the gods must be lazy

The background image is MY BED, a work by the British artist Tracey Emin, exhibited at the Tate Gallery in 1999 as one of the shortlisted works for the Turner Prize. Superimposed is the figure of messed-with figure of Jehovah, from The Creation of Adam, a fresco paintd by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel between 1508 and 1512

This is a quick foray into the so-called "debate" about "intelligent design" vs the theory* of evolution.

For creationists, the human eye is an example of irreducible complexity that could not have evolved from the bottom up but rather must have been designed from the top down. The "intelligent design" argument is that the "irreducible complexity" of reality can not be and could not have been the product of undirected non-purposeful randomness (per Darwinian evolution by natural selection), but rather that the figurative hand and mind of an intelligent designer is evident, that the fingerprints of God/gods is/are found all over the universe.

Seems to me though that the creationist approach sells "God" (whatever that is) short. It would be within the capacity of an omnipotent being to create/design a zero-maintenance universe, a universe that runs and maintains itself without constant intervention on the part of the creator/designer. It would be within the capacity of an omnipotent being to create/design a system in which irreducible complexity emerges from the workings of the system itself, rather than requiring work on the part of the creator/designer.

If God is perfect, ze encompasses all qualities, including laziness! Anyone intelligent enough to create the universe would be intelligent enough to minimise the amount of work required! This is a version of the so-called ontological "proof" of the existence of God, in which existence itself is said to be a quality that a perfect being would possess. This version is no more compelling or definitive than any other. But that's OK, because this post doesn't seek to prove the existence or non-existence of God, but rather to disprove, rebut the intelligent design argument.

In fact, deism/theism and science are not mutually exclusive but rather enhance each other. The fact that aspects of reality are describable via reason, logic and mathematics does not detract from the magic and mystery of reality but rather enhances that magic and mystery.

If you absolutely insist on the existence of God/gods, then wouldn't the fact that lifeforms evolve via the mechanism of natural selection be to the greater glory of the Creator/creators from whom sprang the mechanism of natural selection in the first place? If you absolutely insist on the existence of God/gods, then wouldn't the fact that reality is autonomous, doesn't require outside intervention from a transcendent being, be to the greater glory of the Creator/creators who figured out how to introduce that autonomy in the first place?

Of course, these issues only arise in the minds of people for whom divinity is transcendent. In the minds of people (including most pantheists, panentheists and pagans) for whom divinity is immanent, all of the above arguments, on both sides, are fundamentally meaningless, because Creator and Creation are one and the same thing. God didn't make the World -- God is is the World, and every thing in it. The creationists are correct: the design suggests intelligence, but it is not evidence of an Intelligent Designer. The design itself is intelligent. Design is Designer. Reality is intelligent, alive, aware: The Biggest Person There Is.

* That Darwin's ideas are known as the theory of evolution does NOT mean that evolution is a "theory" in the colloquial sense, ie that it has not been proven and leaves no footprint in reality. In fact, it is one of the most successful and well-established scientific ideas of all in terms of the extent to which it accurately describes reality. Or so they say.

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Antares said...

Brillo de duckshit, Mr Watson! Heh heh. You never fail to amuse & amaze me!

masterymistery said...

Thanks Antares. I had a lot of fun putting Jehovah in Tracy Emin's bed...

mgeorge said...

"The eye has evolved independently at least 40 times."
- Prof. Richard Dawkins, 1995
"A time of plenty leads to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, some people are going to get hurt while others get lucky. You will not find any reason or justice in it. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if it has no design, purpose, evil or good – nothing but pitiless indifference." - Prof. Richard Dawkins, 1995 [Why is indifference special?]
"Believing that there is a purpose to the universe and that you have an insight into a hidden realm of knowledge is the default human state, as neuroscientists and psychologists are discovering." - Michael Brooks, 2010


masterymistery said...

Hi mgeorge, great quotes, thank you!

As a wannabe (and therefore depararately inventive) theist , I would slightly modify Dawkins' quote to say: "The only reason or justice in it, is that which you create yourself. The only design, purpose, evil or good in it, is that which you create yourself."

This Cosmic post, Delude this, Richard Dawkins!" extends the theme further.

Thanks for stopping by.

Cheers, MM