- The universe we can see with the Hubble telescope and
other tools shows us a system of grand scale and complexity. Everything
as far back in time, meaning as far out into space as we can see shows
us a system in constant processes of change. With the Big Bang in doubt,
the system apparently displays no clear-cut sense of direction. However,
the visible display, along with our own being and the nature of things
around us, tells us that somewhere, in this or another galaxy, or one still
to coalesce out of yet primitive matter, the conditions for life can be
coming together, and other races, having acquired intelligence can be advancing
to the stage of observing, questioning, mapping and interpreting their
surroundings. Their conclusions are unlikely to be different from ours,
because the physical laws we observe tell us that no being-aside from the
supreme one-- standing anywhere in this system, has time or vision to see
it all. Intelligence, anywhere in the system, is beset by the same condition:
It may be unable to comprehend enough to understand the whole.
- Our best tools suggest to us that localized and specific
sorts of creation are a continuous condition of the universe. Of the entire
universal experience, human writings, even all human thought, record a
minute fraction for one small planet in a system that appears visibly unlimited.
- For centuries we have struggled to define the roots of
our presence here. We have failed principally because we actually know
intimately very little of the large system we can see from earth. Some
of the most elegant and the most pedantic arguments of mice and men have
centered on this topic. We are stuck with human observations and experience.
But this is not merely a Christian story. Metaphors about creation are
commonplaces of the human condition. The Biblical story of creation was
told to and about only one small group of people, and there were conflicting,
at least different versions of creation already developed in many other
communities. What, therefore, do we, can we know?
- The other reason we have failed to define our roots is
we have insisted that our explanations must be somehow us centered. Creationism
is about "us", not really about the universe. We know that is
true if we reflect for a moment that we are not bothered by the prospect
that the great apes evolved from lesser creatures. We are truly unwilling
to accept that people did. The truth for most Christians and many others
is that creation is in no sense impersonal, because, as laid out in Genesis
and other writings, people are a central part of it.
- Because creationism is about us, and we are often put
off by scientific attempts to explain us, people have struggled for years
to find some bridging thought. Science, following the practices of discovery,
explanation, demonstration, and proof through repeatability, seems to generate
more discomfort than light when applied to us.
- What is Intelligent Design?
- Intelligent Design is an attempt to provide a theory
of our beginnings that somehow embraces our science, but flows from our
belief systems. It has come along when a growing list of doubts about Darwinism
and the Big Bang are feeding what at root is an honest effort to find better
answers for how the system got here, how it works, and how life emerges
and changes within it. Intelligent Design approaches these questions with
an almost William Blake mind that sees "eternity in a wild flower,"
while requiring Coleridge's "willful suspension of disbelief."
Its claim to serious consideration is that the mere fact of ordered complexity
proves intelligent design. It simply wants its subscribers to look at the
orderly processes and systems that science is able to describe, and agree
that those properties prove intelligent design. The indispensable next
step is a leap of faith: The design itself is an act of god.
- Intelligent Design starts, on one hand, with having to
overcome the charge, maybe better suspicion, that it is a back-handed intellectual
retreat into Creationism. On the other hand, searchers after alternatives
to theories of the Big Bang and Darwinism must keep in mind that "better
answers" that deny our cumulative religious experiences-and that includes
all religions--are not likely to prosper. The problem here is that science
and religion tend to approach the issues as adversaries.
- That does not have to be. Why? Simply because the best
explanation of why we are here is unlikely to be inconsistent with how
we got here. It is just that our tools for getting that answer are not
the same ones we use to determine where we are. Science has always been
preoccupied with the how questions. Religion has focused on the why questions.
We spiritually and intellectually need workable answers to both, or this
debate would have no purpose.
- What is wrong with the science we have?
- If there is something wrong with the science we have,
it probably is a matter of mindset. Bright, well-informed practitioners
have found themselves excluded, in effect excommunicated from scientific
ranks because they were on the wrong side of accepted theories. The Big
Bang and Darwinism both have casualties to show for this. Jobs and reputations
have prospered or declined on the premises of scientific opinion. In this
respect, science and religion are not unlike each other, because, whatever
else they involve, they are both belief systems that are strongly engaged
with issues of ego, preference, and personality.
- For both science and religion much of the contention
is therefore not about the facts. Even in the 21st century, because it
focuses on myriad technical details, science often provides answers that
are too complicated for true believers. That may ever be. But the hope,
from the religious side, is that there exists some Occam's razor explanation
of creation, the simplest answer that covers all the facts, yet embraces
our faith, if we can only find it.
- What about Darwinism?
- Darwinism is a serious attempt to explain what life on
our planet is, what it has gone through developmentally, how creatures
morphed into what they are, and what was involved in the processes of change.
Darwinism embraces a body of theories about those processes, not a single
theory or doctrine. To a reasonably detached observer, those theories do
not challenge the existence of god; they merely contemplate and try to
explain the intricacy and the nature of living things. Quite aside from
the enormous task those technical issues represent, their proposal collided
head on with the premises of Christian religious faith. The debate unfortunately
descended into an argument over how god did it, or whether there was even
god involved in it. The stumbling block was the story of creation in Genesis-a
much more elegant, simple and satisfying tale that Darwinism drove into
the murky darkness of metaphor.
- With the information available no one could really win
that one, but for an extended run the scientists won. Even so, for many
the Darwin explanations have been too complex and sterile to describe the
sheer marvels of life, let alone the awesome brilliance of the operating
system. Nonetheless, Darwinism, as modified or emended by successive discoveries
including genetics, still looks close to the mark.
- What about the Big Bang?
- The notion that in the beginning there was a Big Bang
never actually worked as an explanation of creation. Even the most unscientific
conversation about it was likely to face questions such as: Where did LeMaitre's
"primeval atom" come from before it blew up? That question was
most often followed by awkward silences that dribbled into a change of
subject. The universe may indeed have, at one stage, had all of its matter
crowed into some small-by universal standards-space. But the key is that
the stuff was all there. Thus, if it had occurred, the Big Bang would have
been only an episode in universal history. It therefore never explained
anything about the beginning. One still had to go behind the story and
explain how and why it all came together and what kind of energy burst
turned it into the colossal pattern of ejecta the Hubble theory said we
were observing. Meanwhile, technical objections were raised decades ago-
even by Hubble himself-- about the evidence for an expanding universe that
was the principal scientific argument for an explosive beginning. What
was played as the beginning may now not be demonstrable even as an event.
- What about Intelligent Design?
- Likely demise of the Big Bang leaves us without an answer,
even a dubious one, and that coincides with a time of growing pressure
to teach Creationism -the Biblical theory of beginnings-in public schools.
The suggested alternative to Creationism is Intelligent Design. But Intelligent
Design without a designing intelligence is a wimpish suggestion. It leaves
us with self-motivated alteration/creation of matter and its launch into
what we know as space time. Nothing is explained by that. Thus, Intelligent
Design is non-sensible with no designer. If there is a designer, we are
into more than a mere philosophical quibble about whether that force capable
of launching an intelligently designed universe is a god or just a superb
- For this purpose, we can invent hierarchies, e.g., one
designer of the broad sweep of the universe, lesser/more localized/regional
designers of the galaxies or clusters, then lesser designers for solar/star
systems, and yet lesser ones for planets. The ancients indeed did a fair
amount of that.
- There is a logic to it.
- One can build a logic tree. The universe visible/patent
to us is sensible. Its motions are orderly and predictable. From what we
can see of it, its oddities or aberrations are themselves universal. Its
overall composition is known and appears ever present. It therefore would
seem to be the product of an abiding wit.
- The ancients actually did pretty well at figuring out
the operating system. They had lesser and fewer tools but comparable intelligence.
Some of their calculations, even with water clocks, were as precise as
those we currently use. They appear to have sensed or deduced much of the
sweep of it without the aid of special tools we have for observing it.
In many and diverse cultures of the ancient world, their best picture,
by that their most all-embracing theory of the universe, led them to something
like: orderly and predictable behavior means purposeful/intelligent design,
and that thinking became embodied in godly manifests of a creator/manipulator.
- Where are we now?
- It is truly remarkable that we have not really improved
much on what the ancients actually achieved. Intelligent Design is about
where the ancients were when they slowly and sometimes painfully drifted
into monotheism. That concept, elaborated by faiths, factions, cultural
experiences, speculation, and the overlays of our various attempts at explanation,
is where we are today.
- Unless it can be bolstered by fact and science that so
far has eluded us, there is nothing to teach about Intelligent Design except
to outline the spiritual and intellectual struggle that has brought us
to it. The basic flaw is that it adds nothing new to understanding. It
especially adds nothing to our understanding of how things came about,
work and change. Intelligent Design, admitted to our discourse without
a designer, leaves us to flounder about where we long have been. Intelligent
Design, admitted with the designer, would mean we have found god, but we
are having trouble saying so. We will have added a term to the curriculum
without a single new fact to support it. The missing link is still missing.
- That quandary is a legitimate topic for philosophy courses.
The proper study of science has been to explain the materials and processes
of the universe. The challenge of religion has been to explain its purposes.
If humanly possible, these should be complementary. They have gotten us
nowhere as adversaries, but that is not an argument for merging them as
Intelligent Design proposes to do.
- The author is a writer and speaker on global issues and
a regular columnist on rense.com.
- He was trained as a teacher but spent most of his professional
career as an officer of the US Foreign Service. He has an AB from Stanford,
a Master's and a General Secondary Teaching Credential from San Jose State
University. He is a graduate of the National War College, and he served
as Chairman of the National War College Department of International Studies.
He will welcome comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
From Bill Hamilton
- On The Limits Of Intelligent Design -- it is something
I have studied lately. I somewhat agee with the writer, but would like
to point out what I have discovered so far.
- First, I have discovered there are real problems with
- Darwin: "Natural selection can act only by the preservation
and accumulation of infinitesimally small inherited modifications, each
profitable to the preserved being; and as modern geology has almost banished
such views as the excavation of a great valley by a single diluvial wave,
SO WILL NATURAL SELECTION, IF IT BE A TRUE PRINCIPLE, banish the belief
of the continued creation of new organic beings, OR OF ANY GREAT AND SUDDEN
MODIFICATION IN THEIR STRUCTURE."
- The problem is that numerous, infinitesimally small inherited
modifications should have left numerous fossils of transitional forms,
and such is lacking. The chief opponents of Darwinism were the paleontologists.
The fossils they dug up were not representative of transitional forms.
- There is also a problem with "stasis" - the
evidence that some phyla have not changed ("evolved") in millions
of years. It seems like all classes of Phyla appeared suddenly during
the Cambrian explosion and no pre-Cambrian transitional fossils are in
evidence. No new phyla have since appeared. There are now several books
that list problems with neo-Darwinian evolution, but the problem is there
is no alternative "naturalistic" theory to replace it. Apparently
science does not function well without a guiding theory. Intelligent Design
seems supernatural to its opponents, but is gaining ground.
- The late Fred Hoyle was also an opponent of Darwinism
and even expressed the idea that it was an Intelligent Universe.
- According to Hoyle, ""Once we see, however,
that the probability of life originating at random is so utterly minuscule
as to make it absurd, it becomes sensible to think that the favorable properties
of physics, on which life depends, are in every respect DELIBERATE... It
is therefore, almost inevitable that our own measure of intelligence must
reflect higher intelligences.. even to the limit of God."
- He also said, "The chance that higher life forms
might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that a tornado
sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials
therein... I am at a loss to understand biologists' widespread compulsion
to deny what seems to me to be obvious."
- Big Bang Cosmology also has numerous problems, however
in the case of alternate theories there are "naturalistic" theories
that are proposed, all with problems of their own,, but it seems that a
review of Quasi Steady State Cosmology, Plasma Cosmology, and a Recycling
Universe Cosmology should be considered in order to shuffle the deck.
Something may come out of a review of all these cosmologies.
- It seems that Intelligent Design can be tested scientifically
as proposed by William Dembski. Four main positions have emerged in response
to these questions: Darwinism, self-organization, theistic evolution, intelligent
design. Self-organization from chaos theory seems to be a naturalistic
contender to intelligent design and there are ongoing debates on these
- I think such discourse and challenges to theoretical
science are healthy and may prevent science from getting entrenched in
- Bill Hamilton
"I don't see the logic of rejecting data just because they seem incredible."