To borrow the oft-repeated, regulation ‘death blow’ verdict from ‘Dragons’ Den’, “I’m out” as far as the phrase “Intelligent Design” is concerned. It’s too tied-in to fundamentalist and, in my view, obscurantist religious views. “I’m in”, however, as far as the phrase “intelligence and design” is concerned. To me, “Intelligent Design” (especially with capital letters) can too easily be taken to require the existence of a Personal Intelligent Designer, which I regard as taking a big step too far. I prefer, therefore, to write about “intelligence and design” as in qualities or functions of what you and I call ‘mind’. This, however, needs further teasing out …
Because you and I are human beings, we‘re most likely to think of ‘mind’ as being something that’s ‘embodied’, in a person with a brain and central nervous system. In addition, our language uses ‘nouns’, which we regard as referring to specific objects, or identifiable entities, of one kind or another. So “Intelligent Design” easily leads to the idea of a ‘mind’ embodied in a ‘person’ who is thereby an intelligent designer. It’s much harder for us to contemplate, not only “a” disembodied mind but, even more so, disembodied ‘Mind’ as such, without any preceding definite or indefinite articles – just raw, naked Mind.
An idea with a long pedigree is currently making a come-back. The 2005 book, “Panpsychism in the West”, by philosopher David Skribna, documents its history. Inclusion of ‘in the East’ would at least have doubled its 275 pages. Panpsychism suggests that what we call ‘mind’ (from its most basic sense of ‘awareness’ or ‘perception’ and thence upwards) is neither a late arrival, nor an emergent ‘add-on’, in the evolution of an initially lifeless, inert, unaware, mindless, purely material universe. Rather, ‘mind’ is built in with the bricks. What we call ‘matter’ is the outside of that which ‘mind’ is the inside. They are simply the different sides of one and the same coin. So, in the beginning, (if there was one), there was Mind. Mind is timeless and universal.
Now if ‘mind’ is built into the bricks of the universe, then so is intelligence, information and design. Some people will jump to the conclusion that we’re now speaking about God. “I’m in” for that, but only if ‘God’ is more of a verb than a noun, more of a conscious ‘process’ than what we call a ‘person’. To imagine that ‘God’ is ‘made in the image’ of humans, only inflated to vast proportions, seems to me to combine arrogance with absurdity. It’s parochial wishful thinking that’s gone totally off-the-scale. There is, for me, no locatable ‘person’, like the curtained-off Wizard of Oz, turning the dials and pulling the levers. I can’t, with any honesty or conviction, invest in that, so I have to say that “I’m out”. But in my next post, if you’re interested, I’ll expand on what “I’m in” for, and why …..
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