Monday, September 19, 2005

Evolution vs. Intelligent Design - the third way

While its all well and good to have this debate about creationism (intelligent design) and evolution, it seems to me to be just another polarised debate between two entrenched ideologies which is just confusing or pissing off the rest of us. Children are probably the most affected out of all the third parties with what they should be taught in schools and in what context being the battleground. OK, its only going on in America and nowhere else it seems, but it could spread, as do many fads from over the pond.

The supporters of the creationism theory sight bacterial flagellum as a great example of intelligence design. They say

  1. The bacterial flagellum displays specified complexity.

  2. Specified complexity in biotic systems cannot be generated by the Darwinian mechanism, which relies on chance.

  3. Therefore the bacterial flagellum must have been intelligently designed - that is, it could have been actualized only with the assistance of form-conferring interventions by an unembodied intelligent agent.
They say that the system of movement, for example, is a machine, designed in a similar way to a machine designed and used by humans – ie. It displays the hallmarks of intelligence behind its design and so therefore must have been designed by an intelligent entity. How they make the leap from ‘wow, that assembly of organic machinery is really complex and clever’ to ‘only God could have designed such an assembly’ is critical. I could surely apply that to pretty much anything I don’t understand and/or am impressed by but it would surely be an irrational assumption.

They discount Darwinist evolutionary theory by saying that such efficient and useful characteristics could never evolve by chance. That’s possible if you underestimate nature of course and I do have a problem with aspects of evolution such as how a species survives when it is in the intermediate stage of evolutionary development. By that I mean how can, for example, a creature which is evolving wings where it once had legs survive when at that point it would be quite useless. It’s a good point but just because we cannot explain it it doesn’t mean that we jump on the intelligent design bus again.

Can’t the reality be a mix of both theories? I realise that we’ve reached a point where many people feel as though they have to choose between creationism and evolution, black or white, since you must be either a believer and worshipper of a deity or a believer and worshipper of science (the ‘new’ religion). But how about there being an ‘unembodied intelligent agent’ who is responsible for the big bang but, in his infinite wisdom, allowed nature to take its own course from there? Maybe nature itself is ‘god’ and pagan beliefs are more correct than either side give it credit. Or maybe we really are the product of intelligent design, but not by god. Maybe we are the product of a project conducted by another intelligent species from elsewhere in the universe. To some that would sound outlandish but I’ve always held the belief that if we exist, so could they.

In my opinion both of the camps which have dominated the debate up until now strike me as being incredibly arrogant in their self-belief. I’m a great believer in the logic and sound reasoning behind science but not so egocentric to think that we are are the pinnacle of existence. Hopefully someone will get the ‘third way’ option out there which may just bring everyone together a bit more, even if its just for the sake of the children. And to stop them dissecting those poor little flagella.

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