalism would simply fade away. Turns out not to have been the case.

    • Jaime Ospina
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      What happened to reason?

      • Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:29 am | Permalink

        It appears to be a limited capacity humans have, but we don’t always use it. Sometimes that’s a good thing because our automatic unconscious responses are more efficient. The trouble comes when we try to solve problems that do require reason by relying on intuitions instead: religion, for one.

  2. Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    “…so that every mouth is a slaughter house, and every stomach a tomb?”

    A wordsmith if there ever was one–just superb!

    • Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:33 am | Permalink

      I agree. But it’s less of a slaughter and tomb if you eat veggie, right? :)

      • Pete UK
        Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:48 am | Permalink

        Well arguably, yes. But you’re still having to consume other life forms to survive, even if they’re plants.

        If I were god, creating life from scratch, I’d probably have designed all organisms to be able to take their sustenance directly from inorganic material or sunlight. Or nuclear energy. Isn’t the “food chain” (a concept we’re all so familiar with that we never stop to consider just how grotesque it is) just another dead giveaway?

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:40 am | Permalink

        Maybe. Don’t forget the slaughter involved in clearing habitat for agriculture, then killing all the invertebrate and vertebrate ‘pests’ who think agriculture is habitat.

      • Posted January 14, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        Eating a veggie is only less of a slaughter if you believe plants don’t evolve to avoid being eaten. If you only eat fruit, that has already fallen from the tree/vine, you might be ok. But eating a carrot kills a living organism just the same as eating a chicken does. And a potato doesn’t get cosmic fulfillment from being baked in an oven for human consumption, any more than does the pig from which I got my pork chops.

        Just sayin’ is all. Living things “want” to live. Self-preservation doesn’t only apply to the Animal Kingdon.

        • Robert Stovold
          Posted March 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

          While many plants have evolved defences against herbivores, many plants advertise their fruits (which are essentially a bribe to animals to disperse the plant’s seeds).

          • Posted April 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

            Thanks for reiterating part of my point: If you only eat fruit… you might be ok.” But eating the leaves and roots still harms and/or kills a living thing

  3. Bill Cain
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    This is a fabulous quote! Thanks. Bill Cain

  4. Wolfkiller
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful quote. The faithful always have an excuse on hand though. According to them, the world WAS perfect, til we flubbed and the forbidden fruit.

    • MNb
      Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, original sin is handy, but not very just though.

  5. Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    A man who could appreciate human microbiota.

  6. Posted January 13, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    §

  7. marycanada FCD
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    It’s all good….thanks

  8. jamesgart
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    He is thinking like a man thinks.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:42 am | Permalink

      But that would be a bad thing, right?

  9. MJA
    Posted January 13, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    “Would an infinitely wise, good and powerful God, intending to produce man, commence with the lowest possible forms of life; with the simplest organism that can be imagined, and during immeasurable periods of time, slowly and almost imperceptibly improve upon the rude beginning, until man was evolved?”

    Improved, how so?

    =

    • Pete UK
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:50 am | Permalink

      Yes, alright, he was writing 140 years ago and maybe he erroneously viewed evolution as directional and us as its greatest hit to date.

      Cut him a bit of slack…. ;-)

  10. Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    The more I study with Jerry the more it becomes apparent that religious belief is mental aberration. How will we be able to cure this form of illness. It may begin when society agrees that religious education should be excluded until a person reaches the age of brain maturity

    • Jaime Ospina
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:30 am | Permalink

      Maybe religion needs to be exposed for what it is, institutionalized fraud. You give out free the scam’s product, guilt, and then you sell forgiveness.

      No liabilities, no taxes, no illegality. Beats any other business.

  11. Diane G.
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    sub

    • Pete UK
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 3:51 am | Permalink

      Diane, I keep seeing “sub” in comments. I’m ashamed to say I don’t know what it means.

      Can you help me?

      Thx.

      • Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:28 am | Permalink

        It’s just a comment when people want to check “Notify me of new posts via email” to subscribe, but don’t yet have anything substantive to add. You’ll also see “§” (from me, at least!)

        /@

        • Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:31 am | Permalink

          * Derp. “Notify me of follow-up comments via email”

          I’ve been to the hospital for an eye check-up this morning, had pupil-dilating drops, and evidently still can’t see clearly enough to cut-and-paste accurately. :-/

        • Jaime Ospina
          Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:15 am | Permalink

          Hi, Ant. Another question. How do I indent with a bar when quoting?

          • Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

            Use <blockquote>quoted text</blockquote> to indent the quoted text.

            Whether or not you get a bar depends on the stylesheet in play, I think.

            /@

            • Jaime Ospina
              Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:44 am | Permalink

              Thanks, Ant, but I still don´t get it. Do I type all that?

              • Posted January 14, 2013 at 7:11 am | Permalink

                Yes.

                /@

              • HaggisForBrains
                Posted January 14, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

                Hey, Ant, I’m impressed. How did you manage to show these blockquote tags without creating a blockquote?

              • Posted January 14, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

                By typing &38;lt;blockquote&38;gt;.

                /@

              • Posted January 14, 2013 at 8:46 am | Permalink

                Hmm… Wordpress is being inconsistent… I expected that to generate &-l-t-; &c. (without the dashes).

                Still, do you get the idea?

                /@


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