Tuesday, December 12

Intelligent Design

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Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design is the latest title for a “proof” of religious beliefs. Many people claim that the world around us is so complex that it must have been designed. After all, they say, a jumble of assorted car parts will never spontaneously assemble themselves into a working car. So, the argument goes, the components of our universe must have been assembled by somebody or something, and everything in existence must be the creation of some guiding hand. The assertion that the universe was created rather than it being the product of the forces of nature is unproven. Maybe it was created but there is no convincing evidence. 

The “design” part of this theory cannot be tested. Some people believe it, based on what amounts to hearsay evidence, and that settles it as far as they are concerned. Other people are dubious about the existence of a creator but there is no way to disprove it so they just say “Could be” and move on. The problem with intelligent design is with the first part of the theory, “intelligent”. If the world was indeed created, it came with a lot of built-in mistakes that no engineer would have made.

A prime example is pi, the ratio between the radius of a circle and its circumference and area. No intelligent entity would have given it the value of 3.14159.. and so on to a very great number of decimal places, perhaps to infinity. This has created unending problems with calculations of all sorts. In a world that was truly the product of intelligent design pi would equal exactly 3. No engineer would design pi as an irrational number.

Another indication of a lack of intelligence in the design of the universe is its sheer size. There are billions of galaxies and some of them are billions of light-years away. We do not have any close-up knowledge of any galaxies other than our own, and we may never have that knowledge due to the limitations of the speed of light. What possible kind of intelligence would design all that wonder out there that we can never see except from a very great distance? It is possible that our isolation is part of the design, but that would imply that we were intended to forever have a distant view of worlds we can never reach. That would be cruel and the proponents of intelligent design will not entertain the proposition that that the designer of the universe is vindictive.

We should use Occam’s Razor. Whichever proposition involves the fewest unfounded assumptions is most likely the true one. The assumption that there is some sort of creator “out there” somewhere requires a host of assumptions and raises a lot of unanswerable questions. The assumption that there was something like a Big Bang and then the world unfolded according to known (mostly) physical laws is much simpler and agrees with observations. During the first trillionth of a second or so and anything before that (if that statement has any meaning), our physical laws break down and we know nothing about that area. Everything since then appears to have occurred in an orderly and comprehensible fashion.

People can certainly choose to believe in intelligent design but it serves no purpose. It is simply a way to add unnecessary complexity to a world that is incredibly complex without it. It is just as much a waste of time and energy as searching for the Loch Ness monster or trying to prove the Earth is flat. It can be an interesting speculation but it does not lead anywhere useful.

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