Have you ever been in a class and thought that all this talk of natural selection and humans evolving through favorable mutations across generations may not be true, and that the complexity of life and the natural world may have been designed by some Supreme Being? If so, know that The New York Times tacitly agrees. On Monday it published an op-ed by biochemist Michael Behe arguing that the sophistication one finds in living systems is too great to have come from natural selection and that in the absence of “any convincing non-design explanation” the logical conclusion ought to be an intelligent being.
And there may be something to his argument. To say that biological systems are ornate is redundant. An almost unimaginable assortment of molecules, proteins and nucleotides get together to produce living organisms, even in creatures of the “lowest” levels of complexity. How self-reflective orgasms like human beings could develop and populate the earth with SUVs and Twinkies definitely requires an explanation. And as Behe comments, the America public “overwhelmingly and sensibly” believes that our earth and its inhabitants were Intelligently Designed.
With this new truth in mind, I have been working through the trials and tribulations of daily life with a whole new outlook. For instance, I recently read an article in The Chronicle that reported on the Parizade busboy who was recently charged with felony “secret peeping” for looking through a hole in the women’s bathroom and taking pictures of the disrobed. A few minutes later when I read an article by Duke neurobiologists—and undergraduate Amit Khera—about how monkeys will “pay” juice to see female genitalia I no longer thought that two neighboring species of primates on the evolutionary tree might have similar tastes. Instead, I marveled at the wonders of design, and of how much I would like to meet the omnipotent being responsible for making the males of two different species sacrifice juice and liberty to catch a glimpse of snatch.
Other things are elegantly explained by Intelligent Design. The daily lives of humans, the frequent “quiet desperation” so eloquently described by Thoreau takes on new meaning in the New Paradigm. Where before I thought that the phenomenon of human unhappiness was a sensible, evolved condition generated to make humans pass the greatest number of gene copies along to future generations, now I see it as something with transcendent meaning. I understand that we are here because some being wants us to be, and that we are unhappy on occasion because It wants to test our fidelity and character. More importantly, I understand that the Designer put my nipples on for decoration and that these sensitive though useless marvels are not evolutionary accidents. Praise Be!
My new faith in Intelligent Design also allows me to come to terms with Duke Parking and migraines. What once was lost now is found! How gorgeous it is to think that the pulsating pain in my brain is the handiwork of some sort of WonderBeing and not an unfortunate, heritable condition that has been present in my family for generations. Everything makes sense now.
Except that it doesn’t. Granting the premise that the world was produced by design, it is most rational to conclude that the Designer has a competence deficit, is evil, or has a few extra chromosomes. By all appearances, our “purpose” appears to be to make more of ourselves and strive ruthlessly to achieve dominance over our peers to secure reproductive access and high-status mates, leading us to wage war, kill, cheat and work ourselves to death. This hardly seems like an experiment being run by an Intelligent Being. It is intelligent, however, to recognize these evolutionary forces that direct our lives and work to put them out of business with molecular biology, pharmacology and constitutional democracy.
Or, if you’d rather remain religious, join our happy Catholic brotherhood. We accept evolution and know better than to smash our Papist skulls against one of the most robust, and predictive, theories in the history of science. And we’ve got the schoolgirls.
Matt Gillum is a Trinity senior. His column appears Wednesdays.
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