Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Intelligent Design

In my last post I argued that there *is* intention and intelligence in the universe. If that is true, wouldn’t that make the case for “intelligent design”?

The theory of “intelligent design” is a recent form of an old argument for the existence of God. If there is evidence of intelligence in the universe, says this argument, this is proof enough that its source is an intelligent being.

The theory incorporates a related theory, the Teleological Argument, which argues that if there is design, there must be a designer. If there is evidence of a purpose to life, this is proof that its source is an intelligent being, since there is no purpose without intelligence, and no intelligence without purpose.

These arguments recognize the evidence of intelligence and intention in the universe, and ascribe these to a Supreme Being, supernatural by definition. But both these arguments presuppose that evolution by natural selection is an unintelligent, purposeless process, senseless and aimless, random and without logic. Unfortunately, many evolutionary theorists accept this argument, in what one suspects is a gut reaction against theories of supernatural intervention. Overeager to deny the existence of an intelligent designer, they deny the existence of intelligence and design.

But my argument is that intelligence and intention are quite compatible with the theories of evolution and natural selection. The mainspring of intention is the inbred motivation of all species to persist through time. The intelligence of the universe is embodied in each of them and displayed through the learning and ingenuity of their genetic material.

This understanding breaks down the division in traditional monotheism between the Creator and His creations, and places humanity, intelligence, and intention squarely in the natural world. As the ancient Hindu wisdom states, “Thou art that” (Tat Tvam Asi in the Sanskrit) – you are inseparable from the ultimate reality, you are part of it and it is part of you.

It is possible to make a leap from the assertion that intelligence and intention are built into the universe to saying that the Supreme Being may not have human form, but may be just an amorphous guiding force, composed of the universe and all that’s in it. But how does that differ from the naturalist interpretation, that all there is is there in nature to be witnessed and experienced, and there is nothing supra-natural, nothing that is above and beyond nature?

Is this the meeting point of science and religion?