Kundalini Splendor

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Friday, December 01, 2006

Intelligent Design vs. Chance 

This reflection might be subtitled: A Musing on the Imponderables.

Teilhard de Chardin (the French priest/mystic/philosopher) asserted that we are in an evolutionary process of expanding intelligence, which will lead us ultimately to the "Omega Point" where the divine and the human will merge. Others have spoken of the "Divinization of Matter" as humans draw nearer to a "godlike" state of consciousness.

Currently, a debate is going on between certain religious groups and certain scientists as to whether the universe indeed displays features of an "intelligent design" or whether it was created by and evolves according to mere chance. This topic tends to reveal some biases on both sides when it comes up for discussion, the academics and intellectuals opting for chance, and the religious folk for the opposite.

I watched an interesting documentary last night on this subject and learned a great deal. First of all, the basic theory of "intelligent design" relies on very convincing scientific evidence. The conditions essential for life itself to appear on earth are so specific that only if they are met within strict boundaries, could life arise at all. The odds against this happening by chance are staggering--something like one in a trillion trillion.

Then (and here the going gets tricky for a non-scientist like me), basic features of life itself could not (according to the presentation) have arisen through a blind "selection of the fittest" (Darwinian evolution.) Some aspects of life could not have merely "evolved." Rather, they had to appear all at the same time.

This essential feature is called "irreducible complexity." This term is used when all the components of a functioning element must be present for any of it to work. (I have heard of similar arguments before--thus it would not help for a bird to evolve one wing--it must have two to fly.)

Perhaps the most compelling example was that of (what I thought they called) the bacterium flagellum--a strange infinitely small "thing" which is constructed exactly like a wee machine with mutually co-dependent parts and which is essential to the life process. This curious "living mechanism" requires 48 proteins to work. These cannot arise in such simultaneity through spontaneous processes.

Hence the initial part of the theory rests on basic scientific observation, rather than religious faith.

The second part of the theory is perhaps more arguable. The presenters reason that anything that is made must have a maker. Hence the universe must have been created by an overreaching intelligence, who designed with deliberate intent and purpose. And they then go further to posit certain characteristics of that original creator.

Would science be more likely to accept the underlying premise for this theory under some other name--such as "not by chance" since the odds against chance are so strong? They then could choose not to comment on the implications, leaving that to the metaphysicians in our midst, or to individual observers. In any event,it seems that Darwin alone does not fully account for the emergence and progress of life on earth.

Personally, I do not think that we can ever think our way to truth about our universe and how it was created or operates. I think we can make progressive discoveries, which lead us ever closer, but never reveal to us the full narrative. We can, however, experience the universe in various ways. When we "open" we know that we ourselves are a minute particle in this vast web, and we can feel the creative energies stir in our bodies. These, I am convinced,flow from the very source of all existence, and offer us glimpses of the ultimate. They reveal our connection to the vast imponderable from which we come. The imponderable is named Love.

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