The godliest feature of humanity is our ability to use logic and reason to solve problems and explain the world and universe around us. According to “Intelligent Design,” understanding the world around us is not necessary because it was designed by an all powerful entity and this is all one need know. The Intelligent Design community would have us throw away our logic and reason and replace it with simplicity, faith, and ignorance.
What is “Intelligent Design?” Is this any different than what has been said in the past? Is this any different than saying that there is a deity who created all we see and experience, a deity to whom we should submit and worship? No, this is simply a new method of packaging Christianity. So, what is behind all the recent law suits to bring religion into the classroom, disclaimers for evolution in text books, and attempts by some government officials to combine religion with the politic?
Science is not truth; it is a process of discovery. What is there to discover? Laws of the natural world. In order to do this several principles must be applied.
First, there has to be a separation of natural from supernatural phenomena. In order to do this the scientist has to identify the laws and regularity of nature, which includes observable or measurable cause and effect both physical and mechanical.
Second is the development of the tools of logical argument and of mathematics, and their systematic use. Along with this there has to be rational criticism and debate, and a general climate that tolerates skepticism.
Third, there has to be demonstration and proof by empirical observation and research in order to extend the empirical base of knowledge.
Fourth, and evolving out of the above principles, science has to be self-correcting. When errors are detected or conclusions are faulty they demand reconsideration and perhaps old models need to go and replaced with better, more appropriate stories. This, however, is next to impossible unless there is freedom of speech and freedom of debate. Any discipline or field of study that does not allow lively debate and free expression, or censors other traditions and their beliefs and behaviors of others, is a closed system. Closed systems cannot compete in a modern, democratic, free enterprise system. Monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are closed systems; closed religious systems either hide from or persecute those of other traditions. In the social sciences, if our view of history is altered by new information or insights then our anthropology and history books alter to better fit the new information. Alterations in our view of the tangible world help us build the better mouse trap. What science does is help us understand the world so that we can better cope with the adversities that present themselves. If we have dominion over the land and sea then we better understand these laws so that we can take better care of that which supports us.
Religion has been defined in a multitude of manners and dimensions, but no matter what definition we use it does not incorporate the scientific method outlined above. Belief in God only requires faith; there is no proof that God as conceptualized in the Bible and the Qur’an exists. There is no proof that prayers, donations, human/animal/vegetable sacrifices, or self-flagellation can attract the attention of this deity; there is no evidence that this energy can be bribed, cajoled, coerced or other wise convinced to do your bidding. People speak of miracles and of statues weeping blood (the statue of the Virgin Mary, Vietnamese Catholic Martyrs Church, Sacramento is the latest example of the type of deception). Miracles happen with equal frequency as disasters. The baby pulled alive from the rubble of a apartment complex leveled by an earthquake six days earlier is considered a miracle, while the real miracle was the earthquake, for without it, no miracle could follow. And certainly the ancient Egyptians and Greeks had mechanical statutes that spoke, moved arms, and dispensed liquids. Shadows on church walls or windows are Gestalted by the mind in such a way as to resemble the Virgin Mary or Jesus. When the phenomenon is revealed to be from natural causes there will still be a certain number of true believers who hang on and imagine the emperor is wearing new clothes, even though the truth removes the shroud from our ignorance. I have yet to read or hear of any serious scientist saying that these imaginings (weeping statues and shadows on walls) are real phenomena attributable to a deity.
But there is a larger issue: religious traditions once tied to sacred script are no longer self-correcting. Because these sacred writings are the revealed word of God or Allah, one cannot simply remove certain verses and alter others to fit the prevailing social/scientific view of the universe. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are victims of their own success. The printing press allowed the production and mass distribution of the revealed word of God—the Bible and the Qur’an. Prior to mass printing, there would only be a small number of laboriously hand copied books available to priests and/or scribes. Pages in these books would wear out with use, for even though the masses could not read, the book had to be displayed. It is the symbol or the charter, a set of instructions, “It comes from God and therefore must be obeyed. It says so right here.” Displaying and fondling eventually destroys the papyrus pages and they have to be recopied. We see this with the Qur’an, in the Yemeni parchments (fragments from 1000 warn out pages, recopied, and then discarded) in what is called a “paper grave” discovered while workers were repairing the Great Mosque at Sana’a, Yemen. Lester (2002:108, in, What the Koran Really Says, ed. I. Warraq) comments:
Some of the parchment pages in the Yemeni hoard seemed to date back to the seventh and eighth centuries c.c., or Islam’s first two centuries—they were fragments, in other words, of perhaps the oldest Korans in existence. What’s more, some of these fragments reveal small but intriguing aberrations from the standard Koranic text. Such aberrations, though not surprising to textual historians, are troublingly at odds with the orthodox Muslim belief that the Koran as it has reached us today is quite simply the perfect, timeless, and unchanging Word of God.
So what is the “intelligent Design” position really about? Quite simply, because they can’t alter the divine word, they cannot keep up, and they will be abandoned in time. Understand what is at stake here—money and political power. Both the Intelligent Design Christians and the Fundamental Islamites are expressing a last gasp to force their traditions onto the world, with the Intelligent Design people attempting to accomplish this with legal tactics, while Islam, a conquest religion, is using extreme violence. Why the difference? Islam in the Middle East is intimately tied to the politic (government) and Islamic/God dictated laws, while governments in the West revolve within secular or man-constructed laws. In Fundamental Islam intimidation, threat, assignations, torture, war, and other forms of physical and emotional abuse became legitimized in the name of Allah. In the West intimidation, threat, assignations, torture and other forms of physical and emotional abuse (although they occur) are not institutionalized. Although legitimized in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, these are not part of the Constitution or secular laws in the United States today.
If the Bible and Qur’an are not the revealed word what are they? They are constructed stories to justify the beliefs and behaviors of religious clerics and rulers. Their design was to create an identity for a people (Nations of Israel and Islam), control behavior, instill fear of God, and enslave people for their own ends; “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” The Bible and Qur’an, if read as history lessons, are not books of liberation, critical thinking, and the glory of human kind. Intelligent Design, in a similar fashion, is not a model of liberation and critical thinking but a last gasp to hang onto something that never was.