Sunday, January 15, 2006

An Unintelligent Debate Over 'Intelligent Design'

As the Hard-Headed Ideologues of Science and Religion Continue Their Epic Clash, Has the Thought Ever Occurred to Them That God and the Universe May Be One and the Same?

By Skeeter Sanders

Charles Darwin has got to be one of the most misunderstood men in America. He has long been the bete noir of religious fundamentalists, who have never accepted his theory of evolution and adamantly insist that the universe is a divine creation.

Yet contrary to popular belief, Darwin was never an atheist. Far from it. Darwin himself acknowledged that there were questions about the origins of the universe for which, as a scientist, he could not find a answer.

People of deep religious faith firmly believe that the universe was created by God. But science demands irrefutable physical proof -- which all but the most hard-core fundamentalist members of the faith community admit they can't produce.

Darwin's Theory of Evolution "Work of the Devil?"

In the nearly 80 years since the infamous Scopes "Monkey" trial, there's been a seemingly never-ending battle between science and religion over how the universe and everything in it came to be.

Actually, the battle isn't between science and religion per se, since most of the faith community have long ago come to terms with the many scientific discoveries that, rather than disprove their faith, instead provided the faith community with new insights.

The battle is really between the scientific community and Christian fundamentalists, who view everything through the narrow prism of their hard-core literalist interpretation of the Bible. To the fundamentalists, anything and everything that doesn't comport to their biblical literalism is to be rejected as "the work of the devil."

The fundamentalists have been waging a never-ending battle against the Darwinian theory of evolution being taught in America's public schools -- which, in turn, is part of a broader crusade to "put God back in the schools."

Despite High Court Rulings, Fundamentalists Remain Adamant in Defiance

It's a crusade that has gone on for more than 40 years -- ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that the Constitution's ban on state endorsement of any particular religion barred the nation's public schools from either leading students in prayer or teaching religious tenets to students. It's a ruling that the fundamentalists have never accepted, with some denouncing the court as a "satanic" institution.

Back in the '80s, the fundamentalists launched a campaign to have creationism -- an attempt to explain scientifically the creation of the universe by God -- taught in the public schools, only to be rebuffed by the Supreme Court in 1987 when the justices declared creationism a thinly-disguised religious teaching.

The latest skirmish is now over "Intelligent Design," a new theory that argues that life on Earth is too complex to have evolved through random events, but must have developed as part of a design by a higher intelligence. This new theory does not identify who or what that higher intelligence is, but in the minds of its proponents, the implication is pretty clear: God is that higher intelligence.

On the Other Side, Some Scientists Are Die-Hard Atheists

And therein lies the problem. Science demands irrefutable physical proof and the fundamentalists have never been able to irrefutably prove that God exists, let alone prove that God created the universe and everything in it.

On the other hand, science has never been able to irrefutably prove that God doesn't exist -- not that it has ever tried to. Nor have scientists ever been able to explain how life on Earth came to be and where it came from. And it's not exactly a secret that there are some in the scientific community who are out-of-the-closet atheists openly hostile to religion.

Since there presumably were no living beings around to witness the origin of the universe, let alone the beginning of life on Earth (assuming that you don't believe in extraterrestrials), there's simply no way to answer the most vexing question humanity has been asking for millennia: "Where did we come from and how did we get here?"

Or is there?

Both Sides Too Stubborn

Incredibly, as scientists and religious zealots continue to duke it out, both sides have been blinded by their own zealotry to even consider this question: What if God and the universe -- and everything in it -- are one and the same?

Think about that for a moment. If the universe and everything in it is God -- and God is eternal -- then the universe has always been here, forever changing, For evolution is change. Everything in the universe changes; nothing stays the same. Life is no exception to that.

Our own bodies, for example, are constantly evolving, constantly changing, as we grow older. The human body is made up of over seven trillion cells. Every seven years, our bodies produce a new generation of cells to replace older cells that wither and die. As our bodies age, however, they ultimately produce fewer new cells.

Some of the stars that we see in the night sky might not actually be there. Alpha Centauri, the closest star to Earth next to our sun, is four light-years away. But if it burned itself out tomorrow, we wouldn't know about it here on Earth until four years from now, when we'd see its light wink out.

On the flip side, a planet inhabited with an intelligent civilization orbiting a star 50 light-years away from Earth would right now be receiving the black-and-white images of "I Love Lucy, " "The Honeymooners," the original "Dragnet" and other TV shows from the 1950s. Not to mention the news of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The universe is indeed complex. Too complex for anything occurring in it to do so by mere chance. But I don't buy the age-old notion of God as an external force. Rather, I believe that God is the universe itself.

And since the Earth and all living things on it are part of the universe, then it goes without saying that we are part of God -- and that God is part of us. God is life. Life is God.

And if life is God -- and we are living beings -- what does that make us?

I say, it's time to end the split between religion and science. By themselves, religion and science cannot know all the answers, but together, anything is possible.


Pat Robertson Follow-Up: In the wake of the firestorm of controversy following his remarks that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's near-fatal stroke was "the wrath of God" for "dividing Gods's land," televangelist Pat Robertson is now persona non grata in the Jewish state.

Israel has severed all business dealings with Robertson and his ministry -- and there were unconfirmed reports that he will no longer be allowed to visit the country. The 75-year-old Robertson, who has been severely criticized by his fellow Christian conservatives for his "arrogant" and "insensitive" comments, has maintained a low profile since the controversy erupted 10 days ago.


Canada Election Follow-Up: What a difference a fortnight makes! Two weeks ago, I reported that Canada's ruling Liberal Party, forced into an early election by losing a no-confidence vote in Parliament in November, was narrowly leading the opposition Conservatives in most pre-election public-opinion polls, despite a corruption scandal.

But that was before a key cabinet officer became embroiled in an insider-trading scandal. Finance Minister John Goodale is facing accusations of manipulating Canadian stock markets with an announcement of a major tax break for bank-stock investors.

As a result of this newest controversy, support for the Liberals has plummeted. It now appears likely that the Conservatives will win next Monday's election -- but will fall short of a majority in the House of Commons.

Unlike the Liberals' now-defunct alliance with the more left-leaning New Democratic Party, the Conservatives have no allies in Parliament. All three other parties -- the Liberals, the NDP and the separatist Bloc Quebecois -- are hardly friendly to the Conservatives.

So unless the Conservatives win the necessary 155 of the Commons' 308 seats to gain a majority, they will have a very difficult time governing. Even then, the Liberals will still control the Senate, whose members are appointed by the prime minister and which has veto power over legislation passed by the Commons. Without a parliamentary majority, Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper's tenure as Canada's next prime minister could, therefore, end up being extremely short.


Volume I, Number 7
Copyright, 2006, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.

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