Just Wanna Know

Revolutionary Propaganda Organ

Monday, November 14, 2005

Intelligent design

It occurs to me that conservative Christian activists might be surprised to find unlikely allies in the fight against neo-Darwinian evolution in anarcho-syndicalists, anti-Communists who reject the idea that classes, like animals, are involved in a struggle to the death over resources and that survival in this struggle defines who is fittest to succeed.

Such "social Darwinism" is of course not the essential political point of the debate. Rather, that point should be over whether school children who don't understand how changes occur in allele frequencies over generations--where they come from, what they do--will ever be successful when the students (hopefully) graduate, go to college, and receive further training in the natural sciences. (There's a corollary argument about striving for accuracy--even truth--in our representations of those allele-frequency changes, but I'll stop today at the pragmatic argument about the success of public-school students.)

Nevertheless, I think it's useful to think about this topic in terms of cosmological questions. What kind of world do we live in? How does it affect us? What sorts of utopias are we looking for?

In this sense, the Christians are betrayed by their own sacred text. Genesis clearly states that when Adam and Eve fell from grace, all of creation did as well. We can assume that God had to give them animal skins to cover themselves because, before that time, no animals had died. Thus nature "red in tooth and claw" is a consequence of sin, not an entirely "natural" one in the sense of being unintended by the Creator, but nonetheless conforming to the post-Fall rules of the game.

The Hobbes quotation is apt, because it looks like many Christian activists are supporting a Rousseauean alternative of a nature that does not change but remains static and basically good. This Deist, Romantic notion is totally at odds with the Bible. It says that God is a divine watchmaker (or "intelligent designer") who set up this system with all its parts to work normally. There is no need for competition, because success in obtaining food does not reward the fittest with comparative advantage in subsequent generations.

Similarly, in the anarcho-syndicalist argument, the natural urges of humans lead them not to compete in order for individuals to survive, but rather to cooperate in order that whole communities can coexist. I'm pretty confident that conservative Christian activists will not share such strong aversions to capitalist competition, even though Jesus himself probably would have. Nevertheless, it's clear to me that the "intelligent design" argument owe a much greater debt to secular humanism than to the Bible, and Christians who believe in the Bible's accuracy should be considering the "intelligent design" arguments much more critically.

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