Friday, May 13, 2005

Who designed the designer?
To many casual observers, one of the more puzzling aspects of Intelligent Design (ID) is the insistence of its promoters that it is not creationism and that it is not necessarily religious. Somebody at some time did something to start life and tell it what direction to go, but it wasn't necessarily God. Why the coyness? When the less disciplined supporters get to the mike they usually let slip that God and creationism is exactly what they want to have taught in the schools.

Though the ID crowd are working on a long-term plan to dismantle the wall of separation between church and state, they know they can't accomplish it in one leap. In 1999, the primary producer of ID materials, the Discovery Institute in Seattle, let slip a planning document on their "Wedge Strategy." The document put forth five-year and twenty-year goals for replacing the scientific method with religion (they are behind schedule). Their current object is to have ID accepted as an equal to real science. Only later will they replace science.

While other branches of the Dominionist movement work to get their judges in place, the ID movement needs to work around the judges who are in office today. The First Amendment forbids the establishment of a state religion. This is currently interpreted by the courts to mean any support of one religion over the others is off limits. The tax exemption for churches gives an equal advantage to all religions, so it slips over the wall.

If the ID promoters concede that the designer is a god, the next question must be which god? They do not want to answer that question. That puts them in the position of endorsing a specific religion. As soon as they do that, any public school that teaches ID will be, in effect, proselytizing that religion. And that is forbidden. Their first line of defense is that the designer could be a god or could be someone else. If forced to admit that the designer has to be a god, their second line of defense is that it could be any god, not necessarily the vengeful, fundamentalist Protestant one.

How can they be "forced to admit that the designer has to be a god?" Simple. Where did the designer come from? ID denies the possibility of a being that is spontaneously created and evolved without intelligent design and direction. If the designer is not a god, then who designed the designer? Who designed that designer? Who designed the designer before that? Any non-eternal being has to start somewhere. "Elephants all the way down" is not a scientific answer. Sooner or later you must have a creator. Only an eternal being can be uncreated. A being that is eternal and uncreated is, by definition, a god.

Once their first line of defense is gone and they have to admit that life, the universe, and everything were created by a god or gods, it's hard for the ID proponents to avoid the question of which god(s) did the designing. At this point they risk losing their fellow travelers.

The strongest argument that ID has is the fairness argument. They misrepresent modern biology as being a controversial science inside which there is a great deal of disagreement over fundamental principles. They portray themselves as representing just one side in this honest scientific debate. It's only fair to teach both sides to kids and let them make up their own minds. This is the same tactic that Holocaust deniers and climate change skeptics depend on.

Fair-minded parents will have trouble believing that ID is part to a legitimate scientific controversy when the terms of that controversy are reduced to the influence of the designer on the early universe. Was the beginning the divine light shattering the sacred vessels and cascading into the lowest realms, was it Raven stealing the sun from the underworld, was it Prometheus capturing a spark from the flaming wheels of Apollo's chariot, or was it the singular, lonely God murmuring "let there be light?" This not science; this is comparative mythology. This is religion.

Intelligent Design is religion. Specifically, it is fundamentalist Protestant creationism, nothing less and certainly nothing more. You can put lipstick on a pig and take her to the prom, but she's still a pig. You can dress creationism up in scientific jargon and hide it behind uncertainty about the identity of the designer, but it's still a religion. It's that simple.

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