Intelligent Design: More Bad News

(Please note: in the following article, the uncapitalized term “his” is applied to god and to the creator, with no chauvinism implied.  The present writer is simply too lazy to police the text to insure that a more precise but lengthy string of pronouns (“He/She/It”) be regularly employed!  Thanks for your indulgence.)

One fatal problem with Intelligent Design and its incestuous bedfellow, “Scientific Creationism,” is that they depend upon supernatural theism.  Supernatural theism posits a creator-god “out there,” who is responsive to prayer and who (sometimes) intervenes in the world in answer to prayer, or to reward or punish humankind

Supernatural theism’s god is on the way to the trash heap, for understandable reasons.

First, the modern mind has difficulty in accepting a god who is by nature separate from the human heart and human experience, and who must therefore be petitioned “from afar.”

Second, the notion of divine intervention is fraught with rather nasty problems, not least of which is the problem of explaining all of the non-interventions.  A god who is both totally compassionate and all-powerful should be expected to always intervene.  (Or, better yet, to have designed a world so flawlessly that intervention is never necessary.)

Third, the idea that god is, or must be, a creator, automatically makes god responsible for his creation – for the invention, the regulation, the ultimate outcome – of the world he created.  This last point is especially troublesome because it demands an explanation for the existence and the persistence of evil (as well as the creator’s passivity and non-intervention) in a universe supposedly created and regulated by a good and omnipotent god.

The blanket theological term for such explanations is theodicy.  A theodicy is a model whereby the “good” creator’s passivity, non-intervention, and failure to regulate the world is given a (putative) explanation.  In the present writer’s view, theodicy amounts to little else than making excuses for an inept Creator:  it’s an attempt to excuse the inexcusable.  It is no compliment to the Creator that his creatures, in order to support their belief in that Creator, must invent systems that (purportely) excuse his (mis)behavior.  This is where Intelligent Design promoters miss the point.

There is, they say, evidence for a Designer.  But from what we have considered so far, the Designer can only be excused by resort to theodicy, which is to say that – if such a being truly exists – “There is a Creator, but he’s mean, incompetent, indifferent, cruel, senile – and we need to make up excuses for all of that.”   Establishing a Creator’s existence (and I don’t see how this could ever be accomplished) would only establish the existence of a being who is powerful – but inimical to the welfare and survival of sentient beings.  This would be the worst news possible vis a vis the question of god’s existence.  ID promoters seem blissfully ignorant of what they are trying to do, namely, prove the existence of this deity who either does not care about, or who actively opposes, sentient creatures.  “The Creator exists!” they proclaim, failing to finish the sentence with (the logically-demanded) whisper, “… but he’s a monster.”  Of course, their agenda does not permit, encourage, or necessitate that they go so far.  It is enough (for their narrow interests) that they are able to sneak ID into public school curriculi wherever they can, replacing science with an ancient creation myth.  And it is just this particular myth – not philosophical god-concepts or non-Christian theological categories – that IDers promote.

“Biblical Inerrancy” is the IDers’ guiding tenet and true motivator.  Bound by their reactive (reactive against Enlightenment principles) sectarianism, IDers take the Genesis account of cosmic and human origins literally.  This explains, and constitutes, their real objection to public school science courses.  There is a plethora of religious world-and-humankind origin narratives to choose from, but IDers’ select-out only one, namely, the biblical account.  To supplant science with a 4,000 year old origins-myth is absurd on the face of it… yet this is exactly what IDers seek to do.

In any debate with IDers and/or Creationists, the two points under consideration ought to be relentlessly brought forward:  1)  a Creator requires a theodicy – and this is bad news for any Designer or Creator theory; and 2) IDers’ special pleading for the biblical – as opposed to all other – creators, reveals their shoddy motives in a clear light.

Application of these two principles will aid in pulling (at least, the aggressive, activist kind of) fundamentalists’ feet to the fire… treatment they deserve for attempting to turn our democracy into a theocracy.  After all, the law allows them to infect their children with the doctrines of biblical literalism in the home, in church, in religious schools and retreat camps, through books, media and music.  What the law should never permit, however, is the introduction of their religious toxins into public troughs.  As famed social critic Gore Vidal said of fundamentalists:  that they, with the rest of us, enjoy the right and the privilege of free speech…  But, on the other hand, we, as a democratic people, must not allow them to foist their superstitions on public society and its institutions.

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