Intelligent Design

I think it's time I let my vast intellect traverse the concept of Intelligent Design. What is intelligent Design you might ask - it is remarkably simple.

The universe, being the way it is, defines certain laws of physics (not the other way around, and it does not "obey" laws of physics. The universe is the way things are, physics is the approximation of it on paper). Now, one of the aspects of this universe is the existence of something called "life".

Evolution theory proposes that life perpetuates through a process called natural selection. This basically means that things that have a low survival rate will die, and species with a low survival rate die out. It also means that adaptations in species that lead to a higher survival rate will do better than species without this adaptation. Long story short, it says that there is something called evolution - the static property (not guiding principle) of living things when seen as species (not individuals) that these species change, through environmental adaptation, into other species over time.

This is a fantastic, and pretty plausible theory. But, it has a problem. It suffers from the "life begets life" issue - it doesn't in any way explain what happened to cause "life" in the first place. The question of "what is life then?" aside, it cannot explain how inert matter at some point became living matter.

Enter Intelligent Design. This philosophy proposes that "life" is too complex to have occured by anything the universe simply does, but states that because it is too complex (the question of what is "too complex" when regarding an entire universe aside) it has to have been invented by some greater conscious intellect instead.

This is still a valid philosophical thought. Evolution theory does not cover the area intelligent design covers, so they're entirely compatible. The problem arises when people start to use a philosophy as a justifcation for beliefs:

Intelligent design in no way "confirms" the existence of any god - it is a "possible hypothesis" philosophy. It is entirely possible that a greater intellect created life, but it remains just that. A possibility.

Evolution theory proposes an explanation for the progression of life through species, but does not explain how what allows us to desribe it in the first place, came to be.
Similarly, Intelligent Design covers (only) the initiation of life, but does not explain how what allows us to describe it came to be in the first place.

The theories are non-overlapping and equally flawed. However, of the two, evolution theory is the most "apparent", since there is a lot of evidence (ignoring the induction problem) to support its claim, while Intelligent Design has a much larger problem.

What is the greater consciousness that Intelligent design proposes to exist? Christians will claim it is God, Muslims will claim it is Allah, Hindi will claim it actually a traidl of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The list goes on, until we run out of distinct religions. And this is a problem - Intelligent Design is just a thought, that is compatible with religion, but says nothing about its validity in any way.

Basically, this is a line of thought that will go down in the history books as something that was entertained for a while but in the end proved to be nothing more than an incomplete philosophilca proposition. It will lead to some insights (though it is hard to envisage which), and will lead to a few crazy near-cult phenomenon, such as what happened when people turned evolution theory into the eugenics movement. But in the end when all is said and done, Evolution theory will remain a reasonably provable thing, while Intelligent design is nothing more than a premise and a solution to a non-existent problem.

The really interesting things happen when you start to look closer, as you should if you want to even seriously think about these two things. Evolution theory does not make any claims other than that we are observing a property of species, and we call this property evolution. Why this property exists is frankly a mystery - unless someone set it up this way, there simply is no why. However, this absence of a why doesn't pose a problem in the slightest, the propety is still very much there. On the other hand, Intelligent design claims that life is too complex to have come about on its own. But what is "too complex"? The only real answer is "something that the human mind cannot fathom" and this is a key issue. "Life" is, for many, not something that can be described in words. This inability means that instead to describe life, a lot of examples need to be cited, and a lot of things are listed as being signs of life, or not. This creates an insanely large volume of things that all need to be the case for there to be life, and results in a very complex mental image. Far too complex for us to even reach a conclusion on what life is, so it is too complex.

Except if you take out the human factor, complexity does not exist. And at the beginning, regardless of which faith you follow, even if you follow none and are a hardcore skeptic, there was a time when there were no humans. If there was something else there, to create life, then it would be very hard to call this thing, person, being, or consciousness "not alive". The Intelligent Design solution suffers from the same problem most faiths suffer from when it tries to explain the beginning of everything - it "passes the buck" in that it shifts the problem from the beginning of material life, to "well then how did the greater consciousness come into being"?

which is an even harder question to answer and requires far more insane solutions than intelligent design is offering for the start of life problem.

Don't get me wrong, I don't oppose intelligent design in the slightest, as long as people understand what it is. It's merely a possible answer to the question "so what started life", that in no way interferes with any existing scientific premise to date. But it is itself not scientific in any way, merely a philosophical answer. The kind that you write down just because you want to be complete:

Given evolution theory, a recursive theory, and working backwards in time, what happened at step 0?

- a chemical reaction lead to molecular self replication and this, over the course of a few hundred million years, lead to prokaryote organisms
- something conscious intentionally created the whole life supporting system we are familiar with and placed it on our planet
- life is a purely human concept and what we call life is actually very simple to describe and is not related to any form of transition from inert to living matter.

I pesonally like the third option best, because there are ways to actually describe "life" as just as objective a property as evolution or rain. Complex, most certainly, but hardly mysterious in any way.


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