Intelligent design theory has a fatal moral glitch -- it makes the creator God into a premeditated mass murderer.
Photo by Keoni Cabral
So called "Intelligent" Design, or ID, is a form of creationism that admits that our universe and planet are billions of years old, and that species have descended from one another over the eons. Although it consequently seems more sophisticated than Bible literalism, ID is a form of creationism because it posits that it is impossible for complexity and ability to evolve on its own from the bottom up, as proposed by the theory of evolution via natural selection and other nonsupernatural processes. Because ID theorizes that complexity and sophistication can only come from the top down, it contends that all living things on Earth were designed by a super-intelligence. In principle our creator could be smart aliens, but then one has to explain how the ETs came into being without they going through some form of natural, bottom up evolution. So ID posits that some form of transcendent supernatural being that somehow exists without it self being created by a greater intelligence is the creator of everything else -- just never mind how that awkward part about the failure to explain how the complex creator was created in the first place. Ultimately ID theory rests on miracle and magic -- that's a reason why only a wee little minority of scientists opt for the theory.
Not only are IDers in the main supernaturalists, many if not most of them are Abrahamists, with most of them being Christians. A prime example being Catholic microbiologist Michael Behe, the leading proponent of ID. He came up with irreducible complexity, the subtheory that underlies ID. But we are not going to address the standard technical details of why irreducible complexity and other aspects of ID are scientifically defective, that has been done in abundance. We have other, neglected, fish to fry here. We will look at a peculiar moral consequence of ID theory that has slipped by with hardly any notice, even though it directly contradicts the belief that the designer of humanity is either truly intelligent, or anywhere close to being moral.
Christians IDers not only argue that a supernatural creator must exist, they go on to propose that the Christian creator is, for some reason that is never explained, perfect in all respects, including its total power and intelligence, absolutely flawless prolife and profreedom morality, and infinite love for its human creations. You know what they say about stories that are too good to be true.
Before we continue, a question. Do you believe it is never, ever morally unacceptable to allow the agony and death of enormous numbers of children, in the many billions, when it is well within the ability of the individual that set up the situation to greatly reduce or eliminate the suffering and premature death? Agree? Hold that thought. (If you don't agree, well then you already scare me.)
A big ID enthusiast is Ann Coulter. In her Godless: The Church of Liberalism that like all her books blames everything that has ever gone wrong on ungodly liberals, proudly proclaims ID creationism as morally superior to bioevolution. Her primary scientific consultant for design theory? Michael Behe. Ann talks about how the immoral liberal evolutionists banned the use of DDT, leading to the death of 20 million from malaria. Please store these items in your reference banks too.
According to ChristoID, the ideal supermind created and fine tuned a colossal universe for human life, all of which resides on this lovely blue dot he in his immense generosity and boundless love gave to us to live for a brief period during which we are all given the gifts of life, and very importantly the free will we must have to freely decide whether or not the spend the rest of eternity worshipping our creator in his perfect paradise. Do some bad things happen? Well, yes, but as theologian John Polkinghorne states the "suffering of the world is such that we might be tempted to think that less freedom would be a worthwhile cost to pay for less pain. But do we really wish we had been automata?" (Belief in God in an Age of Science). This is the classic free will theodicy -- the defense of the existence of an ideal good God despite the painfully obvious flaws of the planet he stuck us on -- that Christianity has been relying on for millennia. The designer does not want to force us to love and worship him, he requires that every one of us choose whether or not to do so. That means he cannot control events on Earth even when they are dire lest he hinder human free will, it being imperative that all souls who make it to heaven made a mature decision to be there. The importance of the free will defense cannot be exaggerated, it pervades theodist theology; if free will theory is not true, then there is no sensible explanation for why God allows bad things to happen.
But there is a fatal defect with the free will hypothesis. A colossal problem that has as obvious as it has gone under the radar for millennia. It was not until 2009 that a paper in Philosophy and Theology (gregspaul.webs.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf) for the first time detailed how terribly and absolutely wrong is the faith-based belief that there can be a loving creator. The core problem is the kids. To understand why let's start with the nature of the cosmos.
The notion that the universe is fine tuned for humans is patently false because 99.999999" percent of space is entirely hostile to human life. Instead we are stuck on a tiny rock in the immensity of the universe, so the cosmos is fantastically inefficient rather than being anywhere close to truly fine tuned for intelligence. The universe barely tolerates our existence, which could be wiped out by a planetary disaster or regular species extinction at any time. But what is really, really bad is that the planet is not only too small for a large population of people, it is a death trap for immature humans.
About 100 billion Homo sapiens have been born - every demographic calculation comes up with about the same ballpark figure (click here that also observes that 50 billion were born before Christ; wvaughan.org/howmanypeople.html; click here; http://www.math.hawaii.edu/~ramsey/People.html). 10 billion were born in the 1900s alone. (ID mathematician William Dembski therefore made a major mathematical faux pas when he guessed that the total number born was 10 billion, click here)
In the P&T paper I did something very basic that for some reason no one had done before, although they should have. Calculate how many immature humans have died. One reason Earth is hostile to young people because at least half, and probably up to three quarters of conceptions over human history, have naturally failed to come to term. So that's 100 to more likely 300 billion failed pregnancies outside the much lower loss rate due to induced abortion. A mother's womb is far from being a safe habitat for its inhabitants.
The other reason our planet has it in for youngsters is because historical juvenile mortality rates are around fifty percent. So that's in the area of 50 billion children who died from natural causes. Most of that is infant mortality, which was around a third prior to the advent of modern agriculture and medicine. Every single day for many millennia tens of thousands of children have died. It is the greatest yet least noticed calamity of humanity.
And the situation could hardly have been worse. If it were -- if human juvenile mortality had been higher -- then the human population would have been in danger of crashing. The suffering and death of the immature has been maximal.
Assume that, as is almost certainly true, that our universe and its contents are entirely natural in origin and nature. In that case the tragedy of the children is no one's fault. It just happened until humans built up the scientific knowledge to dramatically cut down the death of the kids to a few percent globally, less than a percent in the developed world. There is no crime because no one was in charge.
But once one invokes a creator "intelligence" that is responsible for the existence of Earth, then the planet becomes a crime scene subject to forensic investigation to determine who is guilty for the children's holocaust. A disaster that a supermind could have easily put a stop to. Keeping most kids safe is merely a matter of good nutrition, sanitation, vaccines and antibiotics.
When it comes to ID theory, the entity who killed off tens of billions of children is easy enough to determine. Remember, ChristoID contends that it is a scientific fact that a supermind had to design every single organism to do whatever it does, it being impossible for organisms to happen to evolve any specific ability. And their particular doctrine says that the creator is the One God consisting of the Father, his Son Jesus, and the Holy Ghost.
So according to ChristoID it was the Holy Trinity that had to have designed humans with a reproductive system that is outrageously defective that most conceptions fail to make it through the 9 months. Up to half of conceptions are so genetically messed up that they fail to even implant -- that is a primary reason why most unprotected sex between viable couples fails to result in an observed pregnancy when the female is fertile. After implantation genetic defects and developmental problems cause a large fraction to spontaneously abort. Other assorted errors in the reproductive machinery that Christian intelligent designers believe the God sloppily crafted cause assorted pregnancy failures up to stillbirths. Even some who are successfully born are afflicted by birth defects -- a fact that atheoastronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson cites as evidence against the creator theory.
After birth matters get even worse. Most preborn that die do so so early that they were not even aware of their existence, so at least no suffering has been involved in their cases. After birth the great kid killer is disease. The reason that children die like flies from an array of microkillers is because they lack effective immune systems. So, according to ChristoID, lethal microbes had to be deliberately cleverly crafted to kill humans by the perfect creator that has such limitless love for the innocent children that the designer did not equip with the robust protective complexes the tykes need to defend themselves against the deadly germs that their creator created. And microbes do not kill gently. Billions and billions of little ones have been brutally tortured to death by God -- according to the monotheist wing of ID.
The biggest kid killer has been malaria that on its own may have liquidated maybe 20+ billion children. Behe concurs that ID theory demands dropping responsibility for disease right into the lap of the creator -- "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. [A mother's] children died in her arms partly because an intelligent agent deliberately made malaria" (The Edge of Evolution).
It is to Behe's credit that -- pretty much alone -- he has openly admitted the perverse conclusion that ID theory forces concerning the deliberate creation of all dangerous diseases by the Christian God he and most IDers believe in. His attempts to rationalize it away in moral terms are not so admirable or logical. Behe demurs that he is not a theologian, and then acts as one as he casually implies that designer diseases are part of a loving creator's grand project to produce a complex, sometimes dangerous life stage similar to those of Shakespeare, The Narnia Tales, or the Truman Show where humans can do interesting things and be moral agents. In doing so Behe comes across as unable to fully comprehend the moral difference between fictional and factual situations, while making light of the deep horror of the actual world. His comparison of Jesus to the lion Aslan serves to emphasizes how fiercely predatory creation is to its most defenseless citizens, the Truman Show was a fictional comedy in which no child dies, Shakespeare was not in the habit of murdering his performers, and no decent modern society would allow a stage manager to intentionally build lethal devices into a theater set that kill off half the child actors.
Behe at least tries to sound concerned about the killer creator. Dembski, not so much. To him the big plan makes it worthwhile. Dembski opines that even if certain aspect of God's creation are "cruel. What of it? Philosophical theology has abundant resources for dealing with the problem of evil" ( click here) -- aside from being callous, the latter part of the statement is incorrect as will be noted below.
You know better. At least you should. Assuming you earlier agreed that the mass murder of children is never moral, then to remain ethically consistent you have to agree that a creator that has killed billions of kids in a intentional manner is grievously morally defective. Really, there is no excuse for this. There is no theodist argument than can morally justify the designing of diseases to kill kids that are designed to be vulnerable to the microbes. It is beyond the pale and common decency. To claim that some great plan of the creator justifies the greatest disaster of humanity is the ultimate in moral relativism, the apex of the end justifies the means arguments. If the supernatural producer went to he trouble to craft not just one but an array of diseases it could have chosen not to while leaving youngsters with grossly inadequate defenses, then in practical terms the creator has plotted to wage war on humanity, in legal terms qualifies as a premeditated mass murderer unless the creator is insane, in objective moral terms is maximally vicious and ruthless, and in ethical terms must sensibly be viewed as evil. In is abjectly impossible for the creator deity to have "fine-tuned" our life hostile universe and deadly planet to be a safe habitat for immature humans. And there is no way that the homicidal God is prolife, whether it be opposition to abortion (which is not mentioned in any way in the entire Bible), or even rejecting mass murder (which is endorsed by the Biblical God in certain cases). Nor does the creator particularly care about whether humans have free will, the designer having set up the situation so that the habitat he constructed for humans kills half or more of them off before they are mature enough to decide their eternal fate. Free will theodicy is a dead, dead, dead as are the countless billions of deceased immature H. sapiens.
So if the monotheist intelligent design promoted by Behe, Dembski, Coulter and the Discovery Institute actually is true, then the creator deity has committed premeditated homicide on a mass scale against immature humans. Objectively, the ID God is not merely not moral, it is outright malevolent. It should be put on trial for the greatest crime against humanity. One that dwarfs anything mere mortals have committed.
While Coulter condemns godless progressives for killing millions with their DDT ban, she proudly proclaims her belief in, admiration for, and worship of the designer God that constructed the mosquito borne microbe that has killed billions in the first place. Does Coulter have any clue as to the depth of her hypocrisy? On Bill Maher's Real Time Ann sat erect in her seat and proudly proclaimed that SHE believed in God in an effort to state her moral superiority. Too bad no one on the panel knew enough to expose how her support for Behe's ID theory means she worships a kid killing creator.
Of course Coulter is a propagandist. As are IDers in general. In particular, ID is misnamed, and for a reason. Intelligent designers have been trying to pull a fast one. The means of doing so? Intellectual and moral compartmentalization. They try to show that science proves the existence of a super intelligence that had to have designed every single species, but they rarely mention that must mean that God is a disease designer. That would be awkward. Usually when challenged about their religious beliefs IDers almost always wave that away as irrelevant to the science they claim they are doing. That too is convenient because it detaches any thorny moral issues from the supposed scientific proof of a creator. That is an evasive slight of hand because most folks are not all that interested in the existence of just any old creator -- they want a really, really good and just creator of infinite wisdom that will provide aid and comfort during our lives on the planet, followed by endless life in a perfect paradise. After all, how many want the creator to be merely some alien, or an inept or evil creator?
The IDers know that, so they carefully crafted the term intelligent design to mislead. It is a clever propaganda idiom intended to give the impression that the creator that knew enough to meticulously make the universe and all living things has to be profoundly smart and savvy. But the word intelligence has multiple meanings. An ant is more intelligent than a rock, but neither are particularly smart much less moral entities. Stalin was an intelligent bloke, but he was also incredibly stupid to the point of being an evil mass murderer. Ford was brilliant at mass producing automobiles, but he was a stupidly virulent anti-Semite who made the fraudulent and obscure Protocols of the Elders of Zion popular (Ford would later accept a swastika adorned award from Hitler's Reich). Being really, truly intelligent means not only being bright enough to craft sophisticated habitats and biology, but being truly brilliant enough to set up the systems so that they maximize the benefits to the sentient inhabitants, including preserving their lives and comfort while maximizing their freedom of choice. If there is a deliberate designer of the universe and life, then its intelligence is so scandalously marginal that it produced a maximally defective habitat that goes as far as it can to deny humans their comfort, safety and mature free will. Because such a being is inept, sloppy, evil and correspondingly stupid, ID should be accurately relabeled what it truly is, FD (Foolish Design). And the intelligent designer should be known as the foolish designer.
Most proponents of FD theory hope that its scientific verification of the existence of a creator will revive popular belief in the savior Jesus Christ. But that depends upon perpetually compartmentalizing the issues. As it becomes known that FD requires that the Christian God has gone to lengths to cleverly devise diseases, they will undermine the premise of divine benevolence that the popularity of the faith rests upon.
It is just too good to be true.
Behe as well as Dembski have claimed that theologians have already dealt with the problem of prematurely deceased humans. Not even close. As I document in the P&T study, theodists have bent over backwards to consistently avoid dealing the issue -- and have continued to do so since the paper was published. That's to be expected if not condoned. What is odd is how even the proevolution community has failed to take full advantage of the dark side of the "intelligent" designer that was so foolish that it went to the effort to fashion the astonishingly defective human reproductive tract, the deficient juvenile immune defenses, and murderous microbes behind malaria, smallpox, typhus, cholera, dysentery, plague, measles, influenza, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, rabies, encephalitis, yellow fever, scarlet fever, syphilis, HIV, meningitis, whooping cough, pneumonia".
Gregory Paul is an independent researcher interested in informing the public about little known yet important aspects of the complex interactions between religion, secularism, culture, economics, politics and societal conditions. His scholarly work has appeared in Evolutionary Psychology, Journal of Religion and Society, The Journal of Medical Ethics, Philosophy and Theology. Popular essays are at Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post/On Faith, Edge and one of the most widely read Washington Post op-eds (5/29&30/11). Coverage of Paul's research has appeared in Newsweek, USA Today, The Guardian, London Times, LA Times, MSNBC, FoxNews.