"Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a flea, and yet he will be making gods by the dozens." -MontaignePerhaps I am missing something in my lack of formal training in theology. I am not provincial enough to be considered a homespun philosopher. Yet, it appears to me that the Great Debate over "Intelligent Design" is in reality a non-issue.
"A one-planet deity has for me little appeal." -Harlow Shapley
In the first place, I do not see the harm in teaching children that billions of people in numerous cultures around the globe for thousands of years have believed in a god or goddess of some sort or another. In fact, I consider such a teaching to be crucial to a proper understanding of life on Earth. I would also teach that the concept of God is rejected by many people as well, and that still others may never even consider it. Further, I would emphasize that the concept of God has widely varied throughout the world and over time, with gods and goddesses of all variety being believed in and beseeched in numerous manners. And I would point out that, despite the irrational and megalomaniacal fanaticism that says otherwise, no one culture, civilization, people or individual has possessed the entire truth or the "correct" religious belief.
In other words, the claim that Christianity, for example, is "God's ultimate truth" is wrong. Period. Nor are Islam or Judaism. With Buddhism and Hinduism there is usually not such fanaticism in the first place - although it has been there on occasion enough to leave bloody trails from these two faiths as well. I do not believe that atheism is wholly correct either, which brings me back to my point that the furor over the idea of Intelligent Design seems to be a waste of time.
Maybe I am naive in my refusal to see anything complicated about the issue of Intelligent Design, from whatever perspective, whether pro or con. I see no need for a complex Gnostic-like explanation for existence, with levels and beings of all manner beyond our mundane dimensions. I do not find it necessary to explain the universe in terms of an overarching God in command of invisible legions of angels, archangels, devils and demons. Nor do I find that entertaining such notions - or, gadzooks! even believing in them for some period of time - is going to destroy my mind. In reality, contemplating such notions as the myriad imaginary friends and foes humans have come up with over the millennia can be fun, amusing and, at times, soothing. And the opposite - to wit, the disbelief or lack of belief in such theological things - can be extremely liberating mentally and emotionally. Disbelief certainly should not be viewed as "evil" or "diabolical," nor is it appropriate to abuse unbelievers because of it. Frankly, I see no harm in knowing about all of these concepts - or in teaching all of them to our children. To me, it's all art, a vast canvas filled with a riotous explosion of color. Indeed, the no-god side of reality could be perceived as artless, drab, dreary or gray. Or, it could reveal the more subtle and exotic colors of nature.
My own mind is not conflicted by the acceptance that the human mind in general has the capacity to be theistic, monotheistic, polytheistic, pantheistic, henotheistic and atheistic all at the same time. I am not at all bothered by my insight into or acknowledgement of that all-encompassing concept. Au contraire, I find it extraordinarily liberating, thrilling in fact, to simply accept it and not to agonize over whether or not there is a God, or Intelligent Designer behind the design. Perhaps my own thinking could best be described as Taoist, if a intelligent designer label my mind must wear. This understanding, or recognition of this wide-ranging concept, thus frees my mind from the debate as to whether or not there is an intelligent designer. Not only do I believe, but I know, that there is one. But this intelligent designer to me is not a person, i.e., a "god" or "goddess." It is simply a mechanism inherent in the design itself, such as the DNA of a cell.
Does DNA have a personality? Not according to the strict scientific definition. Does personality exist in the cosmos? Certainly, but that fact does not mean there is a giant "man" somewhere "out there" who is designing, creating and orchestrating the whole of creation. The fact is that there are animate and inanimate objects in the universe, and the totality incorporates all of them. The cosmos, then, contains personality and no personality. In like kind, any intelligent designer, such as DNA, cannot and never will be a "person," other than as it is within us, as persons. In this regard, we are, in a sense, self-willed. Again, the intelligent designer is simply inherent in the design itself.
Even if we were to call this inherent intelligent designer "God," it would still not be a person, giant or otherwise, because "God" by the very definition of the word is all-encompassing, and that means "he" would possess a mechanical nature in addition to a myriad of personalities and colors that we could ascribe to "him." Being the totality, "God" would also be of both genders, as well as neutral. In other words, "God" cannot be real in the sense believed by most people because by the very definition of the word a truly honest and profound assessment would need to see every characteristic conceivable by the human mind, including all types of personalities, as well as the total lack thereof. Thus, "God" is not a person but is all persons, not a reality but all realities. And, there is also No God.
There is a Buddhist tale in which a fervent believer approaches the great sage and says, "Speak to me of God, O Great One, as I have always known that He exists." Buddha looks at the acolyte and curtly replies, "God is not." The believer, horrified, runs quickly away, and word shortly spreads that Buddha is an atheist. An atheist excitedly comes to Buddha and says, "O Wise One, I have heard that you do not believe in God. I have always known that God does not exist." Buddha sharply retorts, "God is." Likewise, the disappointed atheist scurries away. Buddha's disciples approach him, confused, and ask why he has told the one that God is not and the other that God is. Buddha then replies, "Both had only one side of the coin and needed to see the whole."
To me, the bottom line on the issue of Intelligent Design is not whether or not there is a designer. As far as I'm concerned, there is, but it can be purely mechanical and need not have a personality. The question to my mind is, is the universe intelligently designed? Or is it rather kooky? Chaotic? A gigantic - nay, infinite - mess that we puny humans must sort out and attach order to? In the end, will it really matter whether or not we deem any designer to have a personality? The Earth could be destroyed tomorrow by a lurking meteor, and none of it will have mattered. All the bickering and battling over these concepts will have been for naught. It seems superbly more sensible just to accept that these concepts exist within the human mind - all of them that have ever been conceived - and to move on gracefully and peacefully from there.