Saturday, October 29, 2005

Intelligent Design

Currently in New Scientist, there are articles illuminating the currently raging battle in the USA about whether to teach children Darwin or Creationism (read: Christianity).

My reaction is: Those are the options? We are either naked apes or created things?

Having thus offended everybody, let me present some thoughts.
How about we:
*Are eternal beings, and are co-creators of the universe.
*Have infinite potential.
*Rule ourselves, but not each other.
*Are meat creatures, but only by choice, and the choice could be anything.
*Answer only to ourselves.

We don't know much yet. I know I am certainly confused. But maybe we are part in a game as old as time, and maybe at the same time the game is just getting started.

Note: this post has some very thoughtful comments, do read them.


Dragonsbane said...

Looking at the world today, I don't see much evidence of many people ruling themselves an iota. I do see an awful lot of people trying to rule others though.

Wonko outside the asylum said...

Can't argue with you there dragonsbane.

Whilst I'm a great fan of science, I have my spiritual moments, and I don't necessarily see a conflict between the two. Labels such as 'supernatural' or 'paranormal' or even 'supernatural' tend to be applied to things that science, as yet, cannot or will not explain to most people's satisfaction. So, all that means is that we don't understand what's going on and how it works yet. Well that just about sums up the whole of Human history to me! ;o) []

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Indeed, Wonko.

In fact, in the last couple of decades, the cutting edge of science is sounding more and more spiritual. In that they increasing state that our mind is influencing the universe, and may even be creating it.

Jeroen Stout said...

Yes, we are nothing but naked relatives-of-apes and that's the greatest charm of life.

I am quite opposed to mysticism, trying to create something special out of something ordinary. My largest problem with it is that people just can't stand the world and need to put a layer that, without much variance, has something to do with 'science does not understand it yet' and generally either focusses on a or more gods and often nature or something else in that direction. Largest argument for it is that I can't disprove it, but one of the laws of 'proving' is that you can't disprove *anything*, which shows how the largest argument for it is kind-of twisted.
Someone can't believe they have cancer, they turn to some magic rite. Someone can't stand the fact that they are nothing but an ordinary lifeform which will die one day, they turn to some religion which says that people have eternal souls.

My point being, a lot of people can't believe the world. They can't stand that beauty is a state-of-mind and something not at all magical, nor that love is just a bunch of reactions. Science is a process of explaining the world in rules, making sense out of everything. But some people can't believe things are simple, make sense. They need something paranormal for the world to make sense. This is not sciences fault. If everybody understood science it'd mean science was not doing its job well, science has to to strife forward, keeping people in constant disbelief over what they find.

I don't walk around saying everything is discovered - but I do walk around noting that the entire world is just a process and nothing magical is needed to run it. Do I know that to be true? No. But so far there is no evidence to the contrary, no evidence which is grounded.

I just am a evolutionary process, looking out on the world and seeing it on inside of my head. If I see a pretty girl in the train she is pretty inside my head, nothing magical in the world about her being pretty, in the real world there is nothing like 'prettiness'. After all, prettiness was just evolved into me.

And the thought of pure randomness in the world at one end does annoy me - no purpose, people seem blind to the truth. But at the other, I know the world is not the way I see it. And that there is no higher purpose, there is no truth and even the reason I'm writing this is because I want to myself, and that is most pleasing. It means I am free. More free as the freedom mystic people claim some god gave them.

Pleasant, is it not?

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I don't think that spirituality necessarily means that we are at the whim of a god or gods. That is religion.
The basic difference is that I believe we create the universe, not vice versa.
And this is a very old idea, and very widespread.

Sure, most of us don't look like the king of the universe. But maybe there are reasons for that, maybe it is all a process.

Zeppellina said...

There is a big difference between organised religion, and spirituality.
Completely different concepts.
Science is indeed a wonderful thing which is integral, part of our everyday thinking, our curious-minded make-up as human beings, and the key by which we quite rightly describe and understand our life.
However, religion is a dogma. Science, unfortunately, can also be a replacement dogma.
Spirituality, or perhaps,as you say, mysticism, is something else.
I agree, there are many things which come under the banner of mysticism which are not yet explained by science, therefore, somewhat nebulous.
Yes, everyone needs some candy-coated layer to explain the one life which we all have, (I personally do not believe in either heaven or hell, and I am not part of any organised religion....religion , for me anyway, IS the opiate of the masses),
.. however, I find that I have found a few things within my own personal experience which I know do not fit into carefully constructed boundaries.
So what?!!..everyone, their auntie, and their neighbours` dog, have stories of unexplained things.
But it goes a bit deeper than tabloid tittle-tattle.
This is a big universe. Much bigger and far more interesting than we are capable of either understanding or grasping right now.
We are infants. Our science is in it`s infancy.
I worry that you confuse the word `mystic` with the word `religious`.
They are different.
You know, some of us would argue that the religious people are tied up (I just wish they were gagged too!), and people of pure science are on the path, but caught up so deeply in the woods that they no longer smell the scent of the leaves.
Some of us live our lifes by science, but also feel that there are things which go much deeper than science can explain.
Yes, than science can presently explain.
Again, Wonko, I agree with you here!

And Eolake, I did say to you that I might not be able to comment on the `gawd` thing!
(Bet you wish I hadn`t started now.!)
I was apprehensive about your comments that we were perhaps creating the universe.

I`m not sure what you mean about `co-creators of the universe`, as the universe has been around a long time before humanity as a species...
are we talking old souls?
However, I have thought about this post a lot, and if humanity has already competely changed this wee planet, and is now reaching out into the universe around us, then of course, we are already changing it too!

This universe is a game as old as time, and at the same time, the game is just getting started.

Seriously good post Eolake!!!

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

"I`m not sure what you mean about `co-creators of the universe`, as the universe has been around a long time before humanity as a species...
are we talking old souls?"

Yes, something like that.
I think a person is a spiritual entity which is eternal and created and still creates the universe. For what purpose is of course one of the ultimate questions.
Like a person playing a video game and forgetting all around him, the spirit can get so immersed in the universe and body games that he forgets he made them himself.

Anonymous said...

Boy oh boy did you ever start a big one.

It seems to me and many others that the root cause of any problem in this realm is the unwarranted and highly misleading conviction that we are separate from the universe, and, indeed, that we are separate from anything at all -- God, for example. Saying that we create the universe, for example, makes it seem like we somehow reach out and bring the stars into being, without knowing quite how we do that, or even that we have done it. Of course, we grow our bodies, and beat our hearts, and cause nerve impulses to travel around and all that stuff without knowing quite how we do that, either.

It leads to questions like "How did we create galaxies and stuff long before we ever appeared on this planet, or before this planet was around to appear on?" A similar problem also arises when you start talking about God creating things. It supports the common picture that God sits up there someplace entirely separate from everything else and runs the place like a puppet master. It also supports the picture that God is some kind of super-being, an individual like we think we are, with an ego and needs, who wants more than S/He already has, etc. I think there’s more than a little truth in the idea that we created God in our own image.

How could God ever need or be in want of anything at all?

The universe creates us every bit as much as we create the universe. We are completely inseparable from the Universe in all respects, and no more separate from it than our left hand is from our right hand, or our thumb from our fingers. The universe grows us the way a tree grows branches and apples. Our buildings, roads and cities are every bit as much a natural product as bird nests, animal paths, and ant hills. When we look at the Universe we look only at ourselves. In the wonderful words of Teilhard, “The eye with which I look at God is the same eye with which God looks at me.”

We cannot rule ourselves. That is trying to get the eye to rule the stomach, the right hand to rule the left hand. If we are not separate from the Universe, no more are we split into separate beings within ourselves. There are not two or more of us when we stand alone. But we do indeed seem to have a part of us which seems to talk to other parts of us. I stress the “seems”. It’s a lot like the pretend friend I had when I was a child, who seemed real enough, for awhile. We carried on conversations, played together and everything.
Nevertheless there is an everyday apparently autonomous person living in our skin. However, you notice that you are not your actions, because you can observe your actions; and not your thoughts, because you can observe your thoughts; and not anything you can see, because you can observe the things seen; and so-on. But also you cannot find a hearer of those things which you hear, nor a thinker of those thoughts, nor a seer of things seen. There is just thinking, and just seeing, and just hearing. The same is true of all senses and all thoughts. They all just arise. Just arise. Just like there is no “it” which does the raining, in the common phrase “It is raining.” There’s just raining.

4Because of our complete continuousness with the universe, the reason we see intelligent design in it is because we are intelligent. More accurately, because we are intelligence. We see evolution because we are evolution. Like intelligence, it is our own thought that we see, as a child of the universe. There is no separation between “in here” and “out there”. What we see is completely self-defined, and our definitions come ultimately from and with the universe, not separate from them. If we see intelligence in the universe, it is our intelligence that we’re looking at. If we see blind determinism, it is our own blind determinism that we see. We ourselves bring these things into the Universe. It’s not like “intelligent design” is some thing that some separate being put out there and waited for us to discover it.

And why is it so hard for us to think that there is no purpose? Only because we decide so. There is both purpose and purposelessness in the Universe – because we put them there. And we put them there because the Universe put them into us by growing us as it did. If there is infinite potential in us, it’s because there is infinite potential in the universe. And vice versa. It’s all one.

Regards -

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

"How did we create galaxies and stuff long before we ever appeared on this planet, or before this planet was around to appear on?"

Homo sapiens is just our latest aspect. We are far older than the galaxies.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,
thanks ;-) what you have written is some of the finest thoughts I have read on the matter and I have read quite a lot! While reading your text I came to realise how little I had thought things out myself... and at the same time I have come to much similar conclusions, and had them 'confirmed' by subsequent lecture. One premis that everyone seems to accept is that the matter can be thought through...and if thought is only the tool(a saw), what can a saw ever tell you for sure about the carpenter? or furniture for that matter? and when the saw is silent, what do you hear if you listen?

Anonymous said...

"Homo sapiens is just our latest aspect. We are far older than the galaxies."

No offence, man, but you should stick to taking pictures, and should leave philosophy to other people. What you said makes the Creationists look rational.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

If you don't want to cause offense, don't say anything offensive. :)

You are a bit out of touch, it is a *minority* of the human race which believe that we are just a meat body and have only one life.

Anonymous said...

Homo sapiens is just our latest aspect. We are far older than the galaxies."
...makes perfect sense to me... so what should I stick to
;-)...if thought is creatif, and I believe it is, then truth is at best relatif, as is time and space... and one can be narrow-minded or's just a question of choice...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I'm not out of touch. As Asimov put it, "General consent, of course, proves nothing: There can be a unanimous belief in something that isn't so." The majority of people believing something doesn't make it true. People can of course believe whatever they want, just don't pretend it's rational.

That people do believe in the kind of thing you and others here have been talking about is not news to me, as I'm not in fact out of touch.

The Asimov quote is from his article "Armies of the Night," where he refutes Creationism (my favourite is "The argument from distorted science" where he deals with that old standby of Creationists, the Second Law of Thermodynamics), but it works here too.

The article is not the last word on the subject, but Asimov did have a knack for simplifying ideas for the "bonehead mass audience" (George Costanza's words, or I guess probably Larry David's). If anyone's interested, it can be found here:

Or just search for "Armies of the Night."

I don't suggest people blindly accept as correct what Asimov says, but should check things out for themselves. It could take a bit of work, though, because as he says, "science is complex and chilling," and therefore it's not surprising people would prefer religion or "spirituality."

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

If you can quote George Costanza, I can quote Lucille Bluth: "I knew you'd throw that in my face."

It is true that majority opinion counts for little. But you really should reconsider how rude you are about other people's beliefs, because everything we believe about the universe is just that, beliefs. It is striking that the higher you get in the hierarchy of scientists, the less certain they are of what the maaaaases consider facts.

Even Asimov, who was quite a hard-ass, did not entirely reject spirituality, he once said he would be "very surprised" if ghosts actually turned out to exist, for example.