Some friends of mine were recently discussing the origin life and having a tiresome argument on Intelligent Design vs. the Theory of Evolution. It’s not that I don’t care about the topic, but I really don’t like arguing about it or being near people who do. It’s like fate vs. free will, or the chicken and the egg…you can’t prove anything other than perhaps you’re a really big smarty-pants. So I had a few reflections (I’m not arguing…sort of).
I’m not an expert of either ID or TofE, but this is what I think most people of average intelligence (which is me) believe when this debate comes up (I tend to be pragmatic, so forgive me if I reduce this to something too simplistic). At the core of the ID vs. TofE debate is the desire to prove or disprove the existence of God. I think it is fair to suggest, generally speaking, that proponents of ID see it as a means to confirm their belief in God, and adherents of the TofE have a reasonable explanation as to why they believe God does not exist. There are exceptions, of course, but the point is that both sides take great leaps of faith in drawing those conclusions, and both sides go to great lengths to defend their position. If ID was indeed science and could empirically prove a Creator, then there wouldn’t be any problem with ID being included in a public school science curriculum. But it can’t. ID can only suggest and offer logical (at best) suppositions. TofE basically has the same problem on the other side of the argument. It cannot disprove the existence of a creator. It doesn’t even set out to do so. Perhaps it proves that a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation story is scientifically incorrect, but anyone who understands literary intent already knows this. It surprises me that theists are so threatened by the TofE. Scientifically, ID doesn’t prove a creator, and the TofE doesn’t disprove a creator. Both sides want what they hold to be true taught in the public school classroom, which is probably fine, but what we really have is a philosophical or political argument and it should probably be left out of science classrooms.
If it is, indeed, a philosophical debate (philosophy literally meaning “love of knowledge”), then there is a truth issue. Knowledge essentially is the difference between what is considered and what is certain. The subjective nature of knowledge can often fool us into thinking that our beliefs are certainly true. For instance, your friend Stanley states “I, for one, know there is no such thing as a God”. Stanley cannot prove this to be factual by any scientific means, and even though he attempts to reason his way to a conclusion, it’s simply a belief. If Stanley has the capacity to be objective, he would change his statement from “I know” to “I believe”. That is why this debate will not ever be settled on this side of death. We look at ID and the TofE through our own subjective lenses, and because neither can prove or disprove God, we battle one another at the level of our beliefs, which may make converts to one side or the other…but there will always be two sides.
So, do we give up our pursuits of things we can’t know? I certainly hope not. Try this quick exercise. Take a piece of paper and a pencil and draw a circle. Suppose the circle represents all that exists – all truth, all knowledge, etc. Now, fill in the portion that you know. If you marked a portion bigger than the tip of your pencil, you either misunderstood the point of the illustration or your name is Stanley. There is always something to learn, ponder, and explore. I think that’s good news.
The mysteries of life lead us and move us into places of beauty more so than the facts of life. If we knew everything, would we need poetry to help us describe the world? If we knew everything, would music be able to raise the hair on our arms? Would a film that reminds us of our childhood still bring us to tears? What would we hope for? Hope is not scientific or material and it is intrinsically tied to the mysteries of life….whether it be the origin of life, black holes, the girl you were too chicken to ask out in high school, the afterlife, sports, the fish that got away, love, or simply the weather.
If God does indeed exist, I’m pretty glad he left some things about which we can wonder.