Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Beautiful, Superb Article

Quite an excellent new Intelligent Design article. It is very often the case that militant Darwinists start talking theology (and, implicitly, aesthetics) when they are pressing their case. Kind of an odd thing to do when arguing for a scientific theory, eh? This splendid article calls them on it.

Excerpting it doesn't do it any justice, but here's a teaser:
Certainly, we could try to discuss the matter without considering the designer’s attitude toward his creation (that is, whether he is a watchmaker or a bridegroom or father). But the evolutionists have already smuggled this issue into the debate by assuming that, if there were a designer, he would be some sort of disinterested and hyper-tidy watchmaker. Having smuggled in this highly questionable point, they then regard as beneath consideration any idea of a designer who (as they put it) “meddles in his creation.”

Or they dismiss the notion that an omnipotent and omniscient designer might fashion a creature short of an optimal design. Here they not only make a theological claim but ignore a key question at once practical and aesthetic: How do concerns about ecological balance impinge upon a critique of animal structures?

Must the cosmic designer’s primary concern for pandas be that they are the most dexterous bears divinely imaginable? From a purely practical standpoint, might opposable-thumbed ├╝ber-pandas wreak havoc on their ecosystem? From a purely aesthetic standpoint, might not those charming pandas up in their bamboo trees with their unopposing but quite workable thumbs be just the sort of humorous supporting character this great cosmic drama needs to lighten things up a bit? If Shakespeare could do it in his tragedies, why not God?

Pandas as comic relief? To spurn the notion as if it were patently ridiculous and beneath consideration is merely to expose one’s utilitarian presuppositions. Why, after all, should the designer’s world read like a dreary high-school science textbook, its style humorless, homogenous, and suffocating under the dead weight of a supposedly detached passive voice? Why should not the designer’s world entertain, amuse, and fascinate, as well as “work”?

In summary, virtually the entire bad-design versus good-design discussion is framed by an engineer’s perspective, not an artist’s or mystic’s. When I mentioned this to the philosopher Jay W. Richards a few years ago, he responded in a letter: “After all, why do we assume that God created the universe to be a watch, in which a self-winding mechanism makes it ‘better’? Maybe the universe is like a piano, or a novel with the author as a character, or a garden for other beings with whom God wants to interact. It’s amazing how a simple image can highjack a discussion for a century and a half.”

What is worse, Darwinists like Gould and Dawkins commit the error called atomism: the idea that, in Gould’s own words, “wholes should be understood by decomposition into ‘basic’ units.” In other words, they assume not only that nature is a kind of watch but that each individual design is its own watch—its own machine—meant to be judged in relative isolation. They evaluate the panda’s thumb by how well it works as a thumb, not by how well it fits into the whole life of the panda, including its place in its own environment.

This is, at the most practical level, to misunderstand pandas. At the aesthetic level, it is to declare that an artist who might have created pandas could not have been thinking (as artists do) of the whole work.

Also check out this Evangelical Outpost piece on the ID topic.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Touchstonemag.com did a big liece on a similar topic a couple of months ago. You might want to check it out.