What's All This Then?

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

I have nothing against people who believe in God. As long as they don’t try to convert me to their way of thinking or impose their religious values on me in some restrictive or harmful way, I am perfectly content to associate with, be friends with or even marry one of their kind. Well perhaps not that last item. I don’t think that my wife would approve of becoming part of a polygamous situation. But apart from that, I have no problems getting along with religious people. Even very religious people. To tell the truth, I sometimes envy people who are content to know that there is a God and that when they die they’ll be going to heaven to continue living forever. While I wrestle with the mysteries of life and try not to be fearful of the oblivion that I know comes when that life ends - they are content to smile and relax while they wait patiently for their heavenly reward.

As if it wasn’t enough that they are able to live their lives in such contentment while the rest of us struggle with our knowledge that there is no God and no retirement home for dead people called heaven and that through centuries s of acquiring scientific knowledge, we have been able to gradually compartmentalize religion and not have it be the basic element around which all other aspects of life revolves, some of them never give up trying to bring back ancient times and substitute belief for knowledge. Or at least to put them on a co-equal status.

And now here we go again. After 80 years, another "monkey trial." Or something close to it. Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District is an effort to stop the school district from suggesting that "intelligent design" could be studied with a view to considering it to be an alternative to evolution. A bunch of parents thought this was a sneaky way to teach religion and belief in a deity in school and sued to put a stop to it.

And now the defense - the school district - has summoned a biologist as a witness to claim that "intelligent design" is science!! This guy, Michael Behe, who teaches at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., is what you might call a "professional" intelligent design proponent. He’s the author of "Darwin’s Black Box" - in which he challenges the idea that evolution alone can account for human existence. Apparently, he makes a good impression on the witness stand. He doesn’t insist that the earth is only a few thousand years old. He accepts much of the evidence of evolution. But he insists that an intelligent designer must have been involved. He doesn’t say that it is God - though he personally believes it is. But he says it could be some unknown entity. Aliens maybe. Or fairies.

He offers up a few "scientific" examples of what he considers to be "evidence" that an intelligent designer was involved in our creation - and I’m not going to take issue with any of them because I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. "Clotting" for example. That’s supposed to be evidence of intelligent design. But my beef with the professor and all who believe as he does, is with the word "intelligent."

If indeed we were ‘designed’ in some fashion, there is no way in hyperspace that it could be considered "intelligent." For example - if the professor accepts much of evolutionary evidence, what does he think is "intelligent" about getting to where we are today by way of all that came before - single cell creatures to sponges and trilobites to dinosaurs and Neanderthals and the rest? You would think that a designer with intelligence would cut to the chase - and even if he (she or it) wanted to see how his creation might develop on its own - you’d think he’d at least start with something like homo erectus.

But I won’t even argue with professor Behe about evolution being a strange way for an intelligent designer to do his handiwork and get to his desired end result. I’ll just take issue with him on the suggestion that the design of the human animal as we know it today is an "intelligent" one. What is intelligent about a design that is virtually guaranteed to break down and be in need of constant repair? Perhaps it would be too much to expect a pefect design. That might come too close to creating the designee in the designer’s image. But surely, unless the designer is some kind of cosmic Rube Goldberg, he wouldn’t have made the way we are on purpose!!

As a male for example, I would have to question why an "intelligent" designer would include a prostate gland in his design, one of those parts that, as I’ve already indicated, is virtually guaranteed to break down, cause great trouble and more often than not, require surgical intervention. And why would an intelligent designer allow such a condition to exist for centuries in his design before his human creations learned how to perform surgery? Is the designer a sadist?

I could go on and on through human anatomy, male and female, selecting those things about us , that if created, could only have been created by a Rube Goldberg mentality. And in case you’re not familiar with his work, the first line of the web site reached by the link above reads:
Through his wacky cartoons which depict the most elaborate and ridiculous devices to accomplish the most mundane tasks, RUBE GOLDBERG'S "INVENTIONS" have become synonymous with any maximum effort to achieve minimal results.
Think of the length of the human alimentary canal for example - about 30 feet to process food and get rid of poop. It’s about as complicated a process as you could imagine. But if you are an omnipotent being, capable of creating any design possible, surely the most intelligent thing to do is to make it as un-complicated as possible.

I would argue that the very things that professor Behe (do you think his parents considered "Blessed" for a first name before settling on Michael?) says are indications of intelligent design - the complicated way in which things work in the human body - is evidence of precisely the opposite. That through the evolutionary process and the adaptation of evolving beings to different states and different surroundings, a hodge podge of involuntary but necessary anatomical changes took place, ultimately resulting in the incredibly complicated structure of today’s humans. A designer would have done a better, less complicated job, but evolving beings struggling to survive, did what their inner sense of survival told them to do - and they did it, having no sense of how or what they did!!

Think about it - particularly if you’re a doctor or have knowledge of human anatomy. If you were able to design a human being from scratch, would you create the fragile, vulnerable, internally complicated creature that you are - or something more like an android with human values and emotions? Think carefully now. You’re sitting down at your cosmic designer’s table and you’re starting without any prior model to guide or influence you. Is there any point at which you might say… "Let me see. I think we’ll put a 30 foot alimentary canal from here to here?"

I rest my case.