Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Texas Does This to a Fella

Intelligent Design, or “I.D.” (which is similar to E.D., but harder to swallow... *groan*) is back in the news , with the latest battle lines centered around a court case in Pennsylvania.

Come on, people! All these Republicans are trying to do is help, right? They just don’t want kids to go thru life under a cloud of ignorance!

Despite the explanatory power of Darwin’s work; despite the iron-clad, absolute certainty that evolution occurs; despite the infinite regress of unanswerable difficulty created by the deus ex machina of “a creator” thrown into the discussion; despite the untestability of, and lack of predictive power in, I.D.; a lot of people seem to find the current status quo wanting. They may not understand anything about evolution--beyond that it obviates, or at least emasculates, their favored mythological explanation about the origin of life--but they’re willing to fight to see some restraints (like six feet of good topsoil) put on it.

Well, let’s look at some of our options (since we want to be scientific about this, don’t we? And that means we have to at least verbally dismiss something--that’s how science works, right?). But how will we decide among the thousands of competing theories? Do we go by sheer number of votes? Life came from wherever most people believe it came from? Or do we accept the philosophy of the loudest, most vehement faction (which distinction goes at the moment to the Middle-Eastern Islamic terrorist)? Perhaps we should just blindly trust the judgment of the President? (Yeah, that’s a good one!) OK, then, what?

In the spirit of helpfulness for which I am world-famous, I’ve compiled a short, exemplary list of some other cosmogenies so that kids can try to be better informed about where we came from, and wouldn’t have to hang blindly on any stupid, wild-ass guesses about something as vitally important as the origin of life some six billion (er, I’m sorry, six thousand) years ago.

Here’s an example from China (whose votes, it’s only scientific to note, would outnumber the Southern Baptists by about a buzillion--technical term, "buzillion"--to one):

“The first living thing was P'an Ku. He evolved inside a gigantic cosmic egg, which contained all the elements of the universe totally intermixed together. P'an Ku grew by about 10 feet each day. As he grew he separated the earth and the Sky within the egg. At the same time he gradually separated the many opposites in nature male and female, wet and dry, light and dark, Yin and Yang. These were all originally totally commingled in the egg. While he grew he also created the first humans. After 18,000 years the egg hatched and P'an Ku died from the effort of creation. From his eyes the sun and moon appeared, from his sweat, rain and dew, from his voice, thunder, and from his body all the natural features of the earth arose.”

Or how about this old Apache nugget:

“In the beginning nothing existed, no earth, no sky, no sun, no moon, only darkness was everywhere. Suddenly, from the darkness emerged a thin disc, one side yellow and the other side white, appearing suspended in midair. Within the disc sat a small bearded man, the Creator, the One Who Lives Above.”

Or here’s a nice Aboriginal homily:

“There was a time when everything was still. All the spirits of the earth were asleep, or almost all. The great Father of All Spirits was the only one awake. Gently he awoke the Sun Mother. As she opened her eyes, a warm ray of light spread out towards the sleeping earth. The Father of All Spirits said to the Sun Mother, ‘Mother, I have work for you. Go down to the Earth and awake the sleeping spirits. Give them forms.’ The Sun Mother glided down to Earth, which was bare at the time and began to walk in all directions and everywhere she walked plants grew. After returning to the field where she had begun her work the Mother rested, well pleased with herself. The Father of All Spirits came and saw her work, but instructed her to go into the caves and wake the spirits.”

Yeah, we could keep this up for days. Absurd, you say? None of them are objectively less probable than the explanation that “God” (love the co-opting capital G) “‘did it’ in seven days, after which He rested."

There are thousands of known religions, and unless we admit that religion cannot tell us anything concrete about our world then it follows inevitably that not more than one of them can be correct. Ergo, a majority--and probably a sizeable majority--of the world’s population are living a lie. Simple statistics.

But a person’s religion is almost without exception that of their family or community, which proximity, we might agree, has no bearing on the truth or falsehood of a proposition. Every religion claims to be the truth and the only truth and everybody else is going to a hellish place.

News Flash! It isn’t about truth. It's about power and control.


Joshua said...

The ONLY issue I take with this is the teaching of the subject in science class. I am all for teaching alternate ideas, and exploring non-normative thought. However, scince class should be left to science, call me crazy.

Also, as you pointed out, at what point do we stop? I'm sure the Heaven's Gate people (if there are any who would admit to being around anymore) want their shit taught, too.


wunelle said...

Yeah, it's certainly not science. I don't think the schools should NOT be allowed to mention the subject, but I think it needs to be taught in a religion class.

I guess what I chafe at is that the idea of capital-T truth being co-opted for the ends of political power; this is not really about an objective-as-possible review of what is known and unknown, but an attempt to get people lined up behind an age-old power structure which keeps control in the old, status quo places.

I come back to this again and again, but it's a subject that raises lots of issues for me.

Joshua said...

Once again, I couldn't agree more. Sadly, though, I just got the hard to swallow comment. I am getting slow in my old age.


wunelle said...

Hey, we all have our days!

Joshua said...

whaddaya know, I had bookmarked this article to rant about just this subject, then never got around to it. Anyway, this is worth the read.


wunelle said...

A great article. 38 Nobel Laureates! Of course, this Steve Abrams fella was "unmoved." Kinda like I am unmoved by differential calculus. It's easy to fail to see the power of a concept that we don't grasp.

Matthew said...

I didn't come from no monkey! I jest. How do I.D. theorists explain President Bush? Was he a rough draft?

wunelle said...

He was the beta test. This particular strategy from the designer was clearly a dead end. Limited intelligence and moral vacuity had already been tried in rodents and insects, where it seems to work without such an influx of resources.

Better start with a clean sheet, O Designer!