Sunday, November 13, 2005

Malicious design

Intelligent Design (ID) theory – if it can be called a theory – claims that, instead of evolving from natural forces alone, life was intelligently designed by some master designer. If this is the case, then the designer – whoever it was – was quite mean to create viruses, bacteria and parasites that are responsible for much death and suffering in humankind.

ID advocates – who are primarily Christian – argue that organisms had to be designed because of their complexity. However, these advocates always use benign examples, such as the eye or the blood clotting mechanism in humans. They never use examples such as the tapeworm, or the Plasmodium parasite that causes the death of millions of people every year through Malaria. Harmful viruses, bacteria and parasites are extremely intricate organisms, so according to the ID argument they must have also been designed.

I once asked a creationist on a debate forum about this problem, and he indicated that nasty organisms were the result of the fall of humankind; they appeared in the world through our sin. Is sin then a sentient entity, capable of conscious design? I don’t know if this is what the bible teaches. Or, did harmful organisms just appear out of nowhere, without any help from God or some other conscious entity? If this is the case, then ID advocates seem to be contradicting themselves by claiming that all complex organisms need a designer, but then believe that harmful complex organisms do not.

I still did not get any satisfactory answer from the creationist. Who designed all harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites? If we believe that the designer is unknown, then this doesn’t pose a problem to the ID hypotheses, as it is quite possible that the designer possess a malicious streak. However, if we believe that the designer is the benevolent God of the Christian tradition, then this does pose a problem.