A Different Kind of Intelligent Design

I would like to open a discussion about a different kind of intelligent design than is usually discussed.  I don’t suggest that I have found answers, but I have stumbled across some questions that at least I find to be somewhat interesting.  I would like to entertain the notion that there is, in some way, a flavor of Intelligent Design that has nothing to do with Young Earth Creationism and is not inconsistent with scientific views of the Universe. Like any hypothetical proposal of metaphysics, it would be impossible to scientifically test, but a lot of what we take for granted cannot be proven scientifically (such as axioms about what makes something good or bad). I do not believe nor disbelieve this hypothesis, but I have found that it connects some important dots in a way that western thinkers often do not. The short version of the idea I want to discuss today is: What if our intelligence is just an adaptation to the design of the universe, and some force of nature that is the basis for our adaptation to it influences everything,  and transcends our meager taste of it. If I bring up midi-chlorians you have permission to shoot me, but if that notion helps you get what I am saying, just realize that it is not a perfect fit to my proposal.

First, let’s talk about the difference between what I am talking about and what Young Earth Creationists talk about. The YEC crowd pushes the notion that the Bible historically describes a Supreme Being who is much like us in certain ways of thinking, emoting, and perhaps even with physical hands and feet (he walked through Eden), but whatever the less important details are, this Being Decided to make the Universe and then the Earth, and then everything on it, including Humans with intelligence.  The exquisite harmony of all of these ecosystems and organisms was like a Swiss watch to the gazillionth power, and as it is sometimes colorfully put, “you could put all the parts in a barrel and shake them forever and you would never open that barrel to find a working washing machine.”  In short, something like this could not just be random, it had to be guided, and if you remove the YEC requirement of this happening quickly, this idea that there is too much perfection in this world for it to be random becomes compelling to quite a number of people. It is not without problems, however, as seen by the same folks referring to “mistakes” in nature and people doing natural things “violating nature”, but that should be a different post (one about ignoring contradictions in our own thought processes).

I have a different idea than the ID described above to discuss today.  Let me begin with the second word: design. We use it in at least two distinct ways. In one, it is a noun or verb pertaining to an action.  I design a bench, for example, or I make a design for building a bench, or I carve a design into the bench.  I use my creative power to manipulate an idea of the world or to manipulate the world.  However, there is also a more passive version of the word.  A sand dollar has a distinctive design on the surface, or a rattlesnake or a snowflake all have something about their appearance that is orderly and regular and fits an idea we call a “design”. It is like a pattern on steroids: very intricate and detailed, but unique.  I am not one to generally give too much power to words.  The reason we use one word for both is not an insight, because both words probably began with the assumption of a creative power, and assumptions are not truths by themselves.  However, the kind of design I want to discuss does overlap both of these ideas.

Now the other word: Intelligent.  We have notions of “intelligence” that tend to get narrower and narrower the more we think of it, but this just serves to blind us more and more, at times.  What we recognize as intelligence is often biased by our eagerness to get repeatable results, which are the basis for most scientific thought, and also a very limiting factor in the use of science as a truth generator.  Hence, we measure very high intelligence for the ability to reason in the style of mathematics, and very low for more intuitive or creative, and hence less predictable ad measurable types of intelligence which we may still describe as “genius”. Before someone points out that there are genii that excel at many disciplines, my point is that we do not assign an I.Q. to these other areas of great mental acuity because they do not fit into a scientific framework of provability, objectivity and measurement. We simply change the definitions or labels to exclude them to justify ignoring them in an “intelligence” test.  But surely, if we take an actual assessment of the mental contributions that have been involved in bringing man into civilization from whatever state we believe he was is before, there are many mental faculties at play other than I.Q.  Our culture even has words for those who have very high reasoning skills and yet are socially inept or non-intuitive about the world around them. So, there is something more to our mental ability than deductive logic

So, we have a conflict between those who feel that what looks like it is obviously a work of creative genius thinking that it probably is, and those who feel that what appears obvious can easily be circumstantial or simply assumed from a biased perspective, and even that because the creative influence is not a logical construct, it is opposed to a scientific viewpoint.  To throw them both off, we have a distraction of a very vocal minority stressing a scientifically implausible notion of a physical universe whose only natural laws are at the whim of a magical old man, which is a ready-made straw man argument against any notion of a creative force to the universe.

Thought is still an unsolved puzzle.  One thing we know from attempts to create artificial intelligence is that we really have no solid idea what a solid idea is.  Those who pretend that knowledge is just stored data and intelligence is merely the rules for using that data, including firm rules for how to make new rules, can’t begin to explain what imagination is. We are no closer to coming up with a model for how to come up with a model than before Turing first suggested the Turing Test (Artificial Intelligence occurs when you can’t tell the responses of the computer from the responses of a human).   A typical scientific view of thought is that it is simply a phenomenon that is not yet worked out, and must be based on the same natural laws.  My proposal does not dispute this in principle, except that if we willfully ignore plausible answers, we may never get there.

Now let’s what-if a little on the non-scientific worlds of thought.  We have seen that our notion of Intelligence tends to be biased toward scientific ability, which means that scientific schools of thought are seen as intelligent schools of thought.  Now I would like to delve into more intuitive schools of thought, but just for a taste. On the intuitive side, the repeatable, provable and measurable objectivity of an idea is not always the most telling.  I am not a theological scholar, but I am an occasional student of theology and I have picked up some tidbits.  Let’s start with the belief system that probably made you stumble upon this post in the first place.  I don’t want to jump into the Creationism side, yet. I want to talk some overall notions of God, Religion and Salvation.  In the Christian Scriptures, God is a person, and part of that personage is the avatar of an aspect of God, The Son, who opens a channel to God for those who surrender their thoughts and emotions to his control.  While this sounds far out to the skeptic, and is phrased in terms that may sound blasphemous to Christians,  it is the essence of where I am going with this.  Christians are told that they must die to the self to become one (in communion) with God through Jesus.  The other Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Islam, are not as specific about communion with God, to my knowledge, but submission to His will is still a focus.  Spin the Globe a little and we see Hindu and Hindu-based beliefs that have similarities to the Christian, but from a different angle.  Here, there are many gods, but in a way there are also none.  That is, there is a great Oneness at the core of all things, and separation from it, or the self, is an illusion.  Even the gods have no true self apart from this illusion, and are bound up in the same recurring existence as people and bugs and all other life. The only true release, the only true death, is when the self dies, which can only happen if you get past the illusion.  The Buddha, whose religion spawned from Hinduism, became the Buddha when he was awakened and saw the oneness clearly. Like Jesus, his work was to teach others how to be in communion the one true power of the universe, to die to the self to realize this. Regardless of whether there is a load of problematic baggage associated with these belief systems, some of the things that they all arrive at somehow struck a chord for a lot of people intuitively.  Once we get past those parts that speak to our vain notions of our place in the cosmos, there are some hints of things that would be really hard to describe in plain language, but have seemingly been experienced.  It is possible that these are just common illusions, but if we are scientific about it, it is still data to be analyzed.

There are areas where the scientific community becomes hostile to perfectly scientific modeling – if not perfect, at least as good as accepted modeling – simply because it allows for what is assumed to be Magic.  That is, if an explanation for an observable phenomenon sounds too much like “those nuts” have been saying all along, is must just be a back-door attempt to sneak in something less scientific and must be shut down.  Quantum Mechanics met with a lot of resistance because it stretched notions of cause-and-effect outside of the comfort zone of Newtonian thinking.  Recent news articles about Professors who have made comments supporting the notion that there could be a God affecting the Universe being dismissed or passed over for promotions despite outstanding work in their field speak to this hostility.  Generally, it is assumed that they must be incompetent at science if they are not atheist, even though true scientific thought says that as long as you don’t assert truth in your work that is not supported by experimentation,  opinions don’t change anything. The scientific community has its share of people just as small minded as those they fear.  This is just as dangerous to the advance of science as teaching Young Earth Creationism.  The idea of taboo science is an oxymoron, no matter who sets the taboo.  If there is an observable phenomena, and a hypothesis which is consistent with the observation, then experimentation should not be discouraged for convenience sake, particularly if the argument against it is a lack of experimental data.

This prejudice against anything once labeled as “magic” as beneath science is one reason why research into paranormal observations is quickly dismissed by much of the scientific community without examination.  It is assumed to reflect an unscientific area because it sounds like magic. It is easier to assume that we are at the threshold of revealing the last tidbit of knowledge and anyone that says we may be missing some big, fundamental stuff must be crazy people looking for attention (or stealing OUR attention).  If we can write it off as “believing in magic”, then we don’t have to be distracted from our own little corner of science to bother reviewing it before making a judgment.

So, here is part one of the what-if I would like your thoughts about.  If our Logic and Mathematics and their children Reason and Science are indeed not merely evolved sensibilities, common tricks that create an illusion that we know something, and theoretically something that totally alien beings would also evolve to, then perhaps we did not so much evolve the ability as adapt to something that was already there.  Just as our eyes adapted to use light in a range that was important to survival on this planet, perhaps there is something else about the physical world that we sensed and adapted to, and the more attuned we were, the more our survival enhanced.  Our scientific view tends to assume that this explains why we think up things like religion, as if this means that there is no more truth than saying an opposable thumb is “true”, but if Logic, Mathematics can be truths that we evolved the capacity to sense, perhaps Morality, Good and Evil are as well. Not all of us are good at math, and there is without a doubt math that is so far beyond us that we would not discover it in a million years even if we kept getting better. Math could be something infinite in itself. Likewise, even if Goodness might be something we are only emotively sensitive to, it may still be something as “real” as math.

Part two: Scientific notions like Entanglement theorize that particles in pairs could be bound without distance.  Experiments support the idea that two particles could be entangled in such a way that behavior forced upon one, such as by a magnetic field will instantly be mirrored by the other regardless of the distance.  This has great sci-fi use for Faster Than Light communication, but there are also suggestions that these pairs are everywhere. I could have atoms in my brain that are not only paired with atoms in your brain, but with atoms in fish, and trees, and stars… everything.  It would be plausible that similar structures, such as human brains, would be more influenced by large numbers of pairs inducing similar EM waves, giving rise to groupthink and other phenomena, but over long periods, pull us toward patterns that are literally universal, a Oneness that we are but part of. This would be particularly so if it were not the entagled particles themselves, but the fundamental underlying force that entangles them, and perhaps more.

Part Three: This is the one that is meant to see past the “yeah, but..” of the first two.  When I “decide” to type this post, there are signals in my brain that are used to formulate the idea, and translate my will to input them into impulses in my arms and fingers to react and press keys, with various interactions of feedback from the feel of the keys to my eyes receiving light stimulus that is routed to the same language center to ensure that the process worked.  At no point do any of these parts violate natural, physical laws. The electrical impulses follow applicable laws for transmitting impulses, my muscles react according to nature, the contacts in my keyboard followed the laws of physics, and so on. There is no scientific evidence that anything magic occurred, except that something happened not just because of the nature of the universe but because I decided I wanted it to. There is something about my mind that allows it to make the universe bend in some small way to my will without ever violating the physical laws of the universe. If my “self” is, in part, an illusion, a part of a greater one, then there is no inconsistency between a strictly natural, physical view of the universe, and the existence of an interactive supreme-ish power making deliberate decisions (or even scads of layers of powers), capable of sensitivity to creatures such as man, while leaving absolutely no “supernatural” proof. If you cast off the unnecessary assumption that God is “supernatural”, the objection that any deliberate action must violate natural laws fizzles out as long as you consider that what you do is both deliberate and in bounded by physics.

Conclusion: This is not a scientific, or metaphysical proof that God exists, or even could exist.  The point of this thought experiment is to look beyond the childish tendency to argue over “but that’s not what you said” or “If you were smart you’d believe me” or the worst “It can’t possibly be true because people like you believe it”.  Those of us who like to embrace the scientific view of reality are supposed to know that we are not always right, and that is okay.  Fundamentalists of all religions can be totally unreasonable about conceding any aspect of their belief, but that does not mean that there is not a kernel of truth behind it, or that there is.  An unfounded belief may still be true, particularly if it originated from observed phenomena at some point.  If you have ever heard people make up a single reason for the stock market to go up or down one day, you know that their silly story does not change the way the markets went that day. This is not enough to go on to teach YEC in schools. Bad science is bad science even if it gets lucky, but it is just as bad to assume that because you can describe something without the word “god” in it, that “God” was therefore not a necessary part of what you are describing, just not a necessary part of the description.


About UncleJoe

I'm a middle aged male who has attended a seminary as well as receiving a degree in philosophy from a secular university neither of which would particularly impress you if I said which. I have pondered and puzzled questions of faith and the lack thereof for many years. I don't not claim to be holy, or an expert on everything, simply observant and interested. I'll make bold statements about what I see as the way things are, and you don't have to take my word for it. Call me on it. I am here for the discussion.
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