Tuesday, November 22, 2005

one good way to get back on the horse is by taking cheap shots at easily disproved ideas: to wit...

So, I've been thinking about the debate around intelligent design lately. The biggest problem I have with it is the sheer vanity that support for intelligent design represents. The fundamental argument is, "I don't understand how something so complex as life could happen randomly, so it must have been designed." With this line of argument, it pays to be ignorant. Like, "I don't understand the physiological systems involved in alcohol intoxication, officer, therefore I COULDN'T have been driving drunk."

Sure, I joke, but I did actually see an argument along these lines by John Gibson, author of the War on Christmas and Fox News contributor. Here was his argument for why Bush didn't lie about WMD to build support for the Iraq war. He said, basically, that if Bush was lying about WMD he knew his lie would be exposed after the invasion, and surely Bush isn't stupid enough to purposely expose his own lies, so he must not have been lying. Paraphrased in my new Ignorance is Strength motif, that's, "I don't get why Bush is so stupid, so he must not be a liar." This is the level of American political discourse.

Anyway, it just bugs me that not getting something can be used as an argument against that something. There are limits to the ways that humans can understand the world. Kind of like how we can't see ultraviolet light, but bees can (I read in New Scientist this week that if you showed a film to a bee, they would see a series of still images rather than one moving image because they process visual information more quickly - how cool is that?). I like to imagine what the conscious experience of other animals is like, and the knowledge about the world they have that we can't. Just because humans are the smartest animals we know (and only then because we define intelligence by the things that humans do well) doesn't mean we can know anything and/or everything. To say that our ignorance is proof of God, rather than proof of our own ignorance, is well, ahem, ignorant.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Tim said...

I can't think of a snappy response to this fine entry, which must prove that it is stupid. The entry, that is.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...

There are so many levels to why Intelligent Design is stupid. (You can read about my alternative, Dumb-Ass Design theory, here.) ID relies on the armchair argument, "I, sitting here in my armchair, can't think of a way that a blind process with nonrandom selection and random mutation could produce this, so, since I lack imagination, it must have been an intelligent designer." The Argument from Personal Laziness is weak.

5:15 PM  
Blogger DC said...

I don't understand what you wrote, so it must be wrong.

Sorry.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous JC said...

What about: "I understand that something so complex must be by design"?

6:00 AM  
Blogger socialsomatic said...

Then who designed the designer? If the designer must necessarily be more complex than the things it designed, there must be something more complex than the designer that designed it, ad infinitum.

Sorry, JC, but I just don't buy your argument. Even a cursory read of complex systems theory and research provides an understanding of how systems can self-organize into vastly complex forms without the aid of outside influence.

Bottom line? We want to believe in God because we're going to die and we're scared. Look into your heart, and that's what you'll find.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous JC said...

Look into my heart? Isn't that just a complex organ? Or do you mean the untangible heart? The one you cannot see or touch or scientifically measure?

1:25 AM  
Anonymous JC said...

"Just because humans are the smartest animals we know (and only then because we define intelligence by the things that humans do well) doesn't mean we can know anything and/or everything."....I believe this to be true.

Its funny I also do not buy into the "intelligent design" argument either, however, I don't believe that evolutionary theories, have to be independent of belief in God.

1:33 AM  
Blogger socialsomatic said...

Actually, JC, as a research psychologist, I disagree that you can't measure "heart". I've also been told you can't measure love, and that's not true either. Psychologists have come up with ways to measure all kinds of constructs. I think this is a really good example of people thinking something is untrue, not because it is untrue, but because they haven't thought it through.

I agree, though, that evolution and God are not mutually exclusive. A god could well have used evolution as a tool. It just scares the hell out of the fundamentalists because it puts the lie to at least some of the Bible.

I really don't mean to be a big jerk, but as I've said before, I've gone from theism to atheism. What really got me in the end is what I said before about fear of death. There's some really good research under the rubric of "terror management theory". I'd suggest looking it up. It's a pretty convincing argument as to why we put faith in higher powers, including gods, national identities, and the like.

Let me put it this way - honestly, really honestly, would you worship God if He wasn't the gatekeeper for eternal life?

I'm guessing for most people, the answer is no. It's a pretty conditional relationship most people have with the maker.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous JC said...

You need a hug....and a cookie.

7:19 AM  

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