Evolution and Cosmic Purpose    

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Intelligent Design

Our world is going through a slow and painful transition period as religious myths are gradually being shrugged off in favor of scientific facts. The followers of traditional religion feel threatened by this change. Their ancient myths can no longer compete with modern scientific discoveries in the minds of educated people.

When people start to doubt even a single sentence of their holy book then the whole book becomes a target for criticism. Christian fundamentalists keep their faith strong by insisting that the world was created exactly according to the biblical myth – hand crafted by God in six days with humankind descending from Adam and Eve.

While fundamentalist Christians remain on a mental holiday in their biblical dreamworld, liberal Christians have been struggling to find an acceptable compromise between science and religion. For a long time now, many liberal Christians have accepted that the six days of creation are a metaphor for the billions of years over which the solar system formed and life evolved on earth. The Garden of Eden was seen as representing a time when our ancestors lived naked amongst the trees, at one with nature.

The issue of exactly how the story of our creation unfolded, and how much of a hand God had to play in it, was not seriously explored by the mainstream Christian churches. Some things were better left unsaid to avoid open confrontation with fundamentalists and scientists. Avoiding the issue was the key to Christianity’s survival.

However, Christianity’s problems have only continued to worsen over the decades as the ongoing process of scientific discovery has hardened evolutionary biology into a rock solid science. There is now no doubt that human beings evolved from self-replicating organic molecules through the process of random mutation and natural selection. Evolution occurred naturally, with no role for an interventionist God.

In many ways, Intelligent Design was Christianity’s last hope to save a place in the story for God. Intelligent Design theorists claim that life is too biologically complex to have evolved without God’s help. They say that biochemistry reveals a cellular world of such precisely tailored molecules and such staggering complexity that the probability of something so precise and so complex being the result of pure chance is almost zero. They say that the only way to explain life’s complexity is by assuming an intelligent designer. And they believe that this proves the existence of God.

Advocates of Intelligent Design maintain that their ideas are scientifically valid. All of their hopes are pinned on discovering scientific evidence and developing scientific theories that sound so convincing that they forever cast doubt on whether certain biological features could have evolved naturally.

The Intelligent Design movement has been phenomenally successful at gaining publicity by giving hope to creationists while striking fear into the hearts of evolutionists. Their ideas have attracted widespread support from within the Christian community, particularly among those who do not even understand the issues.

Opponents of Intelligent Design accuse it of being nothing more than an aggressive new form of creationism, invented by religious organizations, pretending to be science, intended to discredit natural evolution in the minds of the impressionable majority.

It makes sense that religious organizations would be tempted to try this tactic. Opinion polls suggest that natural evolution is unpopular. The majority of people are sympathetic to the idea of God playing a more interventionist role in the appearance of humankind.

And the idea is political dynamite. The conservatives have already used Intelligent Design to play upon public sympathies and gain extra votes by tentatively agreeing to support the teaching of it in school classrooms.

But the frenzy is already starting to die down. There is now growing pressure on the Intelligent Design theorists to show the world that they really do know something that we do not. Intelligent Design is being unmasked to the public as a scientific fraud, and enthusiasm for it is starting to fizzle.

Fundamentalist and liberal Christians alike are beginning to abandon it. Even the politically conservative corporate media has decided that the idea is no longer politically advantageous and are turning against it. And now after being decisively defeated in the courtroom, the Intelligent Design fiasco is well on its way to becoming yesterday's news.

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