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Logic and rhetoric
“”"I can't explain it" becomes "It can't be explained" becomes "It has been explained; the gods did it" — or more succinctly — "I don't know, therefore I do know".
- Something happened, I'm not sure why.
- X did it!
It's that simple.
All didit fallacies are essentially golden hammers, because they propose a simplistic solution for a range of complex and unrelated problems.
- P1: Event X occurred.
- P2: I'm not quite sure why Event X happened.
- C1: Y did it!
Because all didit fallacies are both fundamentally ad hoc and unnecessary, they function as little more than unscientifically "relabelling" a problem.
Lack of simplicity
One of the main reasons that the argument is popular is its apparent simplicity. It is essentially the simplest possible explanation for everything that happens in the universe — why bother with complex equations, evidence or anything when X-didit will, in one word, sufficiently explain everything in the known universe? It is, thus, the answer to every and all questions taken to their extreme end.
However, all didits are necessarily less parsimonious than their "normal" alternative, because they add unnecessary assumptions. For example, Goddidit assumes that an omnipotent (or at least really really powerful) God exists. From the viewpoint of Occam's Razor, a creator would have to be incredibly complex, more complex than the universe, so invariably, a naturalistic explanation can only be simpler. For another example, NWOdidit assumes that an almost completely secret and well-structured organization is able to pull the strings on anything happening at any time anywhere, without evidence for such a bureaucratic behemoth.
Lack of explanatory power
An old science joke gets this point across nicely:
“”A research student came to her supervisor with a graph showing the latest experimental results. The old wizened academic looked at it for a moment before saying "Aha! This makes perfect sense!" before rattling off his explanation of why the graph made sense. The student thought for a moment before noticing the mistake. "Oh, sorry" she said, "I had it upside-down!" The research student took the piece of paper, inverted it, and handed it back to the professor. After a second or two, he spoke again. "Aha! This makes perfect sense!"
The "goddidit" card can be used to effectively explain any phenomena presented. Take the YEC variant of "flooddidit" for a moment: Why is the Sahara a desert? The flood. Why is the Grand Canyon a canyon? The flood. Two completely different pieces of evidence with the same explanation. However, something that remains the same no matter what evidence is presented is no real explanation at all. A creationist or religious apologist putting forward "goddidit" as an answer has made no attempt to make a model of what such a belief entails, and what they could observe from it. While this works well in someone's own head to protect themselves from ever being wrong — and suffering cognitive dissonance — it means that they have no chance at adapting their views to suit reality, and actively try to prevent such a thing happening. While it's fair enough to say people are allowed to believe what they want, it's worth questioning the value of an idea like this.
Lack of falsifiability
In a true didit fallacy, it's impossible to test whether some entity "did" the event. Interchangeability: a corollary to the lack of falsifiability is that any didit works just as well as any other didit, and explains just as much. Don't believe us?
Lack of uniformitarianism
Didits are perhaps the definition par excellence of a violation of uniformitarianism. Taking a system which functions in stable, known rules, and then inserting a sudden, radical change -- for no reason -- allows any scientific rule to instantly become utterly meaningless.
Several didit fallacies are very common.
|—Russell Humphreys, YEC, pissing on his own feet|
Goddidit is one of the masterstrokes and trump-cards that creationists and other biblical literalists have at their disposal when debating points with naturalists and rationalists.[note 1] It proposes that anything is and was possible because of the omnipotence of God — specifically the ability to bend the laws of time, logic and physics. This means that arguments that focus on the feasibility of a global flood, for instance — complicated analyses of how much water would be required, if food could be provided for Noah's animals and the construction of his ark — can be swept away and ignored.
The concept of 'God did it' can be used to create unfalsifiable theories. A creationist need never doubt creation because God could have made anything. It may also be used as a euphemism to indicate something that cannot yet be explained by natural laws, most likely due to lack of information or knowledge.
Despite the convenience of the Goddidit explanation, entire reams of literature have been written by creationists to avoid it, attempting to present a scientific-sounding narrative instead, with Goddidit called in to whitewash over the flaws.
- There are a few small gaps in most fossil records linking one species to another. Goddidit!
- No one knows what is the (if there is any) carrier force of gravity. Goddidit!
- Love is a strong and mysterious emotion. Goddidit!
- The universe appears rather fine-tuned for life on earth. Goddidit!
- We cannot explain how memory works. Goddidit!
- This chicken mayonnaise sandwich is delicious. Goddidit!
- Mormonism: Joseph Smith, the main prophet of Mormonism, had originally provided translations of mysterious golden plates he claimed had been given to him by the angel Moroni. Martin Harris, his supporter, had borrowed the translated works but then lost them. If Smith were truly translating from golden plates then he should have been able to repeat the translation process in order create something very similar to his original work. However, Smith introduced a deus ex machina by claiming that God had told him not to re-translate the missing works. Some believe that Harris's wife, Lucy, had deliberately hidden Smith's translated work in order to expose him as a fraud when he'd obviously be unable to recreate the missing manuscripts.
Deus ex machina
A deus ex machina (Latin for "god from the machine"[note 2]) is an improbable plot device that has been employed in fiction (often in the fantasy genre) to abruptly resolve problems within a story, and operates in a very similar fashion to Goddidit and the god of the gaps argument. Ad hoc reasoning may be employed in attempts to justify the intervention, since these events by their nature will often appear inconsistent with the narrative.
The phrase is Latin, but the concept is Greek in origin, and derived from the practice of introducing divine intervention into stories that have reached some kind of impasse. In Greek theatre, actors representing the gods would be winched onto the stage from a crane (hence the "machine" in this phrase). The gods of Greek mythology were highly anthropomorphic, like Yahweh of the Old Testament, and would meddle frequently in the affairs of mortals.[note 3] This in some ways helped justify the arbitrary actions of gods in Greek plays, but overuse of this construct could lead to poorly structured stories with little scope for clever twists. It is difficult for readers to feel any sense of concern for characters in difficulties if they know that a convenient deity was always waiting in the wings.
Conventional storytelling usually has an element of justice: good characters overcome difficulties, and wicked or corrupt characters get their comeuppance. Often this occurs organically through strengths or flaws of the characters determining the outcomes of their interactions, but in deus ex machina solutions, the tensions are resolved by an unexpected factor which (usually) restores the balance in a similar way. In the case of gods, justice was imposed from above, rather than by the protagonists.
Falldidit is a member of the main trio of arguments used by creationists when it is inappropriate to use goddidit due to conflict with Omnibenevolence. (The other two arguments are flooddidit and satandidit.) Falldidit is the primary rebuttal for any inconvenient medical or biological fact, or even social principle that suggests that God's design is less than perfect. It is rooted in the concept of Original sin, and how "the Fall" instigated a general breakdown of the processes that underpin God's perfect creation.
Usage is as follows:
- Scientist: Here's a bad thing we discovered.
- Creationist: God's design is perfect, so your evidence is flawed.
- Scientist: Here's more evidence.
- Creationist: You are misinterpreting the evidence.
- Scientist: Here's more evidence, which will show the existence of the bad thing even if you interpret it your way.
- Creationist: Falldidit.
Disease: All disease is easy to explain using falldidit. First there was no disease, then there was Eve's misbehavior, then disease. Fortunately microbiology was founded by Christians, all beneficial research was done by Christians, and microbiology disproves evolution. Sadly most progress against disease had halted because there are not enough creationist microbiologists: In today’s world, there is a failure of scientists to recognize the clear evidence of the Creator’s hand in the world around us… If a biblical worldview comes back, we might again have more medical discoveries and an increase the quality of life of mankind.
Oncogenes: Oncogenes are genes in humans (and other animals) which create cancer. They were discovered in chickens in the 1970s, and their presence in humans was confirmed in the 1980s. As they are essentially "self-destruct" buttons, their purpose seems to not fit in with God's design. Hence falldidit. Oncogenes actually exist to give us (and, presumably, chickens) a physical reminder of the true wages of sin. The jury is still out on why God elected to use AIDS as divine retribution for homosexuality (accidentally targeting many other people in the process) to allow gays to catch Kaposi's sarcoma, but hey, mysterious ways.
Viruses: If god created everything, and the fall turned all of god's good things bad, what did viruses do before the fall? Answer: before the fall they brought happiness and joy, and survived on God's love. Then falldidit, and viruses became little killing machines. This is wrong in itself because viruses do not need to 'survive' - they blur the line between life and non-life, and we honestly don't know what to call them (are they life or not?). They lack the ability to grow, create waste products, and reproduce independently. Therefore the explanation itself is invalid.
Nociception: Nociception refers to the entire set of mechanisms in the body that communicate and monitor pain. It includes the entire afferent nervous system as well a multiple regions of the brain. However before the fall there was no pain. Hence our entire neurology for dealing with pain was a case of falldidit. No one seems to be able to explain rationally when or how it got installed; presumably, God was in a charitable mood, and massively altered our neurology for the sake of completeness.
Mutations: Because of falldidit, God's perfect creation is turning to shite. Apparently God builds stuff like Ikea, it looks good for a while but falls apart much more quickly than you expect. Since the fall, all sorts of genetic diseases have come about because DNA is like a Lego spaceship being handed to a 3-year old. Tay-Sachs? Falldidit. Down's Syndrome? Falldidit. Fortunately for creationists, evolution is impossible because mutations cannot ever be positive; they can only corrupt and destroy healthy things!
Incest: Falldidit. Prior to the Fall
you could God commanded you to bang your sister whatever your rib has become[note 4] (Genesis 2:22).[note 5] But then the Fall came, and because of the potential genetic defects, you now have to stop lusting after your sibling and yourself. Hmm… How did Cain's wife (Genesis 4:17) come into existence again? But banging your rib until Adam died is still okay, for some odd reason. As Answers in Genesis explains;
“”It's considered unwise nowadays (and illegal in many states) to marry someone too closely related to you. Why? Because you greatly increase the odds that bad genes will show up… That would not have been a problem, by the way, shortly after creation (no problem for Cain and his wife, for example).
| —Answers in |
Why it was
still ok totally normal for Lot to have sex with his daughters (Genesis 19:30) or for Abraham to marry his half-sister (Genesis 20:12), long after the Fall, remains a mystery. But, then again, God works in mysterious ways.
Flooddidit is a member of the main trio of arguments used by creationists when goddidit can't be applied. (The other two arguments are falldidit and satandidit.) Flooddidit is used to summarily dismiss the entire bodies of knowledge science has acquired in astronomy, geology, paleontology, geophysics, physical geography, geomorphology, climatology, meteorology, glaciology, and hydrology. It is primarily an attempt to argue that chapters 6 to 9 of Genesis represent literal fact, and hence Noah really did build a boat, God really did flood the earth and 99.9% of everyone and everything died as a result. In creationist publications it is generally referred to as Flood geology.
In the early days of the Enlightenment, genuine efforts were made to come up with a naturalistic interpretation of the events recounted in Genesis. However, by 1830, the scientific community had largely abandoned the attempt. This was because the geological actions of localized floods had been studied and well-documented by then, and everyone (including the Reverend William Buckland, the 'father' of modern geology who had originally been an influential advocate of biblical accuracy) conceded that there was simply no similarity with large scale geology.
Flooddidit as we know it today was born in 1961 when Henry M. Morris and John C. Whitcomb, Jr. published The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications. This book was heavily based on the 1954 book The Christian View of Science and Scripture by Douglas Ramm (which also acted as the source for most of the footnotes). Throughout the 1960s the book languished in obscurity, but it began to become popular with evangelicals in the late 1960s. Morris went on to establish the Institute for Creation Research in 1970.
As with falldidit and satandidit, flooddidit requires an incredibly inconsistent application of certain processes, in this case specifically to do with erosion, sediment deposition, bacterial growth rates, and volcanoes. Essentially, all geological formations can be explained by a huge amount of water rising, lots of volcanoes, a massive amount of erosion, a lot of volcanoes dying mysteriously, and then water pushing rocks around, while bacteria decide to behave in ways never observed since. In the case of the so-called "zenithic" rocks, the rocks were actually created by the water itself.
Once relieved of the need for any actual evidence, flooddidit is a supremely powerful explanatory tool. Chalk beds don't take millions of years to build up, because "…under cataclysmic Flood conditions, explosive blooms of tiny organisms like coccolithophores could produce the chalk beds in a short space of time." Fossil forests? "…the geological evidence is more consistent with the trees having been uprooted from another place, and carried into position by catastrophic volcanic mudflows" Why is there so much sedimentary rock and why is it so diverse? Because "…moving water transports sediment into a ‘basin’ and, once deposited, it is isolated from the system. The same volume of water can pick up more sediment as it is driven across the continents, for example, by earth movements during the Flood."
Satandidit (or Luciferdidit) is a member of the main trio of arguments used by Christian creationists when applying goddidit leads to conflicts about some of the perceived attributes of God. (The other two arguments are falldidit and flooddidit.). Satandidit is primarily used when falldidit and flooddidit are not applicable. The argument stems from the story of the angel Lucifer daring to question the will of God and being permanently outcast from Heaven. Apparently because Lucifer (later referred to as Satan, although the link crosses testaments and does raise some questions of whether the two names are the same) was a bad guy, humanity will be punished instead. Seems fair. This also ignores the opinion that most theologians hold — that is, Satan has no actual means of affecting the world other than directly planting temptations in people's heads.
- Alvin Plantinga is a serious and widely-renowned Christian philosopher whose explanation for animal suffering is, literally, Satanic influence on the evolutionary process.
- Some Christian fundamentalist preachers have suggested that Satan is responsible for spreading fossils across the globe, in order to "deliberately deceive" scientists into doubting the existence of God.
- Flat Earthers of the fundamentalist variety believe Satan is responsible for deceiving people that the world is round.
“”For all I know we may be visited by a different extraterrestrial civilization every second Tuesday, but there's no support for this appealing idea. The extraordinary claims are not supported by extraordinary evidence.
|—Carl Sagan, Encyclopedia Galactica|
Aliensdidit postulates that extraterrestrials are responsible for
literally everything interfering with human history, usually by genetically engineering us to be more intelligent or by giving us technology or by starting life itself. As a hypothesis for abiogenesis, this is known as panspermia; when the aliens did a little bit more and actually affected evolution, it's directed panspermia.
Like most odd-ball conjectures about how the universe works and came to be, there is no actual evidence that aliens did anything to the planet, ever. The only "evidence" is that there are currently things that naturalistic science hasn't fully explained yet, or things that it has explained but the aliensdidit-proponents didn't understand. Consequently that leaves us with "aliens of the gaps" instead of God of the gaps.
Ultimately, the argument comes down to "I can't figure this out, so aliens must have done it". The problem, of course, is that attributing something to some celestial beings doesn't make understanding it any easier.
With respect to the origin or diversity of life on Earth, aliensdidit is a subset of intelligent design (ID). However, it should be considered something of an illegitimate stepchild of ID, since ID was never meant to be anything other than a simple redress of Goddidit. By leaving the "designer" vague and obfuscated, yet still supernatural, it allowed for fundamentalist interpretations to be made by implication while masquerading as science. Aliensdidit therefore provides a handy secular
excuse version of ID to try and show that it isn't just creationism in a cheap lab coat. By pinning the designer down to be aliens, ID becomes naturalistic; advanced alien race created or seeded life on Earth, which is vaguely plausible as the laws of the universe don't exclude alien life existing and interfering with us. The claim must ultimately revert back to evolution and natural selection — i.e., in order to explain how the aliens themselves developed. Still, the evidence points to an undirected evolution, via natural selection — there is no evidence that actively suggests alien involvement in the development of life. It's plausible (or at least not implausible), but just highly unlikely and with little, if any, evidence to back it up (obviously).
Put simply, aliensdidit is the naturalistic version of Goddidit for people who still can't deal with things they find difficult to understand, but still want to act smug because at least they don't believe in God.
Francis Crick, who co-discovered the structure of DNA never strongly held the aliensdidit view, but only advanced it as a possibility. Richard Dawkins, despite what was claimed in the ID film Expelled by the smug narrator Ben Stein, does not believe in aliensdidit; he specifically stated that it was the most plausible mechanism by which Intelligent Design can be true. Not "I believe in space aliens" as Stein suggested after that segment of the film.
Aliensdidit doesn't actually explain the origin of life, because where did the aliens come from? If they say the aliens just evolved without help, then the same thing can be said about humans. How can an even more complex form of life evolve without help, but not humans?
- Zecharia Sitchin suggested that, since some human genes have no homologs in other species, they were inserted into the human genome by aliens.
- Sam Chang suggested that, since some human DNA sequences have homologs in other species, they were inserted by "extraterrestrial programmers".
- Ancient astronauts: While there is a crowd that suggests that life here began "out there", one of the key aliensdidit type beliefs is that human civilisation began due to alien intervention. Erich von Däniken even credits aliens with altering early man's DNA to create the first "intelligence" by taking sperm from a man, genetically engineering it and placing it in a woman, an event he says formed the basis of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. This argument, however, relies heavily on the credulousness of the listener. The proponent begins by claiming that early man lived in caves, hitting things with rocks, and "suddenly" started building large stone structures with advanced technology using information they could not possibly have worked out for themselves, such as the positions of stars and the location of the North pole. By reinforcing the false perception that ancient people were not capable of deep intellectual thought, proponents of alien interventions claim that things like Stonehenge, the Pyramids and the Mayan calendar are mysteries that science can't explain. So after creating their own mystery, they provide their own answer: aliensdidit.
The much simpler explanation, and the one generally accepted by mainstream science due to the evidence available, is that humans were still evolving and becoming more intelligent up until the end of the last ice age. At the beginning of the Holocene era, the most recent geological epoch, humans began to form permanent settlements, developing language which enabled the sharing of information. As these settlements grew larger, more information was shared and a greater number of people were available for large undertakings. The "ancients" merely did in stone what we do today in steel and concrete: build large structures for the powerful in our groups, so they can advertise and maintain their status.
- Modern technology: The final category of aliensdidit has nothing to do with jump-starting life or human evolution, but deals with today's technologies. This view argues that revolutionary technologies like transistors, fiber optics, digital computers, cell phones, and military technology like night vision and stealth aircraft weren't developed after years of research here on Earth, but rather it was reverse engineered after the Roswell crash. Because of the interaction required between aliens and established governments, this belief crosses into the territory of conspiracy theory. These conspiracy theorists claim that in exchange for advanced technology the aliens are allowed to abduct us (and stick probes up our butts).
- Clarke's laws: Clarke's third law dictates "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." While this is not a formal law of the universe by any stretch of the imagination, Arthur C. Clarke was quite perceptive about this one. The idea that advanced technology appears "magical" may go most of the way to explain aliensdidit beliefs; people lacking the ability to understand advanced technology or how biology can lead to complex evolution just view the whole thing as magical, and therefore attribute it to an equally magical, otherworldly origin.
- NWOdidit: Anything in any government anywhere changes in any way? NWO did it!
- Jewsdidit: Got a mysterious event, but the NWO isn't racist enough? Jews did it!
- Reptoidsdidit: Got a mysterious event, but the Jews aren't lizard enough? Reptoids did it!
- Monsantodidit: Got a mysterious event, but the reptoids aren't megacorporate enough? Monsanto did it!
- Spiritsdidit: Got a mysterious event, but Monsanto isn't ectoplasmic enough? Spirits did it!
- Evolutiondidit: Got a prejudice you want to present as justified by nature? Say, you want to argue that women are fitted by nature to stay home barefoot and pregnant? Go quote-mining the literature of human evolution: Evolution did it!
- Prayerdidit: Got a mysterious event, but ghosts aren't knee-bendingly painful enough? Prayer did it!
- Quantumdidit: Got a mysterious event, but prayer isn't "spooky action-at-a-distance" enough? Quantum did it!
- Contrailsdidit: Got a mysterious event or general malaise, but poorly understood science isn't dispersed-from-planes enough? Contrails did it!
- Cancerindustrydidit: Got a mysterious event, but contrails aren't tumorous enough? Cancer industry did it!
- Gaysdidit: Got a mysterious event, and want an excuse to justify your homophobia? Gays did it!
- FSMdidit: Got a mysterious event, and it's mouth-wateringly delicious? FSM did it!
- Skepticsdidit: Banned for trolling? Skeptics did it!
- Obamadidit: None of the above? "Thanks Obama!"
- "A wizard did it." —
XenaLucy Lawless, The Simpsons.
- "Simpsons did it." — Dougie, South Park.
- "Magic man done it." — Robin Ince, British comedian.
- Cthulhu: Did someone go insane? Cthulhudiddit!
- Ididit: Well, okay, so long as you actually did do it, I'll respect this one.
- Escape hatch
- God of the gaps
- Magical thinking
- Ancient astronauts
- Directed panspermia
- Essay:What "Goddidit" means
- Fun:Didit generator
- "'there are no gods' (3/3)" uploaded by TheraminTrees on September 15, 2011
- Less Wrong - Fake explanations
- God did it
funnyarticle from Atheism Wiki
- Who else? Answers in Genesis
- Christian Answers - Cancer
- Christian Answers - Disease
- Talk Origins - neandertals
- Answers in
- Answers in
- Biblical geology - flood model
- Biblical geology - Q&A
- Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (2011, Oxford University Press), as made fun of by Jerry Coyne.
- Pharyngula — It was an Alien Intervention!
- Erich von Däniken explains his "fairytale".