The First Sceptic

The little knit­ted fig­ure lay on the table, wool­len and unmov­ing. The knit­ting needles, their work done, lay dis­carded next to it. The ball of wool didn’t exist any­more. It had man­aged to make this little purple fig­ure but that had exhausted it. He’d watched as it dwindled to noth­ing and finally dis­ap­peared as the purple man’s left leg was com­pleted. Not a drop of fluff remained.

And so he breathed life into it. All that beat in his blood and fired in his head went sur­ging through the air and sparked off exist­ence in that little bundle of wool, fra­gile in many ways but not in oth­ers. Sim­ilar but alien, and so much smal­ler. In that instant of cre­ation, the fig­ure on the table was no longer his but its own.

Hi,” it said, sit­ting up and look­ing at him.

Hello,” said its creator.

Well, this is all new.”

I ima­gine it is.”

Oh? Have you been around for a while then?”

A little while, yeah.”

Any­thing inter­est­ing going on?”

I just cre­ated life.”

What? Are you some kind of sci­ent­ist? Been mess­ing with pro­teins and stuff, try­ing to kick off the right chem­ical reac­tion? I think I read about that.”

Not really, no. I’m your cre­ator. I just put you together out of wool and brought you to life. You are my cre­ation, I am your creator.”

Oh, sorry, I don’t believe in all that stuff.” The little fig­ure got onto its feet, though really they were just stumps where the legs ended, and walked to the end of the table.

You don’t believe in what stuff?” asked his creator.

All that cre­ation stuff. I’m an atheist.”

You’re an atheist?”

Yes. I reject the stand­ard theo­logy that exists regard­ing the exist­ence of any sort of divine being and look for the rational explan­a­tion instead. I am open to the idea of a more power­ful being than I can ima­gine, but I require some sci­entific proof of its exist­ence rather than blindly accept­ing it.”

But we’re not talk­ing about a divine being. I’m just say­ing I made you.”

You bloody well are talk­ing about a divine being. That’s pretty much how all stor­ies about divine beings start: cre­at­ing intel­li­gent life. It’s all creatures just search­ing for a mean­ing for their exist­ence. Not for me though. I know how I got here.”

How did you get here?”

Evol­u­tion. Tens of mil­lions of years ago some little thing got a spark of elec­tri­city in just the right place and things star­ted hap­pen­ing, and nature whittled down some of the vari­ations and oth­ers got ahead and kept chan­ging and then I came about through a long list of those. That’s the short ver­sion anyway.”

I lit­er­ally just made you out of wool five minutes ago.”

Right. I was try­ing to be polite but you’re clearly one of them reli­gious nut jobs so I’m just going to head off, ok?”

Head off where? You’re in my house. I made you. You didn’t exist before now.”

Your house?”

My house.”

You put all of this here?”

Yes.”

The fig­ure sighed. “Look, I know it looks like it was designed and it’s so easy to believe it was, just because of how things work out, but I assure you there are nat­ural explan­a­tions for everything here. That glass sheet is prob­ably just an old lava flow made from from sed­i­ment that crys­tal­lised and became clear as it cooled.”

It’s a window.”

And this wooden flat thing? Prob­ably just a tree eroded by the wind.”

I put the table together myself. It’s from Ikea.”

There’s clearly no reas­on­ing with you.”

Look, I’ll show you. In that draw there’s a bunch of pens. They’re blue, red, green and black. Shall I open the drawer?”

Go ahead.”

The cre­ator opened the draw, which had a bunch of pens in it in blue, red, green and black. “There,” he said, “it’s my house. I know how all the stuff works in it and where it all is.”

I’ll admit that you seem to have been here first.”

Hah!”

But that doesn’t mean you cre­ated me. I’m not going to be tricked into think­ing you’re some sort of god just because you happened to become con­scious before me. If that was the case, we’d all assume our ancest­ors were divine.”

Don’t some cul­tures do that?”

I see you have begun to ques­tion your faith.”

I was just asking.”

And that is the first step.”

The cre­ator sat back and stared at the fig­ure, which stared back. They sat in this man­ner for a while, before the cre­ator opened his mouth and said “what if I make another one?”

Hmm?”

I’ll make another per­son and you can see that I cre­ated you.”

Wouldn’t work. You could have just cre­ated an incred­ibly con­vin­cing fake. Never heard of the philo­soph­ical zombie?”

No, actu­ally.”

That’s inter­est­ing. So if you cre­ated me five minutes ago-”

More like ten now.”

- how would I have know­ledge that you don’t?”

I hon­estly have no idea, but that doesn’t affect the fact I cre­ated you.”

So you’re just omni­po­tent, not omniscient?”

I never claimed to be either.”

I apo­lo­gise. I thought that cre­at­ing life was strictly in the domain of the all-powerful?”

Jesus Christ. I don’t know.”

The more ques­tions I ask and the deeper I delve, the more this myth is fall­ing apart, hmm? You can’t argue with a logical, sci­entific mind over things like this and expect to come out with your faith intact, you know.”

That’s not even close to what I was try­ing to do.”

So, what argu­ments do you have left? You being here before me doesn’t prove you cre­ated me. You being able to cre­ate another me doesn’t prove you cre­ated me. Got any­thing else I can dis­mantle? You know, I’m actu­ally quite enjoy­ing this.”

I got the feel­ing you were.”

They sat for a while longer.

What about how much big­ger and more power­ful I am than you?”

Oh please. You should have star­ted with that. If that indic­ated deity-hood I’d be wor­ship­ping the sun or a volcano.”

Yeah, I didn’t think that would go any­where. What about if I took you apart and put you back together?”

That’s just advanced medi­cine, not godhood.”

What if we cre­ated some­thing new together? You could even help so you can see the pro­cess I used. You could make some­thing yourself!”

Philo­soph­ical zom­bie again, and a bit of ‘any suf­fi­ciently advanced tech­no­logy is indis­tin­guish­able from magic’, exchan­ging magic for divine power, of course.”

I’d be using knit­ting needles; they’re hardly advanced technology.”

But how do I know they are just knit­ting needles?”

I could call my friend and have him vouch for me. He saw me start mak­ing you.”

And why would I believe him more than you? He’s prob­ably just as deluded. You’re just fol­low­ers of the same cult”

The cre­ator sagged in his chair. “Never happy, are you?”

I’m per­fectly happy, I’m just rational as well. Iron­ic­ally, I’m not much of a wooly thinker.”

And the cre­ator and the fig­ure stared at each other in silence again whilst everything unravelled.

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