I must have been 13 when I first read Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not A Christian. I wasn’t a Christian to begin with, and Russell’s compact pamphlet insured that I would never become one (or Muslim or Jewish or Hindu… you get the picture). With minimum fuss, Russell mercilessly destroyed all of the common pseudo-rational arguments for god’s existence.
The first cause argument — everything must have a cause, ergo the First Cause, the immovable mover, aka your friendly creative deity — doesn’t convince computer geeks: recursion without a base case, anyone? The argument from design — no complexity without a designer — plays on the believer’s ego: I/my world am/is complex and special ergo a higher power must have been involved. But as Russell said:
Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan, the Fascisti, and Mr. Winston Churchill? [link]
I suppose these days one could add Mr. Bin Laden to the list. But I digress. My intent was not to rehash Russell’s arguments but to raise a simple question: wasn’t all this nonsense about design laid to rest decades ago? How did the vanquished demon rise again?
The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.
Smacking the word intelligent on to something hardly makes it so. Is this society’s curse? Is each generation doomed to learn the lessons of its parents? What will it take to send the demon away for good? Garlic, beheading, a stake through the heart? Do we need another Russell? Or a Buffy? Or a Flying Spaghetti Monster?