Intelligent Design?

In the ongoing battle between Christians and Scientists, the creationists have periodically tried to resurrect arguments ‘to prove’ the existence of what they refer to as an ‘intelligent designer’. However, there are four ways of dealing with such an endeavour…

  • Is it really ‘proof’?
  • What does it really prove, if it were ‘proof’?
  • Is proof even necessary?
  • Does proof work both ways?

The entire arena of discussion on this subject is fraught with difficulty because of the inherent arrogance of Christians. In other words, even if it were possible to prove that God does not exist at all, this would not interfere with the belief system of people for whom truth is the by-product of belief: they would merely say, ‘Well I don’t care what you can prove, I don’t believe what you say!’ They will use proof to try to help their cause, but will not accept it if it disproves their cause. For them, argument and logic are self-serving and unidirectional.

Is it really proof?

Creationists will generally focus on a few curious little animals as ‘proof’ of intelligent design. The three most common are the bombardier beetle, the woodpecker and the bacterium with elongated flagella (tails). The bombardier beetle shoots a liquid at its enemy at seemingly ‘boiling temperature’. However, this is a bit of a deception. All chemicals have different boiling points, the moment when a liquid becomes a gas. Let us not forget that oxygen ‘boils’ at a temperature of -182.96°C and nitrogen at -198.79°C. On top of this we have the physical principle known as Avogadro’s law, which states that when volume and pressure change, so does temperature. We have often blown into a clasped fist to warm our hands. Force any liquid or gas through a tight aperture and it will heat up. Those who have pumped up bicycle tyres know how hot the pump can get. Evaporation is not a mystery.

The woodpecker has a number of muscles around its skull to minimise the damage from pecking at wood at around 15 beats a second. The reality is that this is simply a necessity, and therefore fits in with the principles of evolution. An animal will ‘peck’ at whatever maximum its physical body will allow, and these two phenomena will be pushed to their limit at the same time. Some animal must be the fastest! If the common wood mite, tapping its skull at four beats a second, were to be the fastest known, creationists would be saying, ‘Wow, would you look at that? Four beats a second must be proof of intelligent design.’ If the woodpecker had not evolved a muscular structure to cope with its speed, then either it would have died out or it would not have developed its speed. In either case, this is an evolutionary process and does not prove intelligent design.

Recently, Christian scientists have been talking of bacteria with flagella with up to 20 moving parts and have asked how could this have possibly evolved in the absence of more primitive and simpler examples. This was almost immediately counter-argued when it was identified that there are in fact flagella with as few as four moving parts, a prototype which in time would evolve into six, eight, ten and so on. Despite the fact that the creationists’ own question was immediately answered, they continue to use this false reference.

What does it really prove, if it were ‘proof’?

If it could be established – and this is a big ‘if’ – that life (or at least some few examples of life) were ‘designed’, it is still a long distance to establishing that this must of necessity imply ‘God’ as we know it. A creative ‘force’ does not have to be a conscious entity, but may itself be the accidental by-product of natural laws. In other words, it may not be that God set up the natural laws of the universe, but the universe may have set up the natural laws of God. There is nothing to assume that this is a sentient being, with identity, with character, with consciousness. A computer will create if it is programmed well. Christians offer creationism as part of a ‘package deal’: believe it all or believe nothing. If something ‘created’, it must be a god; and if it is a god, it must be God; and if it is God, it must be the God of the Jews and the Christians; and if it is the God of the Jews and the Christians, it must be the character referred to in the Bible; and on and on goes the package deal.

Is proof even necessary?

There are two ways of looking at this question. One is to iterate the point made earlier, that for Christians scientific proof, logic and argument are expedient processes of self-service. If proof, logic and argument work for them, they will uphold them as demonstrating their ‘truth’; but if they work against them, they will reject them all in favour of a simplistic, patronising and dismissive ‘belief’: ‘Well, I just don’t believe that!’

The second point is that many people have spent decades trying to accommodate both theology and science. For the first five centuries of the established Christian Church, both of these worked harmoniously: scientists were Christians, and all science was about examining the beauty of God’s creation. In the following three centuries, some scientists felt that science may in fact explain away all that had been attributed to God, that science in fact meant the death of theism. Over the last century, many have returned to the old equation. After all, if God created the universe, the question still remains, How did it do so?

The reason that many Christians do not like the scientific explanation of how God may have ‘created’ everything is that they rather like the sensationalism of God. Why bother with such an ‘ordinary’ explanation of creation, that God created all in six periods (which is an accurate rendition of both the Hebrew and the English word for ‘days’), when they can elevate God’s behaviour by reducing it down to the sensational time-period of six real and 24-hour “days”? If you can explain God’s behaviour a simple way or a magnificent way, Christians think that it must be the magnificent way, because God would not do anything ordinary. True science has no investment in overriding anything other than ignorance: it is perfectly content with making the ‘supernatural’ into the ordinary and the comprehensible. God does not seem to have a problem with that… only Christians do!

Does proof work both ways?

While creationists try to find the exceptional anomaly as proof of intelligent design, it is also possible to argue that the lack of intelligent design must indicate the lack of an intelligent designer. The human appendix is a useless piece of equipment, indeed even causing more of a problem, even death, for some people. Can we assume that a designer is intelligent if they create a built-in redundancy, especially such a dangerous one? The coccyx (tail-bone) is a useless piece, as are the ear-lobes. In fact, the appendix, the coccyx and the ear-lobes can only be explained in terms of evolution: creationism has no explanation for them! Even the fact that we have two nostrils and a useless septum up the middle defies creationism. Why would an ‘intelligent designer’ create two holes, when we need only one?

We note that the human male produces up to 250 million sperm at every ejaculation, of which only a mere twenty or so actually make it to the ovum for fertilisation. When we are aware that some species have automatic ovulation, guaranteeing pregnancy, both the monthly cycle and the massive quantity of sperm show a poor design. Even the fact that some men and women are infertile is a poor design, if procreation is a primary force for any member of any species. Indeed, even the fact that in many species only one dominant male will get to reproduce (and in lions the male will kill the offspring of any previous union) shows the evolutionary principle of ‘the survival of the fittest’ and would be poor ‘design’. In addition, the very fact that we have the physical capacity to impregnate from around the age of 10, and yet in most Western countries we are not allowed to have sex until we are at least 16, shows that the Church’s response to sexuality is contra-natural.

But further in the animal world, we note that the humble bee will sting an enemy as a form of defence… but will invariably die as a result of the broken barb. Is it intelligent to make every act of self-defence in the bee a suicidal defence? The wool on a feral sheep will keep on growing until it debilitates the animal due to its weight and dimensions. Is this ‘intelligent’? It could not be argued that God had designed the sheep for our collection of wool, since the spinning of wool is no more than 3,000 years old, and was only available to those sheep which were domesticated anyway.

If Noah, during the great Flood, took only two of many species and only seven of some others, how is it that in the relatively short time since then, over a hundred different species of horse have developed. There are more than 10,000 species of moth and butterfly. This requires not only evolution, but the Christian must believe in evolution at a faster pace than even the staunchest scientist would be willing to profess.

Then we have the question over the stars in the universe. It is estimated that there are 100 billion of them in our galaxy alone, and further that there are 100 billion galaxies in the known universe. But what is their purpose? While the Bible says that they are set up “for signs and seasons”, the vast majority, being invisible, do not even figure in either of these. Accepting that no more than twelve stars are necessary to map out the heavens “for signs and seasons”, plus one to revolve around, this means that 99.999 999 999 999 999 999 87 percent of the known universe was ‘created’ for no purpose at all. Is that intelligent?

Conclusion

Many Christians are driven by the ‘wow factor’. The look around a complex universe and say, ‘Wow, this is so wonderful that it can not have occurred by accident or without some artist at work.’ And yet we may look at the complexity and the beauty of a single snowflake, and do we assume that every snowflake was individually designed by God?

Setting aside whether it is of any relevance trying to argue with Christians about anything, such is their fanatical reliance on belief over argument, we can see that the very process of trying to argue ‘intelligent design’ is ridiculous and anti-logical. And if Christians have spent the last one and a half thousand years doing nothing more than espousing “I believe this” and “I believe that”, then they have nothing new to offer the 21st-century world, which is not always looking for answers, but is always looking for reasoning. ‘Intelligent design’ itself is not intelligent.

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