Friday, July 25, 2008

A brief look at Intelligent Design

Many people think there is a basic conflict between religion and evolution as a scientific theory. As I see it the conflict is not between religion and science, but between religion as myth and revelation and science as observation. Buddhism is at its core a religion of observation, not of mythic revelation, so there is no fundamental conflict between Buddhism and science.

(To those who are familiar with the mythic aspects of Mahayana Buddhism and marvel at the idea that Buddhism is not a religion of myth and revelation at its core, let me just say that Buddhism sees such myths as "the five cosmic Buddhas" as metaphorical teaching devices for people who want to hold onto the feelings of security of such things. They are not seen as statements of objective existence but as devices that will be seen through as the practitioner develops understanding going beyond such naive views, just as a student of science develops understandings that alter the naive view of the world as earth-centric or flat.)

To me the words "intelligent design" are not objectionable per se, because as a Buddhist I have a different take on both "intelligence" and "design." As I see it, intelligence is inherent in all component things. For example, the more we look deeply into the human body within the cells, the more we see what looks to the imagination like cities or factories of immense activity and complexity. This coherence of complexity is an expression of a level or dimension of intelligence that is integral with the manifestation of life at that level. What we call our personal consciousness at the "macro" level of individuality, is itself "built upon" the foundation of the totality of consciousness at the sub-cellular level.

A principle tenet of Buddhism is called "anatman" meaning that there is no separate "self" or "soul" or "entity" within or beyond an individual or distinguishable from the unity of the person-environment, and so similarly there is no need to posit the existence of a "designer" separate from the design. To speak of the design of nature is the recognition of the laws of nature and the functions and principles of consciousness that provide for pattern creation and recognition in the universe.

Creationism in Buddhism means that the complete and completely incomprehensible and undifferentiated emptiness or nothingness separates itself into one and zero, expanding toward one and contracting towards zero. Between one and zero is "the line" of the event horizon, that includes the fundamental polarizing effect that is apparent in a wave formation with a "hill" and a "trough". As the event horizon vibrates with greater varieties of expansion and contraction along the line, for example as a string of a guitar or violin vibrates with sub-harmonics, with expansions on expansions, expansions on contractions, contractions on contractions, and contractions on expansions, exponentially replicating in patterns upon patterns and patterns within patterns, all in-filled with randomness as part of the balance-imbalance of the complexity, then the universe as we know it is created.

In this view, creation is not something that just happened in the past or is separate from the immediate current of time -- it is time itself -- and it occurs moment to moment as conditions arise, form, and dissolve. Evolution is the tracking of the changes of creation through conventional time in the sphere of biology. By tracking the changes in as many spheres as we can (e.g., in biology, geography, meteorology, psychology, etc.) we can get a sense of the laws, principles, and patterns (Dharma and dharmas) that occur naturally in the changes of our universe as it is created moment to moment as seen through the three-cornered prism of conventional time viewed as past, present, and future.

P.S. This blog was stimulated by finding a 12/2006 blog "Orr on Dawkins" at Evolutionblog

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