Science is up in arms again, now that their classes are being invaded by the insidious forces of backward opinion and superstition. Here they are, attempting to educate impressionable young minds and these unthinking boobs are sticking their noses into matters that should not concern them. And now an entire generation of children is going to grow up unable to think, deduce, work, breathe, feed themselves, or learn how to put things in alphabetical order, all because of the evil forces of intelligent design.
Fortunately, our federal government is here to step in and make sure that intelligent design does not rear its ugly head in our schools. Because, after all, the courts are really the best way to make sure that science is served properly.
The problem, of course, is not the fact that religion has found a way to, in a sense, co-opt science. Rather, it is the fact that it was so darned simple. "Why did things evolve they way they did? God wanted it that way." Pretty simple, isn't it? And science is pissed that religion managed to pull that off so easily.
Of course, there have been several attempts to make it all go away. One of my favorites was the allegory of the puddle.
In the Allegory of the Puddle, one must imagine a hole in the ground. Inside this hole, a puddle forms. As the puddle reaches its maturity it thinks to itself, "This hole was made just for me and I am meant to be here." However, obviously, the puddle was merely created in the shape of the hole that it ended up in and, when the puddle starts evaporating, it still clings to the idea that it was meant for that hole in the ground, despite the fact that it is clearly disappearing. Stupid puddles.
Now then, let us take this same puddle, make it larger, and move it into a swimming pool. Once again, it thinks to itself that it was specifically designed to fit into that shape and that some power has created the specific shape that would make allow the puddle to be there and remain there. The only difference, in this case, is the fact that the puddle is right. Which would make for a remarkably intuitive small body of water.
If you don't like the swimming pool idea, go with a pond. That will still have the murky water and the dirt at the bottom. It really doesn't matter to me. It's still man-made and the water is still right.
There will be none of that here.
The question here is whether we, as humans, are in a random hole in the ground, or a specifically designed swimming pool. The answer is, of course, "Who knows?"
In the last, oh, 4,000 to 5,000 years, philosophy has been wrestling with the question of gods, God, and whether there are one, many, none, or a mix of those three. Okay, maybe not that last one, but the last one is my favorite answer, simply because nobody will ever agree with it. With the exception of myself, of course, just so I can piss everybody off equally.
I treasure one line in the rather unremarkable movie Contact, in which What's Her Face asks That One Guy, "What if the ultimate conclusion of science is that there is no God?" Of course, That One Guy puts together some sort of weird counter-argument that was, in some ways, interesting. However, the fact is, what if the ultimate conclusion of science is that there is a God? Furthermore, what if the ultimate conclusion of science is, "We should all read a good book every now and then"? You may be asking yourself, "What does does science have to with reading a good book now and then?" To which I respond, "Probably more than it has to do with the existence of God."
Science is the study of fact. Its job is to observe, find facts, use those facts to construct theories, and make observations in order to either prove or disprove the theories. In a nutshell, this is science. It does not deal with eternal verities such as the nature of justice, the meaning of life, or the existence of God. Neither justice, the meaning of life, or God are currently observable phenomena, so science has nothing to say about any of them. Not that it doesn't try.
What does this mean for intelligent design, however? I mean, after all, the name is in the freakin' title, so I must have something to say about it.
The point of all this is the simple fact that one cannot tell if the world came about through a benevolent creator or through random chance and survival of the fittest. In scientific terms, this specifically means that it cannot comment on the presence or absence of a benevolent creator.
Take light, for instance. Light is actually waves. The problem is, "Waves in what substance?" The answer, so far, has been, "Since we don't know and we cannot know, we should assume that it does not exist and the waves exist outside of any substance." In fact, trying to find the substance through which waves travel is considered ludicrous. Thus, the way that modern scientists look down on previous scientists and their fruitless effort to find the "aether" through which light travels. This, of course, allows modern scientists to feel like they are smarter than previous scientists; if not in knowledge discovery, at least in the application of effort.
As with light, so with God. We cannot prove that the universe was created randomly or created with a design in mind, so science assumes that there was no design. However, the current world in which humans are clearly at the top of everything would be a world designed by a God looking to put humans at the top. The design, or lack thereof, is entirely invisible from all observable states. Thus, to science, the design should be ignored since it cannot be separated from the system and cannot be observed. In fact, since part of the overall design would have to also include the very experiment to find the design, it is a serious problem trying to discover whether the design exists.
Which bring us to the ultimate question that keeps young men awake at night, before the day that they either decide the question or just stop trying. The simple question that tortures the listless and annoys the hell out of the parents of small children: "Why?"
The question of "Why?" can take many forms, such as "Why am I here?", "Why do bad things happen?", and "Why are you still reading this?" The latter, of course, I cannot explain, but questions that are in the roughly metaphysical category of the previous two are difficult. At least for people looking for meaning in their lives.
Overall, religion and science are not all that different. They grew out of the same set of observational data (i.e. daily life) and extended in different directions. However, to understand there divergent paths, one must look at the way that they approach the question of "Why?" When religion approaches it, it takes it as a question of purpose. When science approaches it, it takes it as a question of process.
Why am I here? Because God has a plan for me.
Why am I here? Because I needed the money and it's pretty good work.
Yes, I stole the latter off of a friend of mine. But plagiarism is not the point. The point is that both answers fit with the question. The only difference is the way in which the question is answered. One answers the question in terms of purpose. The other answers the question in terms of process. One could also say that one looks toward an ultimate future, while another looks toward the way in which the events unfolded to create the present. Which could also be another, quite fascinating essay. After all, science is concerned with explaining facts that are already known, while religions is concerned with keeping people out of a place where people will weep and gnash their teeth. No, not Detroit.
All of this does nothing to lead into the point that evolution is almost impossible to disentangle from intelligent design now that the theory has been thrown out there. Unwavering evolutionists, of course, disagree, but unwavering... er... intelligent designists disagree with the unwavering evolutionists disagreement and, furthermore, have said nasty things about their mothers. Evolutionists, not the type to take this sort of thing, have claimed that the sisters of the intelligent designists are "very good" due to all that practice. Intelligent designists rejoined with a comment on the married state of the evolutionists' parents and further debate was cut off due to something of a fracas between the two sides.
Fortunately for the proponents of evolution, they are in the stronger camp. They can easily disprove intelligent design by simply proving that the current system is actually pretty stupid.
In order to prove that the current system is pretty stupid, the evolutionists would simply have to prove that the current system was actually not structured to succeed at all. As an example, they might use the moa: a large, now extinct, flightless bird that lived in Australia before humans arrived. Since the moa was wiped out so easily by humans, cats, pigs, rats, and other animals, it was obviously stupidly designed and, therefore, completely useless. Pretty simple wasn't it? Well, except for the bit where that same example disproves evolution. After all, when a bunch of beasts that evolved in an entirely different ecosystem can wipe out a continent's worth of species in a short period of time -- despite the fact that the animals taking over evolved to fit into an entirely separate ecosystem -- then evolution must be false too.
Of course, then you run into the problem where many of the birds that evolved on Australia were actually wiped out, to a large extent, by cats that were designed by humans through selective breeding and you just get into a very, very difficult quandary that even I don't want to touch.
The question you are probably asking is why I am taking the stance that I am. To which I respond that I am not taking a stance, I am merely pointing out the fact that intelligent design is simply evolution with another layer of belief added onto it. Will it destroy evolution? No. Evolution is just fine. It's still being taught in schools, it is still the accepted scientific norm, and people are still making pilgimmages to the Galapagos Islands in order to see what made Darwin construct his theory.
Sorry, is "pilgrimmage" a loaded word? Alright, let's try something more neutral. How about hajj?
Intelligent design is not a purely religious idea. In fact, many evolutionists used language that gave the religions the idea. Previously, it was not uncommon to read how evolution selected certain animals to survive. Thus, believers simply replaced "evolution" with "God" and got along fine with evolution instead of trying to back strict Creationism. They simply have a different interpretation of the motive force behind the same process. And isn't that the point of science? To determine the process? Everything else is just semantics. You can call it evolution. Or intelligent design. Or Freida. Or ljasquyreaw9879jcawpiijsdf. It doesn't matter.
Evolution won, but the fight goes on. But it seems that the only thing worse than having an opposing viewpoint is having the same people you once considered irrational to be accepting your point-of-view. After all, what does that say about your own opinions?