Intelligent design has been much in the news lately, and as a reader service today my column will examine this origin-of-life issue from several perspectives: the scientific, the theological and the ridiculous, the last to tweak those few readers who have not evolved sufficiently to have a sense of humor.
According to the theory of evolution, all life forms developed from primitive organisms that, by way of chance mutations and a process of natural selection, were able to rise out of the prehistoric ooze and establish themselves as new species, just like social climbers in our own time.
Thus, a short fin might become over eons a primitive leg that could get the creature out of the swamp, and a rudimentary nose might develop into a big hooter that could lead it to the earliest equivalent of Dunkin’ Donuts.
One could imagine such a simple creature emerging from the primal slime for the first time, standing unsteadily on its vestigial fins and cranking up its elementary vocal chords to declare: “Hi, I’m Bob Flagwaver and I wish to be your congressman.” Insurance salesmen and lawyers soon followed.
Yes, this is a hideous thought, but science is not for wusses. The scientific mind trades in truth, not sentimentality. It looks unblinkingly at the facts.
On the other hand, who wants to do that? It is positively un-American to face uncomfortable truths, especially when a simple alternative exists to scientific inquiry. For many people, it’s more convenient to read the grand poetic story in Genesis as a literal explanation rather than as a powerful allegory.
Of course, this means that dinosaurs had to exist at the same time humans did _ and, unfortunately, those spoilsport scientists point out that no credible evidence exists for that. Lucky for Adam and Eve, I say! It would have been very hard to keep their fig leaves straight while being pursued by dinosaurs. And throwing apple cores at the dinosaurs would have been futile.
As it was, the Good Book’s explanation of life’s origins was a hard sell to pass off as science, especially in public schools, because plainly it was religion. Creationism, as it was called, had to evolve so that it would be the fittest theory to survive in a secular world. And so it has, according to Nature’s law.
Creationism is now newly emerged as intelligent design. It really should be called intelligent deception, because it is the same old thing but more coy. Don’t mind the man behind the curtain (he’s probably a preacher or a friend of a preacher). The irony is that those who support this supposed theory must actually think the rest of us are descended from monkeys if we can’t figure out what’s going on.
Intelligent design postulates that some things are so complex that we just can’t explain them except in terms of an intelligent designer. I must say I always thought that about algebra. Gosh, I wonder who that Intelligent Designer could be in this theory? Ask the man behind the curtain after school.
Actually, I do believe in an Intelligent Designer. I also believe that the Lord moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. The really intelligent view is that evolution is His way of working the business of creation.
Consider those dinosaurs, for example. They roamed Earth for millions of years, then suddenly disappeared. What intelligent designer would have done that? They were magnificent beasts. Are we to believe the Designer suddenly tired of them? Sounds more capricious than intelligent. Such a waste of lizards! This raises a very alarming theological possibility: That there is a Mrs. Almighty. She sees the Designer organizing Earth, stocking it with life and marking the boundaries of the oceans, and then in typical fashion, decides in the blink of the eternal eye that He isn’t doing the job right and the whole furniture of life must be rearranged. I’ve seen it happen myself on a lesser scale.
Faced with this dreadful possibility, I’ll continue believing in evolution, thank you very much, because religion is religion and science is science. And the twain shall never meet? Yes, they must meet, but in our hearts, not the science class.
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com)