Gospel Disproof #24: PID


Back when I was a Christian, the big controversy was over something called “scientific creationism,” the view that you ought to be allowed to teach Genesis in public schools as long as you did so under the guise of presenting it as a scientific theory of origins. But it flopped. It was too easy to see through, and too blatantly anti-scientific. Then some lawyer decided to write Darwin On Trial and show all those biologists where they were wrong. Thus, the modern Intelligent Design movement was born.

The problem with ID is that it’s really just superstition in a lab coat. You find some natural phenomenon whose origins you do not understand, and you jump to the conclusion that no one will ever understand it, because some magical power or being created it supernaturally. It’s a “scientific” approach with at least a couple problems, even for Christians.

First, because it depends on not understanding the origins of natural phenomena, it’s intrinsically hostile to any branch of science (e.g. evolution) that successfully does explain the natural origin of things. It is therefore inescapably anti-science, rather than part of a proper scientific domain. But the bigger problem for Christians is that ID, as “scientific” evidence for God, supports polytheism a lot better than monotheism.

If you look at the keen nose and oversized ears of the fox, you can discern a certain purpose, which is to help the fox hunt down rabbits and eat them. Likewise, if you look at the long ears and hind legs of the rabbit, you can discern their purpose as well: to help rabbits escape from foxes, and not be eaten. And if you look at rabbits and foxes together, and assume that purpose implies design, and design implies a designer, then you can see not only that they were intelligently designed, but also that there were two competing designers: one that loved rabbits and wanted them to escape from the foxes, and one that loved foxes and wanted them to be able to eat.

Naturally, if you’ve made up your mind that there can only be one designer, then you can come up with some kind of explanation for this apparent contradiction in purposes, even if the explanation is “we don’t know what the Designer’s purposes are.” In that respect, you’re really no different than the person who doesn’t believe in any designers at all, because they can do the same thing (and what’s more, can do so without violating Occam’s Razor). But if you’re going to adopt ID methodologies, and be fair and unbiased about it, then you really have to admit that the real-world evidence is more consistent with Polytheistic Intelligent Design than it is with the barely-disguised Christianity that calls itself ID.

Consider various diseases that are designed to circumvent the immune system. Obviously, it makes no sense to design a complicated immune system, and then turn around and design something specifically to make people sick anyway. If you want people to be sick, why design an immune system? Just let them catch whatever’s going around, and design the diseases to have whatever symptoms and mortality rate you want. That’s IF there’s only one designer. If there were two, then there’d be no problem. We see this all the time in computers. Look at viruses and anti-virus software. Virus writers are fighting against the anti-virus writers. Two different groups of designers, with conflicting goals, developing complex systems of attack and defense. The multiple-designer approach predicts exactly why these systems would behave as they do, for software viruses as well as for biological ones. If you’re going to embrace ID, there’s really no excuse for not going all the way and embracing multiple designers.

Similar parallels exist in a number of other design conflicts we see in nature: predator/prey relationships (as we’ve already looked at), sex-related conflicts (ever see the reproductive system of the duck?), competition between species, competition within species—it’s a cornucopia of evidence that fits perfectly with polytheistic “explanations”—or at least superstitions.

In fact, such superstitions are very likely to be where religion itself originally came from. Primitive men, observing things they did not understand,  superstitiously ascribed them to various invisible, magical spirits, some of whom eventually worked their way up the ladder of human esteem until they became gods, one of which got Himself promoted as the sole and only One True God. Modern “Intelligent Design” is merely ignorant religion reverting back to its superstitious roots. But if you go all the way back, those roots are polytheistic, not Christian. ID is a slippery slope back to faith’s original animism.

And yet, to pull back from that slope, to admit that Darwin might be right and Genesis might be wrong, is to cast doubts on the story of the Fall, and thus of original sin, and thus of man’s need for a Savior. It’s a lose-lose situation for Christianity. Christians would be better off not talking about origins at all.

Comments

  1. says

    “The problem with ID is that it’s really just superstition in a lab coat. You find some natural phenomenon whose origins you do not understand, and you jump to the conclusion that no one will ever understand it, because some magical power or being created it supernaturally.”

    In a recent discussion on the FRDB forum, we were discussing the relationship between ID and fine-tuning (FT). ID concludes that natural laws do not have the ability to create various life-forms, and so there must have been a supernatural intervention (at the origin of life and/or ever since via “irreducible complexity” and such). FT, in contrast, concludes that the natural laws of the universe were established by God to be exactly what they are so that they would eventually give rise to life as we know it. They seem to conflict on whether natural laws can or cannot create life as we know it.

    Some others in the discussion did not explicitly disagree, but instead argued that ID and FT are redundant rather than contradictory, since if either ID or FT actually happened, then the other would be rendered unnecessary and obsolete given an omnipotent/omniscient/supernatural deity. The matter of the correct relationship between ID and FT has not been resolved yet, unfortunately.

    Brian

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