Criticism of Religion

“God doesn’t make mistakes”

Warning: language.

Maybe you’ve seen this video.

Let’s talk about it, shall we?

“God doesn’t make mistakes.” I’m assuming this addresses how some view Down Syndrome and other diseases – as mistakes on God’s part. I guess that’s what you have to do if you’re a creationist – you have to say that diseases are God’s mistakes, because you certainly don’t want to believe in a God that creates diseases on purpose, do you?

But then I guess some do – for instance, the original author of this video. This person wants to think that this little boy has Down Syndrome for some greater good. (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not the shooting of a cute video with a dog qualifies as a “greater good.”)

As for me, I don’t think God – any god or gods – had anything to do with the evolution of Down Syndrome. Why Down Syndrome evolved is something that is apparently still being debated – at least, I don’t read that abstract as being particularly conclusive – but I assume it was not for anyone’s “greater good,” just as I assume no disease evolved to provide a benefit (but then, I might be wrong, evolutionarily speaking).

Our human bodies are fallible and subject to many things going wrong. In the common vernacular, “shit happens.” Especially since we don’t have a clear evolutionary reason for Down Syndrome yet, I think the reason for it is just this: Shit happens. It’s no one’s fault – it’s just the way life sometimes is.

What do you think? Please leave your comments below (again, please keep it civil).

10 thoughts on ““God doesn’t make mistakes”

  1. There are some standard examples of diseases that evolved because of complex interactions between genes and environment, some of which are “good” and some of which are “bad,” both for the same gene. One that is often taught in genetics classes is sickle cell disease. If a person is homozygous for the sickle cell allele (i.e. s/he carries two copies of the “defective” gene), s/he has the disease. Sufferers have fragile, sickle-shaped red blood cells, which are poorer at carrying oxygen than wild-type cells. They can suffer from anemia, fatigue, episodes of pain, delayed growth, vision problems.

    However, people with only one copy of this allele (heterozygotes) are protected against malaria, without all the downsides of the full-blown disease. They have enough blood cells that are essentially normal with respect to oxygen-carrying capacity to lead normal lives, but their “sickle hemoglobin” makes them more able to tolerate the presence of the parasite.

    In Sub-Saharan Africa, prevalence of the sickle cell allele is quite high (10-40% of the population) due to its anti-malarial effects. It has been selected for, despite the collateral damage of sickle cell anemia, because of the presence of the malarial parasite in the environment.

    I can’t say whether the sickle cell allele is a “mistake” in this context. In North America, for people of African descent who have to deal with sickle cell disease, it looks like a mistake. But in Africa it looks more like an adaptation. Either way, its presence and persistence can be explained well by the known mechanisms of genetic mutation and natural selection, no need for any gods.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of the genes thought to be involved in autism and schizophrenia are also thought to act this way: highly adaptive in some contexts, maladaptive (“disease-causing”) in others. Mistakes? All depends on your point of view.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “God doesn’t make mistakes” could assume that God has an active hand in all events that ever happen as a sentient and guiding force which keeps those consequences relevant to humans in mind. I am willing to admit God has an active hand…if only because I think “God” is the universe. However, if it/they have a or many minds, I don’t think we are the only thing on it/them.

    It also assumes that everything happens for a reason, or that God has an overall plan (mistakes occur when something botches the plan, I’m assuming). I don’t think there’s an overall plan. The reasons we attach to events is purely our own narration of our life stories (and there’s nothing wrong with that, mind you. It’s a beautiful thing).

    It also assumes God is sentient. I don’t know if this is or isn’t the case. I don’t think it matters. But either way of thinking (that God can make mistakes or that it can’t) could bring great grief when bad things happen and we don’t understand them. I prefer to see the world as it is. A place where many things are possible, some things are probable, and where there is usually still joy to be had despite what may happen (and I do think connecting to God/gods can help you find the joy, at least it has for me personally).

    I think God/gods/divine/whatever is synonymous with nature, human or otherwise. Mistakes imply that an intention was there. I don’t think nature has “intentions”.

    The great apes, of which we are a part, do tend to seek patterns. Humans, especially, want to understand the world. I think that “God doesn’t make mistakes” is a way for some of us to process the things that happen to us. It provides a sense of comfort, a sense of hope, a sense of stability. So long as that isn’t dismissive of anyone’s struggles or causing more harm than good in the believer’s life, I say go for it. But, I can see times where this sort of thinking is dismissive of someone’s troubles.

    In this context, I took the closing line as one that asks others to accept those who may have disabilities. I think some people would take great comfort from this notion…to think that their disability is something to be accepted. However, I can also see where this sentiment might be hurtful to some people who are dealing with a disability or who are raising a child with a disability. It is difficult. To say there are no mistakes implies that they might “deserve” their fate, or that they are supposed to be glad to deal with whatever struggle they may be facing.

    It depends on how you look at it. But, with respect to making mistakes, my take home message is: God doesn’t make mistakes, because there’s no such thing as “mistake”. We have to imbue certain outcomes with meaning for mistakes to be made. I don’t think God does that.

    I also don’t think we should have to coax acceptance or support out of society using the trope of whether something was “meant to be”. We should be compassionate to each other regardless of our physical or mental capabilities.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a wonderful, thoughtful response. Thank you! I think I mostly agree with you, except for accepting disabilities; on a medical level, I think if we have the capacity to treat something (i.e. make it go away), we should do that, while definitely accepting the person in their present capacity. And we should be compassionate to everybody. Thank you for adding to the discussion. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I don’t know if this is helpful, and I raise it as a question to think about, not a position to defend, but here goes: What would the world be like if shit never happened? How would we recognize good? What would make us happy?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think there’s a big middle ground between the shit that happens now on this earth and the imaginary conceit of shit never happening. We could have some shit happening that would enable us to recognize good, but IMO there’s absolutely no need (if it’s going to serve the purpose of enabling humans to recognize good) for it to rise to the level of abject and total shittiness that it does, and for said shit to be as inequitably distributed as it is.

      Liked by 2 people

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