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This is the second of a series of articles by Jacques Bailhé, a media artist from Los Angeles, CA; the author of the novel Thai Heaven and owner of the http://www.bailhe.net/ website
I'm a simple Joe, neither scientist nor priest, sitting in my garden, reading the latest communiqués from the battle raging between the Evolutionists and Creationists. I'm hopelessly confused. Seems to me both sides are arguing a controversy that doesn't exist. Aren't evolution and Intelligent Design one and the same?
Creationists argue the theory of evolution must be wrong because of the marvelous and amazing genius and sheer beauty of the universe. As proof, they like to cite the astounding contraption known as the human eye, arguing the theoretical process of evolution could not have created such a wondrous thing. It must be the result of what they call Intelligent Design. A catchy phrase. I like it. Sounds lots better than the "The Theory of Natural Selection" which leaves me worried I might be left out. But their term describes far more than a process of design. It's code for the unspoken meaning, "God did it and faithless science is wrong. Repent before it's too late! We're not making this up. It says so in the Bible."
The evolutionists leap from their chairs shouting, "You've got no proof. We do. And a court ruling too. We put an end to your fairy-tale Creationist ideas at the Scopes trial. You say the earth was created 6,000 years ago? How do you account for the irrefutable geological science that shows the earth is 4.5 billion years old? We're not making this up. It says so in the geological record."
What's the fuss? Evolution is intelligent design. The terms are synonymous. I was taught that what makes natural selection so nifty is that it kills off unsuccessful designs because they don't succeed and conversely, allows good designs to survive because they do succeed. Guided by this process, nature keeps itself thriving and healthy. As new conditions develop, flora and fauna are adjusted, and visa versa, in an intricate dance, the result of which is truly marvelous to behold. Just look at your garden.
Nothing in evolutionary theory says anything about God's hand. It does refute a few statements made in various versions of the Bible, but questions about the age of the earth or the process that creates new species are not essential to the existence of God or faith. I do understand the Creationists disagree, but they changed their mind about Galileo, realizing that the relation of Earth and Sun did not prove or disprove the existence of God. Maybe they'll come to see their error in this too. And I see that some Evolutionists mistake the wizardry of science for having something to do with spiritual matters. Both sides are trying to mix oil and water.
Seems to me the Creationists are missing a great opportunity to promote their views. Clearly evolution is intelligent and it's been using that intelligence to do a bang-up job creating the designs of life. Who could have devised such a wondrously simple and elegant way of creating the splendors of nature but God? Why don't the Creationists jump on the genius of evolution as proof of God's creation of the universe?
On the other side of battlefield, why don't the Evolutionists say, "You Creationists have finally got something right. We're so glad you've come to see the truth. Intelligent design is precisely the fundamental mechanism at work in evolution. If evolution were stupid, it obviously wouldn't work. Like the marvel of the human eye, evolution is one more of the countless wonders of nature we now understand thanks to science."
Whether or not God created the universe, and whether or not he has the time to worry about helping some tiny arthropod get through the Cretaceous period, is all together a different subject. Understanding and delineating the processes of nature does not, as the Creationists argue, refute the existence of God. And conversely, belief in God does not require a person to renounce science. At least, it shouldn't.
Seeing a bee hover over a flower in my garden makes me think. I'm neither scientist nor priest, but from high school, I know something about the bee and the flower: pistols and stamens, and pollen sacs and cross-fertilization, their structures, processes, and interdependence. This knowledge does not diminish my awe or the inspiration I feel. The mysteries of their lives I know nothing about, their beauty, and my relation to them, give me a feeling of great joy, stirring spiritual awareness made richer by my high school science.
Human beings have somehow developed the ability to unravel the mysteries of the natural world: DNA, the evolution of species, the Big Bang, quantum physics. Well done and keep going. But these breakthroughs have never begun to approach the question of the existence of God, despite the often fervent declarations from both scientists and priests. So what if all the planets and stars in the heavens were created by a gigantic explosion? What caused the explosion? What created whatever it was that exploded? What created the set of physical rules allowing for and governing the phenomenon of an explosion? What's the purpose of all this? Fundamental questions about the reasons for the universe and its characteristics, or the very purpose of existence, continue to elude us. But each new scientific breakthrough has brought better understanding of the universe and our place in it. Each new understanding has replaced mystery and untruth with the joyous illumination of truth. I don't know him well, but I think God would be delighted.