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Intelligent Design: A Form of Idolatry

Religious fundamentalists promote the concept of intelligent design: a supreme being, God, not evolution, must be responsible for the remarkable structures and functions of living organisms and all of nature. They have it backward. Evolution fits better with the concept of a supreme, ubiquitous, all-powerful being than does intelligent design, which I think is a form of idolatry.

Religious fundamentalists don't like evolution because it seems to them that evolution is contrary to what the Bible says. So they seek to discredit evolution by championing intelligent design. Look at a human being or a butterfly, they say, and it will be obvious to you that he, she or it is the product of intelligent design by an all powerful God.

Well, I am not sure about an intelligence that produces retarded babies and insane people, mortifies us all with horrible diseases and makes so many humans impossible to get along with. For every sign of intelligence thrown at me by a fundamentalist, I can throw back several signs of stupidity.

But what's the point? Intelligence has no meaning when applied to an all-powerful being. According to my old dictionary, intelligence is a

"capacity for understanding and for other forms of adaptive behavior; aptitude in grasping truths, facts, meaning."

What does a supreme being need to understand? Does God need to adapt to anybody or anything? Does he have to worry about "truths, facts, meaning"? A supreme being can not be called intelligent. Nor can he, she, it be called stupid. These terms apply to people. Not God - however you think of God.

God does not do design either. My old dictionary definition for design is:

"to prepare the preliminary sketch or the plans for (a work to be executed); to plan and fashion artistically and skillfully...."

Does God need to prepare sketches? Does he, she or it worry about fashion? Do you believe God has the skill to accomplish something? People design considering various constraints. What constraint does God have? It makes no sense. People design. An all-powerful supreme being does not do design.

Fundamentalists make a huge mistake when they promote intelligent design. They are saying that God has characteristics, such as intelligence and design capabilities, which apply only to humans. This is not very different from what the Greeks did with their myths. All their "Gods" possessed human-like emotions, desires, thoughts and goals.

The Greeks were idolators. Do fundamentalists want to be called idolators? Of course, not.

Evolution, however, conforms much better with the philosophy of religious fundamentalists. A supreme being does not exercise intelligence and does not do the design of everything on Earth. He merely sets up a handful of laws - among them evolution - and allows the world to develop according to these laws. Now, that's a supreme being. I don't know about the intelligence of the results but what we see produces lots of awe.

And scientists are constantly working to understand these natural laws better. Their knowledge of evolution, as well as other scientific laws, is not complete in any sense of the word. But they are in the quest. As time goes on they get to understand more and more. The more they learn, the more awesome the world appears to them.

This awe should drive fundamentalists to forsake intelligent design and become cheerleaders for evolution.

Intelligent design is a form of idolatry. Evolution sings the beauty of God's creations.

Posted by Paul Siegel at June 30, 2005 7:47 PM