Intelligent Design


The 11th Century poet, Omah Khayyam had his take on the intelligent designing abilities of the God which was evolving in his time and place.

As under cover of departing Day
Slunk hunger-stricken Ramazan away,
Once more within the Potter’s house alone
I stood, surrounded by the Shapes of Clay.

Shapes of all Sorts and Sizes, great and small,
That stood along the floor and by the wall;
And some loquacious Vessels were; and some
Listen’d perhaps, but never talk’d at all.

Said one among them–“Surely not in vain
My substance of the common Earth was ta’en
And to this Figure moulded, to be broke,
Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again.”

Then said a Second–“Ne’er a peevish Boy
Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy;
And He that with his hand the Vessel made
Will surely not in after Wrath destroy.”

After a momentary silence spake
Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make;
“They sneer at me for leaning all awry:
What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?”

An Evolving God and Evolutionary Genetics


I have been having a discussion with Cliff Burns from Beautiful Desolation about the evolution of God and the role of God in human society.

Cliff is a very intelligent man, and a fellow curmudgeon, so I knew that a discussion with him would force me to think deeply on the subject. We approach God from two different directions.

He from a position of belief and I from a position of disbelief.

I attempted to comment on his suggestion that “By having a sense of greater power all around us, humans are humbled…and believe me, as a species, we need a lot of humbling. When we dispense with God, you’re right, we get Mao, we get Pol Pot, Stalin (I just posted an essay that brushes on this). Without God, we’re lost…”

My reply became convoluted yet I felt there were valid points which maybe needed expansion and so here is a new posting on the subject of evolution and rulership, God and genetics. It is based around my reply to the above. I apologise for any duplication of thoughts.

Cliff, I agree that we, as a species, have a social habit of following a leader, corporeal or incorporeal. As you say, our arts and customs are based on this habit. Could it be that in order to have a civilisation, or even a small grouping of people, it was better to have a few leaders and many followers, These genetic traits could have been concentrated in successful societies.

A successful tribe in the hunter-gatherer days of mankind needed a strong and successful leader. A failure in leadership would lead to either a change of leader or the demise of the tribe. As mankind settled and developed agriculture and pastoralism, leadership was again required, both to deal with the feeding of the embryonic civilisation and to help protect it from marauding animals and acquisitive neighbours. Good leaders need followers and those who would not follow had been weeded out back in the tribal days. As villages grew into cities the leader became much more of a ruler.

It was known that there was a realm of magic which decreed the seasons and the Ruler was close to this realm. His pronouncements and decisions were for the over-all good, even if it meant some individuals had to be sacrificed. Figuratively or literally! The magic realm slowly developed into a supernatural realm.

A recent news story I found suggested that it seems that radical and conservative politics attract different genetic types. Could it be that there is also a “Leadership” gene and a “Follower” gene which could be traced back to the original tribal organisation in pre-village life. Having that leadership in the hands of a human individual or, in the hands of a representative of whichever Deity the society condones, doesn’t seem to matter.

Rulers tended to breed within their own group. A Ruler would marry a neighbouring Ruler’s daughter. Over generations, if there is a “Ruling gene” then it became concentrated within certain family groupings. Leaving the rest of the population to follow. For if you did not follow, you were either dealt with or became a ruler yourself. Rulers do have a habit of spreading their genes around. Many individuals, such as the illegitemate son of Rollo and “the Tanner’s daughter” who grew up to become William the Conqueror, would be given half a set of ruling genes at birth. Excellent foremen and sergeants. And occasionally, successful rebels.

So successful societies were led by successful leaders. The long lasting civilisations had, as history shows, not only a human leader, but important supernatural support. A priestly class, probably well endowed with “ruler genes” was a way to carry the wisdom of a successful style of rulership across generations. Where there was not a strong God-belief in a tribe or civilisation, as with Ghengis Khan or Atilla the Hun and other one generational conquerors the civilisation and the tribe died with its ruler or was absorbed into a new culture.

Whether human or divine, it is the fact of leadership within a population grouping which is important. Sometimes it seems that a divine leadership is safer for the general population because there are not generational leadership contests. Too often a human God can go mad as happened with Stalin, Pol Pot and now Mugabe. A God can evolve within a stable community but to change a God requires a macro-shift in exterior conditions. A major drought, food disease, global climate change or innovative change any one of which could lead to population or influence movement where one group wins and another loses.

To a good follower class, and as explained above, every successful society needs good followers, it matters little from where leadership originates. God and the King are almost inseparable. In ancient Egypt and in Rome, the Pharaohs and Caesers were God and there were Priestly dynasties to ensure intergenerational continuity of the God-ship.

In our modern world we have seen Hitler (Godwin preserve me), Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and now Mugabe remove the “old” religion and take on their own shoulders the mantle of divine abilities. Their kingdoms are doomed. There is no continuing supernatural presence within those cultures. The possible exception in this group is China where Rulership is codified in a Committee which could become immortal.
While such leader/follower dynamics are necessary for a successful and relatively stable civilisation, often it is the free-thinkers or atheists who create the conditions for progress as opposed to simple change.

The new theory on the genetics of radical and conservative politics is not proven, yet there is some data which indicates that it may be a viable theory. Could it be that millenia of civilisation has also created a “Belief” gene pool? Separate from, but similar to the postulated political gene.That civilisation has grown to need a God. Not that I am being specific here because it is obvious that there are a number of successful civilisations around the world which each have their own God. The similarity is that they HAVE a God.

PZ Myers has written on his blog that he believes the New Atheist should aim at the destruction of all religious belief. While I admire his aim, I fear for the result.

As civilised men and women we, or most of us, have had bred into our genes a belief in the supernatural. A belief in magic and superstition. It is the major glue which holds our civilisation together. It doesn’t matter whether there is a supernatural realm or not. The belief is what matters and is what enables us, as a group, to live together. Mostly. And that group over there in the next valley or on the next continent is a danger to us and our belief.

Despite being on the same side of the belief fence as PZ I find I agree with Cliff and disagree with PZ. We need religion.

As an atheist, I see my role as looking outside the square. Finding new ways of doing or looking at things. Developing new thinking systems because those who believe are followers and those who rule are natural conservatives.
It is from my actions that God evolves.

Thoughts on the Evolution of God


“Gene frequencies in a population change over time in response to environmental pressures”

A very fine description and explanation of speciel evolution.

Ideas also change over time according to environmental pressures.

There are no ideas in a vacuum. They are influenced by the past and they are influenced by the present surrounding thoughts and conclusions. Ideas which do not fit into the current intellectual environment eventually disappear, being replaced by ideas which are acceptable within the constraints of the time.

Phlogiston and the flat earth are examples of scientific ideas which disappeared with a change in the prevailing intellectual landscape.

It is interesting to follow the growth of religious thought through the millennia. How some religions grew and then faded. How others succeeded until their followers were defeated in a battle.

Baal was defeated by Jehovah, Hera was married (defeated) by Zeus and in each case kingdoms rose and fell.

In what became the Grecian sphere of influence, the Gods and Goddesses remained recognisably human in their attitudes and habits. Jealous and promiscuous with a fair measure of random nastiness to fit in with observed extreme natural events. Over a thousand years of intercity warfare the Gods and Goddesses waxed and waned, yet they survived in the stories of the region. They spread as far as India under Alexander but returned to their own lands in time to be adopted by the Romans.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, the pantheon of their Gods was joined by one who was so powerful his priests decreed that His name could never be spoken. Worshipped by a small and quite insignificant nomadic tribe, this God was able to lead His tribe into a number of victories and so they were able to gain a land of their own. Despite defeats by newer invaders who had larger, better supplied armies and exile from their land their God continued to be worshipped and every time those worshippers found themselves in charge, they attempted to destroy all other Gods.

Then, as happens in most historical events, there was a rather unusual set of circumstances. As a consequence of these events, an offshoot of this small religion was adopted by the Romans and so spread throughout Europe and nearby regions. Finally this God was strong enough to squash all other religions in His sphere of influence.

Now it is the dominant religion in the Western World.

But is this still the same God which first appeared in the Middle East some three or four thousand years ago?

Many modern-day believers will automatically reply in the affirmative. Yet let us look at the over-all habits of this ancient Middle Eastern God. He was no lover of any who opposed him. He was rigid in His  expectations of his followers. He had no difficulties in ordering His people to commit genocide, either to take their land or to remove all trace of another God.

Compare this with the God of Love who is worshipped today.

He has evolved as philosophy and ethics and knowledge have evolved. He has not been existing in a vacuum. His attributes have developed as society has developed. He has developed an omnipresence and he has developed “omniknowledge”. He did not know all while he was in the desert. Otherwise He would not have tested Job at the request of a fallen angel. Come to think of it, the Devil and God no longer communicate in the modern world. Another evolution of ideas. Anyway, He would not have tested Job for He would have already known the future.

His present day worshippers will consider that any changes in God are due to our increased knowledge of Him and His attributes. So much so that it has been necessary to create numerous versions (species) of worshippers. Just as the followers of Al’lah have formed a number of species within the worship of Mohammed’s God and the followers of the original incarnation of this God have a number of species. In fact there is a case for arguing that “The People of the Book”, the genera of Jews, Christians and Muslims, all belong to a specific religious Family with its roots found four thousand years ago in Mesopotamia. There are still in existence, some small groups which are possibly descended from the same Order which led to the Family of “People of the Book”. The Zoroastrians of Persia are an example of this. Other species within today’s pantheon such as the Hindu, Voodoo and the pantheism of Africa have different ancestors and may even have arisen from other Orders or even Classes.

The important thing is that each of these religious species has adapted to its philosophical environment and so has succeeded. As that environment changes, with new ideas and ideals, then each will change. Some will be wiped out by invasion, some will lose their relevance. Most, like the ancient Egyptian and Greek Gods, are now extinct.

I guess that what I am trying to say is that I began with a quote about evolution; “Gene frequencies in a population change over time in response to environmental pressures”. I have come to see that it also applies to civilisations and religions.

Mores and Memes in a population change over time in response to ideological pressures.

(Written on a Saturday evening without reference to  my library so some small parts of the above may be refutable. However, I was exploring a general idea from a layman’s POV.)

Godwinning the Creationists


Stupid people who support an indefensible position sometimes go completely overboard. Not that I am saying that all those who believe in Creationism are stupid.

Many are simply mislead.

But those who do the misleading range from compulsive controllers to the completely out of controllers.

I thank Baby Jebus for bringing this out of controller to my attention.

A trailer for the movie “Darwin’s Deadly Legacy” which shows how Darwin and the Evolutionists created Hitler and caused the Columbine School shootings.

I hereby invoke Godwin’s Law on Creationists.

They lose!

The Truth (a meme)


Given that;

A) Wilco, the band, is on a par with Trent and his NIN’s and so quite inconsequential

B) Men and Women may be equal but they are certainly different

C) Gin IS better than Whisky

D) The unmentioned Gravity does, indeed suck!

E) Cricket is more enjoyable than Baseball.

I believe this to be the TRUTH.

Found through, and with thanks to, dorid

Unintelligent ID’ers


Back near the beginning of August I wrote about some new discoveries in palaeontology and the probable reaction from certain quarters. The soon to-to-come braying from the Intelligent Designers.

There was quite a response and I thought that was that.

Other than I read Robyn Williams’ lightweight but enlightening “Unintelligent Design” which asks the question, “Shouldn’t we sue God for sinus blockages, hernias, appendix flare-ups and piles, not to mention bad backs?”  Those are some really great Intelligent Designs.

This evening I wandered over to Pharyngula and found that PZ Myers has written of the actual fallout. The braying has been even worse that I expected. From the rather strange “TownHall“.

One of the milder quotes used by PZ was contained in the following paragraph.

“a commenter who demands transitional hominins on an article where the creationist author is babbling about the discovery of Homo erectus and Homo habilis specimens—one guy waving a skull around claiming “these transitional fossils prove evolution false!” while the other is ranting “the absence of transitional fossils prove evolution false!” Come on, people, get your story straight.”

One of the stronger and more offensive was, “Darwin’s theory is racist. The truth is Darwin was a seething racist. The ‘theory’ of evolution wasn’t created to explain any facts about man’s origin. It was to provide a ‘scientific basis’ for Darwin’s life- long preaching that ‘niggers are apes and descended from apes’.”

Oh dear. What a pity he didn’t check a few facts first.

As an educator, I found a picture saves a thousand words. As a slow, two-fingered typist let me guide you to this rather neat little item. Just be aware that it may be rated PG.

I’m off to swing through a few trees.

A Baptist Bra


A man walked into the Women’s Department of Macy’s in New York City. He told the saleslady “I would like a Baptist bra for my wife, size 36B.”

With a quizzical look the saleslady asked? “What kind of bra?”

He repeated “A Baptist Bra” – She said to tell you that she wanted a Baptist Bra, and that you would know what she wanted.”

“Ah, now I remember” said the saleslady. “We don’t get as many requests for them as we used to. Mostly our customers lately want the Catholic bra, or the Salvation Army bra, or the Presbyterian type.”

Confused, and a little flustered, the man asked “So, what are the differences?”

The lady responded. “It is all really quite simple. The Catholic type supports the masses. The Salvation Army lifts up the fallen, the Presbyterian type keeps them staunch and upright.”

He mused on that information for a minute, and asked “So, what is the Baptist type for?”

“They,” she replied, “make mountains out of molehills.”

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