Unintelligent Design: An Interview
It is impossible to imagine the universe run by a wise, just and omnipotent God, but it is quite easy to imagine it run by a board of gods. If such a board actually exists it operates precisely like the board of a corporation that is losing money.
H. L. Mencken
Dr. Schofield D. Moody has worked over the years on Creationism, Creation Science, and Intelligent Design. He is now President and Chief Researcher of the Center for Unintelligent Design. He declined to be interviewed at Starbucks, so we met at a donut shop near his home.
DM: Why Unintelligent Design?
SM: The roots of that go back a long way, for me personally, and in terms of the history of research in the field, as well. For a long time, centuries in fact, simple creationism was the only game in town. The only real alternatives were polytheistic, and those had been vanquished for centuries—until very recently. Then Darwin came along and spoiled everything.
DM: Spoiled everything?
SM: Well, not immediately, of course. But evolution theory became a growing problem. It explained so much, so reasonably. For a while we could just ignore the progress it was making in scientific circles—our base had an anti-intellectual bent anyway. It was enough to just go around from one church to another with a bunch of anecdotal stuff about hoaxes, and inaccuracies, and such.
DM: Your base? That sounds more political than scientific.
SM: Well, we live in a post-Kuhnian world. Science is, after all, mostly a matter of positioning.
DM: Are you talking about Thomas Kuhn?
SM: Yeah. The guy who proved that science is just another religion.
DM: I'm not sure that's what he actually...
SM: Anyway, the whole evolutionary enterprise eventually became a serious threat to Christians.
DM: All Christians?
SM: Well, to those in our...
SM: Exactly. We had to take the fight to the schools—get them to stop teaching evolution. So we came up with Creation Science. We tried to position creationism as an alternative scientific theory. But the courts rejected that. They demanded that only science could be taught in a science classroom. That really tied our hands.
DM: And that led to Intelligent Design.
SM: The idea was to construct a non-religious theory, which would, just incidentally, reinforce our theology.
DM: How's that working for you?
SM: It has it's problems. The basic approach was to find things in the natural world that scientists couldn't explain. Things like how could an eye evolve? It's a complex set of different parts, that all have to work together in just the right way or it's useless. So how do these parts evolve? They have no survival value until they're part of a fully developed eye.
SM: You've heard about that one, then. It turned out they could evolve, and it was possible to show how. Bad example, but it shows you what we were up against. It's so hard anymore to find something that science can't probably explain. One of our people is focused on the flagellum in a bacteria, for example, but he's spent years on it, and all it takes is for some bright graduate student to come up with an explanation...
DM: Kind of unfair, really...
SM: I was sitting in on a lecture one day, listening to one of my colleagues, and I remember thinking that the problem was a lack of evidence. I mean, the eye thing, and the flagellum thing, they look like evidence, but they're really based on the idea that scientists can't explain something. Well that leaves you pretty vulnerable.
DM: I can see how it would.
SM: I remember thinking that what we needed was real evidence—something even scientists would agree with, if possible. And then, I noticed another problem—one I hadn't seen before.
DM: With Intelligent Design Theory?
SM: This colleague was advancing the kind of basic idea that the whole theory spins off of. You know—you come across a Model T, or a watch, and you assume that there's a designer, that someone made it.
DM: Paley's watch.
SM: Only I was sitting there, listening, and I realized that I didn't assume that just because the thing was so complex. I assumed it because it obviously couldn't reproduce itself, and obviously couldn't maintain itself. So there had to be someone to produce it and to maintain it. But that doesn't apply to a tree, or a frog.
DM: Another small hole in ID theory.
SM: You could drive a Buick through it. If you think about it, all the stuff we're sure was created by a designer—the automobile, the video recorder, the plumbing—all that stuff breaks down all the time, has no ability to heal itself, and can't reproduce. It's obviously inferior to trees and cats and moss and fish and everything that isn't obviously designed. Design just doesn't seem to be all that indicative of intelligence.
DM: And that was when the idea for UD hit you.
SM: Actually it was a camel.
DM: A camel?
SM: The following summer I was leading a tour of the Holy Land. One day I found myself standing there, in the heat and the dust, surrounded by all these strange sights and smells, staring at this camel. And this thought just surfaced in my brain—completely out of the blue. What kind of God would create a camel? And the answer came to me, unbidden, in a flash. A stupid God.
DM: That seems a little...
SM: Heretical? That was my first response as well, but God's values aren't necessarily ours. I resisted the idea at first, but it wouldn't go away, and I began to wonder if I was being led.
SM: I did some research. Do you know that in the entire Bible there's not one mention of God's IQ?
DM: I'm not really surprised by that.
SM: It was a revelation. I combed the tradition, as well. It's just not heretical. Shocking, maybe, but...
DM: Isn't God supposed to be omniscient?
SM: Well, there's a distinction to be made between knowledge and intelligence. Anyway, I now believe that the idea was inspired, because it has been so amazingly fruitful. It solves virtually all of our problems, and gives us a whole new approach.
DM: A whole new approach?
SM: The universe is crammed with evidence of Unintelligent Design. It's not just camels by a long shot. There's this fellow named Jerry Coyne, a professor—of ecology and evolution, no less—at the University of Chicago. He's published a paper that lists all kinds of things. Kiwi birds have these tiny wings that don't do a thing. Cave animals have eyes that don't work. Humans have an appendix—which is actually injurious. The list goes on and on.
DM: And you argue that this is evidence for...
SM: For an Unintelligent Designer. The beauty of it is that we not only have evidence, but evidence that the scientists agree with. So it really is just a matter of two competing theories, based on the same evidence. That should get us past the courts, and into the schools.
DM: Do you think scientists will accept this an an alternative theory?
SM: We have high hopes. It's not just a matter of having real evidence, UD also provides a real research program. There are all kinds of questions to investigate, fine tuning to be done, evidence to be collected and sifted.
DM: Such as...
SM: To begin with we need a really good approximation of the universal constant.
DM: Isn't that something to do with relativity?
SM: Same term, different field. I'm talking about the IQ of the Designer. Right now, we think we've managed to narrow it to the 80-93 range, but there are mavericks out there, looking into the literature on idiot savants, etc. Who knows? They may have something.
DM: You said "all kinds of questions"...
SM: Well, we also have a group looking into Forged Design. It's a very exciting subfield.
DM: Forged design?
SM: It's quite possible that some of what we see in nature is actually an attempt by some other designer to pass off poor copies. Marsupials, for example.
DM: How are you going to sell this to...to your...
SM: Oh, it comes as a shock at first, but you'd be surprised how quickly that turns into relief. Remember, they're actually fairly anti-intellectual to begin with.
DM: So an Intelligent Designer...
SM: Makes a rather off-putting God. On the other hand, a stupid God...
DM: It's kind of like George Bush.
SM: Exactly. She's the kind of God you'd like to have a beer with.
DM: Did you say she?
SM: That's the other appealing thing about UD theory. It's very feminist. Most of us tend to think that God must be feminine.
DM: Most of you?
SM: Well, some of the women in the field actually prefer to think of God as male. It's puzzling really.
DM: You just can't please them...
SM: Chicks. Go figure.