Here is an essay I wrote when I was in college:
On Intelligent Design
The origin of our species remains a mystery. We have in-depth knowledge from the fossil record indicating that we have been on this planet in our current state for perhaps thirty thousand years, and that our ancestors have been walking upright for over a million years. This would seem to hardly be a matter of debate in its general details. Specific details will change as more data is gathered, and it is not my intention to enter into a debate on the history of particular branches of the hominid family tree. Some Australopithecine fossils have been found that are over two million years old. The idea that we have been in existence as intelligent organisms for millions of years is a commonly held view among most scientists. This viewpoint has been in place since Darwin published his book On the Origins of Species, and has probably been suspected by countless unpublished others before him. The political ramifications of this knowledge are stunning, as it undermines the basis of Christianity by implying that the Divine Creation did not happen as written in the King James Bible, or is at best a metaphor for divine intervention in a process that was not understood in feudal times.
For most of recorded history religious dissent has been severely punished, so it is difficult to grasp what ideas may have been espoused centuries earlier by free-thinking individuals if they had had access to technology that enabled them to propagate radical viewpoints. We are in deep debt to those who had the courage to speak their minds in those times. Our current society could not have arose without the ideas of men and women who had the audacity to promote ideas that were unacceptable in their times.
Intelligent Design is seen by both Christian fundamentalists and Materialist thinkers as an affront to their belief systems, and a â€œslippery slopeâ€ to ambiguity that threatens their ideological monopoly on the ideas that we are currently urged to choose between. In the current debate, which has raged for over a century, we are encouraged to believe that either a divine being created the world in seven days, or that the universe randomly organized itself by sheer chance over billions of years. The world is, as usual, much more complicated than it seems, and both of these ideas sound naÃ¯ve to many free thinkers. It is difficult to arrive at any middle ground that incorporates aspects of both viewpoints without being attacked from both sides.
It is quite likely that discoveries in the future will make evolution as it is currently taught seem as dated as the once widely-accepted idea that the earth is the center of the universe and the sun revolves around the planet earth. This earth-centered ideology was considered heretical by religious fundamentalists who insisted the earth was flat. This debate was quite serious at the time, and in a few centuries our current evolutionary debate will resemble it. All scientific theories and religious ideas are ideologies. The difference in the approach taken by their defenders that ultimately determines their credibility or lack thereof is how they react to new information. Any belief system that does not include a mechanism for correcting its own errors is ultimately doomed to obsolescence. Ironically, this is a form of evolution in itself, as ideas are expressed and absorbed by human brains based on their suitability as valid explanations for the environment that confronts human beings. As our world changes, our culture transforms to reflect and explain the new reality.
In the last twenty years we have seen an explosion in knowledge. We are witnessing a revolution that will make the belief systems of the twentieth century as obsolete as those of the fifteenth century. All political, religious, and economic ideologies are currently in crisis as they try to maintain dominance against an infinite variety of new ideas propagated effortlessly via the internet. In the twentieth century, new ideas had to have commercial or political value in order to be disseminated by the mass media.
Molecular biology has benefited tremendously from the technological increases in our ability to handle oceans of data. One outcome of this is that a new way of understanding DNA expression has arisen, based on the idea that cells turn on or off their genes based on their biological needs. This profoundly affects the way evolution is understood by molecular geneticists. As the environment changes, cells can turn their genes on or off to express whatever proteins are needed to deal with their environment. This contradicts classical Darwinian evolutionary thinking by introducing the idea that genes are not static, permanent structures that evolve by random mutations, but that they evolve themselves in response to the needs of the environment.
Consider the often-described story of how the giraffe got its long neck. We are told that random mutations created giraffes with longer necks and that these giraffes were better able to reach the leaves at the top of the trees, therefore enabling them to out compete the short-necked giraffes. But why randomly make their necks longer? Why not give giraffes with wings or hands? It is as likely that a random mutation would improve an organism in an evolutionarily advantageous way as it is that randomly firing a gun at a car would make it drive faster or get better gas mileage. Most alterations of DNA are benign at best.
Random mutations underpinned evolutionary dogma until it was realized that selective transcription of DNA could account for the ability of organisms to evolve to meet selection pressures much better than the idea that a gene randomly mutated and made the organism better able to survive. Most of the DNA sequence in a given organism is never expressed as RNA, and much of the RNA that is expressed is itself spliced out before it is translated into proteins, and in turn much of the ability of a protein to do its intended task depends on factors that influence the shape of the protein. A protein that has the right sequence of amino acids but is in the wrong shape is useless. Protein shape depends on many things in the chemical environment within a cell, so we see that the actual sequence of a cellâ€™s DNA is a small part (but of course not insignificant) determinant of how the cell functions.
It can be seen that a cellâ€™s DNA has a variety of levels of error-correcting machinery to negate the effects of random mutations that might alter its sequence. Obviously, cells that could tolerate random mutations without suffering damage were better able to survive in the harsh environment of earth. Our atmosphere is full of the mutagenic substance oxygen, and countless early species of cells died out billions of years ago in vast numbers when the atmosphere changed from inert to oxidizing as the oxygen levels rose due to cellular respiration. Our single-celled ancestors suffered an environmental holocaust of their own making. This is how we came to be able to cope with high levels of environmental pollutants. We are descended from those who survived, not those who went extinct. This is further evidence that selective transcription, not random mutation, is the underlying basis of Natural Selection.
The dogmatic reliance on the idea of random mutagenesis as the prime mechanism of evolution has lead to disbelief by many laypersons and allowed evolution to lose credibility. It is a self-inflicted wound. It enables the classic â€œIâ€™m not descended from monkeysâ€ argument used by Christian Fundamentalists to inspire others to relate emotionally with their cause. No one wants to believe that they came from monkeys, or single-celled organisms, or random chemical reactions in a prehistoric cesspool. It is by disregarding the emotional needs of humans to connect to a deeper meaning in their past that the teachers of evolution have lost touch with millions of people.
It is important that selective transcription be taught in our schools. I challenge our nationâ€™s high school science teachers to educate themselves and stop promoting random mutation as the prime basis of evolution. It is time for the teaching of evolution itself to evolve. Teachers must stand up to state-mandated curriculums that force them to teach fifty-year old versions of evolutionary theory.
When we read the Bible, we are told that it is the absolute truth. Any skepticism is due to a sinful lack of faith on the part of the reader. The reader is literally threatened with eternal torture if they do not accept and comply with the Bible. Much of the Bible is well-intentioned and provides a wonderful guide for a great deal of human behavior. But it serves to alienate countless people with its â€œall-or-nothingâ€ Stalinist viewpoint. This is tragic. It forces people to choose between independent thinking and eternal salvation. Fundamentalist Christians ignore that Christianity itself has been subjected to an evolutionary process that enabled it to spread as an idea throughout the world. The history of Christianity itself proves the theory of evolution.
Jesus said â€œI have not come to remove one jot or title from the law, but to fulfill the lawâ€, implying that Christians should follow the old Judaic laws as well as the new Christian laws. This is disregarded by most Christians. Many Christians counter the Mosaic dietary proscriptions with Jesusâ€™ quote â€œIt is not what goes into the mouth of man that corrupts him, but what comes outâ€¦â€ Here we have a contradiction from the Savior himself, one that would seem to be of great import to those who wish to follow the Bible exactly, yet it is a matter of little concern because nobody really wants to follow the laws laid down in Leviticus. This is an adaptation that allowed Christianity to spread into new cultural environments.
The Old Testament calls for capital punishment for many things we do not consider crimes in America. It calls for strict segregation of women at certain times that we would find inconvenient. It forbids the eating of pork. Luckily for non-Jews, St. Paul decided to contradict Jesus on the issue of whether people had to convert to Judaism before they can receive eternal salvation through accepting Jesus as their savior. Was he wrong to do this? He directly contradicted Jesusâ€™ stated intentions. But he made Christianity much more flexible, and therefore more easily spread throughout the Greeks living in the Roman Empire.
Most Greeks had no interest in becoming Jews in order to become Christians, but they were excited about the revolutionary idea that they could receive atonement for their sins by believing in the power of a human sacrifice to wash away their sins. This was not an evolutionary leap in Christian thought. It enabled Christianity to spread throughout Anatolia (Turkey), and eventually the entire Roman Empire. The Nicene Council codified and legitimized Christianity in the 4th Century, making it the official state religion of the Roman Empire. This is the origin of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Romans collected the Greek gospels and translated them into Latin. For centuries the Romans had a monopoly on Christian thought by forbidding the Catholic Mass to be taught in the local languages used throughout Europe. Many contradictory gospels were banned. For over a thousand years after Rome fell, Latin was the only language allowed in church in Europe. The Church violently suppressed any religious or philosophical dissent. This caused a social paralysis of enforced ignorance that lasted for a thousand years. There was no evolution of Christian thought, and the world suffered terribly as a result.
When the Catholic Church ruled Europe, they called it the Dark Ages. The phrase â€œSuffer not a witch to liveâ€, written by St. Paul, caused the deaths of millions of Pagans who would not convert to Roman Catholicism, a religion most Pagans were not even capable of understanding since it was taught in Latin.
St. Paulâ€™s letters had a dramatic influence on Christian thought. His ideas and the union of Church and State in Rome led directly led to the attitude that Christians had not just the right, but a divine mandate, to kill anyone who would not accept it. This provided religious justification for both the Crusades and the invasion of North and South America by Europeans. Jesusâ€™ teachings were not only ignored, but used to justify violent behavior by the Church as it evolved. Christianity evolved from a pacifistic religion, to an aggressive predator metastasizing throughout the planet. Christianity evolved into countless forms as it encountered and assimiliated weaker cultures.
When Martin Luther nailed his radical ideas to a church door around 1570, he began a process that opened up Christian thought to independent examination. By conducting sermons in German instead of Latin, the Lutherans inspired all of Europe to question the authority of the Catholic Church. King James I in England hired scholars to translate the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin texts into the Bible as we know it. It is unlikely he was unaware of the effect his Bible would have on the history of the Western world. Many nations threw off the Catholic yoke, and the next centuries saw countless deaths in the religious wars that broke out over all of Europe over which language the teachings of Christ should be taught in. A violent counter reaction is expected whenever an ideology is unable to absorb changes that threaten its power.
Christianity experienced an unprecedented ideological divergence as the Church unraveled and destroyed its own power by trying to preserve it. Hundreds of new versions of Christianity appeared. The most fit of these new self-directed forms of Christianity survived and became the mainstream denominations we take for granted today. The failures, such as the Shakers who did not believe in sex, died out because of an inherent inability to thrive in the newly opened environment of European minds. Economic utility usually overpowered most other considerations in determining the fitness of a new strain of Christian thought. Calvinism made it acceptable for Christians to pursue wealth and still be saved, even though the Bible says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven.
The translations of the Bible into all the languages of Europe produced a much-needed awakening in European thought that created the Renaissance. This inadvertently spawned modern science, as free-thinking men and women continued the process of examination of reality and refused to accept the official answers forced upon them by their societies. The theory of Evolution itself would not be possible were it not for the evolutionary process at work within Christian thought.
It is possible for science and religion to be integrated within the same mind. It is possible to continue evolving as individuals, as a species and as a society while retaining the basic belief in a cosmic mind that is in control of reality. It is important that both scientists and religious thinkers understand that fundamentalist dogmatic thinking of any sort is a pitfall that leads only to stagnation and failure.
We live in an infinite universe, one unbounded by any thought system humans impose on reality. We live in an ever-expanding bubble of knowledge. The more we learn, the more the surface area of our knowledge bubble grows. The more we learn, the more of the unknown we are exposed to on the outer perimeter of our knowledge. This produces fear and anxiety and makes millions long for the security of a credible belief system to explain everything.
Scientists are, in a way, partly responsible for the backlash against them by discounting this healthy reaction to the overabundance of conflicting explanations and incomprehensible jargon they produce. Scientists must come out of their labs and take time to explain to normal people what they believe and they must do so in ordinary language that people do not need an advanced education to understand. Many scientists maintain job security by making science hopelessly complicated when it really doesnâ€™t need to be that way. By opening up Materialism the way Christianity was opened up by Martin Luther, with a public exposition of radically threatening ideas, we can begin an evolutionary process that will produce new thought systems which can integrate the supernatural and the material, some of which will take root and help us unify our artificially divided culture.
Why does E=mc2 and not mc3 or even mc12? Who or what determines the values of the laws of physics? Perhaps there is a universal mind that creates the fundamental rules that govern physical reality. On some level beyond our understanding someone or something had to decide this was the way the universe would function. Reality is the way it is because something designed it to be this way. There is no way that the astronomical complexity of physics could serendipitously have been a random pattern. This deciding force which designed reality is a Supreme Being, far more powerful than we could comprehend.
Imagine the infinite number of combinations of all the possible variations of all the laws of physics. Imagine the extreme types of realities made possible by infinite variations of Thermodynamics, Newtonâ€™s Laws, Euclidian geometry, Differential Calculus, etc. What we call reality is the state of the universe in which all the rules of physics that we have come to understand happen to intersect. The speed of light may have an infinite number of different values. Perhaps we are living in the unique state of reality that occurs when light travels at 300,000 km/hour, when E=mc2, and when atoms have eight electrons in their outer shells instead of ten or fourteen. This presents the possibility that not only is the physical universe that we perceive infinite but that the range of possible types of realities is itself infinite. There could be infinite versions of physical reality.
The possibility of an infinite number of random versions of reality should make anyone appreciate the uniqueness of our setting in this particular reality. It is difficult to believe that we randomly happen to have this particular set of physical laws that function so well together. The laws of physics were in some way determined, and that implies that some force made the decisions that created them.
The sheer number of possible conceptions of reality made possible by modern physics encourages a deep introspection by many physicists. Quantum theory allows the mathematical possibilities of some extremely unsettling events to occur even within the narrow confines of our unique set of physical laws. The Theory of Relativity shows that matter and energy are not only related, but are simply different states of the same phenomena, like water and ice. Particles can be in more than one place at the same time, and time passes at different rates depending on how fast an object is traveling. In many ways the universe resembles a giant mathematical thought. There is plenty of room for a Supreme Being in the worldview created by modern physics. It has been disregarded by scientists out of fear for not being seen as skeptical enough to maintain credibility (and therefore continue to get published).
Anyone who has witnessed death has wondered whether a life force has left the body and what is the nature of the soul. Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross performed a study in which dying patients were weighed at the moment of death. It was found that about 20 grams of body mass are lost when a person dies. No anatomical structures or fluids are missing. Dr. Kubler-Rossâ€™s work begs the most uncomfortable question of whether or not the soul has mass. The implications for both science and religion are profound. If the soul has a material existence, how does it leave the body? What is the exact process? Where does it go? Does it dissipate, or does it remain intact? If it continues to exist, does it continue to be aware? Can feelings and awareness be maintained outside of the brain? A soul with a physical mass threatens the supernatural beliefs of most religions.
What if the soul is part of normal physical reality, and can be studied scientifically? Voodoo doctors believe that a personâ€™s soul can be captured and kept in a jar. Scientologists believe that humans are each inhabitated by an alien organism called a "Thetan" that leaves the body at death. Spiritualists of the 19th century believed humans had an "astral body" that could travel out of the material body, connected by a long cord, and interact with the material world like a ghost. Perhaps these are different attempts to describe the same phenomena.
Many people have had experiences that have assured them that life continues after death. Lights are usually seen, a tunnel or void is passed through, and a wonderful feeling of peace and love is experienced as the dying soul is united with God and loved ones. Much research has been done on these people, usually with the intent of discrediting their experiences. There are few areas more worthwhile of the intellectual rigors of science than the study of the moment of death, yet it is ignored by most scientists out of fear of ridicule or lack of funding.
Behavioralism has allowed scientists to discount subjective experiences as not worthy of their concern. Our understanding of neurobiology is funded largely by the search for new biochemical targets to increase the profits of pharmaceutical companies. Big Pharma wants research into patentable small molecule targets for new drugs. The deceased are no longer covered by health insurance.
This is a nexus between science and religion, an intersection between an artificial divide that should be deeply studied. The study of death can serve as a starting point for the beginning of a truly integrated modern belief system. The world deserves more from science than the neglect of this phenomenon. Interesting experiments have been performed using lethal substances such as atropine to induce near death experiences, but there remains no consensus on what occurs at the moment of death. No reputable scientist wants to get involved in this area. I propose that serious consideration be given to the idea of using modern medical imaging on terminally ill patients at the moment of death to see what changes happen in the energy levels of the brain. Perhaps we could learn something profoundly important.
Many people have taken substances that have profoundly altered their experience of reality. Detailed accounts of these experiences have been recorded. Sometimes they describe a feeling of direct experience with a universal consciousness, a â€œcollective soulâ€ that permeates reality like a hand inside a glove. There is an awakening to the idea that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. We are all tiny parts of a vast living mind experiencing life subjectively inside of individual human organisms. We are only living within the imagination of the universal mind. Many Eastern religions also produce these states, and their descriptions bear an uncanny similarity to those experienced by Western subjects under the influence of psychedelics. It is likely that there is a common thread between these profoundly spiritual events. It could be that there are biochemical doorways in human minds that allow us to experience God directly.
Visions of the future of humanity have been handed down for millennia. Some people can see things before they occur. Many ordinary people have dreams about things they themselves will experience years before they actually happen. Occasionally these predictions are documented many years before the event and are incredibly difficult for skeptics to explain away.
Several Biblical prophecies have come to pass in very specific ways that made no sense until the actual event took place. In the Book of Revelation, for example, there is a passage stating that a third of the world will be covered in wormwood (Revelation 8:10). This had no meaning until the Chernobyl incident spewed radioactive filth over most of Europe in 1986. Chernobyl is a Russian word often interpreted as wormwood.
There are so many documented incidents of psychic phenomena occurring that it sounds quite silly to dismiss all of them as being hoaxes or the delusions of misguided individuals. Scientists are not paid well to look closely at things that are not easily explained or marketed. Every major religion has a tradition of prophecy and supernatural powers. How could it be that every one of these stories written by hundreds of different people who donâ€™t know each other is wrong? Isnâ€™t it more likely that some are true, some false, and some are exaggerations of actual events?
There are studies in which gifted people induce out of body experiences and prove them by describing events taking place in other parts of the testing facility. Many faith healers astound doctors by healing terminal diseases through the power of prayer. Some psychics have offered themselves for testing and have baffled those who wish to expose them as hoaxes. Uri Geller, for example, can apparently bend spoons by looking at them. David Blaine can apparently read minds. Some Australian Aborigines consider astral projection a normal part of life and pass on techniques from generation to generation. There is a legend in Australia that the first reports of the outbreak of World War I came from Aborigines before the news had arrived from Europe.
We are gifted with high powered brains that can comprehend the fact that we have an independent consciousness that cannot be reduced to a genetic sequence or series of neural impulses. We are also far too smart to be told what to think or not think by any authority. All political systems that have attempted to suppress dissent have failed or are in the process of failing. We are entering an era where religious and scientific dogmatic thinking can finally be seen not as mutually exclusive choices but as a continuum of beliefs. Tolerance is required if we are to overcame our cultural schism.
Skeptics ignore the claims they cannot disprove because they donâ€™t want to admit that there may be some instances when people actually can use abilities not currently understood by modern science. It exposes flaws in the purely materialistic view of reality. Materialism rejects anything spiritual because it cannot be easily understood or controlled. Instead of trying to disprove these gifts of God, why not use science to study them so everyone can gain these abilities?
It should be clear that science and religion are not mutually exclusive, but have vast areas of overlap that can be resolved by integrating their ideas with new ideas to better reflect a holistic reality.Individuals must educate themselves and free themselves from any ideology that limits their access to alternative ideas. The world has evolved beyond medieval religion and twentieth century science.