have recently forwarded to me various materials -- including a
very professional DVD -- advocating "Intelligent Design" as a
substitute for evolution.
Don't be taken in.
Intelligent Design claims that cellular structures cannot have evolved, because they are too complex, and require simultaneous mutations.
This claim is specious. There are two fundamental problems. First, it's bad science; and second, if the logic presented is followed through on, it inevitably leads to a compound god (incompatible with the Unique God of the Ten Commandments). Opponents of Intelligent Design claim it is a stand-in for either "creationism" or "alien" design.
With regard to the appearance of impossible simultaneous coordinated developments -- sadly, the cell biologists and bio-chemists have not kept up with developments in physics and math. Only a few years ago, mathematicians thought it was impossible to produce Penrose tilings, because they required simultaneous coordinated developments. It was thought that there was no possible way for different parts of a developing crystal, for example, to coordinate with other parts, so that the overall structure would be complete without fissures, defects, and faults.
As it turned out, even after the
cautioned that these patterns could not occur in nature, they were
discovered in nature. And no "intelligent designer" was required. The
Penrose tilings are naturally adjacent in a higher dimension -- which
is apparently where they organize. So the impossible became possible.*
Magicians make use of this all the time. They lead us to believe that all of the possible explanations have been blocked, and that what we see must be magic. But it is never the case. All that the magician has done is come up with something that we haven't foreseen. The argument for "Intelligent Design" is thus actually the argument of theorists who, not knowing their own limits, believe that if they can't figure it out, it must be magic.
The "intelligence" of Intelligent Design is intended to be confabulated with "information". This is what leads to the necessity -- consistent with this theory -- of an embodiment of an intelligent multi-talented (compound) god. Intelligence is the result of the use of information, but it's not the same thing as information.
Information is the fuel of intelligence. It's not the engine, it's not the car, and it doesn't tell the car when and where to go and stop.
Physicist Roger Penrose, writing in his Pulitzer-prize winning "The Emperor's New Mind", tells us that plant life gets the information it needs to organize itself as a living thing from the difference in information carried by the collimated photons the plant absorbs from the sun, and the diffuse and dispersed photons that the planet radiates back to the sky. The plants stand in a negentropic (meaning "makes order") information gradient, extending from the sun to the shield of the sky.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chassidism, writes in "Shaar Hayichud Vaehemunah" ("Gate of Unity and Faith" (Tanya), first published in 1796) that "Hashem/Elokim is a Sun and a Shield", and then goes on to use language that parallels the language Roger Penrose uses 200 years later.
In Jewish tradition, Hashem/Elokim ("Lord God") is undifferentiated and utterly Singular. This is the proclamation of the Sh'ma: "Hear, O Israel, Hashem is our God, Hashem is One". (Hashem="The Name"=Lord; Elokim=Elo-him="God"). This ideal "Echad" ("One"; singular, unique Unity) tolerates no differentiation ("a jealous God"), and no qualities knowable to us (beyond Singular All-Inclusiveness).
In Torah tradition, the information gradient that leads the natural world to the evolution of life (and us) derives directly from the fact that Hashem/Elokim is undifferentiated. If there were any differentiation, then the negentropic information gradient would be degraded, and we wouldn't have "All-there Is". There would be gaps in reality, and gaps in nature. It is only because Hashem/Elokim is utterly Singular and Unique that the universe can contain the full span of diversity. (What I mean by this is that there is a complementary transform relationship between the singularity and the spectrum.**)
Intelligent Design requires god to apply a structured logic to the world, in order to force evolution. This structured logic, which is claimed to lead to the logic of DNA, must come from a structured logic. Logic has components, or it's either trivial or not logical. The proponents of Intelligent Design are thus attempting to walk us down a garden path to an embodied (compound) god.
God is the source of information -- and this information*** is the fuel of intelligence.
Bible tradition -- monotheism -- requires a Singular and unembodied (non-compound) God.
I think it's important to discuss the implications of Intelligent Design, because Intelligent Design is now being promoted by the President of the United States. Science classrooms all over the country are being assaulted with what amounts to a teaching that claims that one belief system is scientifically true, and the public -- almost all non-scientists -- is buying it.
This is an assault on science, which means it's also an assault on the future of our society -- and on the true roots of our traditions of faith. The fact is, when all is said and done, Intelligent Design "damns by faint praise."
* See page 4 of physicist Lisa Randall's new book, "Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions". (500 pp. Ecco Press, 2005). For a review of this book in the Nov./Dec. 2005 issue of "American Scientist", see
**See my essay, "The God of Abraham: A Mathematician's View", at
See also the graphic on the Delta Transform at
***(Often via the "unseen hand" of geometric boundaries)