The Un-Intelligent Design of Religions

Over at HuffPo Religion, Michael Zimmerman has posted an interesting piece on the wild imperfection of the human genome and the implications of this imperfection for “intelligent design” believers:

The latest attack [on ID] appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) and provides conclusive evidence that the design of the human genome is incredibly imperfect, or, in other words, very far from being intelligently structured. As John Avise, a University of California-Irvine biologist, noted in the paper, his focus “is on a relatively neglected category of argument against ID and in favor of evolution: the argument from imperfection, as applied to the human genome.”

It remains to be seen whether such evidence is “conclusive,” as Zimmerman contends, or whether ID believers will find some way to fit it within their mosaic of arguments.  My guess is that cognitive dissonance will result in the latter and we will see some creative rationalizations regarding design and imperfection.

Regardless, I think we should extend the imperfection line of thinking to the genealogy of religions.  Most (if not all) ID proponents are of course Christians and most people who are attracted to ID are Christians, even if none or few of them admit that the designer they have in mind is the Christian God.  If this is the case, it leads to some rather odd results.

It makes little or no sense for the Christian God to have set in motion an evolutionary process which resulted in a brain-mind that has — over the last 50,000 years or so — generated hundreds of thousands of different kinds of spiritual and religious beliefs.  The most sensible design would have resulted in a brain-mind that converges on a single form of spiritual-religious belief.

But having Jesus appear on earth during the Paleolithic poses some obvious problems for a religion that purports to be the universal Truth.  Spreading the Word would have been difficult, given that hunter-gatherers during this time were thinly spread around the world and did not possess the literacy skills required to memorialize the past or enshrine doctrine.  Under these circumstances, worldwide transmission of the Truth becomes impossible.

With this in mind, God presumably had to wait for the right historical conditions.  But why did he wait so long?  It would have made much more sense for Jesus to have appeared on earth with the rise of the first society that had writing and which could initiate the process of worldwide transmission.  Jesus, in other words, should have been born in Mesopotamia and been Sumerian.  His birthday should have been approximately 4,000-3,500 BC.

It seems odd that none of this happened, and even more odd that the Christian God would design a spiritual-religious system that has resulted in approximately 5,000 different recognized faiths during modern times and an even larger number of variations on those faiths.  My guess is that ID proponents would, if pressed and in accordance with Christian apologetics, contend that humans in the post-Christ era are being “tested.”

This is an interesting argument, given that a key feature of all ID arguments is our inability to test any of them.  ID is not science — it is thinly disguised faith of a particular kind.

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