Friday, September 30, 2005

Intelligent Design Theory
If Only I Could Remember My Name

Roger Simon makes a good point when he says Intelligent Design theory is a threat to our economy (well, except for the bloviating):

Go ahead and believe the "intelligent design" theory if you want to - I think it's claptrap and an insult to theists - but please keep it out of the science classroom. Our social studies and humanities classes are already polluted by enough asinine nonsense from the fuddy-duddy left. We don't need to have science turned into Bible class (covert or otherwise) from the other side.

I don't blame the biology teachers in Dover, PA for keeping this pseudo-science out of their classrooms. They've got plenty to do getting their high school students prepared for the serious (and worsening) competition of the global economy. (You can bet their peers in Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai aren't wasting a helluva lot of time on "intelligent design.")

To be clear. I have no objection to crèches at the mall, the Ten Commandments in court rooms, "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, etc., etc. Although I support separation of church and state, I'm happy to respect everyone's beliefs and I'm not particularly scared of this country turning into a theocracy. But the science classroom is for science. Students in Dover, Pennsylvania and other rural areas are just as entitled to a real education as those in Los Angeles and New York. In fact the country needs them to have it, especially in science and math. And in the case of public education, it is not in our interest to waste precious taxpayer dollars teaching mythology in biology.

Like, I said, I think Roger Simon has a good point, but I say he's bloviating because of the use of the words like "claptrap" and "asinine." He has pronounced Intelligent Design to be claptrap, and yet he hasn't made a single argument against it. In fact, I doubt he could, because I doubt he has read the work of any Intelligent Design theorists.

But, here's the thing; I have. And honestly, I don't think Intelligent Design has risen to the level of a theory yet. The basic idea is that Universe is too complex and, well, "intelligent," to have occurred randomly. What's more, this idea is backed up by science, in the sense that science has yet to explain how the Universe could have evolved to this level of complexity in the 15 billion years that it has, apparently, existed.

Most arguments about both evolution and Intelligent Design consist almost entirely of bloviating. I have had many unfortunate discussions with my fellow Christians over the years on the subject of evolution. Often,their primary argument, seems to consist of the sentence, "We didn't come from monkeys. It says in the Bible that God created man in His Image."

Yes, yes, I know it does. But, could not God have used evolution as one of the mechanisms by which He created us?

Now, here's the thing that most people misunderstand about Intelligent Design theory. It does not say that evolution hasn't occurred. Nor does it say that evolution might not very well be the primary mechanism by which life has developed. It simply says that Natural Selection, alone, can not account for the amount of change which has occurred in the given lifetime of the Universe.

When Roger Simon says that Intelligent Design theory is an "insult to Theists," he demonstrates that he has never read any real Intelligent Design theorists, because, while most ID theorists are Christians, or Jews, it is not a Christian or Jewish theory. It is simply a theory which says that there must have been an "intelligent" creator.

Now, here's my problem with Intelligent Design. In all I have read of it, I have yet to come across more to the theory than the idea that there must be intelligence behind the complexity. Ok, that seems reasonable. In fact, I think it is even an important thought. However, in and of itself, it is not science. It is simply the beginning of science.

Why do I say that? Well, what Intelligent Design theory does (as far as I have gotten with it) is it

1) runs through the evidence for Natural Selection having created the universe by itself,

2) pronounces that it could not have,

3) says that there must be intelligence behind the complexity.

To it's credit, ID Theory does give specifics about why there must be intelligence. The specifics have to do with things such as the fact that DNA code is comparable to computer code. That there are mechanisms in cellular structure which function in ways which are almost exactly analogous to machines such as rotors, etc. So, the idea is, if life is made up of exactly the same structures that we create when we create machines and computers, then there must be intelligence behind life.

Of course, the whole thing simply could go the other way. In other words, we create things this way because it makes sense to us, because of how we ourselves are structured. In other words, we create machines and computers because, as is always true with artists, our subject matter is ourselves.

I, actually, largely agree with Roger Simon that Intelligent Design theory can, and probably will, be harmful to American Education. Why? Well, because I think many teachers will simply use it as a Trojan Horse in which to deliver Creationism. In other words, they will use ID as a way to teach that the Universe was literally created in seven days, or 168 hours.

That is highly unlikely, to say the least. If that was so then why are we receiving light on planet Earth which originally set out from it's star billions of years ago. Is God tricking us?

No, I doubt that. (I'm being sarcastic here, just in case it isn't obvious.)

But listen, while I do think that Intelligent Design Theory could very likely be a danger to American Education, in the long run, I think the questions it asks are very important ones.

Here's a new way to think about Intelligent Design. If all Intelligent Design says is, there must be intelligence behind the design of the Universe, then what if that "Intelligence" were simply, say, a scientist in a lab? What if we are simply an experiement in a Petri dish somewhere? Or, what if we are the creation of a machine? Could it not be possible that sometime in the past some other intelligence had formed, created machines, which then created us?

It sounds like Science Fiction? Yes, well, our world itself is beginning to sound like science fiction, if you haven't noticed. We are just entering a century which will dazzle our minds with bioengineering, nanotechnology, computer chips processing at the speed of light, quantuum computing, life-like robotics, etc. When you take such things into account the notion that we, ourselves, may have been created by a "scientist" somewhere is not so insane.

Now, here's another thing. What if that "scientist" who created us left clues in our code on how to contact him? What if he included his name and email address? What if we could finally learn our own names? The names he gave us. In other words, what if we could learn what it is we were created for?

I say, this is not an impossible notion, and for this reason, I think the pursuit of Intelligent Design Theory may be among the most noble quests on which the human race has ever embarked. As long as we don't set out on the journey thinking that we know exactly where we will wind up, we should do as well as we always have done, which means we will probably find some very interesting answers, and create some stuff we never anticipated along the way.

After all, that's how science is done.