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Malevolent design.

Sure, intelligent design is bad science, because its central propositions can’t be tested — more precisely, there is no test that could show them to be false. But doesn’t it give you an extra frisson of schadenfreude to know that ID is also bad religion? J. M. Tyree points out ID’s theological underpinnings, and summarizes some of the best arguments against it, going back to Hume.

Despite the new cloaking device of pseudoscientific language, ID is actually a recent mutation of one of the oldest, most persistent, and most tempting of religious ideas, the so-called “teleological argument” or “argument from design.” … The most devastating objection is that even if you assume the world was designed, it does not appear to be designed by a very nice deity. … The Designer who so Intelligently Designed our world, in theory, could be malevolent or capricious just as easily as he could be all good. He might have designed us intelligently, but for the purpose of watching us tear each others’ throats out.

In other words, God might be Cthulhu … or maybe even the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


  1. Frank Rommey

    Regardless of the lack of merits of ID, what needs to be examined in a through and focused manner, is the political aim of the ID crowd, to fully understand the underlying objective: wrestle the control of the public schools from the communities and the imposition of a curriculum based on the Christian-fundamentalist dogma.

    Seeing the tenor of most postings on this subject, it is evident that today the debate escaped the tight control of those groups behind the organized churches. It doesn’t mean that they gave up on that ultimate goal. Their strategy is tripartite. They try to stay in front in the search for knowledge of the universe. Funds from the undisclosed stash that the churches manage, find the way to a lot of research groups. Southwest Research Institute, in San Antonio, Texas, is a good example of what I am talking about. There are no constrains for those researchers, except the fact that their particular researches remain unknown and the results do not become public. Second, they promote diversionary controversies to render invisible in the public screen, those objectives that could give insight of their workings. The current “legal-educational-political-mediatical” circus built around Intelligent Design is a perfect example of how those groups manage to smoke over the blatant attempt to take over the educational apparatus and brainwash our youth, at the optimum stage of their development, therefore creating entire generations that would not question their “revelation”.
    The third part of their strategy is to build a tightly controlled political apparatus that will slowly erode the current legal system (not only in the USA) and the individuals rights and freedoms built into it. The fight against terrorism, the need for coordination in the efforts to palliate the destructive effects of natural catastrophes, or the latest scare building up around the “bird flu”, are propitious venues for their strategy. Notions of “faithfulness” and “patriotism” and “loyalty” and “defense of our institutions” are natural ingredients for their political action and very difficult to unmask throughout the large scope of their tightly knitted webs. The control of the media is an absolute must. Just look under the surface of the Murdock phenomena (Fox et al) and you will see exactly what I mean. Religion per se is not very relevant though, in this picture, as the purpose is not to call attention unto themselves.
    Individually most people have no quarrel with the personal belief system of anybody. The concept of individual freedom is predicated upon this principle of mutual respect. What they are against, is the action of those groups, as organized entities, to impose their objectives which will erase the personal rights and freedoms that allow the development and evolution of our communities.
    Even the concept of law has been tainted by the religious manipulation. Laws are nothing more than articles of covenant between the members of the community. They aren’t handed down from supernatural powers to us. They are the product of our understanding and agreement on which way is better, to handle with justice and fairness, for our relationships within our community. Respect for the law is a byproduct of the mutual respect between human beings and not the other way around.

  2. x

    Not quite a comment more like a sermon Frank. ID is perfectly logical science. Investigating the “political aim” is a poor way to refute new thought. Calling it riligious dogma, is the chicken shit way out, as well. What are you so afriad of? There may be a cosmic designer? So what?

  3. Scot Hacker

    If I could only remember my fallacies, I think there’s one in Tyree’s argument. He’s trying to besmirch one point by making an unrelated one that follows from the first. Whether God is benevolent or malevolent is unrelated to the question of whether s/he is the world’s designer. At least I don’t see where these points are connected. In the history of philosophy/theology they’re both old and important debates, but not really related to one another.

    Not trying to defend the ID crowd, mind you!

  4. x

    I will defend them, if they be right. Once we become closed to new thought we are truly blind.

    Refuting those who want to use science to prostalitize or regurgatate riligious dogma is no great thing.

    But thinking freely that there could be indeed a “great entity” behind our world? Why not for the sake of science study what we now know to be fact through that lens, could we not learn something?

    In Mr. Tweney words “Sure, intelligent design is bad science, because its central propositions can’t be tested ..” is not really a good argument. It is up to those on the side of and those against to come up with a way to test it. As in all good debate. And in the end there will be a victor.

  5. Dylan

    The definition of a scientific proposition is that it can be tested. I am confident in saying that the proposition that “life is so complex, some entity must have designed it” cannot be subjected to an impartial test. I suppose I may be wrong about this. But the burden is on those who make the proposition, not on me, to come up with a test.

    As for Scot’s earlier comments — yes, it’s true that there’s a fallacy in Tyree’s argument. He’s not disproving the ID argument at all. But what he is saying is that the ID argument says nothing about the *nature* of the creator, which means the creator could be anything at all, even a flying spaghetti monster. And if we’re going to give time to discussion of a christian god, we ought to give equal time to the hindu gods, buddhist deities, the whole Greek pantheon, and yes, the FSM. It’s a snarky position to take, to be sure. I’m sure that’s why it appealed to me.

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