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Columnists

Chance: A fine thing

Agnostics Anonymous

This month, aside from drenching each other in buckets of ice water, social media users have distinguished themselves by attributing a quotation to David Attenborough that includes phrases such as 'Israelis are worse than any animal, even crocodiles... they kidnap children and harvest their organs'.

Excited by the idea that such a respected man, the incarnation of liberal, humane, educated Britain, would spout this rivers-of-bloodlibel rhetoric, lovers and haters of Israel alike rushed to repost this fabricated quotation.

Now this is of course yet another salutary reminder to exercise some degree of caution when rushing to Like, Share and otherwise Disseminate texts and images of unknown provenance. Caveat postor.

But when its status as a fake was revealed, a second and more interesting response emerged. A user on one messageboard asked 'Could it be that ZOG is using the ageing (88) and not long for this world Attenborough to give the false impression that some establishment wallahs have a conscience about the slaying of innocent men, women and children by Israel?'.

What a lovely world to inhabit. A world in which Occam's Razor is at least a Triple Blade; a world in which the answer is never boredom, or mischief, or just because; a world in which someone is there to design the pattern of the detritus that tumbles across one's path.

No doubt this particular messageboard user has a charming collection of tinfoil hats. However, he has something in common with those Christians who see AIDS as God's punishment for homosexuality, or those strictly Orthodox Jews who think the Holocaust was God's way of curbing the secularisation of his chosen people, or anyone who thinks their prayers might be heard. Namely the belief that everything happens for a reason.

Atheism versus religion is often cast as rationality versus faith. But in fact both Dawkins and his opponents share a sense of the fundamental justice of being. The most advantageous variation cannot but predominate, or bad things happen to good people for SOME REASON, honest.

The true divide is not between God-botherers and God-bashers but between those who think that there is an essential order to the universe and those who sense its irreducible chaos and nonmeaning.

Dawkins and those who hate him can both sleep easy in the knowledge that something will bring balance to the force, be it evolution, Yahweh, or 'Chemical chance, chemical chance. Fate and destiny, fate and destiny!', as in the atheist orgasm memorably enacted by Bill Hicks.

To paraphrase another dead hero, there is only one thing worse than shadowy, faceless powers running the world, and that is knowing that no one is running the world.