06/26/2005: Evils of I.D. or A Simple Plan
EVOLUTION OF A DICHOTOMY Blame evil on the Great Designer by Ron Grossman (Chicago Tribune):
"….Some believers think they've found a way out of that ethical cul-de-sac via a hole they perceive in evolutionary theory. Virtually no scientists agree with them, but for the moment, let's look at it from their perspective.
Too complex for accident
Intelligent Design's partisans argue that life is too complex to be the product of accident intersecting with environmental advantage. Humans depend upon dozens of organs, each made up of numerous smaller systems, all of which have to mesh perfectly.
There wouldn't have been enough time, even in the billions of years the universe has been around, for all of that to evolve by trial and error, Darwin's opponents argue. Therefore, there must have been a blueprint for life--and thus a designer to bring a cosmic T-square and triangle to it.
On an intuitive level, Intelligent Design has a certain appeal.
Now consider a more problematic example, say, a cancer ward in a children's hospital.
If the world is the product of a blueprint, then it must have contained the specs for suffering no less than it did pleasure.
If the Designer created not just sunsets but also infants starving in Sudan, what kind of example is he to hold up to schoolchildren?
Thinking about the horrors the Designer committed, impressionable young people might conclude that they are similarly unbound by any ethical limits.
In fact, that's a vexing question for all streams of religious thought, but especially for monotheistic ones. Polytheistic systems can slide by the problem.
The ancient Greek pantheon had lots of gods, depicted by Homer as a divine and dysfunctional family. Some of the Olympians favor one group of humans, the Greeks, while other gods side with the Trojans.
So the escalation of earthly disputes into war, and the suffering it brings even to non-combatants, is hardly surprising. It goes with the territory of being human.
Dual gods duel
The ancient Persians confronted the problem of evil head-on. They posited the existence of two gods. One is a god of good, the other is a god of evil. The world is a kind of playing field where the two gods struggle for supremacy, the battle now going one way, then the other.
Humans are caught in the middle, which is why our lives are a mixture of pleasure and pain.
That Persian dualism so neatly corresponds to experience that the Romans almost adopted it when they went shopping for a faith to replace the polytheism they'd inherited from the Greeks. But in the end, the Romans converted to Christianity, a monotheism with the built-in problems of a one-god universe.
Preachers of monotheistic faiths sometimes explain evil's existence by shifting the burden to mankind. Their arguments are usually variations on a theme: We each create our own hell. Roughly, the thesis is that God created a good universe, but humans muck it up with their misdeeds.
Now, I am willing to accept my share of the blame, according to that formula.
I suspect others can too.
Many adults recognize how often they have screwed up, and thus we could understand evil that befalls us as being the product of our own shortcomings.
But come back to the example of infants with terminal diseases.
What possible misdeeds could they have committed in their foreshortened lives to warrant such painful punishments?
Beyond that, he can only urge that Christians must trust that, in some mysterious way, a benevolent God hovers over the universe where they suffer.
Intelligent Design, though, takes away that option.
In an attempt to rid the universe of Darwinian accident, it winds up ridding it, as well, of divine mystery. Its very logic leaves no metaphysical wiggle room--ironically, since its sponsors are otherwise highly vocal Christians.
Jehovah is jealous
They honor the Old Testament, whose creator is far from a coolly detached Designer.
Jehovah makes no secret of his personality traits.
"For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God," he says. The Old Testament creator knows that his awesome power can paralyze humans with fear. After destroying his first creation with a flood, he put rainbows in the sky, so Noah's heirs wouldn't cringe with every raindrop.
Those nuances have made the Bible a perennial best seller, an ethical chapbook upon which generations of children have been raised.
But this newfangled notion of a Designer who lays it out, once and forever, with no possible revisions, who utters not one word of explanation, who drafted a blueprint, and by his silence says: Take it or leave it?
That's not the kind of creator I want my children and now my grandchildren to learn about.
When it comes to taking religion out of the public schools, it could make the ACLU seem like pikers."
Well, so far as this points out the "flaws" in the ID thinking as it relates to EVIL and Suffering in the world -- can’t have one without the other -- and if ID is responsible for both, then I agree the premise of "What does that say about the Designer?”
In a Monotheistic Designer Approach Tradition, this Entity is responsible for it all…so evil and suffering and death and destruction...why it all ID's “good works.” And what does that say about our abilities to thwart death, alleviate suffering, improve conditions? Or conversely, to be abused and maltreated and taken advantage of by others and merely be content with it being our ID lot in life.
Sorry doesn’t work for me, nor answers any real issues. And time to repost my piece about “A Simple Plan.”
Click on “more” button to read below the fold.
A Simple Plan:
Dr. Steven Wolfram's "A New Kind Of Science" published in 2002 -- Wolfram created a program "mathematica" of simple mathematical programs which run and mimic complex processes found in nature.
He avoids the "God" implications in either Creationism or Intelligent Design, except by suggestion that if one believes in God as proved by the immeasurable complexity and variety found in nature, the truth may be that if there was a divine "plan" it may have been a "simple plan" after all. (This is the direct opposite concept of the ID people who posit an intelligent creator because of the diversity visible in the world.)
While I am not a mathematician, so many of the 1293 pages of equations fall outside of my ken, but the basic principles he explains and the models he illustrates are amazing.
The interesting point about the "simple plan" is how it can fit both views if one wishes to see a divine force or merely the work of nature. However, in my opinion, what is doesn't fit is the usual Religious narrative that attempts to squash that "infinite" creativity to the idea of a "human inspired" creation of only 6000 years in a theme of biblical literalism of creationism. I fail to find a reason for “Biblical Literalism” in all its forms, except as the propaganda agenda of so many organized religions as used to justify policies for themselves and against others (both other religious and non-religious groups.) How “telling” is that the Bible and Koran, as it was written by other mere mortal men years after events (now why didn't Jesus or Mohammed write down their own "talking points" or have their words scribed by others since they must have known the import of them to their adherents?) wish to present their views based on God's benevolent interest in us…seems mostly mere mortal vanity.
However, if one conceived of an infinite being, to whom time is infinite, processes unlimited, why would it make sense to limit its' "creativity" in creation to this unnaturally narrow frame of possibilities as described in the Bible by men? It fits so much better that this may have been the process of a few simple rules (if one like the notion of a divine plan) that can then spin out over endlessly vast amounts of time and space, evolving and following these paths into the most spectacular array of things…as we can see around us. What is the billions of years it would take...in comparison to this infinity of time to let this all take place. How much more beautiful it becomes as a whole if one can “ignore” the organized religious views as expressed so narrowly and see beyond to the fullest possibilities yet to come. This notion of “simple becoming diverse” is not heretical, anti-God idea (but it may be anti-Biblical if one wishes to claim the Bible as Fact rather than Faith.)
On the opposite end, if one were an atheist, this simple plan also fits as perhaps the fruitful outcome of some simple rules and the natural/organic processes inherent in formation of the Earth which has begun simply and, again, spins out over endlessly vast amounts of time and space, turning and following these paths into the most spectacular array of things…as we can see around us.
That because of these processes, played out over the millennium, we somehow arrived at modern, thinking, reflective humans can be an amazing thing, but why not part of a process of this "infinite" set of possibilities rather than the "penultimate" reason for all creation…which begins to look more like that vanity of the human creation than God's creational infinity.
Karen on 06.26.05 @ 09:35 AM CST