I’ve been taking a six-day retreat, and today is the last day. I awoke this morning, troubled by a question I had been asked several weeks ago during a program Sr. Heléna Marie and I gave in Arizona. The question has been rolling around deep inside my psyche, and this morning it finally popped out into my consciousness: the words “intelligent design” were clear as a bell at 6:00 AM.
“So you believe in intelligent design?” asked one of the women. Alarm bells rang in my head as I answered, “I wouldn’t use that combination of words, for sure; they are loaded with a particular ‘baggage’ that I don’t wish to carry.”
This is incredibly dangerous territory, and I’ve been mulling over just what bothers me about the whole intelligent design theory. I know in the ground of my being that intelligent design, as preached by people and institutions (like the Discovery Institute in Seattle), is off-kilter. There is an inherent deception about their efforts, and I cannot trust or believe in a god (or its followers) who condones deceit to establish its validity. I have a jaundiced eye for a god who would apparently disappear if it were not for human interpretation, verbal lid-banging, vilification of others, and behind-the-scenes manipulations.
ID proponents attempt to use their traditional adversaries — the legitimate scientific community and an increasing body of amazing scientific knowledge — as proof for its not-always hidden agenda. There is more than a whiff of political maneuvering among the ID folks that intensifies my suspicion — ties to politically obvious groups who want to turn our schools into boot camps for government-by-theocracy, for example.
An interesting (and probably dangerously simplistic) explanation of intelligent design is one that uses a picture of Mt. Rushmore, where the pattern of the rocks below and on either side of the carved faces is ascribed to natural law and chance, whereas the faces themselves were created by intelligent design. True, but the design for those faces came from humans, not God. Somehow the ID folks want to be sure that the human, above all other aspects of creation, maintains its current elevated status over creation; a status that was created by itself, by the way, and is proving to be phenomenonally destructive. ID people would like us to believe that that devastaion, the result of “materialistic science” they claim, can be corrected if we’ll only let them take over education and government by way of religion.
“Intelligent” design theory is not one most intelligent people would subscribe to. But it does get sticky. When one studies that vast body of scientific empirical data — quantum physics, “seeing” the leftovers from the original fireball, amazing photography from traveling cameras zooming around our galaxy, the development of a planet that for most of its four billion year life transformed its wild, chemical-rich seas into palm trees and anteaters and the Rocky Mountains without one human helping hand to do it — one has to wonder. Is there not wisdom in this Universe? A force that yearns toward complexity and self-revelation? In my mind, absolutely everything in this Universe is an expression of the Sacred, the Numinous.
What is not useful is to sustain the belief that one set of ideas should hold sway over another, that one group has the “right” knowledge and must therefore wipe out or control the others. Behind-the-scenes, under-the-table machinations and ill-disguised political dance-steps for power are not useful.
What might be more useful would be to step back and observe creation with awe and wonder, to celebrate the beauty and wisdom of it all, to honor and respect everything that shares this lovely, sacred, “fragile Earth, our island home” — yep, even the ID folks.