Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Subtle Design - My alternative theory to Intelligent Design

I'll make no secret of where my sympathies lie. My father was a scientist with (still) very ambivalent feelings towards God and religion. I've had too much of a science and engineering background to believe in superstition.

So I'm surprised to see the resurgence of the creationist argument in the form of Intelligent Design. I've dismissed it as another American religious cult phenomenon. But in recent weeks, the Evolution versus Intelligent Design argument doesn't appear to be "either/or" to me anymore.

To the proponents of literal Creationism first: Let's accept that there is a God. Let's also accept that God created the known Universe. Did He really have to go around creating each and every single creature individually? "Here's a Himalayan Panda. Here's a Golden Pangolin. Here's a Boll Weevil. Here's a Reticulated Python..." A really smart God would probably find a more subtle way to achieve the same result.

All that a Really Subtle GodTM would have to do is create an amoeba and a mutation mechanism that created slightly different offspring in each generation. Natural selection would take care of the rest. Vary the environment slightly, and some of the mutations would find themselves slightly better suited to it than others. They would survive in larger numbers, while less-suited individuals would die out without producing offspring. Over time, the species would evolve. There, I said the e-word. That doesn't sound too blasphemous now, does it? Because God could have created Evolution! Evolution is therefore the mechanism that God thought up to ensure that creatures ended up perfectly adapted to their environment.

I know that Intelligent Design says that evolution is possible, but that God is guiding it and it's not a random process. But what if the process was so ingeniously designed that it needed no guiding? Doesn't that reflect even better on its Creator?

I can see God nudging any onlookers and going, "Hey, look at what I did! All I did was create this little amoeba, see? And I made it capable of changing itself a teeny bit at a time, see? Now you see what happens when I up the temperature a bit? Did you see all those little critters appear all of a sudden? Now watch when I make the place more wet. Did you see that? Did you see that? A whole lot of new ones, swimming in the water! The best part of it is, I didn't have to go around creating each one of them by hand. I didn't even have to do any tweaking to help it along. Would've been too much trouble, anyway. So, am I clever or am I clever?"

I'm quite taken by this theory. In fact, I think God didn't even have to create an amoeba to start with. He might have gone, "OK, here's some amino acids, right? Heaps and heaps of 'em. Watch what happens when they combine. There's billions of pools here, OK? Most of them don't do anything interesting, but watch this pool here. See that thing moving? What d'you reckon it is? It's doing stuff on its own, like it's not just a bunch of chemicals. I think I'll call it Life. Yes, life! Hey, I created Life! Am I a genius or am I a genius?"

Come to think of it, God probably didn't need amino acids either. He could have started with just carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and just watched the fun as He whacked them with lightning. He'd have got the amino acids and then proceeded from there.

We can keep backing this up right up to the Big Bang.

In sum, it's possible to imagine a God right at the start of Creation, and a process that He created that required no further intervention from Him ever again. I think I'll call that Subtle Design. Really Subtle Design.

And so the existence of God is once again just a philosophical question best unanswered. It's just too subtle for Creation to understand. Or creationists.
Post a Comment