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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

 

"Intelligent Design" Promotes Ancient Heresies!
And Implies A Diabolic Creator
By Jim Scanlon

Camouflage
   The long struggle of biblical fundamentalist Southern Baptists against evolution and the teaching of that subject in public schools, has risen to a new level of contention with the election and reelection of one of their own, George W. Bush, an Evangelical, with their support and the support of other like minded churches of the religious right.
   Their rigid belief system based on the ancient Semitic creation myth of a supreme power, with human characteristics,  creating the universe and all life on earth, in six days, has utterly failed to gain any support in scientific circles and is widely accepted only among the uneducated and willfully ignorant public. This new effort to obstruct and limit science education is akin to the Taliban and other Muslim fanatics to impose the sharia, a harsh and brutal interpretation of Islamic law, rigidly based on a holy book.
   Biblical creationists have now repackaged their largely ignored "scientific creationism" theory as "intelligent design," which is a theological assertion disguised as science to discredit the scientific consensus on the evolution of life, which they call "Darwinism."
   Charles Darwin presented  an extended argument based on observations and thought and  explained in great detail in a book 148 years ago. It is a if nothing happened in Biology between 1856  and now. Intelligent Design is a statement, an empty theory, mimicking the collective scientific work of
Darwin and thousands of other naturalists and scientists.
   In nature, mimicry is when one species evolves to look like another to fool predators.

Survivalism
   Intelligent design holds that living organisms are too complex to have arisen by blind chance resulting from random mutations and this complexity implies design by an intelligent agent.
   Crudely,
Darwin proposed that organisms tend to overpopulate their environment and this leads to competition among individuals for a limited food supply. Over time,  small changes occur which affect the success of reproduction. Any changes that help an individual survive to reproduce would be preserved in the next generation, and so on. Over extremely long periods of time small changes would add up, eventually leading to the formation of new species and eventually to the observed diversity of life on earth and in the fossil record.
   "Darwinism" evolved from a simple, incomplete beginning into a vast accumulation of supporting data amassed by amateurs, naturalists and scientists, following more, or less strictly, the rules of science. The result formulated in the 1920s to 1950s is the "Neo Darwinian Synthesis." Time and time again new observations have been found to be consistent with it. It has been  found useful and not false-which is not the same as "true."
   All scientific facts are always provisional and modifiable. Overturn the consensus and you will be showered with honors and riches. But stickers on high school text books and threats by pious preachers and  school boards won't do it. They can shut people up but they can't modify or teach science.
   When
Darwin  expounded his ideas, there wasn't much of a fossil record to support it, there was no molecular information, scientific estimates of the age of the earth were nowhere near long enough, the evolution of matter from simple hydrogen and helium was unknown, the role of genes and DNA was unknown. Confirmation, always provisional, came with time.  His core ideas survived, with modifications, with every scientific upheaval. Probably the most important advance was in genetics, the mechanism that presently allows scientists to precisely manipulate genes to reliably produce new forms of individuals. Darwin knew nothing of this aspect but he is a convenient "punching bag."
   This biological synthesis has been supported from observations in geology, biochemistry and biology, which includes medicine, and has transformed our world-for better and for worse. Science survives by challenging authority, observation, collecting information, cooperation, following procedures and changing. Religions survive by obedient submission to authority, charismatic leaders and rigid dogma. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages for the survival of the system.

What Kind of Intelligence?
   If one accepts that life on earth was designed by an intelligent designer, it seems reasonable to ponder what is mean by "intelligent." The exquisite structure of the eye is usually mentioned as being so complex as to require an intelligent agent. Birds, fish, insects and mollusks all have more or less complex eyes or light sensitive areas.  Some species are born with eyes and lose them as they develop because they don't need them where they live.
   Our eyes work a lot like those of most vertebrates, including fish, and we bear and raise our young in similar ways to many of them. We like most animals and plants are divided into those that produce eggs and those that produce sperm (pollen). We fertilize our eggs like them, like, "the birds and the bees." One wonders why we are so sensitive about our animal kinship? We don't seem to recognize any kinship with plants and fungi etc.
   No one denies that  there is competition, or that there is a struggle for resources in "the jungle out there," or that there is competition for sexual partners.  In animal species where the male has a penis it is inserted straightforwardly into a receptive female where fertilization takes place.
   With Dragonflies, which have survived for hundreds of millions of years, their reproductive system involves "sperm competition," in which the male first removes any sperm already in the female from previous copulations. The penis of the male is shaped (designed) to facilitate removing the sperm of its predecessors.
   It seems easier to imagine this sort of design occurring "naturally" or randomly, like all the extravagant, weird secondary sex characteristics and mating displays one sees among birds, seals and baboons, it is hard to imagine an intelligent mind or agent planning these things.

Good To Eat!
   The "Head Fish," also known as the "Angler Fish," is an exceedingly ugly, monstrous looking fish, which is sold commercially under the yet another name, the Monk Fish. Usually it is 2-3 feet long and is just a head with dreadful looking long teeth,  soft spines and small fins. There is a  kind of fishing pole like growth on its head, which in the deep water variety, contain light emitting bacteria. It lies motionless on the ocean floor until a fish, sometimes fish much bigger than it, is attracted to the lure, or the light and swims close to the huge spike tooth jaws. Because of it's nightmarish appearance  and tooth filled mouth, fishermen who pull them from the depths call them "net devils."
   These fish are also known as "poor man's lobster" and are delicious to eat when served filleted. Males are small, 4-5 inches, and some are said to be attracted to the bacterial light on the female's head. It is not easy for a male to find a female in the inky blackness at the bottom of the deep ocean so when a deep sea male finds a female he uses his specially designed teeth to dig into the her body and chew his way inside her where he spends the rest of his life absorbing her blood and fertilizing the eggs she produces by the millions. In shallower water, where there is light to find a female the relationship is less, shall we say, close.
   In the depths, he lives in her and off her, almost as if he were a parasite. She is sexually transformed into a post ovum hermaphrodite. From the minute he bites his way into her, he changes,  his body degenerates. His eyes, no longer needed, grow smaller before disappearing altogether. His body fuses with hers.
   The design works well, and is therefore "fit," the criteria for survival and success in nature. But the design seems slap dash, make-do, crude, hardly elegant when compared with, say, with an iPod. Just what kind of "intelligent agent" would produce such creatures? Could one infer a God of Justice? A heavenly Father who art in heaven? Is this what the Southern Baptist Evangelicals want to teach their children and everyone's children? Or would they prefer that their children and everyone's children not learn anything that conflicts with their peculiar beliefs?

Parasitic Wasps
   The female wasps is a dedicated, robot like mother. When she is  ready to lay her egg, she seeks out a spider, grub,  or bug and injects a paralyzing toxin through her hypodermic needle like ovipositor, very precisely into her victim, paralyzing, but not killing it. She excavates a tiny tomb and buries her prey with her egg. She seals the tomb. When her egg hatches it feeds on the still living victim. When the food is consumed the larva spins a silk covering and becomes a kind of little mummy. In it's silken sarcophagus it slowly changes into an adult wasp, sheds its funereal wrappings, emerges from the tomb and flies away like an angel. This goes on over and over again for millions of years.
   The design in this case works well but seems cruel and theatrically spooky.

Twisted Parasites
   The
21 January 2004 issue of Science reports on a strange group of insects called twisted wing parasites.  There are 596 species of these insects identified so far but only from adult males who are caught only during the brief time they emerge from their insect hosts to find a female. Males and females are quite different. Males are the size of small flies. The females are unsightly worm like grubs and remain inside their insect hosts until they are ready to poke a body part out of their victim and receive sperm from the male.
   Reproducing under such circumstances seems miraculous but they obviously manage to do it-a specimen has been found fossilized in Cretaceous (Age of Dinosaurs) amber, at lease 65 million years old. Like the AIDS virus, their presence does not provoke an immune response in their hosts. They parasitize 34 families of insects across 7 of the 32 orders. They have the smallest genome of any animal yet observed.
   These insects may benefit mankind by controlling insect pests that live on coffee, rice and palm oil crops and those unwelcome newcomers to the US-fire ants. You can read of creatures like this just about every week in issued of the journals Science and Nature.

Fondness For Beetles
   There are over 350,000 named species of beetles, the largest order in the animal kingdom. In the
US and Canada there are over 24,000 species. There are also thousands of species of fungi that parasitize beetles.
   When JBS Haldane, the great 19th Century biologist and theoretician was asked what his studies of nature led him to conclude about the Creator, he answered, "The Creator had an inordinate fondness for beetles."
   Most beetles are scavengers, herbivores or predators but some live  parasitic lifestyles. Perhaps "impostor" is a better name than parasite. They mimic the appearance of ants or termite evade the security of insect colonies where they feed off their food and devour helpless larvae the way criminals rob banks and burglarize houses in human society. What might one conclude the "intelligent agent" had in mind here? Might one conclude that the crime ridden slum ghetto of our cities are really part of the natural world? That it legitimizes human criminal activity? The ancient Greeks believed their Gods deliberately tortured humans as wanton boys torture flies for amusement
   Interesting designs? Yes! Successful designs? Yes! But-intelligent?

Sour Grapes
   The promoters of "Biblical Six Day Creationism" and "Intelligent Design" seem to focus their discontent and hostility  on "Darwinism" as if that "theory"  hadn't changed in 148 years. For reasons that are unclear, they seem horrified at the thought of kinship with and the thought of evolving from animals, particularly apes.
   If they knew more about nature and science they might be offended much more by other concepts, such as the evolution of matter, the formation of elements, the ones that make up our bodies, by nucleosynthesis in the fires inside stars, and  the natural formation of heavy elements like uranium, only during supernova explosions which occur only every few billion years or so, here and there, in very large stars, much larger than our sun, which is a second generation star, a sun made of suns past.
   If they understood more about biology they would surely be horrified by the scientific consensus on endosymbiosis which is that all life is one, from  the black sludge that forms in the drain of your sink, to whales in the sea and birds of paradise in the jungle, not to mention all the extinct monstrous animals that ever lived, and that all multi cellular animals, including us, are composed of cells which evolved from free living bacteria that learned somehow to live together as a complex unit and that these strange little colonies strangely formed into all the living things that exist and ever existed.
   Why would a designer bother?

How To Honor A Creator
   This radical transformation, from simple bacteria to bacteria with a little colony inside its walls is probably the best place to imagine a Creator, intelligent or otherwise, except perhaps, for the "Big Bang," the beginning of everything, according to that theory and also a theory hard to test.
   But humans, being what they are, and thinking as they do, as soon as you mention the beginning of everything, someone will immediately ask what was there before that beginning. If you say that God created the universe and just let it go on its own, the deist position of our founding fathers,  you posit a detached, deadbeat kind of god who doesn't get involved. If one maintains  that everything was planned and has a purpose and the creator and designer of the universe knows about and cares for John and Jane Doe, and Mr. and Mrs. Anglerfish, you have a hard time maintaining that position when you study the natural world. (You also have a hard time maintaining that position when you study history!)
   One can live a full and meaningful life in the mental bubble of the Semitic bible and its offshoots, which have all, survived and prospered. The world view of the primitive tribal people who created  the bible is a world where the sky is an inverted bowl over a pancake earth and no one saw or suspected the bacterial world in them and on them, or knew of the existence of the
Americas and its peoples. They didn't know of sea floor spreading or mountain building. They didn't know the mechanisms of rainfall or droughts or the icy worlds of the poles or what caused earthquakes. Were the seven lean years  and the seven fat years a hint of ancient El Ni–os? Or bloody rainfall volcanic ash?
   Viewed from today, that life seems limited like Mr. and Mrs. Anglerfish living their designed lives together at the bottom of the deep, dark ocean locked in an eternal copulation until death takes them both perhaps to a fish market near you. Such a lifelong sexual embrace would be a fitting reincarnation, if reincarnation were possible, for Muslim suicide bombers murdering ordinary people on a corner in
Baghdad, seeking the promise of extended, heavenly orgasms in his afterlife with houries. (Please forgive the digression).

A Diabolic God
   Invoking a supernatural designer for life on earth as a means of affirming belief in an all powerful God who designed and created everything in the universe is a presumption of ignorant frightened people whose intention is not to honor a creator, but overpower and enslave free thought and expression. They express by their revulsion of nature and all non sanctified sex the ancient heresy that the natural world is evil and we are too and we all deserve to be punished for living. They look forward with uncertain joy and hope for the destruction of the world and they now have their hands on the weapons to accomplish their desire.
 

 

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