I was on retreat in Alabama with fifty faith-filled Christians this past week. I had a wonderful time, as I always do when hanging around people of faith. One afternoon I found myself in a discussion on Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolution. I was expected to defend evolution, but I couldn’t. Both ID and evolution are variations on the same theme, I said. They both argue that the world is dumb, and I just don’t agree.
Evolutionary theory tells us there is no plan or Planner to the universe. The universe just does what it does and then repeats what it does if what it does survives to do it again. Mutation happens randomly, and when a given mutation makes survival easier, the mutant reproduces. Which is how we got X-Men III.
Intelligent Design argues that life is too complex to be random. There has to be a Designer behind it all pushing tab A into slot B to create something new. Who this Designer is, of course, the ID folks refuse to say. If they did they would have to admit to being closet Creationists and forced to live in Kansas.
I never argue with Creationists, by the way. I always agree with them that God created the universe. My only fossil of contention is Who this Creator God is. They say Jehovah, I say Krishna. They pull out the Bible; I pull out the Bhagavad Gita. They try to sell me salvation; I try to sell them incense. It makes for interesting conversation. That is before the yelling starts.
Anyway, I am not a Creationist and only trot Krishna out to make a point. The point being that the classic notion of a Creator, whether Jewish or bluish, makes the creation dumb.
Evolutionists say life is stupid, the result of chance and time. Creationists and ID folks agree that life is stupid: without God blowing life into adam, humanity is just a lump of clay. I find the notion of a dumb universe to be, well, dumb.
I think the universe itself is intelligent and striving to be more so. Why? There is no why. Reality, as the Chinese language tells us, is what is of itself so. Asking why misses the whole point. It is like asking a baby why it babbles and coos. It does it because it's fun. The universe is forever dancing on-off-on-off-on-off just for the fun of the dance. This is the binary code of reality. Ones and zeros playing out in seemingly infinite variation. And it does so for the sheer joy of it. If there is a Creator he isn't sitting on a throne, she is dancing on air.
Life is not stupid. Life is and has always been intrinsically intelligent, and driven to become more so (see Amit Goswami’s “Self-Aware Universe” for the math). At the moment we humans may be the most awake of all species on our planet. I doubt that the dance ends with us, however. I think that our purpose is to reach a point of consciousness where we can melt the polar ice caps with greenhouse gasses. In this way we will be reduced to a small island-dwelling sideshow while dolphins inherit the earth, which is what Jesus told us two thousand years ago. After all, who is more meek that a dolphin?