In the other direction, the foundationalism implicit in Intelligent Design is easy to identify. Although the ID cabal tries to ‘fuzzify’ and fudge this issue and insulate themselves from this obvious implication by severing a tie made by association, the tie follows from the very clear and direct association to a specific religious belief system.

The absolutist foundation is: the ‘intelligent designer’ came to center the designed creation upon the generation of Christianity. It could be said that this is what the intelligently designed creation of cosmos, (and per force milky way, solar system, earth, life, mankind, son of this God,) is all about.

This follows, not only as the result via association to the personal beliefs of the ID cabal, but also from the simple causal chain supposed by the explicit ontological status of Christianity nailed to this worldview. Simply, Christianity came to exist as the essential chapter in the unfolding natural design. Its coming into existence is the central and singular teleological chapter of this purported intelligent design.

All roads, in the world view of ID, lead to this (supposed,) deduction. This ‘deduction’ proves itself too. (Not logical!) It must be a deduction, not an induction, to obtain the force of an analytic absolute foundationalistic ‘truth,’ (even if this isn’t at all, really, a correct logical form).

This singular teleological prime directive is, obviously, an aspect of this ‘brand’ of fundamentalist Christian perspective. And brand it is, for the effort to inject it everywhere, (eventually,) demands an intense marketing effort since both logical or scientific demonstration arrives stillborn.

How harshly and primitive and fundamentalist is it? Religious absolutism and monism calls forth an inquiry about the status and stature of all the other world religions and also all other extant and extinct religions, about other individual and collective spiritualities, about mystical and yogic traditions and inner work, and, (perhaps ironically,) about any and all other world views which require different magical presuppositions. The forms of rationalistic, theistic, pagan, syncretic worldviews, and, monist Traditionalisms would plug in here; as would science. “Hey what about me?”

The kicker is: in the direction away from matters of science, toward metaphysics, philosophy and/or sociology of religion, (and leaving to the side, psychology of religion,) the fundamentalist posit enabled to necessitate causes finalized in the Christian “end” of design is placed in a difficult logical position vis a vis the enormous array of alternative teleological religious worldviews and perspectives and their distinct alternate conclusions about first, last and ultimate ‘things’.

I know several people who state unequivocally that while they are tolerant of other perspectives, they understand with 100% surety that those other perspectives are not correct, cannot be true. (With one Muslim exception, this handful of fundamentalists happen to be evangelical Christians.) When challenged to demonstrate that their understanding of what is true is in fact true, their reply is singular: they are right and all other persons not in agreement are wrong because their personal faith verifies the universal truth of their own understanding. The more honest respondants admit they are tolerant of other person’s wrongness…even if those heretics will someday burn in hell!

In this argument there is no requirement for a supernatural premise, although it is usually found right below the surface. What is clear about this argument is that the personal perspective is extended to encompass all of creation. There are sundry secondary features of the argument, now, a universal and fundamental and absolute understanding. For example, some would argue that the fact Jesus (or Muhammad,) lived his life, and out of this was revealed the writ of God, constitutes a complete and veracious and final demonstration of the fundamental truth. Still, it always boils down to the sedimentary “’cause I know it is so and you do not”.

When we swing the consideration back to the premises of intelligent design, it is possible to design a simple thought problem which puts the twined conundrums of ontology (what exists,) and epistemology (how does one know,) in relief.

For this I put my Jamesian radical empiricist cap on. Let’s assume that at some future point scientific investigation of naturalistic phenomena uncovers a mechanism of agency demonstrably proven to be sure evidence of a designer at work.

What, then, could be accounted for? One possibility is: the entire array of worldviews about origins. At an extravagent scale of this thought problem, there could come to be discovered and understood various blueprints for the construction in human reflective sentience of the entire panopoly of religious, spiritual, mythic, poetic, philosophical, and scientific “stories”. Call this the ‘blueprint theory’.

When you frame this thought problem naturalistically, you can end up here. Designer dude turns out to be part of nature but leaves only these blueprint traces. Yes, there is a designer and we know it is so because he’s signed the blueprint!

Or, maybe not; what satisfying piece of evidence protects a fundamentalist special feeling of being, errr, exceptional?

Here’s one: let’s say that the intelligent design at the level of various blueprints includes undoubted Godly encoding. Example. The code is found, (hey, probably in some more microscopic subsystem of DNA,) in every human and it varies. But, it also obtains clear classes and differentiates various kinds of people and their worldviews.

So, the following ‘code’ is found in the most talented Buddhists.

You are coded from time immemorial to be a Buddhist. Also, in being coded so, it is assured that your religious and spiritual coding is the most correct of all codes.

Elsewhere, in the most talented evangelical Christians, the following code is revealed:

If you’re reading this it is time to admit to you that although this code is very satisfying and since time immemorial you were meant to realize it’s truth, the fact is: it’s an early attempt, is in total truth a secondary code to that of the Buddhists who were favored to get the least buggy version.

(Incidentally, in this thought problem, the atheist might decode the following: “I didn’t write this. Love, God”)

What do you suppose the evangelical Christian would say to learning this intention of the Designer?

I would surmise the Christian would strongly, if not with some sense of certainty, suggest their own code provides the penultimate test of faith, whereas the Buddhist has merely been tricked. Surely, the self-respecting Christian wouldn’t easily except mere code as evidence of the Designer’s certifiable stamp of approval and favortism.

Right? Think about it.

There isn’t any means to establish an absolute universal truth about the teleological design at the level of a God designed code. This isn’t to say the code isn’t true in a very specific instance, it’s just to say that believers left behind with their beta code won’t buy what the code retails.

Alternately, in this thought problem, another more generous design can be imagined. In every person the following is discovered:

What you believe to be true at any instant of your life has been ordained for you, since time immemorial to be the truth pertinent to your life at that moment. However, there is no code possible, designed by Me, that is extensible to any other person other than yourself because this first and final qualification is part of the code of every human past, present, or future.

Darn! Say it isn’t so, Joe! This code is the most unsatisfying of all possible codes to the hardcore fundamentalist. He or her needs a workaround.

With no respect to the abject and nonsensical philosophizing of Plantinga, who supposes that the primary code is singularly Christian, the workaround is, ta da! the supernaturalistic explanatory premise, assumption, presumption. It’s held to be a ‘law,’ by most who hold tightly to it.

The appeal of this workaround is straightforward. Given the invisible hand of a God who has designed Christianity as the be all and absolute end all of His, (Goddess is off the hook here,) design, the only remaining principle of verification that this is indeed the only true design is the assertion that it is so. As a matter of faith? As a matter of the design inference scaled up to the depth of spiritual being?

It matters little how one gets to the assertion – it cannot be verified because there is no verification possible.

It can’t be a workaround because the problems which don’t yield certain solutions in a naturalistic thought problem also don’t yield solutions in a supernaturalistic thought problem. The emphasis is on impossible here. (A hat tip goes to David Hume and Edmund Burke.)

From the standpoint of empiricism, it is notable, when we do place the thought problem away, that the existence of the variety of worldviews each demands some kind of account, simply by virtue of each existing as a fulmination, or peregrination, or induction, (etc.) given from experience and delivered to human religious and/or spiritual, and/or scientific sensibility.

Each exists and even whilst one presumes each is designed, both evidently, and, tentatively, the observer oriented to the premise of design is compelled to remark “no possible design can discern its own absolute and universal correctness”.

Redefining science leads to worse problems; not that science is vulnerable to being redefined by fiat or school board democracy. Ahh, but there is one final workaround and it is the apocalyptic, absolutist, “right, because I say so,” one. Caveat emptor.

Oh, wait, I suppose a massive global spam drop with the truest message from might be convincing for a moment!)

…anyway, enough sophistry for today!

Jim Carroll, writing in The Boston Globe,

Who is this ”God” in whose name so many diverse and troubling things take place? Why is it assumed to be good to affirm one’s faith in such an entity? Why is it thought to be wicked to deny its existence? Most striking about so much talk of ”God,” both to affirm and to deny, is the way in which many who use this language seem to know exactly to what and/or whom it refers. God is spoken of as if God is the Wizard of Oz or the great CEO in the sky or Grampa or the Grand Inquisitor. God is the clock-maker, the puppeteer, the author. God is the light, the mother, the wind across the sea, the breath in every set of lungs. God is the horizon. God is all of these things.

But what if God is none of them? What if every possible affirmation that can be made of God, even by the so-called religions of revelation, falls so far short of the truth of God as to be false? Who is the atheist then? The glib God-talk that infuses public discourse in contemporary America descends from an anthropomorphic habit of mind, dating to the Bible and beyond, that treats God like an intimate friend or well-known enemy, depending on the weather and the outcome of battles. But there is another strain in the Biblical tradition that insists on the radical otherness of God, an otherness so complete that even the use of the word ”God” as a name for this Other One is forbidden. According to this understanding, God is God precisely in escaping and transcending comprehension by human beings. This can seem to mean that God is simply unknowable. If so, humans are better off not bothering about it. Atheism, agnosticism, or childish anthropomorphism — all the same.

But here is where it gets tricky. What if God’s unknowability is the most illuminating profundity humans can know about God? That would mean that religious language, instead of opening into the absolute certitude on which all forms of triumphal superiority are based, would open into true modesty. The closed creation, in which every question has an answer, would be replaced by an infinite cosmos where every answer sparks a new question. If what we mean by ”God” is the living pulse of such open-endedness, then God is of no use in systems of dominance, censorship, power. God is everywhere, yes. But, also, God is nowhere. And that, too, shows in America, especially in its fake religiosity.

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  1. kevin beck says:

    Interesting stuff. I think it is sad that stagnant fundamentalism substitutes for a vibrant spirituality. I suspect that god is mch bigger and much different that most anyone suspects–including myself.

    From a former northeastern Ohio resident now in Colorado.

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