Designer Genes- a Rapprochement.

“ID leaves the identity of the designer open” – Michael Behe
“If “irreducible complexity” requires an “intelligent designer” then would not this designer itself be the ultimate example of irreducible complexity? Who, then, designed the designer?” – Spocko
“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” – Arthur C. Clarke

Darwin is indeed on trial, as Phillip Johnson put it.  Courtroom battles between Neodarwinists and supporters of ID are popping up like zits all over rural America.  On the one side are the establishment Darwinians, defending their hard-won, gap-riddled theories.  On the other, the upstart IDologues, who merely want to “teach the controversy”.

What is this “controversy”? It centers around “irreducible complexity”, by which is meant structures in living things that supposedly cannot have evolved, because the separate bits have no utility by themselves, and the whole structure is too fiddly to have been put together by chance, like the proverbial jetliner assembled by a hurricane in a junkyard.  Some have ridiculed irreducible complexity as being simply the “argument from ignorance”, but this has done little to discourage the undaunted IDers, some of whom have college degrees, and who are justifiably miffed at the presumption.

The issue appears too complex for mere mortals to understand, what with flagellae, clotting factors, and monkey’s uncles.  But the legal matter boils down to one simple point: is ID religious or not?  If ID is religious, it clearly does not belong in public school science classes, unless we want to breach the separation of Church and State, and, along with Behe,  define astrology as science.  Admittedly, this might boost the popularity of science classes, but astrologers have not contributed notably to human knowledge, with the possible exception of ex post facto predictions about celebrities.

In any case, as Spocko has pointed out, an Intelligent Designer who can create irreducibly complexity must be irreducibly complex Himself.  Now, IDers have long claimed that their Intelligent Designer is not necessarily God.  But if the Intelligent Designer is not God, whom could they mean?  By their own reasoning:  If that which we cannot fully explain must be the product of an Intelligent Designer, and humans cannot fully explain God, then God must be the product of an Intelligent Designer.  Next question:  where did this Designer of God come from?

The answer is simple.  The Designer’s Designer did not come from our universe, but from another universe without irreducible complexity, where things evolved naturally, just as some biologists claim they did here.  Obviously, this means that civilization there is unimaginably more technologically advanced than ours, if they are capable of traveling between universes and creating irreducibly complex Designers.

You may ask, how do I know this?  Because, following a tip from an anonymous source, I tracked down the Designer of God to her modest but fashionably appointed apartment in Peoria, Illinois.  Mrs. Tibbit received me graciously, handed me a whiskey (“I just love the devilish peatiness of Laphroaig- don’t you?”) and sat down on a generous divan.

Q:  Mrs. Tibbit, thank you for this opportunity to clear up our misconceptions…
A:  Not at all.  And please call me Sophie.
Q:  Er, okay, “Sophie”.  I’m sure my readers are dying to know, why did you leave your own universe, come here, and Design a God who then created the Earth, the stars, and all living things?
A:  Well, everyone needs a hobby, don’t they?
Q:  Um, okay… Are you saying that you’re an amateur Godmaker, Sophie?
A:  Well, no one has offered to pay me so far.  Mind you, lots of people have cleaned up on the merchandising tie-ins, but I haven’t seen one cent of it.
Q:  May I ask what your profession is in your own universe, then?
A:  Profession?  Heavens to Betsy!  I’m just a homemaker.  That’s why I wanted to try my hand at making something a bit more challenging.
Q:  Some people are dissatisfied with the job God is doing here on Earth, saying He’s (pardon the expression) an “incompetent sorehead”.
A:  Well, I designed Him to have free will, so don’t come whining to me.  Besides, would you rather have one of my earlier tries back again, such as Baal or Gilgamesh?  Come to think of it, though, Minerva was pretty cool…
Q: You have to admit, though, that Jehovah can be pretty pissy…
A:  Hey, nobody’s perfect.  Besides, constantly having to tweak His Creation by Specially Creating irreducible flagellae, blood clotting chains, and whatnot, would try the patience of a saint. Count your blessings- at least He’s outgrown His “Golden Hemorrhoid” phase.
Q:  Thank you for the interview, Mrs… er, Sophie.
A:  You’re most welcome.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some tweaking to do of my own, on my current project.
Q:  Current project?  May I ask…
A:  Well, I do feel a bit responsible for you Earthlings after all, so I’ve been working on something to help keep God in His place.  But you Earthlings don’t seem to want any of it.
Q:  And this would be…
A:  Reason.

Inscrutable Malignity - the New Controversy

Millions of Americans are following the unfolding drama in Dover, a struggle to claim the minds of our school kids.  Largely ignored by the media is a new struggle—over their hearts.  Supporters of “Inscrutable Malignity” are demanding a place in Sunday school for their ideas,  which call into question many core beliefs of Christianity.

The recently established Discrepancy Institute is spearheading the drive to change the curricula.  In a recent interview, we asked Institute spokesman John East what its aims were.  “Look, everyone knows that God is supposed to be good.  And everyone knows that He’s done some really mean stuff.  I mean, it just doesn’t jibe—you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that something’s fishy here”.  When asked about the Neotestamentalists who claim that God has “cleaned up his act a lot” since the Olden Times, East replied: “What about that fig tree that Jesus wasted? You call that the act of a benevolent God?”

Many Christians are opposed to the teaching of Inscrutable Malignity in their churches, saying there’s no Scriptural evidence for it.  Bob Patterson, picking up his daughter Suzy after Sunday school, said “Well, if God says He’s good, then all that mean stuff must be good too, somehow”.  Suzy Patterson added “If I can’t believe God, like, who can I believe?  Not my Dad, who lied to Mom about…”  Unfortunately, the interview was cut short by Mr. Patterson, who grabbed his daughter and rushed off saying “I have a roast in the oven”.

But now Scripturalists are under fire from a new theory—Irrepressible Complicity.  Theologian Michael Buhu, the chief architect of IC , explained it for us:  “As many people have pointed out over the years, for instance Dick Dudkins in The Angry Watchmaker, it doesn’t make sense that a loving God could have done all the nasty things the Bible says He did.  There must be malevolent Beings behind Him, telling Him what to do, or maybe just pinching Him and making Him pissed, or killing heathens themselves while His Back is turned.  We don’t really know how it works, but the Neotestamentalists are obviously barking down the wrong barrel”.

Some have leveled criticism at Buhu, saying that his position is not based on Scripture, but on his own religion.  When asked about this, he replied “I’ve never made any bones about being a Carrotstick.  I believe in the Easter Bunny, and that She painted eggs to redeem us.  Do you think it’s just a coincidence that She appears just when Jesus is resurrected?  But just because She is my personal Designer doesn’t have any effect on the theory of Irrepressible Complicity.  The signs of complicity in the Bible cannot be repressed—everywhere you see the paw prints, I mean the finger or tentacle prints, of Other Beings.”

Where all this will end up, no one can predict.  Jenny Flecked,  mother of two children, told us “Well, my kids came home from school today with stickers in their biology books.”  She opened her son Adam’s book and showed us the trial text from the Flagellants, which read:

Dinosaurs are Darwin’s trip
But only God can make a whip

Ms. Flecked sighed and said,  “I’ll be happy if Inscrutable Malignancy isn’t any worse than this”.

Your reporter, zilch

Why are Americans so Stupid?

  Disbelief, dismay, anger, depression, numbness.  I felt the same as many of you.  And wondered what possessed so many Americans to vote for Bush against the better interests of the rest of the planet, the United States, and even of the Republicans in the bottom 98% income bracket.  Aside from all questions of software manipulation, discarded ballots, challenged registrations, and divinely wrought chad hanging, quite a few voters did choose the Cowboy.  Why?

  There’s been no shortage of explanations in these posts and elsewhere—fundamentalist Christians, biased media, appeals to fear and xenophobia, simplicity of message—probably all of these are true to some extent, along with other factors, but they beg the question:  Why are Americans so stupid?  Why do they fall for these transparent ploys?

  Now, don’t get me wrong:  First of all, everyone’s stupid when it comes to politics and Americans are in good company there.  And I don’t think Americans are genetically stupider than Europeans, or Africans, or anyone else.  Jared Diamond does make a good case in Guns, Germs, and Steel for the superior intellect of the few surviving hunter-gatherers (he has worked for years in Papua New Guinea) who have been rigorously selected up to the present, unlike us well fed agriculturalist/couch potatoes, but probably the important differences are environmental.

  Most Americans today do seem different from most Europeans, broadly speaking, Americans are more isolationist, less well-informed about politics and science, less interested in the fate of other nations, and more likely to hold absurd beliefs (astrology, alien abduction, virgin birth, Uri Geller…).  The difference is not pronounced—people here (I live in Vienna) swallow all kinds of nonsense too—but no one I know here, from the Greens through the Socialist to the Freedom Party (sort of a neonazi neocon group), likes Bush and everyone (not just my Muslim friend) thinks the war in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster.  Why the difference?

  My suspicions:  First of all, European countries are small, the US is big.  Europeans have had to cope with many different neighbors, languages, and cultures for centuries.  It’s easier for Americans to think that their nation is the whole world.  Second, television.  The average American watches more than four hours of TV a day, the average European about an hour less.  Television sucks out your brain, especially the simplistic pap that passes for entertainment in the States.  Third, Europeans walk more. Many of my friends, like myself, don’t even have cars.  Driving around in a metal box and seeing the world through safety glass can lead one to think that it’s all just another TV program.

  On the other hand, maybe the main difference is that the US is a major military power, and power corrupts. Americans are manipulated to support stupid wars because the powers that be need the oil, and can get it, through force of arms.

  My comparison, anecdotal and undocumented as it is, is between the US and Europe because the standards of living and access to information are comparable—who can blame the Kokovoko Islanders for being superstitious?

  Anyway, I’d like to hear your opinions on this.