What dread hand?

Reviewers have opened several lanes of traffic through the holes in Michael Behe's argument in his latest book advocating Intelligent Design, The Edge of Evolution.

Nick Matzke tackles one such hole at The Panda's Thumb, with Ed Brayton offering a helpful summary for laypeople and nonmajors at Talk to Action. Follow either of those links for the science, what I'm interested in here is the theology.

Both Matzke and Brayton call attention to this comment from Behe:

Here’s something to ponder long and hard: Malaria was intentionally designed. The molecular machinery with which the parasite invades red blood cells is an exquisitely purposeful arrangement of parts.

Malaria kills about a million people every year. Behe's assertion that this pestilence was "intentionally designed" echoes William Blake:

What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? …

Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?

For Behe, the answer to those last two questions is always yes. This would seem to mean that, for Behe, God is the author of evil. His theodicy is as shoddy as his biology.

I'll leave it to my Calvinist friends to decide whether or not Behe is advocating a kind of supra-supralapsarianism. I'm not very good at sorting through the various lapsarian views, since I disagree with their notion that God is trapped down here in Flatland.

(As a wise man recently will have said, "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a nonlinear, nonsubjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly … timey-wimey … stuff.")

  • Toby

    Jeff,
    So if you lacked the capacity to feel pain, you would still care about your body as a source of pleasures and diversions–you just wouldn’t care so much about whether it got hit by a car.
    If you don’t see how that constitutes caring a helluvalot less about your body than you do now–well, I’m not sure what else I can say to convince you.

  • Toby

    nesciomancer:
    Also, there’s a difference between me saying “I don’t think that emotional detachment sounds all that unpleasant- if I’d been born emotionally detached, then I’d probably want to stay that way”, and me saying “I urgently need to become emotionally detached.”
    It’s not a question of what is found to be “pleasant” or “unpleasant” by this or that entity. It’s a question of value.
    Slugs can’t love. They can’t see the value in love–which says nothing about whether love is actually valuable. If you were a slug, you wouldn’t be able to love, and you also wouldn’t care. But how this could be relevant to the question of whether love is valuable or not is beyond me.
    I took it for granted that emotional attachment is a source of value. If you want to call that into question, go ahead, but saying “if I were this sort of creature I wouldn’t feel this way and also wouldn’t mind” is beside the point.

  • Bugmaster

    So if you lacked the capacity to feel pain, you would still care about your body as a source of pleasures and diversions–you just wouldn’t care so much about whether it got hit by a car.Logically speaking, if I got hit by a sufficiently large car, any pain I’d experience would probably be very brief. I care (again, logically speaking) about not getting hit by cars not because of pain, but because there are more things I want to do with my life, because of the effect it would have on my loved ones, etc.
    However, in addition to the logical reasons, I’m also hardwired to automatically attempt to dodge large objects coming toward me, such as cars. There’s no “caring” involved: I see a car, I dodge. Can’t help it.

  • none

    The answer is simple: the supreme principle is…… AZATHOTH!!!!!!!

  • nesciomancer

    It’s not a question of what is found to be “pleasant” or “unpleasant” by this or that entity. It’s a question of value.
    OK- then I’m not convinced that grief has any intrinsic value (obviously some people consider it to be very valuable- but I’m not sure that everyone does, or should).
    Slugs can’t love.
    How do you know? I’d agree that slugs are pretty different to humans, and so the sensation they feel when another slug fires little chalk lovedarts into their flesh is probably different from the sensation a human feels when they look at their spouse. But unless you have some form of mollusc-based telepathy, I don’t see how you can really describe how a slug feels about another slug, or whether it feels anything at all.
    They can’t see the value in love–which says nothing about whether love is actually valuable.
    If we assume that slugs can’t love, and that slugs were created by God, then that *does* say something about love. It says that, whatever God’s views on love between humans, he believes that it’s possible for a creature to be valuable whilst being incapable of love (otherwise, what’s the point of slugs?)
    If you were a slug, you wouldn’t be able to love, and you also wouldn’t care.
    Well, no- but slugs are generally seen as being unable to consider these sorts of complex questions.
    I think that extending that particular example to cross-species comparisons may make it less useful- not because other species are irrelevant, just because it’s so hard to understand how they perceive *any* part of their world that it’s difficult to empathise with them directly. I have a better chance of working out what it would feel like to be a human who is neurologically unusual in some way (e.g. completely ‘normal’, except when it comes to grief).
    I took it for granted that emotional attachment is a source of value. If you want to call that into question, go ahead, but saying “if I were this sort of creature I wouldn’t feel this way and also wouldn’t mind” is beside the point.
    Do you mean ‘emotional attachment’ as in love (which in your view is inevitably tied to grief), or as in, my emotional attachment to the fact that I feel grief, which stops me from choosing to make grief go away?
    I’d feel uncomfortable taking a drug which changes the way I process grief, in the same way that I wouldn’t want to take a drug which changes my favourite colour. The fact that I would not want to take a pill which makes me love the colour green does not mean that I think green is intrinsically less valuable than blue, or that people who prefer green are missing out- it means that I’m uncomfortable with the idea of taking drugs which change my mental state, because it messes with my sense of identity (same as how I don’t enjoy getting drunk, although clearly I’m a minority in this case).
    The example I was thinking of, in terms of grief, is a story I heard about a Chinese philosopher (don’t know which one, or where the story comes from, sorry). Apparently, some friends came to visit him the day after his beloved wife died, and were shocked to find him cheerfully setting out on a fishing trip. He explained that his wife had been such a wonderful person that he was sure she was in Heaven- therefore, there was no point in grieving for her since she was not suffering, therefore he couldn’t see any reason to pretend to be upset.
    I don’t know if this is a true story, or if there are many people in the world who feel this way about the deaths of loved ones- but I don’t think a world where everyone automatically felt this way about death would be a less valuable world, overall, than the world we currently live in.

  • Jeff

    Slugs can’t love. They can’t see the value in love–which says nothing about whether love is actually valuable. If you were a slug, you wouldn’t be able to love, and you also wouldn’t care. But how this could be relevant to the question of whether love is valuable or not is beyond me.
    There’s a wonderful book of love poetry by different animals, and I believe that slugs are among them. Probably to do with how the Platonic ideal of the merging of “you and I” and “male and female” is realized in our glorious fusion.
    If you don’t see how that constitutes caring a helluvalot less about your body than you do now–well, I’m not sure what else I can say to convince you.
    I’d probably care as much, just in a different way (feeling the effects of the ginormous roller-coasters without worrying that my back is going to scream at me for days, for one). But, I’m not sure we can convince each other, either.
    Doesn’t mean we can’t still post our ideas and let others riff on them.

  • 85% Duane

    Jeff, may I just say that you’ve been fascinatingly conversational in the last couple of days?

  • Tonio

    Rosina crystallized my thoughts regarding the problem of worship. The only “evidence” that there are supreme beings giving orders to humans are the conflicting claims of alleged prophets. In my view, it’s much more likely that the prophets are simply using the names of gods as endorsements. Some of them might honestly believe their ideas will help people, while others might have self-serving agendas. My point is that all of the alleged prophets’ claims have equal status as to proof – there is no reason to treat one prophet’s claims as more valid than the others. The notion of “choosing which prophet to believe” seems to contradict the concept of empiricism.

  • Jesurgislac

    There’s a wonderful book of love poetry by different animals, and I believe that slugs are among them.
    Did they sort of ooze over the keyboard? Didn’t the slime mess up the keys?
    They surely can’t hold a pen.
    *envisions slug holding weeny pen in mouth*

  • Angelika

    Did they sort of ooze over the keyboard? Didn’t the slime mess up the keys?
    Slugs are a bit oldfashioned, when it comes to poetry. No computers involved: They simply ooze over a surface, leaving slimy little lines behind. To make their poetry readable to the human eye one has to apply some powdered ink evenly over the surface and afterwards carfully dust off the powder that had not stuck to the slimy messages.

  • Jesurgislac

    though cockroaches write excellent poetry on keyboards. i wonder why cockroaches can compose on a keyboard, while slugs prefer whole-body poetry?
    archy would have loved having a CAPSLOCK.

  • Angelika

    i wonder why cockroaches can compose on a keyboard, while slugs prefer whole-body poetry?
    Slugs aspire to an art that expresses their entire beings. The slime consistency in an integral part of their poetry.

  • Jeff

    Jeff, may I just say that you’ve been fascinatingly conversational in the last couple of days?
    Thank you, but my perception is that I haven’t changed the style or content of my posts. Whether it’s you or me, it’s a Good Thing.
    archy would have loved having a CAPSLOCK.
    I got a capslock boss I just can’t operate it
    im too small to jump high enough to force it down in fact
    remember one night i left a letter asking you to leave it down for me
    but as far as i know you never did
    i could have asked mehitabel to hold the shift for me
    why i didnt is a mystery lost to the ages

  • Barry

    coltakashi: “What is evil about malaria is that the US and Europe have been denying to third world nations the free use of DDT that would kill the insects that are the main vector of transmission, based on an exaggerated fear of the environmental side effects of the chemical. Every death from Malaria in Africa and south Asia is a human sacrifice to a self-righteous ignorance that places avoidance of risks at the one-in-a-million level above the very real deaths every year of millions of poor people.”
    For those interested in the truth, please see:
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/ddt/
    for many articles, and links to scientific-like ‘journal articles’. SIN WARNING: these ‘articles’ rely on something called ‘evolution’, which is a Sickular Humanist belief of Evilooshunist Biologists.

  • Phoenix

    There was a comedian who said perhaps we are just here to provide the Earth with styrofoam. Once she has enough styrofoam, we are gone.
    This is from memory:
    if god is god, he is not good
    if god is good, he is not god
    take the even, take the odd
    i would not stay here if i could
    except for the little green leaves on the trees
    and the wind across the water
    – e.e. cummings

  • Brandy

    very interesting and informative

  • Sandy

    (_._)

  • Caitlin

    (-_-”)

  • Kelsey

    (O,o)


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