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Monday, November 07, 2005

Malevolent Design

(Reverse engineered from a story on Street Prophets, and thanks to Carnacki for the opportunity to post here.)
Meant to put up this piece by J.M. Tyree from the Revealer on Friday, as the Dover Intelligent Design trial wrapped up.

Seems to me that this perspective (along with the Flying Spaghetti Monster) is the ultimate statement on ID:

The Designer who so Intelligently Designed our world, in theory, could be malevolent or capricious just as easily as he could be all good. He might have designed us intelligently, but for the purpose of watching us tear each others' throats out. He might have designed us intelligently, but on a whim, and then forgotten all about us. In theological terms, ID suggests forces operating upon the world from without, but it does not say whether that those forces are good or evil. You could hypothesize, for example, that a Satanist could step forward to support ID. Yes, the world shows evidence of an intelligent designer, but one with a sick sense of humor. Therefore, the Satanist might conclude, Intelligent Design is correct, and we should worship the Devil, since the world seems more like his handiwork than the Other Guy's.

For all that ID can tell us about the Creator, H. P. Lovecraft's nightmare deity Cthulhu might have been the brains behind the operation. (Lovecraft, like Thomas Hardy and Stephen Crane, was an early proponent of what might be called Malevolent Design.) Is there anything inherent in ID that tell us for certain who let the dogs out? If not, is ID really much use as a Christian theory, or is it simply another spacecake philosophy that suggests, like The X-Files, that "something is out there"?

I used to love H.P. Lovecraft's stuff, by the way.

In any case, the author of the reffed post misses an important point. Cthulhu isn't actually the creator god in Lovecraft's mythology; it's Yog-Sothoth, who lies beyond all space and time, utterly disconnected to the universe. Lovecraft refers to another of the "Old Ones" as an "idiot god," concerned only with squirming to the music of pan pipes. The true horror of the universe, according to Lovecraft, may be that the gods neither know nor care for our existence.

And even if they weren't indifferent to our life and death, if "not a sparrow falls" without him (or them) knowing about it, how can we know that they or he or she are benevolent? We can't. That's where the faith part comes in.

I can tell you from a Christian perspective about the goodness of God as I have experienced it, but that guarantees nothing. For if we are part of a creation, we are therefore necessarily limited in our perspective. Until we can stand outside creation with God, it's not ours to comment on its moral significance, one way or another. That's the point of the Book of Job, one of them anyway.

The trust that it takes to live this way must seem strange to those who can't feel it, but it shouldn't. For religious people, the benevolence of God is simply a given, like the assumption that a giant anvil isn't going to fall out of the sky and land on your head. That assumption might prove wrong, but without it, getting out of bed in the morning would be pretty difficult (and you might still get creamed by the giant anvil).

Tyree concludes his essay:

Self-defeating and incoherent, Intelligent Design is worse than useless, not only as science but also, one imagines, for religious folks who might be attempting to understand God by working backwards from the world as their body of evidence. Inevitably, one begins to wonder more about cluster munitions than bombardier beetles, and the old problem of evil slips in. If He exists, why does God allow evil? Even if you can explain why God designed cancer and HIV, which is no easy task, you are still left with His role in world events from Darfur to Baghdad and New Orleans. Far from being examples of Intelligent Design that reinforce the Christian message, aren't these kinds of meditations precisely the reasons that many people lose their faith?

I both agree and disagree with this. Tyree's exactly right; trying to discern the creator from the natural evidence leads us nowhere but to Robert Frost's moths. But most people I've known who lose their faith do so not because of the evidence of God's malevolence, but that of his/her/its/their indifference--and more important, of those who follow him.

So the lesson to be drawn from this, I believe, is that the finest testament to the goodness of creation is not to corrupt science to produce a rigged result, but to demonstrate through our thoughts and actions, the possibilities of life and love.


Blogger Carnacki said...

On one day we have whale porn and a Christian perspective on Cthulhu worship...

We are now officially the Best. Site. On. The. Internet.*

*With the exception of Old Haunts.

11/07/2005 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger protected static said...

Not whale porn, dammit! Sea monsters!

Pink... fleshy... sea... monsters... Well, okay. It probably is whale porn.

An excellent first post, pd; may there be many more.

11/08/2005 12:26:00 AM  

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