Think Again

An old thought for the day from Philip Johnson, from a 1990 essay in Robert Pennock’s anthology Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics – ‘Evolution as Dogma: the Establishment of Naturalism’.

If some powerful conscious being exists outside the natural order, it might use its power to intervene in nature to accomplish some purpose, such as the production of beings having consciousness and free will.

Such as. Such as the production of beings having consciousness and free will – beings like us, I daresay he means. Well, yes, it might. But – is it likely? I mean, seriously. Think about it. Is it likely? At all? Does it seem even remotely plausible? That ‘some powerful conscious being’ (but who? oh, who? who might it be? Rodan? Mighty Mouse?), powerful enough to ‘produce’ perhaps the cosmos and anyway some conscious beings with free will – would create us? I’m serious, here. Why would it create us? Why not something else? And if it is the same powerful conscious being who is suspected (by IDers anyway) of having ‘produced’ the universe, why would it be interested in us? Are we interested in dust? Yes, some of us are, but as a species? Well surely dust is many trillion times more interesting and attractive and likely-looking to us than we could be to Anonymous Powerful Conscious Being Outside the Natural Order. I’m serious. Because that’s the odd thing about ID – they pretend to be all serious, to be grown-up and philosophical and thoughtful. But in that case – the whole thing just seems so glaringly implausible and ridiculous that it falls to pieces. I can sort of see how people can be theists if they just never think about it very hard or directly, but IDers do (in a sense) think about it, in order to do what they do. And if you do that it just frankly seems ludicrous.

And then, besides that, what on earth makes these people so confident about what the being’s purpose is? What makes them so confident that they know what it is, and what makes them so confident that it’s something they want it to be? What can possibly make them so confident that the being produced us because it wanted something that has consciousness and free will? Why not consider the possibility that it wanted something that jumps when you burn it, runs when you send tigers after it, screams when you torture it? Or that it wanted a snack? Or that it wanted a source of methane? Why not consider an infinite array of possibilities, all of them horrible? Why are they so smugly, mindlessly confident that the one possibility out of all the endless branching possibilities is that the being made us in its own ‘image’ and therefore likes us and is concerned about us and hopes we’ll get it together and do well one of these days?

The more I think about this question, the more puzzling I find it.

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