The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Friday, November 07, 2003

INTELLIGENT DESIGN: HOOKED ON PERFECTION
What compels people to mix their God with their science? It's like they can't find satisfaction in just one, so they attempt a mishmash of the two, and try to fob it off as something believable.

Take Intelligent Design, "the idea that the universe and the human body are so complex and precise they must be the work of a 'designer.' " In other words, Intelligent Design rejects the notion that everything that makes the cosmos click could have occurred randomly or by chance; there had to be one guiding, presumably sentient, force behind it all.

Why does Intelligent Design sound a lot like Deism to me? I mean the classical, American Deism of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine more than the weird modern strain. The Deist idea of God as a master clockmaker who builds his timepiece to exacting standards, then steps back and lets it run without any further interference, sounds a lot like this new thang.

My other initial impression is that the phrase "Intelligent Design" suggests some kind of Martha Stewart-ish interior design concept.

I can pinpoint the problem with this thought process right here:

His main focus is on the laws of nature and how they work together to sustain human life. It gets technical. For example, if gravity, the electromagnetic field and other natural laws had been even slightly different, Earth could not sustain life, he explains.

Science has discovered too many coincidences in the precision of nature's laws and life to chalk it all up to coincidence, Bradley says. He often quotes Fred Hoyle, a British astronomer who initially argued that the coincidences were just luck, but had changed his mind later in life, writing that there might be something behind it all:

"Such properties seem to run through the fabric of the natural world like a thread of happy coincidences. But there are so many odd coincidences essential to life that some explanation seems required to account for them."

This reveals a very limited worldview: That the life found on this planet is the only possible form of life. All these "happy coincidences" and precision are nothing of the sort; they only seem that way because they sustain life as we know it. There is no "perfection" in nature--people who consider it to be perfect are looking at the end result and mistaking that as the proof of a preordained pattern. It's a backwards way of looking at things, and I have to agree, it's not very rational or even scientific.

It's much more plausible to me that life on Earth developed as an adaptation to the conditions found here. Who's to say that if the Earth was a couple of hundred miles closer or further from the Sun, life still wouldn't have thrived?

That's the fundamental flaw with Intelligent Design and similar theories. Proponents seem to feel the need to force some pattern onto nature, because they can't deal with a complex world otherwise.