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Friday, June 09, 2006

O'Leary explains intelligent design to a prof

Recently, an academic wrote to me, explaining that he was to go to Germany and lecture on the intelligent design controversy in North America. He wanted to know why some North Americans are attracted to intelligent design. I thought about itand replied,

Dear Dr. xxxx,

I am a journalist, not a sociologist. I write the type of thing that people of average education in North America can read and understand. It is thus I must answer your question:

Most North Americans believe that both the universe and life forms show evidence of intelligent design. They are attached to different religions and philosophies, and refer to their intuition in a striking variety of ways.

Both the Canadian and the American Constitutions reference this belief:

American: "endowed by their Creator with an inalienable right to ... "
Canadian: " ... The supremacy of God ... "

North Americans attach great importance to these beliefs because they are thought to protect human rights by putting them beyond abrogation by government. Human rights are thought to derive from the fact that humans are iterations of a divine mind, and therefore government serves people, not the other way around.

Most of us also believe two other things:

1) our own consciousness is a faint echo of a greater consciousness that holds all things in being, and that

2) the many change, the One remains the same.

I have heard these ideas expressed (usually inarticulately) on picket lines and in boardrooms, in rainstorms and in snowstorms, and while running for cover from golfball hail.

I have heard them while waiting with accident victims for an ambulance and while shepherding people to testify before a justice committee. I have heard them from people who were going to recover from their illnesses and from people who were doomed. I have heard them in prisons and at deathbeds. I have heard them from people who are at the pinnacle of their careers and from people who are dying in disgrace, forgotten and in pain, except for the little a visiting journalist could do.

It is the most inveterate belief I have ever encountered.

Now, I have a question for you: Why do some doubt that the universe and life forms show evidence of intelligent design?

I am really interested in that, because if I could understand it better, I would do a better job of representing the no-design people's views, and it is my job, really, to try to explain what is happening in society.

Cheers, Denyse O'Leary
P.S.: I will be happy to provide more specific information if it would help. - d.

In other words, I think that a belief in the meaning, purpose, and intentional order of the universe is innate. It comes from the human tendency to ask what it all means and why we are here.

As a result, most people are naturally inclined to think in terms of ID, whether or not they identify with any specific theory of creation or cosmos*. It is something that people must be educated out of, rather than into. Keep in mind that Darwinian evolution is specifically anti-teleological (anti-purpose); that was Darwin's intention. Interestingly, numberless people, both famous and non-famous, have been influenced by Darwinism away from traditional belief systems as a result. (That does not make Darwinism wrong; it makes it consequential.)

(* It is not necessary to be a creationist to accept intelligent design. Many hold, with physicist Sir James Jeans, that the universe itself is a great thought.)
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove ?

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.

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