Mysterious Ways

And since you mentioned skepticism – explain something to me. This Intelligent Designer we hear so much about. It’s supposed to answer those questions that atheists and biologists and similar tiresome people can’t answer. But the thing about this Intelligent Designer character is that it raises a hell of a lot of questions that don’t arise if there’s no need to explain the Intelligent Designer. Surely finding the Intelligent Designer a satisfactory answer to questions while finding Designer-free answers unsatisfactory, relies on ignoring a great barnlike stack of questions that trail in the wake of the Intelligent Designer. The most obvious one of course is Okay smartyboots then who designed the Designer? But there are others.

The one that I’ve been pondering today is what did this Designer design humans for?

Amusement? Entertainment? Company? An experiment?

Maybe company. Since the Intelligent Designer is apparently a singular noun, and since monotheism is supposed (by monotheists) to be in some way superior to polytheism – more sophisticated and mature and sort of serious – therefore clearly the Intelligent Designer is solitary. So what does it do when it’s feeling chatty? There’s no other Designer to chat with. So it designs humans?

Doesn’t seem very likely, does it. Would we really be good conversation-companions for a Designer who had the skills, time, energy, and materials to design the universe? Billions of galaxies each with billions of solar systems? I don’t know about you, but I would feel pretty awkward if I got a dinner invitation from the Designer one fine day. ‘Hi, I feel like a good old natter, drop by the house tonight and we’ll talk.’ And the Designer would feel pretty let down if I did. I just don’t think we’d be talking quite on the same level, you know what I mean?

So if that were the reason, why not design something better? Quite a lot better? There would still be plenty of room to design something inferior enough so as not to be afraid of rivals – while having some possibility of some sort of conversation. But with us? Come on. What are we going to do, talk about football or tv with someone who designs galaxies and lice and supernovae and mangoes?

Actually, why not design something better anyway. Even if the reason for designing humans is not in order to have some pals in this big wide empty cosmos. Even if it’s for some other reason, why not something better? I know, the standard answer is free will. But that assumes that the Designer is somehow engrossed in our moral nature, and the truth is, that doesn’t seem very likely either, does it? Why would it be engrossed in that? Why would it be interested at all?

Of course the old idea was that the Designer created us in its image. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense either. In fact, frankly, it doesn’t make any. The Designer – or the deity, we might as well call it, since that’s what fans of the Designer idea really mean by it, except for Anthony Flew – the deity, then, is omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent – we’re told. As with monotheism, that’s supposed to be the sophisticated mature idea of deity: not the silly quarrelsome sexy all-too-human deities of the ancient Greeks or the Hindus, but a philosophical kind of deity that is Perfect. Okay but then we’re nothing like it and it’s nothing like us. So what did it do – design in weakness, limitation, incompetence, lacks of all kinds? Faults, flaws? Why? To see what we’d do? (That’s usually part of the free will defense. The deity wanted to see what we’d do, so it left us free, and told us not to eat this one piece of fruit, and then kicked back to watch.) So it’s an experiment then. Well…why do people find that consoling or satisfactory? One does have to wonder.

The slightly more modern version of the thought is that we’re here to represent Intelligence, or Mind. But the deity already does that – why bother with us? Maybe to see what this exciting stuff, Intelligence, looks like in a lesser entity? But that seems unconvincing. The deity has perfect Intelligence, as much of it as it’s possible to have. We don’t. So – is what we have even the same kind of thing? Isn’t this one of those cases where quantity and quality are mixed up together? The deity has enough Intelligence to design the universe. Jupiter, the Milky Way, earth, atoms, quarks, eyes, mildew. We don’t. Do we really have the same thing the deity has only in a smaller amount? Like soup? The deity has an ocean, we have a quarter-teaspoon?

I wonder if they ever talk about these things at the Discovery Institute. It’s in Seattle somewhere – do you realize I don’t even know where? But if they do talk about them, what on earth do they say? Maybe just the usual guff. The deity is beyond human comprehension, it’s ineffable, we can’t describe it in human terms, we can’t begin to answer such questions, it’s impious to try, blah blah blah. But then – oh well. You see the problem.

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