On Intelligent Design
Last week, President Bush came out publicly in favor of the idea of Intelligent Design. Some conservatives, particularly the religious right, applauded his statement. Others wondered just when the effects of his cocaine abuse would wear off.
For those who don?t know, the Theory of Intelligent Design says that the Universe is too complex to just have happened. They say that this implies divine intervention and therefore proves the existence of God. I could just say that these people are obviously stupid, but that would be wrong. Instead, I?ll analyze the logic of their argument
The Universe is Complex
Their first argument is that the Universe is too complex and yet it seems to function. They point out that the planets spin around in a delicate ballet. They show the diversity of life and how everything has its place. They say they can?t see how this could happen on its own.
I agree; they can?t see how it could happen. That doesn?t mean that it can?t happen on its own. Here?s the deal. In order to understand all this, you need three things. First, you need a background in a number of sciences (not just one). Secondly, you must have a brain that works that way. Third, you have to be wiling to look at the science and not just have the ulterior motive of justifying your religion.
You?ll notice that I said it takes knowledge in a number of sciences and not just one. Because we are discussing the complexity of things and how they all interact, you had better be acquainted with those things. If you only know electricity but have never gotten into biochemistry or astrophysics, those other subjects might seem like magic.
Of course, just because you don?t understand a particular science it doesn?t mean that science is incomprehensible. There are other people who may understand those sciences but don?t know anything about yours. What?s more, we are constantly learning more about all the sciences. That means that even though we may not understand something today, we may understand it next week. That also means that if don?t understand something it doesn?t imply that the topic is forever beyond us.
As an example, consider a muscle in your arm. Do you know the mechanism by which your muscle contracts? Unless you?re a molecular biologist or a physiologist (or in a related field) you may not have a clue about how that happens. The idea that molecules twist due to the electromagnetic effects of neighboring molecules probably never occurred to you. Likewise, you probably don?t care that the twisting of molecules causes them to become shorter thereby making your muscle cell contract. Does that prove the existence of God? Consider that most molecules do this through a series of magnetic interactions and it happens all over the universe.
These folks also hate the Theory of Evolution. They point out that we don?t have every little detail in place so the theory is obviously wrong. They don?t really believe this; they just hate the fact that it makes part of their religion sound retarded. To prove that people are able to understand something with a missing detail I present this message for them: Go _____ yourselves. One of the big arguments against evolution is that if there are mutagens in the environment all the time, why aren?t all the animals (us included) all mutated? Though it?s true that there are things all around us that can cause mutation, that won?t mean they must cause mutation. How many times have you played pool (billiards) and hit the cue ball without pocketing one of the other balls?
When you go a bit further with science, you will see things like wave propagation, harmonic resonance, and pattern replication which function like clockwork. Did it need a deity to implement all of these rules or could these rules be sufficient to create everything we know over the past fourteen billion years? The obvious question is, ?Then where did the rules come from?? Anyone who wants to ask what was there before the Universe is welcome to make their point by telling where God came from and what was there before He was.
The Right kind of Brain
I mentioned above that one must also have the proper brain to see the complexity of the Universe. I?m not suggesting that some people are more stupid than others, though this is true; I?m not talking about stupid but talent and inclination. You probably know someone who has an uncanny gist for remembering things. You may know a sales person who seems to automatically recognize people, remember their names, and remember the names of their children. I know I can?t do that. Does it mean I?m stupid? Not with my grade point average, it doesn?t.
The point is that everybody has their own talents and inclinations. Some people are artists. Some are musicians. Some are theoretical physicists. Some are preachers. Do all of them have the same capabilities? In some respects, yes, but not in all cases or to the same extent. Why would we expect a physicist to be an excellent football player? Why would we expect a preacher to understand the latest physics?
An Ulterior Motive
In some of these cases, the adherent of Intelligent Design is just trying to justify his or her religion. In the face of science which seems to explain away all the miracles of the believer?s world, it can be hard to maintain faith. This doesn?t apply to everyone though. There are plenty of Christians, as well as members of other religions, who are perfectly happy with the enlightenment that science brings. I?ve often heard people thank God for one scientific advance or another.
The fact that science, including evolution, and religion can be reconciled by some people neither supports nor denies the Intelligent Design theory. In fact, a person?s faith is often a characteristic of the believer and does not speak to the object of the belief. If you don?t understand what I mean just ask a member of a religion other than yours about their level of faith and when you criticize them, look at how you described your faith to them.
Anyway, the point is that persons who are grasping at the Intelligent Design stuff are usually just trying to maintain their belief when they have no real faith (other than that psychotic adherence kind).
This is where their argument really breaks down. Let?s ignore all the problems with their premises, and just concentrate on the conclusion. If the Universe has to have an Intelligence behind it, how do they know that it is their specific deity at the controls? If they have proven (which they haven?t) that there is Someone out there making it all happen, there is nothing in their arguments that lead to a conclusion of their patron God.
See, when you make an argument your premises must lead to the conclusion. It must have the form of A implies B, and B implies C, and since we have A then we have C. The argument here goes:
A: The Universe is too complex to not be guided by an Intelligence.
B: If God exists the way we believe Him to then He is an Intelligence.
C: Therefore, God exists and all the stuff we want to believe is right.
This is the same sort of logic as saying
A: This Porsche is a nice car.
B: If I had a car, it would be a nice car.
C: Therefore, this Porsche must be my car.
As you can tell, the logic in the second example would not hold up in court when the real owner of the Porsche called the cops. Likewise, the logic of the Intelligent Design people is flawed. Their argument could be used to support any religion, not just their own. This is important because it means one important thing:
President Bush has announced that he firmly believes in the existence of Odin!
It may sound like I?m coming down on religion in general, but I?m not. I?ve targeted the Intelligent Design people specifically because they are going to court to have their crap taught in public schools in Kansas. Science education in the country is suffering enough without some (I?m being intentionally offensive here) Primitive Brain-Dead Yokels climbed out from under some rock and decided that the last half of the twentieth century never happened. These people are dangerous and should be treated as the head cases they are.
The president may want to stop and think before he goes all Tom Cruise on this matter. Bush is already skating on un-Constitutional ice with his insistence on faith (Christian) based initiatives and his crippling of the public schools (no child left behind). Anyone who knows anything about history knows why we have a separation of church and state. Imagine that you?re a Southern Baptist and suddenly the government says that you aren?t Lutheran enough. Maybe they could make you Catholic. Perhaps Judaism would suite you better? Keep church and state as separate as possible. If we don?t, I can assure you that you will be converted to my religion before I?m converted to yours.