If there is one subject that makes me feel deeply uncomfortable, it is the debate about Intelligent Design that has raged in the States for a couple of years.
I do in fact believe in Intelligent Design but the moment I utter that statement, I feel the immense urge to run away very quickly while simultaneously shouting, “But I’m not with that lot”.
“That lot” are the vast bulk of ID’ers who are to the religious right and who believe that because Nature is such an amazing complexity of beauty and staggering synchronisation, that it is far too intricate to have simply been the result of natural development (evolution) and that everywhere you look, there is evidence of a greater power having been at work.
I recognise and accept evolution and I don’t for one moment believe that God created the world 5,000 years ago. Neither do I believe in sexual abstinence, chastity, or that taking drugs is bad. And for that matter, I’m an atheist in so much as I don’t believe in God in the spiritual sense. However, I do think there was a creator, and a creator with a small “c”.
I think that life started on this planet as a result of Panspermia, out of the hundreds of thousands of tons of space dust that lands on this planet each and every year. The building blocks of life that contain the blueprints for existence cosmically roam the universe looking for Goldilocks planets like Earth and when they find one, they take hold. How far they go is a matter of chance for it is at this point that evolution steps in and the random element comes in to play. Very likely, as common as intelligent life might be, microbial life will be far more common.
I think there is a cosmic gardener that spreads this seed and I think he scatters it and then sits back and watches what happens. He puts the very basics in but doesn’t interfere any further. If it catches and grows then fine, but if not, well there’ll be another planet along in a short while.
And so, in case it isn’t obvious, I believe in directed Panspermia. I think the effort to spread life is deliberate. I don’t choose to call the force that does that God.
But Panspermia isn’t the complete answer and like with any theory about the origins of life, as you follow it back, you always come up against the same brick wall; who or what started it? Who is this force that I think spreads cosmic dust everywhere and, if it is an alien being, who or what created him, and so on.
Even if you assume, as is the case, that In The Beginning there was absolutely nothing; no time, no space, no continuum, not even a void, some chemical reaction started the process leading to the Big Bang. What kick started that?
It is only at this point that I have some sympathy for religion. From our present understanding, I can appreciate the frustration in trying to climb over this final hurdle and faced with the impossibility of an answer, I can sympathise with the desire to submit to a paranormal super being of omnipotent and supreme power.
But for most in science, that is a kop out and the search for the defining solution is the reason why many of the white coats still get out of bed in the mornings. I am with them on this one. What is confusing is that some scientists also claim to believe in God, which is scientific blasphemy. There is no spiritual element to this conundrum, just, somewhere in the depths of the cosmic blur, a single CSICOP’ian fact.