Atheism and intelligent life

Last night in a periscope, while talking about religion I came out as the atheist I am. Perhaps a bit sloppy I wrote; ”I think God is man made since I don’t see any other animals praying”. Instantly I got the reply – so if you meet another intelligent animal  would you reconsider? This post is a more elaborate reply to that question.

But before anything else I’ll use this place in this post to tell you a bit about my religious background. My dad was raised in the Swedish Pentecostal Movement and my grandparents stayed true to that church until they died. I also went to bible studies as a young kid, since that was my grandparents wish and although my dad was a non-believer he was a good son, who wanted to make his parents happy.
I didn’t mind these bible studies, I loved the stories about Jesus. I also loved my grandmother a lot and have very fond memories of me and her saying prayer before going to bed. She also thought me a few that I can recite to this day. I believe this has shaped my fascination for religion till this day. There is comfort and togetherness in religion, but as I’ve said I’m an atheist.

For a long time I was agnostic, thinking there’s always a possibility there might be something else out there. I took the step over to atheism based on a belief in facts and science. I look at them and see no God. I also look at them and and see how man made God.

The human brain and it’s sense of time

A couple of weeks ago I was doing research into the first tools used by man. Apart from humans there are other animals who use tools but there is a significant difference. Other animals don’t save their tools for the next time they might need them. One day in the early human history one person started doing this. He or she left the cave one morning, thinking I’ll bring this tool, I might need it later – which is a revolution on it’s own. It implies a sense of abstract thinking and sense of time. ”Now” is not the only place a human exists, we also plan for moments to come, which is an abstract. That thinking alone is a typical human trait and it’s become the biggest part of our success as a species.

However with abstract thinking comes thoughts on life – it’s meaning and purpose. Especially since we have a sense of time. We are born, live and understand that later we die. People we love also die and death is really scary. Sometimes life is scary too. What if there is no major purpose or meaning to our lives? I believe we created God to answer those questions and provide comfort. Fundamentally I don’t see a problem with that solution either, for lots of people it works.

Human intelligence and other animals

So, would I reconsider my position as an atheist if I met another intelligent animal who believed in God? My answer is that I would of course go back to the drawing board, consider the new facts at hand, evaluate them and get back to you. Just as I have done.

On another level I propose that the term intelligence is a very human way to look and value different species abilities, also placing ourself on top of the world. From a different perspective, a leopard might not be as impressed with human intelligence and admire a fast swimming fish more.

One could also turn the question on it’s head and ask why animals who have met and even communicated with us so far haven’t picked up the God-habit? One way of explaining it is that they’re not as intelligent as us. Or perhaps they invested their energy in learning how to regrow an arm while we created God.

An octopus considering the meaning of life, praying or just chillin’?

Personally, looking around at the other animals and alternatives to being, I’m pretty impressed with octopuses. They might not swim around and chit chat about the meaning of life or travel to the moon, but they’ve got other great things going for them:

  • The environment and lifestyle of cephalopods means that they need to be capable of complex and flexible behaviour.
  • As active predators they need to explore, understand and remember their environment and the behaviour of other animals.
  • Studies have shown that octopuses learn easily, including learning by observation of another octopus.
  • They can solve problems, as when they remove a plug or unscrew a lid to get prey from a container.
  • They are the first invertebrates to be seen using tools, such as using coconut shells to hide from potential predators and using rocks and jets of water in a way that could be classified as tool use.
  • Common octopuses will collect crustacean shells and other objects to construct fortresses, or “gardens,” around their lairs. Other octopuses carry shells for protection.
  • The common octopus has a wide array of techniques it uses to avoid or thwart attackers. Its first—and most amazing—line of defense is its ability to hide in plain sight. Using a network of pigment cells and specialized muscles in its skin, the common octopus can almost instantaneously match the colors, patterns, and even textures of its surroundings. Predators such as sharks, eels, and dolphins swim by without even noticing it.
  • They have been found to play with a ‘toy’ and to have individual responses and individual temperaments, with some scientists believing they have individual personalities.
  • All octopuses are venomous, but only the small blue-ringed octopuses are known to be deadly to humans.
  • There are around 300 recognized octopus species, which is over one-third of the total number of known cephalopod species.
  • Octopuses have four pairs of arms.
  • Octopuses have three hearts. Two pump blood through each of the two gills, while the third pumps blood through the body.
  • When discovered, an octopus will release a cloud of black ink to obscure its attacker’s view, giving it time to swim away. The ink even contains a substance that dulls a predator’s sense of smell, making the fleeing octopus harder to track.
  • Fast swimmers, they can jet forward by expelling water through their mantles. And their soft bodies, with no internal or external skeleton, can squeeze into impossibly small cracks and crevices where predators can’t follow.
  • The amazing mimic octopuses are capable of changing their body shape to mimic other animals
  • They also have beak-like jaws that can deliver a nasty bite, and venomous saliva, used mainly for subduing prey.
  • If all else fails, an octopus can lose an arm to escape a predator’s grasp and re-grow it later with no permanent damage.


Talk about intelligent design.


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