The Darwin Code

I’ll bet that many young-earth creationists and proponents of intelligent design are kicking themselves for having been beaten to the punch by Dan Brown and having their own argument used against Christianity. If there is one feature that young-earth creationism and intelligent design have in common, it is that they must both posit a conspiracy to indoctrinate people and cover up the truth. That is the only way to explain why not only most people but most scientists in relevant areas of expertise cannot see the logic of their arguments. (Some atheists, of course, make a similar argument about religion).

It would make a great novel. Darwin left codes in The Origin of Species that show how he was involved in a secret society aimed at undermining the foundations of Christianity and morality. When a young biologist involved in the intelligent design movement is murdered, a coded message he left behind is a clue to the conspiracy he had uncovered. A Christian investigator is on the trail, with a skeptical agnostic side-kick who comes around to the truth by the end of the book. It would be a best-seller, and I almost wish I had the time to write it – I could use the money. But like The DaVinci Code, it would not merely be fiction, it would ride roughshod over the historical evidence.

It is perhaps quote-mining that most clearly shows the self-contradictory character of such conspiracy claims. Most if not all the major biologists in the world would have to be involved in the conspiracy, and yet supposedly these individuals also write things that show evolution to be a “theory in crisis” (when they are quoted selectively out of context, of course). Why doesn’t the secret society behind it all not eliminate such rogue elements that are supposedly disclosing the truth? One cannot have a conspiracy and at the same time claim that those involved in it acknowledge evolution to be problematic. You really have to pick one or the other and stick with it if you are to make a case that at least has an air of plausibility about it.

But perhaps Intelligent Design doesn’t need such selective quotes. Perhaps it just needs Mulder and Scully to come back and investigate things…

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  • Alejandro

    Micheal Crichton did it with global warming (which is an environmentalist conspiracy in “State of Fear”) so I’m sure that IDers can still do it as well…

  • John MacDonald

    Dr. McGrath said: “But like The DaVinci Code, it would not merely be fiction, it would ride roughshod over the historical evidence.”

    I like the connection Dan Brown draws out between Professor Langdon and the Freemasons in his book “The Lost Symbol.” I’m a secular agnostic, but I really wish I wasn’t. I think life would be much more wonderful if I believed. And one of the things in life that I want beyond all else is to become a Freemason, but in order to become a Freemason you have to believe in a Supreme Being, which I don’t. And you can’t force yourself to believe in God, anymore than you can choose who to fall in love with. If I could have come to faith by an act of willpower, I would have become religious long ago.

    • James F. McGrath

      Well, if it helps, “supreme being” can denote either one particularly powerful entity among all the others in existence, or (arguably more naturally) it can denote that extent of Being itself that is supreme, the most transcendent and all-encompassing. And while there is plenty of room to discuss and debate the characteristics and attributes of Being itself or of Ultimate Reality, the existence thereof isn’t really open to doubt. And so it might not take willpower for you to become someone who accepts that the term God can denote this Reality, while being appropriately agnostic about the attributes thereof.

      • John MacDonald

        I agree, and I still haven’t abandoned the idea that an ultimate reality could have the characteristics of a mind. I think there may be force in the cosmological argument:

        For instance, if we start with our current state of affairs, and trace backward in time, we get to the Big Bang. The question then becomes how did the material that made up the Big Bang get there in the first place? If we posit something more original before the Big Bang, the question then becomes how this more original “something” got there in the first place. This seems to lead back to an infinite regress, and so some claim we must posit an uncaused cause to stop the indefinite regress chain: God.

        I asked Carrier about the cosmological argument once and he said:

        “There isn’t any need to stop the regress. Craig is lying when he says actual infinities are logically impossible. It could very well be universes all the way back for endless time (bi-eternal inflation theory). In fact, that should probably be the default assumption. As we need evidence for a ‘first moment,’ and we have none. But even if there is a ‘first moment,’ we have many fully adequate theories of how it went from a simple physical start-point (like a quantum moment) to a universe (or series of universes, which we are a later iteration of, either way). There is no need to stop the regress with a ridiculously complicated bodiless mind with magical powers, a type of entity we have no evidence exists and no evidence anything like it exists.”

        I’m not sure I agree with Carrier that an infinite regress makes sense. And, on the other hand, as I said, positing a quantum moment seems to demand an answer to the question how the material that made up that quantum moment got there in the first place.

        • James F. McGrath

          I think the cosmological argument has some force, sure. But even if our universe turns out to be all that is, eternal and infinite, bringing worlds and living things into existence, for what reason would terms like “Supreme Being,” “higher power,” and “God” be inappropriate ways of referring to it?

          • John MacDonald

            Interesting thoughts. They remind me of the Philosophical notion of pantheism or “Pan-Theos,” everything God, in the sense that through reflection everything is understood as an expression of its Ground. Three Swabian friends, Hegel, Schelling, and Holderlin interpreted this in terms of “Hen Kai Pan,” meaning “one and all,” or “all things in relation to God,” in the sense of “all beings stand in relation to the ground of beings.” This is also expressed in The Principle of Reason which states “everything that ‘is’ has a reason,” in the sense that “To Be” means “to stand in relation to a Ground”. The negative formulation of the principle states “Nothing” means “lacking Ground.” This has nothing to do with “God” in the popular sense, but rather seeks to express the ἀρχή, the ultimate ground, which fits in with the understanding of God you illustrated in your comment above.