Odious and Peculiar

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Mr. Derbyshire states his feelings on Intelligent Design quite plainly. I happen to agree.
(1) ID is not just lousy science, but lousy religion. I dislike it at least as much for religious as for scientific reasons. I dislike it, in fact, for the same reasons, or at least the same KINDS of reasons, that I dislike the "Left Behind" books & movies, and unbelievers telling me that natural disasters like the recent tsunami "prove" the non-existence of God.

All that kind of thinking trivializes God. It belongs to the category of thinking that A.N. Whitehead called "misplaced concreteness." It shows a dismal poverty of imagination -- reducing the divine to science fiction (or in the case of the "Left Behind" books, to a combination of sci-fi and spy thriller). The ID-ers' God is a sort of scientist himself, sticking his finger in to make things work when natural laws -- His laws! -- can't do the job. Well, if that's your God, I wish you joy of him. My God is much vaster and stranger than that. Are we the children of God, or the children of Wrath? I think about that a lot; but I am certain, at any rate, that we are not the children of some celestial lab technician.

(2) Some readers have chid me for referring to ID as "flapdoodle." This was, they say, ill-mannered of me. Heaven forbid I should be thought ill-mannered! Me! I therefore beg you to strike out the word "flapdoodle" and replace it with one of the following, according to taste: balderdash, baloney, blather, bunkum, bushwa, claptrap, gobbledygook, hocus-pocus, hogwash, hokum, hooey, humbug, mumbo-jumbo, piffle, rigmarole, tripe, twaddle.

I doubt that, to the people who value Intelligent Design and such things, "poverty of imagination" is a failing, much less "_dismal_ poverty of imagination," my emphasis. In regard to that phrase, I applaud the author, Mr. Derbyshire, for a telling insight. At the same time, his application of various other epithets to Intelligent Design reminds of the oft-made remark that a frequent use of profanity gives listeners or readers the impression that the speaker or author has a limited vocabulary. Because of the easy applicability of those derisive words to any idea with which one disagrees, I expect to find them used mainly by second-rate minds. I am, consequently, disappointed to a slight degree by what I thought was an otherwise estimable passage.
But derision is why one goes to Mr. Derbyshire--derision with occasional forays in mathematics and meeting Bruce Lee.

As for "poverty of imagination", dismal or otherwise, it's not a phrase I'm particularly fond of, but I think that it certainly applies here. There's a failure of scale to Intelligent Design--a failure to appreciate what being a Creator, the fundamental act-of-being of the Universe, would mean. As I've argued before, (http://odiousandpeculiar.blogspot.com/2004/11/great-deal-of-time-these-days-in-spent.html), assuming that Creation, rather than emerging from God's nature (tho' remaining spontaneous, that is, unnecessary to Him), required some kind of special pleading in the form of physical intervention is to reduce God to the level of an actor, rather than the basis for action. I think I have all my phrases straight in that last sentence.
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