Sunday, July 03, 2005

Mindless Design It Surely Ain't

"I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727)

Amit links to Salman Rushdie who's taken up the cudgels on behalf of the godless everywhere -- astonishingly to defend science of all things!! (Or is this a publicity stunt ahead of the upcoming release of Shalimar the Clown? Nah, he can't be that cynical!!)

Mr. Rushdie, himself an atheist, is particularly incensed about the idea of intelligent design contending with the theory of evolution through natural selection in American schools. He writes: Intelligent design, an idea designed backward so as to force the antique idea of a Creator upon the beauty of creation, is so thoroughly rooted in pseudoscience, so full of false logic, so easy to attack that a little rudeness seems called for.

Oh, yeah? The stridency of the intelligence design fundamentalists may be off-putting, and perhaps even naive, but at heart has a kernel of wisdom which we dare not discard. Nature's majesty may owe itself to the ho hum trial and error of natural selection -- this we readily accept -- but this scarcely diminishes the idea of a greater power behind it all. Indeed, we'd argue, it's more likely than not that there's a method to nature's madness -- albeit largely inaccessible to us given our narrow ability to fathom our infinite universe.

Merely because we cannot observe the higher power in manifest and measurable ways implies precisely nothing. A great deal of modern science -- including string theory -- are beyond our ability to validate by direct experiment. The issue then is whether such notions are plausible and, if so, do they explain our world cogently.

Godel showed that all internally consistent logical systems are inherently incomplete. This is to say, there are always propositions that can neither be proved nor disproved using the logic of the system. If modern science is one such system, then surely there are unfathomable realities beyond science. What is to say god doesn't reside in that scientifically unreachable space? If Mr. Rushdie had even an ounce of Mr. Newton's humility, perhaps he'd be willing to consider the plausibility of this proposition.

Indeed, the yearning to reach the unfathomable, even with our primitive tools, is stunningly universal. Human observation may be limited, our logic incomplete, and our language stunted but human imagination of god is always, always poetry. Is this by mindless accident? And, while nature no doubt proceeds via trial and error, how is this a negation of design? For comparison, consider constitutional states like India and America that have an over-arching design shepherding their daily ritual of democratic trial and error. In America, the founding fathers even explicitly made clear their hope that the nation will constantly strive for a more perfect union. Because the Indian and American experiments are constantly evolving, do they then --ipso facto -- lack intelligent design?

We respect the atheist perspective ( a courtesy Mr. Rushdie purposefully denies us faithful) and oppose radical replacement of natural selection with intelligent design in schools, but are somewhat offended (and amused) that the godless Mr. Rushdie has taken upon himself to defend science against those with faith -- in the process, recklessly dismissing faith as an antique idea? He may be angry (for good reason) at fundamentalists on the edges of faith's realm, but his rage strikes (perhaps deliberately) even at those in faith's mainstream. Many of us are very comfortable with our personal understanding of god and our dexterity in science. We can ably defend science without the help of Mr. Rushdie's fundamentalist atheism.

P.S. This blogger, a long-time fan of Mr. Rushdie, will not purchase his new book. That's what he thinks of Mr. Rushdie's pathetic publicity stunt.


Abe said...

It is the constant search for and teaching of the "Creator" which are troublesome to Athiests. If religious pragmatics agree that God is largely inexplicable - then stop teaching God to everyone.

Having said that, Rushdie's insistence that a Creator does not exist is nescience personified because it proceeds to make the same arguement that they argue against.

For this reason, Agnosticism is superior to Atheism in my belief.

doubtinggaurav said...

What's wrong with epicurism???



Primary Red said...

not very much at all!!


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