redesigning the universe

Who’s your Daddy?


I’ve always held to the belief that we human beings create our gods in our own images. (Talk about narcissism!! But that’s another post.) Sometimes we tinker a little with images from other cultures — change their color, name, toga, etc — so that we can claim them as our own.
And then, of course, each #1 god or goddess is matched to a story of how he/she designed and created the universe. Comparing creation myths is a fascinating excercise — one on which I embarked with the eighth grade English class I taught back in the seventies as part of our study of Greek mythology. The exercise upset my students greatly as it began to dawn on them that an old man with a white beard creating the universe in seven days is no more or less logical than Sky Woman landing on the back of a giant turtle etc. But, of course, Joseph Campbell already covered all of that, and right on public television, too.
But Lord Volderbush (sorry, I’m reading Harry Potter)has gathered his monied minions in the guise of The Discovery Institute and they are on the march to redesign the universe to fit their particular mythology.
Jodi Wilgoren’s piece in today’s Times has this to say about the Institute’s role in promoting “intelligent design”:
Financed by some of the same Christian conservatives who helped Mr. Bush win the White House, the organization’s intellectual core is a scattered group of scholars who for nearly a decade have explored the unorthodox explanation of life’s origins known as intelligent design.
Together, they have mounted a politically savvy challenge to evolution as the bedrock of modern biology, propelling a fringe academic movement onto the front pages and putting Darwin’s defenders firmly on the defensive.
Like a well-tooled electoral campaign, the Discovery Institute has a carefully crafted, poll-tested message, lively Web logs – and millions of dollars from foundations run by prominent conservatives like Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, Philip F. Anschutz and Richard Mellon Scaife. The institute opened an office in Washington last fall and in January hired the same Beltway public relations firm that promoted the Contract With America in 1994.
“We are in the very initial stages of a scientific revolution,” said the center’s director, Stephen C. Meyer, 47, a historian and philosopher of science recruited by Discovery after he protested a professor’s being punished for criticizing Darwin in class. “We want to have an effect on the dominant view of our culture.”
For the institute’s president, Bruce K. Chapman, a Rockefeller Republican turned Reagan conservative, intelligent design appealed to his contrarian, futuristic sensibilities – and attracted wealthy, religious philanthropists like the Ahmansons at a time when his organization was surviving on a shoestring. More student of politics than science geek, Mr. Chapman embraced the evolution controversy as the institute’s signature issue precisely because of its unpopularity in the establishment.

As much philosophical worldview as scientific hypothesis, intelligent design challenges Darwin’s theory of natural selection by arguing that some organisms are too complex to be explained by evolution alone, pointing to the possibility of supernatural influences. While mutual acceptance of evolution and the existence of God appeals instinctively to a faithful public, intelligent design is shunned as heresy in mainstream universities and science societies as untestable in laboratories.
Chapman says he wants “intelligent design” and evolution to be debated and compared in the classroom. Actually, what would be more accurate and academically sound is if the various creation myths were examined and compared first — including the Judeo-Christian version. And also the tendencies of each culture to create their gods in their own image. And also the human psychological need to feel there is some sense, some purpose to life — a need so strong that we create stories that explain it all in comforting terms. And also the fact that we humans are not so far evolved yet that we can live without rules. Religious-based myths offer models of behavior and try to instill fear of eternal punishment as a way of keeping wayward humans in line.
So, if students can first examine all of those psychological factors that make many of us need to believe in “intelligent design” and then examine why and how scientists have come to assert our “evolutionary” history, then the debate might have some value.
The bottom line is that pitting faith against fact is a great way to keep a country in turmoil. Faith requires a leap away from fact. For most of everyday life, it’s possible to keep a foot on each landing. But when it comes to a stand on how we got here and why we are here, you either believe the myths (as either actual or metaphorical) or accept the facts as they have been evidenced..
Lord Volderbush and his power-broking cronies are leading us into a time and place that will be even darker than our scariest fantasies if they are allowed to proceed.
Harry Potter! Where are you when we need you!

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