August 02, 2005

Bush, Trout, and Intelligent Design

I see quite a few intelligent folks are up in arms over a few comments President Bush made regarding the theory of Intelligent Design.

Many of these intelligent folks are of the opinion that Bush said Intelligent Design was as valid a theory as evolution. I don't read it that way. Here is the Q&A in context:

Q I wanted to ask you about the -- what seems to be a growing debate over evolution versus intelligent design. What are your personal views on that, and do you think both should be taught in public schools?

THE PRESIDENT: I think -- as I said, harking back to my days as my governor -- both you and Herman are doing a fine job of dragging me back to the past. (Laughter.) Then, I said that, first of all, that decision should be made to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught.

Q Both sides should be properly taught?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, people -- so people can understand what the debate is about.

Q So the answer accepts the validity of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought, and I'm not suggesting -- you're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, and the answer is yes.

So what did you hear? In this conversation I didn't hear anything sinister. I did not hear of a plan to depose evolution, or teach creationism, but instead a simple call to hear all sides of the debate. I don't pretend to be a scientist or a theologian, but there seems to me to be enough room for both theories.

The earth is 4.6 billion years old, and we know this as a geological fact that astrophysics supports. We know for a fact life evolves, and we can see generational changes in lower species within our lifetimes. Evolution is a fact. Life evolves...

But where did life come from? For things to evolve, they have to start somewhere. Despite all the wonderful work provided to us by dedicated scientists, they still cannot provide a theory of The Beginning any more reasonable than the metaphor of Genesis I.

1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was [a] formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

9 And God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth." And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

20 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth." 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, [b] and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day

From an origination context, ID has as much right to discussion as any other theory. If this is Bush's argument, I think everyone is getting overheated over nothing, and I suspect this is the case.

I do, however, get a kick out of imagining an omnipotent, all powerful God trying to dumb-down the complicated (and to us, still mostly unknown) physics that bind this reality together into a metaphor that a Bronze Age scribe could understand and pass along. It must have felt as futile as trying to teach calculus to a trout.

God asks us through religion to rely on faith. I'd argue that is because he knows our brains can't handle the cosmic truths any better today than we could a few thousand years ago.

Of course, I may very well be wrong, and if I am, I have but one thing to say in my defense:


Posted by Confederate Yankee at August 2, 2005 10:00 PM | TrackBack

If Intelligent Design means that God started life on this planet in such a way that it would evolve I can accept that as a valid theory. This does not sound like an alternative to evolution, it sounds more like an explanation of how life started and what drives evolution (ie it was designed in).

I'm not a religious person but a Universe with a God is far more interesting that one with out.

Posted by: tracelan at August 2, 2005 11:32 PM

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Posted by: Jenny at August 3, 2005 09:38 AM

Evolution is a fact???

Lot of people are taught to believe that, but has anyone ever shown you even a single solid proof for evolution?

I myself believed the same thing, until I read an article some time back (about a year back), and then curious, I did a little bit of research. Not a single encyclopedia shows any proof for evolution. Lots of theories are proposed, but no proof.

Posted by: Arpan at August 3, 2005 02:05 PM

Well, this is news to me. I was never under the impression that Creationism and Intelligent Design were one and the same until reading this post. Thatnks for clearing up that previous understanding for me with your misinformation.

Posted by: greg at August 3, 2005 02:21 PM

Are you aware that the theory of evolution has "evolved" quite a bit since its inception? No one is saying that we should throw out the theory of evolution, just break its monopoly. In the end, this competition will most likely be beneficial for science.

Posted by: NYgirl at August 3, 2005 07:14 PM

When religion and science fight science always wins. Why is that?

The sun revolves around the earth remember?

The earth is the center of the Universe remember? Oh and we will burn your eyes out if you say otherwise, you remember Galileo right?

The earth is only a few thousand years old remember?

Noah gathered up two of every animal remember? He even rounded up the ones in places no one, in his part of the world, would hear of for a few thousand years. Places like Australia, North America, South America, Antarctica, Hawaii, The Canary Islands, The Galapagos Islands, you get the idea. Then he managed to get them all back to the right place. Doesn't scale well if you ask me.

Evolution is happening every day 24 hours a day 365 days a year. It never stops. What drives it? I don't know, do you?

Selection is what controls evolution but what drives it?

Why does a whale have a pelvis, toe bones and breath air? How did drug resistant bacteria become drug resistant? How did we get all these strange looking breeds of dogs from a wolf? Why is the DNA of a human and a chimp 98% the same?

Posted by: tracelan at August 3, 2005 11:09 PM


why do the plane, train, bus, car and motorcyles all have wheels? Why is a modern car so similar to the original cars? because they have been designed, and any designer/engineer knows that it's stupid to try to reinvent/replace something that works well.

Proof for evolution??
If evolution is a fact, and it never stops, where's the proof?
We have found millions of fossils, but have never found a single intermediate animal.

We have single celled organisms, and organisms with thousands & millions of cells, but where are the two-celled & three-celled organisms.

How did the reptile evolve into the mammal and the bird?
How did the insect evolve into a reptile?

Not only are there no fossils, no theory has even been proposed to explain how genetic data is added to an organism.

Posted by: at August 4, 2005 08:45 AM

A flying squirrel seems about half way to a flying mammal. A sea lion is about half way to becoming a marine animal from a land animal. These are some intermediate animals that are live and well today.

Then there is the fossil record of dolphins which clearly shows a nose turning into a blowhole over millions of years.

Posted by: tracelan at August 4, 2005 09:12 AM

The flying squirrel may be halfway to a flying mammal, but it is not half-way to a bird.

Can you point to a single fossil that:
- has partially developed organs
- is between a reptile and a mammal
- is between a reptile and a mammal
- is between a single celled organism and a organism with thousands of cells ( ie. two - four cells)

Lots of examples are given is discussion, but none of the reputable encyclopedias even display one proper evidence for evolution.

Posted by: at August 4, 2005 02:53 PM

could you point to any pages that document the fossil record of dolphins?

I've seen diagrams of monkeys turning into Humans, of a cow turning into a whale, but there are no fossils to support these diagrams.

Posted by: Arpan at August 4, 2005 02:58 PM

different breeds of cats or dogs are not proof for evolution (macro-evolution: ie, common descent)

there are various breeds of cats and dogs, but in all these cases, no genetic data has been added. All the variation that we see is a result of the diversity in the genetic data.

In all examples of mutation of genes, not once has data been added, ie, any new organ has come, or new feature has come about.

In all examples of mutation that have ever been seen, there is either no noticeable change, or the change results in loss of information: example: a microorganism not being able to absord a substance (sometimes this can be beneficial, such as creating resistance to a disease), but never is information added.

You are welcome to correct me.

Posted by: Arpan at August 4, 2005 03:03 PM

Personally, I get a kick whenever I see a person proclaim God's omnipotence in one breath, yet in the next breath they unconsciously place restraints on God's power to communicate via mankind's own limits of understanding.

Rhetorically speaking, if we presume God is omniscient and omnipotent, wouldn't He then, by default, know how to communicate the most complex concepts to any creature in the universe?

Besides, were this logic [about man's inability to grasp God's cosmic concepts] true, why would God bother to have Jesus become human, for how could one be human and still grasp the complexities of the universe?

Why did He bother to separate us from the animals by giving us the divine spark called a soul? Why does He call us "his children" if we are not capable of being taught His knowledge?

It is true that all of the above is based on the bedrock of the Christianity: faith. However, let's not stop there and merely shrug our shoulders.

Like many mathematical proofs, the first line of the proof is often a given.

If the given here (based on the cornerstone of Christianity - faith) that
1) there exists a singular, eternal, omniscient, and omnipotent entity called God; and
2) this amazing creature actually cared enough about our destiny to have His own eternal, omniscient and omnipotent Son be sacrificed like a lamb to save us, then....

God values us enough to take the time to reveal Himself to our widdle-itty-bitty brains, and He means precisely what He says.

I suspect God dislikes spin more than Bill O'Reilly. We don't need to be God's press agents and seek to make science and faith agree to fit our concepts of reality. We merely should pass on the Word: raw, unrefined, unapologetic, and unafraid.

God said seven days? OK God - whatever you say. You're the omnipotent and omniscient one, not me. Besides, you're the only witness to creation itself, so who am I to argue?

Seven days it is.

[And as to the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? In their successful search for absolutely fantastic satire, they spit on the body, blood, and sacrifice of your Son. Forgive them Lord; they know not what they do. I pray that perhaps someday, they will.]

Posted by: Atticus_NC at October 22, 2005 10:48 AM


You bring up very serious, and very real questions that I don't have the answers for, except fo the first.

Perhaps I didn't explain my thoughts well (it happens) but I wasn't saying God couldn't communicate with, but the knowledge he could pass to us is not something we could easily pass between one human and another. Just like we know there are colors we cannot see and sounds we cannot hear, I am certain there is knowledge that we cannot process until we learn to think a certain way. God could tell a caveman about astrophysics and have him understand it in a blink of an eye, but that caveman needs to find a way to spread that knowledge to other cavemen in a way they can best undestand it. It is an information bottleneck.

As far Arpan, if oyu want proof of evolutionary design, you're quite literally sitting on it.

Unless, of course, you still have your tail fully formed, instead of just the few small tailbones every other human has.

You might also want to look at the many species of snakes that still have vestigal (I don't know if I spelled that right) limbs, or of the fossil records from Malaysia where animals, humans included, evolved into species far smaller than their modern counterparts.

As for forward evolution, take a step. While erect. Boom you've got forward progress in the human species. Scientists just this summer are stunned to have seen other primates (I can't remember the species) walking completely erect like humans for the very first time in the wild. Evolution doesn't stop, nor does it spit out completely random intermediate animals. Your grasp of biology is weak, and telling.

Every generation of human has become taller, and our brainpans have become progressively larger over time, as have our brains. Smarter, more cunning lines of humans have continued this trend, while other lines of the genus homo have died out.

Your arguments, and that of Mr. anonymous, speak from a postion of blinding ignorance.

I beleive in God the creation story, and the theory of evolution. Somewhere in theri si room for a theory of intelligent design, I just don't know if it is the one being pushed, or whether or not it should be so easily pigeonholed as strictly science or strictly theology.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at October 22, 2005 11:52 AM