Coincidence, Design, or Neither?

I watched the 2004 movie Crash last night, and, earlier this week, I watched the 1999 movie Magnolia.  Both movies try to focus on coincidences and how people are supposedly interconnected.  I think that what the movies want us to ask is if what we consider to be coincidences are actually coincidences, or rather the product of design (i.e., fate, God, etc.).

The thing is, I didn’t think that many of the coincidences in the movies were that big of a deal, or were even coincidences, for that matter.  For example, regarding Magnolia, am I supposed to think it’s a big deal that the character Earl Partridge is the one who produces the game show that Jimmy Gator hosts, and on which Donnie Smith and Stanley appeared as contestants?  Where’s the coincidence?  I mean, the movie chooses to focus on those characters.  I myself could easily find out the name of a producer and focus on him, his wife, and his son, as well as back-stories of a couple of actors on his show. There’s no coincidence or fate here.  It’s just choosing to focus on certain people who are connected with each other in some way.

But there are some times that there are coincidences.  For example, in Crash, the racist cop who padded and humiliated an African-American woman later finds himself rescuing that same woman from a car that is about to be consumed in fire.  I suppose that’s more of a coincidence, for why was it that cop and not another cop who saved her?  And yet, it’s not as if that is unthinkable.  People are saved many times by people they don’t know.  Why is it a big deal if, a few of those times, they’re saved by someone they do know?

As I think about this issue, I can slightly understand the criticism of Intelligent Design by atheists.  Believers in Intelligent Design point to all the things that had to come together just right for life to exist.  But critics have responded that, yes, there does appear to be design when you focus only on earth.  But when you put earth within the context of the entire universe, is it really a big deal that one planet has life?  Throughout the universe, there are planets that have water, or evidence of some sort of life-forms in the past.  There are some planets that are closer to having life than others.  Is it really evidence of design that, somewhere in the vast universe, there was at least one planet where things came together to be conducive for life—where there was not just water, but other things as well? 

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade.  I can understand the appeal of Intelligent Design, for we certainly are fortunate that things came together just right for us to be here.  But I could say the same thing about my own existence.  My Dad got out of bed one morning and went to church, he met my Mom, they got married, and I was born.  But is that evidence of some design going on?  Had my Dad stayed in bed, he wouldn’t have met my Mom, and I wouldn’t be here.  They would probably have met somebody else, and another person would be here.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that even my own existence is arguably based on random occurrences, which easily could have turned out any other way.  Just because things turned out for me to exist, that doesn’t mean there was design, as if events were being planned to culminate in my existence.  It just means that things turned out for me to exist.  I mean, there’s no law that says that I have to be here (and I’m not being suicidal here, but I’m making a point), just as atheists may say that there’s no law for humanity to be here.  But things happened that way.  They could have happened another way, but they didn’t.

I hope I’m making a degree of sense.  And if I’m not, that’s fine, since I don’t want to undermine the beliefs of those whose faith is based on Intelligent Design.  I believe in God, but I have some issues with the argument from design, right now.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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