God's Splendid, Magnificent Creation...Ted Bundy
OK, it’s time for a little thought experiment. In order to complete it, I will grant the existence of the omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent Christian God. That’s right, I will grant, without a fight, the existence of a ridiculous deity. However, in return, I ask that theists grant me one bit of science: The fact that our genes, to a substantial extent, are responsible for our behavior and abilities as adults. This shouldn’t be a problem, as that particular hypothesis is well grounded in science. Take, for example, research studies done on twins. It’s a fact that twins who are separated at birth nevertheless turn out far more similar than unrelated children who happen to be raised together. Indeed, it seems shared environment makes essentially no difference in how somebody turns out.
To substantiate this bit of science before moving forward, I’ll quote from a book I frequently cite and constantly plug, The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker:
“General intelligence is substantially heritable and so are the five major ways in which personality can vary (summarized by the acronym OCEAN): openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion-introversion, antagonism-agreeableness and neuroticism. And traits that are surprisingly specific turn out to be heritable, too, such as dependence on nicotine or alcohol, number of hours of television watched and likelihood of divorcing.”
“Behavioral genetics allows us to distinguish two very different ways in which our environments might affect us. The shared environment is what impinges on us and our siblings alike: our parents, our home life and our neighborhood (as compared with other parents and neighborhoods in the sample). The non-shared or unique environment is everything else: anything that impinges on one sibling but not another, including parental favoritism (Mom always liked you best), the presence of the other siblings, unique experiences such as falling off a bicycle or being infected by a virus, and, for that matter, anything that happens to us over the course of our lives that does not necessarily happen to our siblings.
“Here is the second stunning discovery from behavioral genetics. In measuring the relative effects of a shared and a unique environment, we find that the effects of shared environment are small, often not statistically significant, and frequently zero. What this means concretely is that twins who grew up together are no more similar than twins who were separated at birth and reared apart, and that adopted siblings are not similar at all. Whatever experiences siblings share by growing up in the same home within a given culture makes little or no difference to the kind of people they turn out to be.”
This isn’t genetic determinism, but it does substantially undercut the “nurture” side of the nature vs. nurture debate.
OK, with that bit of science out of the way, let’s proceed with this thought experiment. The subject of the experiment will be Theodore Robert Bundy, the serial killer who was executed by the State in 1989 after having brutally killed more than 30 people.
Bundy was born on November 24, 1946. According to Christians, God created him. Indeed, if we are to believe Christians, God specially crafted Ted Bundy, and endowed him with a purpose [presumably horrific slaughter]. Don’t believe me? Read this:
“We are not just a collection of organisms, which accidentally occurred, and have remained in place for some time. The Bible clearly teaches that God created each of us, and has a specific plan for each of us.”
It’s from this prominent Christian website.
So, from this, we can conclude that God crafted Ted Bundy to be a serial killer. This belief practically absolves Bundy of any guilt for his crimes; all of his actions were already known [or determined] before he was even a fetus. As Bundy was being crafted by God, who is an omniscient entity, God already knew exactly what Bundy would become. As an omnipotent entity, God certainly had the power to craft Bundy in a different way. As an omnibenevolent entity, God would essentially be required to craft Bundy in a different way, given the knowledge he would become a serial killer and the ability to make him something else. God, quite apparently, chose not to. And so, the serial killer was born.
A quote from Gene Roddenberry comes to mind: “We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.”
The notion that God’s benevolent design somehow was tarnished by environment is false, and anticipation of that fallacious argument is why I cited the Pinker text to start. Besides, isn’t it a bit silly to think a mother who smacks her child around would be able to subvert the will of God, with respect to the specific plan He had for the child? In any case, by most accounts, Bundy had a fairly normal childhood. Certainly, there were some bumps along the road. For example, Bundy might have believed his mother was in fact his older sister during most of his childhood and adolescence. But, strange as that might seem, it’s not all that uncommon. Look at Jack Nicholson for example. Left by his father during his childhood, he was raised thinking his grandmother was his mother and his mother an older sister. Clearly, that didn’t subvert God’s plan that Nicholson become a playboy movie icon.
Besides, God’s evil natural inclinations for Bundy began to manifest extremely early in life. At least three times during his early childhood, Bundy is said to have come to his aunt's bedside, smiling as he handled multiple knives and put them beside her on the bed. Remember, this is an account of early actions in the life of one of God’s personal creations. Remember what the Christians say: “The Bible clearly teaches that God created each of us, and has a specific plan for each of us.”
The “specific plan” of the omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God was to doom Ted Bundy to be a serial killer, thus damning his eternal soul to Hell before the fetus was even growing in the womb. How can the decisions really have been Ted’s when the actions were known prior to his even being born? Could Ted really have proved God’s foreknowledge wrong? If so, “omniscient” would be tossed in the junk pile, to keep “omnibenevolent” company.
It’s all precisely analogous to a toymaker booby trapping a toy. Which brings me back to the great Roddenberry quote—In Christianity, it’s always the toy’s fault.