Saturday, June 17, 2006

Gimme That Old Time Science

(Published by Crunchables.Net, June 2006)

I don’t understand why some people want to promote the idea of “intelligent design” in place of Darwinian evolution. Considering how the world looks today, I would think theists would want to distance God from having any hand in creation.
The thinking behind intelligent design goes something like this: not all of Darwin’s ideas about natural selection are supported in nature, hence, there must be some other explanation which fills in the gaps. But would a loving intelligent God really give us mayflies? Mosquitoes? Fire ants? Paris Hilton?
At intelligent design’s foundation is a basic Aristotelian syllogism: if there is movement then there must be some prime mover. If there is order in nature, then there must be One who created that order. But that’s hardly a scientific hypothesis — it’s not provable, or even measurable. It is not a theory so much as it is a solution in search of a question. Sure, science can’t prove that it wasn’t God who had a hand in all this, but it can’t prove that it wasn’t Tinkerbell either. Still, I don’t see anyone offering the “Tinkerbell Theory of Evolution.” [Note from the eds: There is, however, the Flying Spaghetti Monster Theory.]
Any scientific theory based on a presumption that God even exists ends up as nothing more than a “does too, does not” kind of debate. This is not science, which requires thesis and experimentation and peer review. This is just the sixth grade playground all over again.
Theologically, this kind of theory actually undermines faith. “Proving” the existence of God through reason is not faith at all. It’s an arrogant assertion that we can find God all on our own, rather than accepting the humbler notion that we find God through grace; through art and meditation and other ways we use non-cognitive intelligences; even through dumb-ass luck.
Art and music and even religion all try to describe interior truths — subjective ones, but ones every bit as real as fossils in an archeological dig. The attempt to turn the intuitive into something objective reflects a bias toward a rational view of the world, a perspective that has held sway for far too long in this culture. This is the real agenda of people who want to promote intelligent design in the schools: it’s a backlash against a scientific community that for so long eschewed anything suggesting there could be any unfathomable mysteries in our world.
Throughout the 20th century, science fed our belief that God was not needed to explain things — that given enough time and the scientific method, all things could eventually be known. This gave rise to the idea that God could be understood by the brute force of human intellect, and that this intellectual pursuit could even be dressed up as science.
While science tries to reveal objective truth based on observable and demonstrable evidence, religion’s truths are personal ones that need no verification. Intelligent design confuses non-cognitive, intuitive knowledge with objective, measurable data. It would be as if we only knew the color yellow by its spectrum wavelength of 575 nanometers. This is measurable, objective and true, but reveals nothing about how yellow makes me feel, the way it brightens my mood, how it reminds me of summer. Each truth describes a different quality of what color is. We teach one in science class and the other in art class, and no one seems to mind.
Maybe the most compelling argument against intelligent design is the supposed apex of God’s creation: humans. At the start of the 21st century, we find ourselves creating a warmer planet and melting the polar ice caps, poisoning the air and water to unprecedented levels, straining resources beyond comprehension with a population now exceeding 6 billion, all while burning ever dwindling fossil fuels. Meanwhile, there never seems to be a war that we can say no to.
Some apex. It’s no wonder Kurt Vonnegut wrote that if God were to come down to earth today He would be an atheist.
This is not to suggest that God had nothing to do with Creation. Maybe She did. It’s just that it sure would be easier to believe in intelligent design if that Designer had done a little better job on us.


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