Interested in a resolution of the dispute between scientific atheists and intelligent design? In the context of a thoughtful review of Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt, John Zmirak at The Stream has an enjoyably mischievous suggestion.
In “At Last, Common Ground for Atheists and Intelligent Design Advocates,” he proposes a plan, a “modest proposal,” for peace: Let both sides admit the evidence of design, the evidence that life did not spring up by unguided, purposeless processes alone. But grant the possibility — or even for the sake of argument, stipulate the certainty — that the evidence is of natural alien origin.
This, he says (satirically, I am sure), would defuse the personal reasons many people have for preferring to see life as un-designed. There are many such motivations. Darwin himself sought an “alternate explanation…after his daughter’s death drowned his Christian faith in grief.” Zmirak writes:
So I have a suggestion. It might help find common ground between the advocates of Intelligent Design, and committed scientific materialists. Here goes:
How about we stipulate this? All the evidence piling up that random mutations couldn’t possibly have planted and grown the Tree of Life does not point to the God of the Christians and the Jews.
Instead, it points to the design of some higher, alien species. Say, a race of brilliant beings who live in Alpha Centauri, who have learned how to travel by wormholes. No, there’s no evidence for that, but there’s equally little evidence for the “Multiverse.” That’s a favorite fiction of atheists eager to escape the religious implications of the Big Bang. But that didn’t stop Stephen Hawking from touting it.
Okay? It’s not the “Divine Foot” [in Richard Lewontin’s famous formulation] we’re letting in the door. It’s a mysterious alien green foot of a purely natural being. One who doesn’t impose morality on us. Or care if we sleep with our much younger lab assistants.
You can relax. Life is still meaningless. Our ethics are still completely arbitrary. The Green Men in Alpha Centauri don’t care what we do. They haven’t built us a heaven or dug for us a hell. We’re still free to dig that ourselves, right here on earth. Will that do, Professor Lewontin?
Perhaps if intelligent design advocates stipulated such alien designers, they’d hit much less resistance. Biologists wouldn’t work so desperately hard to avoid the evidence of their eyes.
It’s an interesting suggestion. But as Michael Behe noted the other day, Darwinists “are famously slow to recognize problems for their theory.” Why so slow? You have to understand how many careers, and how much of personal image and other factors, are wrapped up with the theory that nature on Earth created itself, only giving the illusory appearance of design.
Stipulating actual design by Little Green Men would still be an affront, requiring Darwinists to admit they were wrong, and not about a small matter. This may not be the way forward after all, John.