Some of you here know my views on organized religion so I won’t waste your time with any polemics in favor of atheism. This post is not about atheism, pro or con. I intend it to be, as I see it, an elegant explanation about the nature and history of intelligent design.

My own thoughts about the origins and workings of our universe and our existence here on one tiny, astounding life supporting planet named Earth are in no way conclusive. Maybe we’ll never learn all the facts, which seems to me to be the likely case. I’m not sure I want to know all the facts.

Of course the arguments over intelligent design are many and varied as are those involving creationism, which, in my opinion is not quite the same as intelligent design. To me, creationism is much more theological in nature. Many battles have been fought over creationism vs evolution. One of the most famous was the Scopes Monkey trials formally known as “The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes,” in 1925. nearly a century ago. My how some things remain the same. (sort of)

The case involved a high school teacher, John Scopes, who was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach human evolution in any state-funded school. The trial was deliberately staged in order to attract publicity to the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, where it was held. Scopes was unsure whether he had ever actually taught evolution, but he purposely incriminated himself so that the case could have a defendant.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, Scopes lost his case. The trial itself involved some pretty heavy hitters in those days. William Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential candidate, argued for the prosecution, while Clarence Darrow, the famed defense attorney, spoke for Scopes.

I just mention all this in leading up to a great video I found featuring the famed astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s elegant discussion of the history of intelligent design and the later segment of his presentation that involves evolution as opposed to intelligent design. Personally, I found this video of Tyson’s presentation to be very intelligent and comprehensive. So, here it is;

So, I encourage all of you or at least many of you to take about forty five minutes or so to watch this presentation in it’s entirety. I think you will be glad you did>

After watching, please leave your own opinions on what you’re seen and what your beliefs may be, regarding the nature of the universe and evolution. Thank you all in advance and hope to see some lively discussion on these topics.

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PocketWatch
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AT the risk of prolonging this discussion (like the human race hasn’t been hashing all this over for the last…. what?… 15,000 years or so!), I was up early this morning and thinking about this thread.

I find it a bit amusing that we try and separate religion, philosophy and science. Think about it… aren’t those things simply a way to explain what we don’t know or can’t explain? They just take different routes to discover some facet of the unknowable truth, whatever that may be.

Early humans looked at the stars and dramatic weather and phenomena they couldn’t explain, and attributed those things to gods or forces to be feared and appeased in the hope that such dramatic and harmful things would not happen, at least to them and those they cared about. And conversely, they developed the idea that you could possibly ask for good things to happen to you (and maybe bad things to happen to those you didn’t like).

Philosophy takes the same ideas to a deeper level. As supposedly self-aware beings, we have a hard time imagining an end. What’s the point, otherwise? If, when we die, we just end, why worry about what we do, how we treat people, or what happens? By being self-aware and imagining the future, we strive to figure out what happens next, even if we cannot know. Even an idea like reincarnation not affiliated with any religion supposed a non-ending to us. The idea of a soul, the notion of a ‘place’ we go after dead, the notion of reward and punishment of our non-corporial self all stems from our grip on the idea that we do not end. We just can’t shake that notion as humans.

Science does the same thing. We are all star-stuff (thank you, Carl!). Every atom in our body and on our planet and in our solar system began in supernovas. And our physical bodies will become a part of another star or dust cloud at some time in the far-flung future, to coalesce and be reborn as another planet, star, and maybe life form. Again, not an end, but a transition.

All these “disciplines” try and answer the same question: Is there an end when we die?”

There is truth of a kind in each and every one of these approaches, and there is also fallacy. It is up to each of us to decide what makes sense to us as individuals. And remember where we came from not so long ago as these things are measured. We are a species that evolved as tribal and communal groups for survival. Not as ‘rugged individuals’ as many would have us believe. (That is a 19th Century fiction devised by British writers to encourage layabout second sons to emigrate to America, BTW… look it up.) The idea of shunning is a real punishment. It is, in essence, a death sentence for someone living in a pre-modern society.

The idea that we somehow have to pick a stance among these three approaches is a false choice, IMO. They all have merit in their own ways, and should be honored for their contributions to our approach to life and living.

That’s my way of looking at the knotty and unsolvable question “Is there a God?” I always say, “What makes no difference, IS no difference.”

Live well, be kind, do the best you can, and let the universe sort itself out. It will, you know.

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pinkpantheroz
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Well, KT, it certainly gives pause for thought.I don’t believe in Creation ( well, the bible version, that is) because I could never get my head around what ‘7 days’ meant in the concept of eternity.

Believing in Evolution, which I do, does not, however deny me the ability to call myself one who believes in Religion.

When I was young, I remember reading an article in ‘the Reader’s digest’ by a very famous scientist who gave ten reasons he believed in God. I don’t remember them, except for a couple. One was that if the mantle of earth were 10 miles thicker, the climate to sustain life would be far too extreme. the other was that if the Moon were a couple of thousand miles closer, the tides would be so drastic that life, again would be unsustainable.

So the concept that, perhaps, the gentle nudging of a Superior Being in shaping what we call Earth is what has us sentient today, is not as far fetched as one might think. BUT, I also believe that God, for want of a better world, isn’t the slightest bit interested in winning football matches, athletics and all that bumph. Nor do I prescribe to the evangelical, fundamental dogma that states that the bible is to be taken literally. A major problem with the US today is that the Laws and Constitution were written and voted upon by people who were predominantly Christian, which the latest fundamentalist nutters take full advantage of, even with the supposed separation of Church and State. Man mostly strives to achieve peace in future life by doing well, not hurting anyone and doing good for the less fortunate. Not a bad concept all over. Another view is that, if life here on earth is difficult, it is somewhat easier to bear if there is some remote chance that afterwards, there is a better existence.

So all in all, I don’t have a problem with Evolution, but I do question the ability of Man to decypher and write down the ‘Law of God’ when very few, if anyone living in those days, could even read or write. It’s a mystery, but faith is faith and we who have it, don’t need to ram it down anyone else’s throat. So peace, harmony and love to all.

Phew, that’s a bit of a mouthful for me! So I’ll have a cuppa coffee and a lie down now. Goodnight!

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PocketWatch
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Your comments remind me of what the nuns used to say (8 years of Catholic school) when talking about the sciences. One thing always stuck with me.

There is one scientific fact that would make life here nearly impossible if it weren’t true: When water freezes, it expands, becomes less dense, and floats.

If that were not the case, every body of water on Earth would freeze from bottom to top (ice would sink, more ice would form and sink, etc., until all water would be frozen.) A neat case for some intelligence agent making physical laws “work” so that we exist.

Now, decades later, I need to address the idea of “life.”

We really don’t know what that is. Used to be that we said “all life on Earth depends on sunlight in one way or another.” Not true.

“All life on Earth is oxygen-dependent.” Not true.

“All life on Earth exists between certain temperature ranges.” Not true.

My point here is, when we talk about “life” and “evolution” and science in general versus “the possibility of life, here or… elsewhere… (cue spooky music)… we really have no notion of what “life” may look like, what environments it may be able to exist in, or even recognize something as “alive” if we saw it. For all we know, stars themselves may be alive in some way.

So this whole notion of an entity designing the vast and limitless universe that we are living in seems a bit… well, limiting. The notion is Earth-centric and human-centric, IMO. We can’t help it. We have no real words for something better, and it’s not really surprising. It’s tough to talk about something when there is no language for it.

I am an agnostic for the simple reason is that I believe there is no way to know true reality. None whatsoever. We are limited by our senses and imaginations, by our languages and our cultures, and by science itself, which is an artifact of ourselves as well.

We suspect there are higher truths and realities, and we search for them in the only place possible…. our own minds.

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choicelady
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I think that’s the wisest position indeed – it’s impossible to know true reality. When does life begin? Define “life” as opposed to existence. How is it that young scientist discovered a species that exists due to (OK – I forget what – arsenic?) not oxygen and carbon. And that is here on earth, never mind the universe.

It’s pretty arrogant of earthlings to think life could not exist in vastly different forms elsewhere, that we are the final creation and perfect in every way. (Well, OK maybe those of us on the Planet…) I remember one of my profs “proving” that there cannot be any form of mind-mind connection because the tests could not prove it. But the tests were SO unsystematic and primitive, and then along comes quantum physics showing these amazing connects between particles, and… With the discovery of chaos and randomness at the subatomic level, the whole idea of Einsteinian physics got turned on its head. Not invalidated, but enhanced with far more questions than we can answer even now.

I understand why some people embrace the clean idea of a watchmaker, a One, who set it all in motion, because it’s so hard to wrap our minds around infinity and eternity. But to deny science is to live in a bubble. To deny there are things we don’t comprehend is to live in a box.

Life is a journey, there are more questions than absolute answers, and it’s just too bad we probably won’t all live to find out. Inquiring minds want to know! But it sure is fascinating along the way!

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escribacat
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Thanks for posting this, Kilgore. I watched it and thought he was quite brilliant. I happen to agree with what I believe is his central point, that religious thinking doesn’t have a place in the process of scientific investigation, that in fact, it can be debilitating, as it has been for Islamic culture (although he seems to miss his own point that it has not been debilitating for Jewish culture). I think he accurately describes where religion begins — at the place where our knowledge stops, and that this point has moved over the centuries. For my own agnostic way of looking at things, I would choose not to call that the place of ignorance as he does, but the place of mystery. I think “mystery” is a lot less judgmental than “ignorance.” I’ve found that I’m content to allow many mysteries to exist around me, but then I’m not a scientist. I once tried to talk a fellow out of his religious beliefs (he was a devotee of Gurdjieff) and I came to regret doing that after I learned later that my effort was damaging to him. Since I don’t have any lofty goals about actually figuring out the nature of the universe (though I love exploring the subject) I think it’s a worthy goal in my case simply to try not to hurt others in the way I hurt that fellow. That seems unrelated to exploring the nature of the universe but I think that it actually is related. I just don’t know how — and that’s okay too.

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choicelady
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Thanks KT – I’ve not yet listened to the video, but I have ONE question: is the guy with the white hair GOD? He’s creating one man, one woman and the universe there. So what else am I to think?

Or he’s Santa on vacation…

Thank you for sharing this!

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