Dec 13

The Intelligence of Design

Intelligent DesignThe world is a beautiful place.

The tides of the sea, the sun setting on the golden plain, the immortal ripples of lakes in the mountains. How could such an intricate and wondrous thing ever come to be by pure chance? If you find a shiny silver watch in the woods, does it not follow logically that it was created by an intelligent mind?

This is the classic emotional argument for the necessity of a Divine Creator, an Intelligent Designer. God simply must exist! Despite our continually expanding scientific knowledge of the vast universe and our own fanciful minds, the human race is determined to believe there is something supernatural behind it all.

The logically weak yet emotionally powerful argument of the watch and the watchmaker implies that an omnipotent super-being must have created the world because the chances of everything happening on its own are so very slim. Despite the incredibly low chances of this world forming into exactly the world it is today, it has―that we know. We know nothing definitive of any way it could have come to be otherwise, so there is no reason to assume so. The watch and the watchmaker argument does not reflect reality―no scientist could explain how a watch could have simply formed on its own, but this is not the case with the universe. Thanks to Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking, we have a perfectly logical explanation of how things could have happened without any help from anyone.

Furthermore, how on earth could you calculate the actual probability that a god exists? And that not only is he not another concocted deity like Zeus and Santa Claus, but also that he comes in paradoxical packs of three and frowns upon homosexual love and calls only men to be priests and sends us all off to the Demonic Fires of Hell or the Abstract Glories of Heaven or the Divine Waiting Room of Purgatory to be either punished eternally for our transgressions or rewarded eternally for our good deeds or cleansed indefinitely with expired holy articles on Natural Family Planning and Why You Should Have Heeded Christ Jesus from your local religious newsletter, all because he loves us? Someone please tell me, what is the probability of that?

I believe that somewhere in the world there is a legitimate Pink Elephant.

Natural and everything.

It’s capitalized because it is actually God.

Don’t disrespect my beliefs, people. It’s Faith.
The nice thing about the Pink Elephant is that elephants are real and pink is real and misfits are real and genetic mutations and toxic vats of chemicals of war and circuses and deserts are real. It is a legitimate possibility. And thus, it could be calculated (if I happened to know a thing or two about the various ways a pink elephant might come to be).

But can we say that for God? To make a long story short….no. To know the probability of the existence of the Pink Elephant, it is necessary that I know rather a lot about Loxodonta Africana and animal genetics. If I didn’t have such knowledge, any logical projection I made about the probability of such a thing actually existing would be completely worthless. Such is the way with God: there is absolutely no definite evidence of his existence, and there is no supporting argument in his favor that cannot be aptly refuted by physics and psychology. For all our electron microscopes and distant space probes and quantum physics equations, we know as much about the universe as an ant in a bottle knows about glass. Lacking the necessary omniscience, we must turn to what we do know of Reality­―which is significantly more than nothing, as meager as it is­­.

I happen to live nearby a herd of elephants and have in my days on this earth seen many an elephant, and the fact is that none of them are pink. That’s all I’ve got―and thus I must face the reality: the Pink Elephant is probably not real. All the elephants I see are gray, therefore it is fair to assume that all elephants of the Loxodonta Africana variety are gray. (Thankfully, I just care too much about the Pink Elephant to stop believing because of a little thing like evidence, and I am thus quite capable of ignoring a perfectly logical criticism if I feel like it.)

How many supernatural beliefs of ancient peoples can you think of that have been proven false, or gods whose mystical powers have been stripped by scientific discoveries? Remember when we used to believe that violent lunatics were possessed by demons? Remember when we used to believe the sun revolved around the earth? (Though that’s hardly supernatural―Lord only knows what exactly the Vatican was doing there). Remember when we thought lightning emanated from the fingers of Zeus? Remember when we used to think that supernaturally connected Seers could predict the future (and still do)? Remember when we believed in Santa Claus?

But yet again, humanity demonstrates its impeccable ability to adapt to even the most tumultuous changes―the sort of changes that are so shocking people simply refuse to accept they have happened at all and resort to algorithmic prayers for the souls of the reasonable. What happens when a scientist discovers that the sun actually does not revolve around the earth? He is imprisoned, of course. (Truth is all too often a threat to authorities such as the Church.) What happens when scientists discover that lightning is actually an atmospheric discharge of electricity? People find a new god that cannot be disproven. Unfortunately for humanity, it is far easier to find a mysterious facet of the natural world to worship and build temples for than it to scientifically or logically disprove it. As our understanding of the universe increases, our gods become increasingly abstract (although unceasingly particular about how we mere humans live our lives).

This is the course of history, as scientific knowledge increases and religious explanations eventually retreat into vague abstraction:

God made the lightning, Amen.

Actually, it turns out lightning is actually an atmospheric discharge of electricity―

Heresy! Burn him at the stake!

God made the lightning, Amen.

(much time passes)

Fine…. lightning is indeed an atmospheric discharge of electricity.

No! cry the fundamentalists

Actually, God is in all things. He still definitely created the lightning.

Well, that is to say, he created the clouds that created the lightning.

Well, he created the meteorological currents that created the clouds.

Well, he created the process of atmospheric stratification that created the meteorological currents.

Well, he created the molecules that created the process of atmospheric stratification.

Well, he created the atomic particles that created the molecules.

Well….he created the universe which created the atomic particles because, well, someone had to create it all, and he himself just….always was….because he’s God and he can do that. Why should the Almighty God be subjected to the laws of logic and physics he himself created? That would just be too logical to be True.

The more we understand about the universe, the less we rely on religious explanations. The reason so many people believe in God is that we all need something to believe in, something to help us understand the world around us. But it does not have to be a tyrannical supernatural being telling us all how to live our lives―the elephant in the room is that such a being probably does not exist. Whether or not we need God emotionally and morally is uncertain―although C.S. Lewis believed all morals derive from faith in God, an atheist would say that if God himself derives from our own imagination then so does our sense of morality. One thing is clear, though: scientifically, there is no need for God.