Designer Cosmology

Designer Cosmology

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Since ancient times, thinkers have been struck by the wonder and splendor of life, as much as by the majesty and magnificence of the universe. It was generally believed therefore that all this must be the work of a grand Divinity. The idea of a creator-god, endowed with the qualities of omniscience and omnipotence has therefore been implicit or explicit in practically all the cultures and religious systems of humankind.

Though the rise of science was a welcome enrichment to human culture and understanding, from religious perspectives it has had some unwelcome consequences, not unlike DDT. Little by little science has been eroding belief in a personal God, and faith in religious matters more generally. And this has not been without social, spiritual, and ethical consequences. The reaction to these decidedly negative side-effects of science has been twofold. The first relates to the Enlightenment mode which strives to guard all the positive dimensions of religion without those elements which are untenable in the scientific framework; and to improve, where possible, the basic ethical, humanistic, and aesthetic contributions of religion.

The second reaction to the cultural onslaught of science is to try to cast traditional theistic modes of understanding the natural world in a scientific garb. Attempts to do this in the American-Christian context gave rise to the Intelligent Design (ID) school of thought, which has its parallels within other religious traditions as well. Among the ID proponents are thinkers from a variety of fields such as law, biology, physics, theology, and mathematics. They have been arguing through books, conferences, public lectures, and organizations to propagate the idea that at the core all natural phenomena are caused by a silent and invisible intelligent principle without which the world would have been a chaos of grand proportions.

Now the scientific establishment regards any suggestion of the supernatural to be anathema, not only because there does not seem to be a shred of scientific evidence to that effect, but also because the basic assumptions of science are that Nature can be fully accounted for in terms of the laws and principles science has been unraveling, and that the supernatural belongs to the realm of poetry and fantasy.

ID thinkers, who are very concerned that indoctrinating young children with a godless worldview may have disastrous social and moral consequences (take away God and everything is permitted, as Dostoevsky said) have been trying to introduce their version of an ID cosmology in the science curricula of schools. However, many religiously inclined scientists and avowed atheists, as also a vast number of reasonably educated citizens, have resisted attempts to theologize science.

It would seem that ID propagandists in the U.S. have two layers of intentions: The first is to re-establish a Christian world in those countries where Christianity is still a majority religion. Though some can empathize with this goal, using science for this purpose simply will not succeed because science is based, by definition and practice, on a methodology that transcends race, religion, nationality and other cultural boundaries. The other goal of ID is to reinstate religious perspectives, which are fast losing their luster and significance in human culture and civilization. One may regard this as a commendable project in so far as one wishes to preserve the best aspects of religions. But here again, the injection of even such a seemingly worthwhile goal into technical science and science education may not be the best way to accomplish it.

On the other hand, many scientists, in their zeal to explain everything and in their insensitivity to the genuine religious longings of vast numbers of perfectly decent people, have been going overboard in their condemnation and caricature of religion which does little service to the image of science among the non-technically-trained sections of humanity. It seems to me that conceding that one could look upon the universe as having originated from an intelligent cosmic principle can in no significant way affect the intellectual development of children or even the progress of science.