The Date: Pre-historic times – tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of years ago.
Ug and Og are sitting around the campfire. They had recently discovered fire. “Fire good” they said. Well, that’s what they would have said if they had invented language yet, but their language was still little more than a few grunts. (Hence the names.) Or perhaps it had developed to something more complex. (Some think it had by then.) They certainly had big brains, just like modern homo sapiens, even if they didn’t have our knowledge. So they were curious about things. And they wondered why things happened. For example, they wondered why the Sun crossed the sky each day, what caused it to rain, what caused the thunder and lightning, why it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. They couldn’t explain those things, but possibly someone, sometime, invented the idea of a God or Gods who magically made them happen. And lacking another explanation, they believed that these things were caused by God. “God mad”, grunted Og, as the thunder rolled in again. “Ug” grunted Ug in agreement. It probably seemed like a good explanation at the time.
Roll forward a few years
In ancient times, God used to be really powerful. Or at least, his presence was required to explain virtually everything that happened in the world. For example, the ancient Greeks believed that the God Apollo [edited to add: or possibly Helios] pulled the Sun across the sky every day in a flying horse-drawn chariot, and other cultures believed similar things about their gods. Each morning at dawn, God rose in the east, rode his chariot pulling the Sun through the sky to the west, to return during the night when the Sun showed only its dark side. Or so it was believed.
Similarly, ancient man wanted an explanation for thunder and lightning. Of course, knowing nothing about electricity, he decided that the most likely explanation was that lightning bolts of fire were being thrown by Thor. Something like that, anyway.
In medieval times no one knew what kept the planets moving in their orbits. Many thought that each planet had an angel to push it on its journey. Even Newton thought this might have been the case. Of course, Newton refused to include supernatural explanations in his laws of gravitation, and because of that we can use these laws even now to send probes to land safely on Mars (most of the time). Since “God” was not included in the explanation, man was free to look for other explanations for the formations of stars and planets and their orbits.
In recent years, “cdesign proponentsists” wrote that organisms such as the bacterial flagellum were "irreducibly complex" and could not possibly have arisen through unguided evolutionary processes alone. Despite this claim, we know that irreducibly complex organisms can evolve. “God” is not needed – even to produce irreducibly complex organisms.
The creationists haven’t given up though. Some argue that although micro evolution (small changes within species) happens, macro evolution (evolution to another species) can not. God is clearly needed to add the additional information to the DNA to accomplish the development of each new species. And Michael Behe, in his recent book “The Edge of Evolution”, gets into even more detail – he now writes that protein-protein binding sites couldn’t have developed by natural means, and therefore now this is what God does.
And that’s what it’s come to. God used to be responsible for moving the Sun across the sky each day. If God didn’t get out of bed and make this happen, there would be no Sun. Now, God is reduced to tinkering with bits of DNA. You can picture God in his workshop. All around him, clouds of gas are collapsing in upon themselves due to the force of gravity until hydrogen begins to fuse and stars are formed. Occasionally one of these stars will go supernova, creating the heavier elements. Over millions of years, some of this matter will clump together under gravity to form planets. And so on. Then, after a few billion years, God comes along and thinks, “Hey, I’d better create some protein-protein binding sites stat or this whole process will come to a grinding halt,” and gets to work. Pretty demeaning for him. (Although at least he doesn’t have to get out of bed every day to drive that damn chariot. That was a real chore.)
Seems a little sad for the God believers though. Their God, once so big, has shrunk to something so small. And what if someone comes along later and discovers that God isn’t even needed for protein-protein binding? (Oops – someone already did.)
The Intelligent Design/God of the Gaps approach is a dead end. If early man had taken Behe’s attitude we’d still believe God caused the Sun to rise and set, threw thunderbolts, etc. and we wouldn’t understand anything. Fortunately, not everyone settled for God of the Gaps explanations, and so we do know better. But why should anyone think Goddidit would be a good explanation now, when it’s been consistently wrong and singularly useless every time it has been evoked since the dawn of time?