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Location: Austin, Texas, United States

I'm a software engineer / partner working for a young company in Austin, Texas, USA. I spend most of my free time hanging out with friends and family, eating out, and partying in the Warehouse District. I should spend more time working on my house....

Monday, August 08, 2005

Can You Believe in God and Evolution?

I came across this article in this week's Time magazine about the Evolution Wars The article quotes four different authority figures, each with a different answer to the question "Can You Believe in God and Evolution?".

This is typical of the he said/she said crap you see about most complex issues nowadays, but this is an opinion piece and I can't read the cover story due to the subscription wall so maybe they did a better job there. This type of article simply allows readers to confirm their own bias by associating it with an authority figure. So here is my bias, I liked this one by Steven Pinker, Psychology professor, Harvard University:

It's natural to think that living things must be the handiwork of a designer. But it was also natural to think that the sun went around the earth. Overcoming naive impressions to figure out how things really work is one of humanity's highest callings.

Our own bodies are riddled with quirks that no competent engineer would have planned but that disclose a history of trial-and-error tinkering: a retina installed backward, a seminal duct that hooks over the ureter like a garden hose snagged on a tree, goose bumps that uselessly try to warm us by fluffing up long-gone fur.

The moral design of nature is as bungled as its engineering design. What twisted sadist would have invented a parasite that blinds millions of people or a gene that covers babies with excruciating blisters? To adapt a Yiddish expression about God: If an intelligent designer lived on Earth, people would break his windows.

The theory of natural selection explains life as we find it, with all its quirks and tragedies. We can prove mathematically that it is capable of producing adaptive life forms and track it in computer simulations, lab experiments and real ecosystems. It doesn't pretend to solve one mystery (the origin of complex life) by slipping in another (the origin of a complex designer).

Many people who accept evolution still feel that a belief in God is necessary to give life meaning and to justify morality. But that is exactly backward. In practice, religion has given us stonings, inquisitions and 9/11. Morality comes from a commitment to treat others as we wish to be treated, which follows from the realization that none of us is the sole occupant of the universe. Like physical evolution, it does not require a white-coated technician in the sky.

The Time coverage does include this well written opinion piece by Dr. Charles Krauthammer that points out how Intelligent Design is NOT science.

For a scientific view of the Intelligent Design questions: Read this article at Panda's Thumb. This entry at the Skeptic's dictionary. And check out the TalkDesign and TalkOrigins websites.


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