Sunday, November 06, 2005

Freethinker Sunday Sermonette: Malevolent Design

Sunday, the end of an especially difficult week.

This week also saw closing arguments in the Scopes II trial (officially Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover), a suit by 11 parents challenging the Dover, PA school board over a requirement that 9th grade biology students be read a four-paragraph statement saying there are "gaps" in the theory of evolution and holding up "Intelligent Design" as a plausible alternative to consider (NYT, Nov. 5, 2005, p. A20). The rhetorical basis for Intelligent Design is the analogy of a complex timepiece whose existence implies a designer--an intelligent designer. This is advanced as a scientific proposition, not a religious one. Proponents of ID disingenuously do not claim to say the designer is god. Then who? Martha Stewart?

But what's the principle behind the analogy? Looking at the world around me, I see widespread destruction of life in "Acts of God," unbelievable acts of cruelty, widespread hardship and the suffering of innocent people, pitiless oppression by the greedy and powerful, disease, . . . and need I go on? If I entertain the notion of a supernatural force with any power over material things, I would be forced to become an adherent of Malevolent Design, the idea that there is some evil intelligence behind all these terrible things. That seems to me as an equally plausible alternative as Intelligent Design. I wonder if the Dover school board should require a statement to that effect to be read to their 9th grade civics students.

As I said, this has been a difficult week. Without going into details, someone very dear to me suffered a grievous loss with extraordinarily cruel consequences. If, for even a nanosecond, I entertained the idea there was a supernatural force with any control over this, he/she/they/it would be the object of a white hot hate from me. As it is, I don't have that therapeutic option. There is no god for me to loathe. There is only a terrible sadness for this brutal misfortune.