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Richard (RJ) Eskow Headshot

Was the Universe "Intelligently Designed" ... by Satan?

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Creationists like to say that "intelligent design" is not "religious" is nature because, while it argues for the existence of an all-powerful Creator, it never explicitly says that Creator is the biblical God. They leave those particular dots for individual worshippers - er, I mean students - to connect for themselves. "How can you look at complex biological processes," they ask, "and not see the organizing hand of a Planner at work?"

"ID" critics like physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a recent guest on the "Colbert Report," respond by pointing out flaws in the universe's alleged "design" - like those pesky asteroids that could plunge the earth into lifeless chaos at any moment. Dr. Tyson et al. argue that imperfections like these refute the idea of a master planner behind all creation.

Let's get the two sides together. "ID"-ers say the Creator need not be "God," and scientists point to major problems with the created universe. So, let's see ... if it wasn't God, who else might have created a reality so filled with deviations, inconsistencies, and problems? Hmm. Could it be ... perhaps ... oh, I don't know ... Satan???

Consider the evidence: Diseases. Torture. Sadness. Pat Robertson. The overwhelming destructive force of antimatter. Michael Bolton's remake of "When A Man Loves A Woman." Yeah, that's right. The evidence of a Devil-Creator is all around us, staring us in the face with its baleful eyes. Do we dare look away?

The idea of physical existence as a satanic creation is hardly a new one but, like lots of other devilish creatures, it may be ready for a facelift. Manicheans, Bogomils, Cathars, Paulicians - they all saw this reality as the creation of a deity who was less righteous (and more aggravating) than God, if not downright evil. Sure, these groups lost out in the competition of early religious sects, and the Religious Right is dominating the game right now - but what's that all about, except a kind of theological Darwinism? Why shouldn't we assume that Satan created this Universe as a playground for himself and his fellow executives at Halliburton?

But then again ... nah. The idea doesn't hold water, if you think about it. After all, there are good things in this universe, too - like health, charity, happiness, Martin Luther King, and Percy Sledge's original version of "When A Man Loves a Woman." The old Muslim idea of Satan as the "lurker" or "whisperer" in the human heart - who has no power other than that people willingly give him - makes more sense to me. That's an interpretation that, when translated into more modern metaphor, addresses the moral and psychological dimensions of evil. And evil only seems to exist in humanity, not in the rest of the universe.

Sorry, creationists. You don't believe this world is the creation of the Devil, and neither do I. And if a merciful God created this Universe in the way you believe, why would he have given us minds with which to interpret it - unless we were meant to use them? The Catholic Church accepts the validity of evolution, aas does virtually every living scientist. The National Council of Churches supports the teaching of science, as do most major Jewish, Buddhist, and Islamic organizations in this country. For everybody except a retrograde few, the truth and power of science are undeniable.

You few who think otherwise want to impose your vision - your 'design' - on everybody else. You may be riding high in Kansas, but you're out on the street in Dover - and you're not too popular in the national opinion polls, either. So, for the so-called "intelligent designers," it looks like it's time to go back to the drawing board.

A Night Light