Thursday, September 29, 2005

Intelligent Design: The Sociobiological Path to Fascist Theology

If the molecular architecture of the living cell—exemplified by the master molecule, DNA—is an artifact of higher intelligence, as the Intelligent Design argument asserts (and Timothy Leary asserted long before “Intelligent Design” blossomed in the mind of a Creationist PR consultant), then so too must the many social behaviors of organisms embody divine intent. The social complexity of the bee hive, for example, or the ant hill, must be controlled by DNA. The insects don’t go to school to learn their parts in the social production. Bees don't need dancing lessons before they're able to tell the hive how to find the nectar mine. We have to conclude that any design of biology includes programs for complex social behaviors. What about wolves, wallabies, and wildebeests? Each species has a complex social system with a definite pecking-order hierarchy, and each species uses social signaling. These species too must be guided by divine intent, as conveyed through their genetic programming. And so on we could continue, through all the social species that the sociobiologists have profiled. What what about people? Sociobiologists argue that various social behaviors even of humans are instinctual. If they are right, then the design of nature extends even into human social organization. The powerful and the powerless occupy their places in the social order because that’s how God programmed the protoplasm. Let’s consider that conclusion again: The premise of Intelligent Design leads to the unsavory but logical conclusion that God’s will extends to the human social order. Does the Christian canon include such a notion?
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. Romans 13: 1–4
In other words, don’t mess with the social order. The social classes are ordered according to God’s intent. To cite the injustices of the social order, let alone to incite revolution to change that order, is to challenge God. But let’s be fair. Do the proponents of Intelligent Design actually propose that human social behavior, and hence social organization, originates in the Design itself, whether or not implemented through the divine technology of DNA? It seems fair to say that they court the prospect. One of the paradoxes of animal social behavior is altruism. The tooth-and-claw version of Darwinism doesn’t predict self-sacrificing behaviors among evolving creatures. As a result, altruism has been the subject of much head scratching among sociobiologists. Nonetheless, models have been proposed to account for it in evolutionary terms. But the intelligent design proponents have a different view. William Dembski, a prominent advocate of intelligent design, argues in “Reflections on Human Origins,” an article posted at that altruism is explainable only as a consequence of divine influence. He makes the same case for savant intellectual skills. Presumably, then, smart people are specially touched by God, too. Mr. Benito Mussolini, any thoughts on the invisible hand behind the social order?
The Fascist State, the highest and the most powerful form of personality is a force, but a spiritual one. It reassumes all the form of the moral and intellectual life of man. It cannot, therefore, be limited to a simple function of order and of safeguarding as was contended by Liberalism. It is not a simple mechanism which limits the sphere of the presumed individual liberties. It is an internal form and rule, a discipline of the entire person: it penetrates the will as well as the intelligence. Its principle, a central inspiration of the living human personality in the civil community, descends into the depths and settles in the heart of the man of action as well as the thinker, of the artist as well as of the scientist; the soul of our soul. Contribution by Mussolini to the Enciclopedia Italiana, Vol. XIV
It would seem that the Fascist State enjoys the same unassailable status and serves the same function in the social life of humankind as does the Intelligent Designer. As sympathetic as I am to the idea that nature is somebody’s science project, I can’t stomach the Intelligent Design argument in its current incarnation. It is too transparently a Creationist ruse and therefore a potentially slippery slope to the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy, an indefensible position. Science has made its mistakes, being administered after all by fallible human beings, but one thing that seems not to be in dispute is the multi-billion-year time span of biology, as determined by radioactive dating of fossils. The show did not come together in six days. Not only that, but species have appeared in succession. The first fish appeared long after the first worms, and the first mammals after the first reptiles. And the primates came after the rodents, with human beings being the most recent of the primates. Paleontology’s empirical data are clear on this sequence, even if the mechanisms of transition and novelty rest on less solid theoretical ground. Why should we care if an ideology that declares the divine right of kings—and presidents—is gaining ground? Ask George Washington and George Orwell.


  1. I don't think you're doing justice to either intelligent design or Christian theology.

    First of all, don't confuse the personal views of someone with what the movement itself is trying to do. The movement itself simply says that material causes aren't all there is. If you believe that intelligent causes both exist and are studyable, then you are technically part of the intelligent design movement.

    The ID movement does not say that everything was designed, or even that the design was "right" or "good" or whatever. It simply says that there exists certain things which are designed, and we can detect a subset of this. Note that some of the things which are designed will be designed by humans, and others by some sort of powerful being(s) who can create cool nanotechnology machines. But the identity of the designer is not really a subject of intelligent design at least at this point. If the social order is designed, that doesn't say by whom. People are intelligent agents, and it may have just been designed by man. The evidence for design doesn't say anything about the "who" of design.

    Now, as for the theological aspects, you are taking that verse in Romans to mean far more than it actually implies. The point is _not_ that the social order is right. In fact, I think there would be unanimous consent that the social order was wrong. I don't think Paul liked the Roman rule any more than anyone else. The point is that the power and authority is given by God, even if it is used improperly. We are to be obedient to the authority as far as we can without being disobedient to God. The point is not that the authority is right, but merely that they _are_ the authority. I teach my children to respect the police, because they are the authority, not because they are right. Human authority does not determine right or wrong. And the Christian method of world-change is not through rebellion.

  2. Crevo, thanks for the thoughtful comments.

    I think you're being coy, and ID proponents dishonest, however, when the identity of the Designer is said to lie outside the scope of the theory. Clearly, the movement, in its current, politically active form, is a Christian movement. The unwillingness of movement players to admit something so self-evident only fuels suspicions that the movement is a Trojan horse designed to get the Bible into the classroom.

    I would welcome a more honest framing of the argument that would say, Yes, ID is a theological argument, and that's what's needed, because the purely scientific approach seems unable to yield a satisfactory explanation of the natural world.

    As for your comments on the passage from Romans, it's hard to say much, because scripture seems to be infinitely elastic in terms of it range of possible interpretations. Either we take it literally, or we spin it to suit our self interests, be they political, economic or whatever.

    To say that the Christian method of world-change is not rebellion seems to cast the net too far. "Christian" includes many views and approaches to world change, including historically, some applications of force.