Letters to the Editor
By REGISTER READERS
September 27, 2005
Intelligent designer behind such a planet?
By Hector Avalos
Intelligent Design is a new variant of an old creationist argument. Here is a simple version:
1) Design implies a designer; 2) this designer is the god I worship. The book “The Privileged Planet,” co-authored by an astronomer and a theologian, is simply one of the latest attempts to argue that our planet was designed by some higher intelligence.
If our planet were much farther from, or much closer to, the sun, for example, then life might not exist, according to the book. Other planets don’t offer as good a platform for astronomical observation. Therefore, our planet is intentionally positioned for the emergence of intelligent life, which can then produce astronomers to discover the purposes of the designer.
One need only read theologies produced over the last 2,000 years to understand that this is not new.
The problem is that our planet has millions of features that we could identify as unique. These million other features also might not exist if our planet were any closer to, or farther from, the sun, etc.
If our planet were not located precisely where it is, then we might also not have AIDS viruses, congenital deformities or death itself. So why do ID proponents think that intelligent life and astronomical observation were the features selected for design? Why don’t ID proponents argue that our planet has been positioned where it is so that AIDS viruses, congenital deformities and death could exist?
“The Privileged Planet” tries to explain this selection: “When considering universes, everyone recognizes, unless they’re trying to avoid a conclusion they find distasteful, that a habitable universe containing intelligent observers has an intrinsic value that an uninhabitable one lacks.”
And just what is the definition of “intrinsic value”? The book says, “Such value is difficult to define, but we usually know it when we see it.” So how do we scientifically measure this “intrinsic value”? Who is the “we” judging “intrinsic value”?
In “The Privileged Planet” we discover a designer who did not create enough arable land to feed all of Earth’s hungry children and did not equip us with enough immunity to fight disease, but yet he wanted astronomers to have an ideal spot from which to observe solar eclipses. Astronomy is the privileged profession. Astronomers become the privileged inhabitants.
-Hector Avalos, associate professor, religious studies, Iowa State University, Ames.