Letters for the week of August 17-23, 2005 

More debate about our July 27 article on intelligent design, including Taoist, Krsna, and scientific perspectives. Plus horses and Third Eye Blind.

"Love and Redemption at Golden Gate Fields," Cityside, 7/27

Saved by the bell
I enjoyed reading your article "Love and Redemption at Golden Gate Fields." Loved the way the horse placed her head on George Luna's shoulder. George Luna made the point that a slaughterhouse might have paid for her. It is the saddest thing that these beautiful horses are slaughtered. Also they are slaughtered in a very cruel way.
Margaret Rose, Alameda

"Go Ahead, Tear Us Apart," Music, 7/27

Never let us go
Gina Arnold's statement that Third Eye Blind is a "flashy, single-hit bandwagon act" is not only staggeringly inaccurate (for starters, four of the group's singles have reached the Top 20) but also thoroughly unfair. Third Eye Blind didn't call it quits when radio programmers and fickle rock fans turned their backs. Rather, they continued to kick ass and take names. To devotees of tuneful, intelligent rock 'n' roll, Third Eye Blind will always be an "artist with true staying power."
Eamon Doyle, San Francisco

"Phillip Johnson's Assault Upon Faith-Based Darwinism," Feature, 7/27

The Taoist perspective
I would like to thank the Express for the wonderful article on Phillip Johnson's concept of "intelligent design." As usual, when academics cross from one discipline to another, a simple understanding of their history and how they made that crossover shows the danger taking this kind of crossover seriously. When Dr. Johnson made the crossover from the law to science he made one of the most basic mistakes one can make, one he would never have accepted from his students of the law.

Before one can learn the law, one must learn how the law works. Before one can study science, in no matter which science one chooses to study, one must learn how science works. While science, like all human endeavors, begins with abstract ideas (hypotheses), once the scientist has that idea, he or she must then prove it.

Darwin knew he would not be immediately accepted, and expected to have to give extraordinary proofs, which is why his two seminal works are so weighty with observation. The reason the scientific community accepts Darwin so widely is that after 150-plus years of scientific investigation, no one has found that one fact, or shown that one piece of evidence that can refute it. Granted, there are problems in the mechanisms of the theory: Science, unlike faith, does not grow full blown from a person's head, but there are people working on it.

While I appreciate Dr. Johnson's attempts to separate his theory from the religious inquiries into ways of making the monotheistic creation story into science, I would like to propose that this is impossible because his idea is based, like religion, on the idea that a humanlike intelligence is needed to first plan then execute anything. This is a very Western concept, and so it is hard for those of us in the West to wrap our minds around the idea that human intelligence is a part of creation, rather than the initiator of it. The universe was not created; it was grown.

Alan Watts, the noted philosopher and theologian, put it best in his book The Way of Zen: "The important difference between the Tao and the usual idea of god is that whereas God produces the world by making it (wei) the Tao produces it by 'not-making' (wu-wei) -- which is approximately what we mean by 'growing.'"

As an organic entity is born and grows it mutates, changes on the genetic level into an individual entity. Most of these mutations are neutral and don't show up beyond the molecular level, but some do: children born without brains, sparrows born with odd beaks, that kind of thing. Most of these things are malignant, but occasionally one of these mutations is beneficial, and if these mutations happen under certain circumstances, then a new species is created. It is not easy for variation and natural selection to create, but it is entirely possible.

If one needs to have a god in the mix, there is his or her place, but as to the need for a designer and creator, science is moving toward making that concept as antique as the gods of Mount Olympus. On the other hand, if the first aliens we contact ask if we know Jesus, I may have to rethink this idea.
Rick Umbaugh, Hercules

The scientific perspective
Intelligent design is about politics and religion, not science. Your article on the subject was far too forgiving toward the creationists and I felt that it misrepresented the entire debate between evolution and "intelligent design" by implying that the issue is somehow in serious controversy in the scientific community.

Creationists have already decided on what the "facts" are in their world -- whatever the Bible says. They start with an immovable and unshakable assertion (God created the Earth) and then work backward, piecemeal, grasping at straws and looking for any information that is convenient to their foregone conclusion. If a fossil record turned up tomorrow with every missing link plugged right in, arranged in a single file line in order of species and height, they would still refuse to accept evolution, period.


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