Sonntag, 4. Dezember 2005

Naturalism Vs. Intelligent Design

I just finished John Lennox' book "Has science buried god?" (in which he points out that the existence of our universe in its very shape is so unlikely to happen, it can impossibly have emerged coincidently), and I am now continuing my philosophical reading journey with his Darwinian counterpart Richard Dawkins ("The blind watchmaker"). Both excellently written and argued, it's somehow funny I even notice myself at times sympathizing with some of Lennox' ideas, even though I tend to disagree with his approach as a whole. There is a reason for this phenomenon: human thinking is not very well suited to grasp the magnitudes neither of the time horizon involved, nor of the number of places that could potentially allow life to emerge. To many people it just seems so unlikely for self-reproducing DNA/RNA to come into existence without a higher-level concept behind. But multiply that tiny tiny probability with the amount of time available (something like a billion years) and the number of planets in the universe (we can quite safely assume billions of billions of planets), it suddenly doesn't seem that unlikely at all.

Now this might not the right place for an in-depth metaphysical discussion, still it's interesting to note that about 40% or all Austrians believe in creationism or intelligent design, while another 40% have a pure naturalistic world view, with 20% indetermined (opposed to the US, where it's 80% creationists and 15% naturalists - of course I am oversimplifying here by dividing up only those two camps, but you get the point).

More people than I would have expected still stick to old-testamental genesis, something that has clearly been confuted by science nearly 150 years ago. Even the catholic church has taken a neutral position on evolution since the early 1950's.

The whole dispute just shows the dilemma we are all facing when it comes to issues that generally cannot really be proven by our usual approaches. There was a big bang, yes, which was caused by the concentration of matter, space and time in one singularity. At that point humans tend to search for the previous element in the cause-and-effect chain, but in this case there might not be anything previous. As of what came before, without matter there is no concept of time. And without time there is no "before", and there is no "cause and effect".

I consider myself a rational person, so that's what should guide me. I am quite convinced we are nothing but stardust. Still, a local newspaper article quoted a famous German journalist and TV host just the other day: "There are no atheists on an airplane during heavy turbulence". It seems inherently human to look for something that goes beyond logical reasoning. Is it just the fear of being alone in this universe and having to find sense in life without guidance from above? Or is rationalism simply not very well suited to answer this kind of questions?