Friday, March 5, 2010

Evolution & Intelligent Design

I am a great believer in evolution and in science generally. The notion that some bearded guy somewhere waggles his finger and causes things & critters to magically appear seems just too wacko for my mind to comprehend. But lately, I have begun to wonder.

I just read an article recently confirming the theory about the disappearance of the dinosaurs a few years back.. The prevailing theory was that a giant asteroid hit the planet, causing a huge cloud of dust to rise above the earth blotting out the sun, which in turn produced a long lasting winter. That long-lasting winter virtually eliminated the ability of dinosaurs and other critters to find food and so, they gradually died out. That theory was under some challenge from alternative theories—a series of massive volcanic eruptions in central India, a string of asteroids, perhaps all of the above at about the same time—65 million years ago.

So what? Well, lately I’ve begun thinking about what I’ve started calling The Great Dumbing Down of America. As our school systems continue to churn out fewer graduates than we might expect – 35-40% drop out rates seem ok with the American public (Obama disagrees, but he’s only one guy)—the failure-to-graduate set continues to produce babies. And around the world, we have the Catholic Church continuing to demonstrate its ineptitude as a moral force by refusing to promote family planning techniques, and other cultures more or less following the same course of producing too many kids, I begin to wonder about evolution.

What’s my question? Well, I wonder about the relative evolutionary advantage to the species (us) of the dumber people outproducing the (relatively) smarter people. Eventually, the smarter people would become endangered, and could well shrink in numbers even more.

And since a dominant characteristic of the dumber people is that they tend to arm themselves heavily, and they seem to like violence as a dispute resolution mechanism, they could begin to threaten the existence of the planet as a whole. How could that happen? Well, think an even dumber version of George Bush (I know, it’s hard, but use your imagination). And think of that person’s control over our massive collection of nuclear weapons. And then, project a bit and consider that scientists have concluded that a massive exchange of nuclear explosions could trigger what they like to call a nuclear winter. That’s what the dinosaurs experienced, and then they disappeared.

So what does this have to do with evolution vs “intelligent design”? Well, suppose we are all here because of a decision made a few years ago (some would say 6000) by a creator. Maybe the creator gets bored periodically and decides to play around and see what happens. So, maybe she decided a few years ago to create dinosaurs just to see what they could provide in the way of entertainment. The dinosaurs lasted a while and filled virtually every niche available. And then, the creator got tired of watching these critters lumber around the earth and began considering alternative play toys. But, first things first. The creator had to eliminate those big old critters and so, she tossed a few asteroids at our earth, just to see what would happen (well, actually she knows everything, so I suppose there wasn’t a big mystery there). So the big winter sets in and the big old guys started dropping like flies so to speak. It took a while, but hey, she’s got time.

So, then, after the big guys vanished, she created a different set of toys—people. These would be a lot smaller, but would have fairly large brains for their size. So, arguably, they might be capable of providing a richer entertainment base.

And sure enough, the little guys with the (relatively) large brains began to fill up the earth also, and for a while they were great fun to watch. But then she noticed something. As they matured and they began filling their brains with stuff—knowledge—they began doing a lot of really dumb things—like starting wars that killed off a bunch of their own kind. And while wars are a source of considerable entertainment, with the flash-bang and shock and awe stuff, maybe she was tiring of these toys also. Enter the dumbing down the population thing.

As the population dumbs down, the toys begin to create greater and greater ways to destroy themselves. And then, one day someone emerges as The Leader, who decides it would be nifty to just blow up everyone who disagrees with him and others of his ilk. So, he gets his other dumbed-down followers around him and announces his plan. They all start cheering, while drooling at the prospect. So, The Great Leader executes his plan and nuclear winter follows and all the toys begin disappearing until none are left.

And then the earth is quiet for a while, until grasses and trees and termites reappear. And then the creator decides to just rest for a spell, while she ponders the next generation of toys—maybe butterflies???
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