God of the Goofs

Theology and theodicy are fraught with pitfalls and surprises. Amateur theology even more so. Here’s a review that is a case in point…

A caring God would not have designed us like this

…discussing a review of a new book, Inside the Human Genome: A case for non-intelligent design by John C. Avise, which argues the genome is such a demonic mess that it had no Designer. The reviewer makes the interesting point – perhaps we have a moral imperative to then fix the mess.

But what of the Designer? With a hat-tip to Anne Rice I wrote this…

Perhaps the Designer intended for biochemical Life to remain as ‘immortal’ archea & eubacteria, and was taken by surprise when they ganged together, made eukaryotes, then sex & death at the same time. After a billion years of watching the carnage S/He decided “enough is enough” and chose to intervene by developing an Intelligent Watchmaker who could fix the biosphere… but we’re just not finished yet. The Designer is still struggling with how to handle “junk memes” and is working on new software to upgrade us to Humanity 2.0…

As believeable as any religion, just more up-to-date.

…tongue firmly in cheek, but the point is that perhaps God didn’t know how the world would turn out – until it turned out this way. Even a “god outside time” has to let events occur to foreknow them, else they’re all being directly orchestrated by god and any “freedom” and “free-will”, as well as any evil and sin, is written into the Script of the cosmos, and God really is just a mask for the Devil. So even a God outside time must be surprised, from time to time, but eternally surprised.

And why should we be surprised by that fact? A number of mathematical arguments imply that knowledge, even perfect knowledge, of a system is only possible by letting that system ‘run’ when it is past a certain level of complexity. God took a cosmic risk when S/He created space-time and all else that followed.

5 thoughts on “God of the Goofs

  1. Well, yes. This is just perfect. I came back here a few moments ago to post a reply to your comment on “A thought” and saw this. “A moral imperative to clean up the mess”, “Humanity 2.0″ As you may have noticed, that is just what I had in mind. Of course, I know nothing at all about where the current version comes from but when do we get started on the upgrade?

  2. Hi Warren

    Problem with “Humanity 2.0″ is the dark-side of ‘eugenics’ in which some bunch of self-righteous purists decide ‘what’s best’ and should be preserved in the ‘gene pool’. I don’t think there’s an easy solution to that problem. Germline upgrades are, in principle, a more ethical approach, but the consequences of such, at the end of such an immense unfolding that is morphogenesis, leaves a lot of room for horrible mistakes. Nature’s approach isn’t perfect and is down right bad news for many, but are we anywhere close enough to doing better? Somatic cell modifications I have no issue with, even desire a few myself, but our current methods need a lot of improvement.

    Do those concerns mean we shouldn’t try? That’s the hard question. What do you reckon?

  3. Sorry, most of the time, when I finally get around to replying to a blog entry, the thread is dead. I could probably go on and on about this one for days and with so many interesting related issues, it’s hard to stay on topic.

    Yes, the dark side of eugenics. More generally, there is the dark side of a whole slew of technical innovations that are starting to come “online” now, developments that raise serious ethical issues, will have unintended consequences with no way of really knowing what will happen without running the program. Often, the wrong ethical decision will probably be made long before it is possible to think about integrating a similar device into the gene pool. (RFID implants, devices to connect the net directly to the brain, suicide devices implanted at birth, for “National Security” reasons. Feel good drugs make it much easier to work in a South African gold mine (or a corporate hi-rise) under horrible conditions with no need to trouble oneself with thoughts of organizing a union. “I just love being a gamma”. The list is very long and very scary.

    Yes, your concerns are very real. I certainly would not welcome a neo-Hitler (or more likely, an Ayn Randian social Darwinist) in charge of the collective and deciding what is best for the gene pool. But, as above, I am much more worried these days about the small steady accumulation of individual decisions, products and services mostly made for commercial reasons and often made at the expense of the many to benefit the few. A couple of handsome centaurs would be just the perfect status symbol at an upper class lawn party, wouldn’t it? The well off may well soon be selecting embryos then modifying genes for whatever is fashionable (huge genitals, height, muscles, light skin color, straight blond hair, guaranteed heterosexuality, IQ, temperament) almost as soon as we get serious about eliminating the bad genes that cause serious disease. We are likely to have a “Time machine” or a “Brave New World” situation on our hands almost before we know it. I expect this kind of mostly very decadent stuff to start relatively soon. The mind set is already well established in the world culture, no?

    A touchy subject I guess, but there are situations where I would welcome some “purists” deciding what is best. I would breath huge sigh of relief to see a strong authority able to limit the release of greenhouse gases before it is too late. A global authority able to collect a stiff carbon tax and distribute the revenue appropriately would be fine with me and it would clearly solve the problem, fast. This is a real solution, one we have experience with. It’s doable and technically, relatively easy, But can’t happen politically so we risk the entire planet, because of, emotional flag waving patriotism, greed, and ultra-idealistic libertarian religious faith.

    Now, thinking big and getting back to fantasy land, what about a careful, highly educated, enlightened and altruistic group of monks, “philosopher kings”, or kindly professors as the engineers? You know, the folks who’d be working to make the Buddha’s 2500 year old dream come true, eliminating the suffering of all sentient beings. B F Skinner’s “Walden Two” also comes to mind and provides a scientific model for actually building one though it is very much dated and technically wrong. There must be others. Shouldn’t it be really possible, given the time great effort to create a place very close to heaven? I’d bet we could build many different kinds of ethical happy places, ranging from groups of smart happy peaceful hairless bipedal monkeys, still much like us, to something we can’t now imagine. I’m all for such projects, when the time comes, risks and all.

    I’d like to think that is just exactly what at least an occasional successful intelligent society or offshoot really does, turns itself into beautiful living art and lives happily ever after. Maybe there are even more of those types out there than the aggressive, flag wavers who think the only possible reason for life is to race out and gobble up a galaxy as fast as possible. Maybe long time survival of these is actually higher as the big boys would feel no threat and their von Neumann death probes would stay away.

    Your comment on “Seeding life” in Centauri Dreams: applies here too, big time: “A moment’s reflection on the question reveals our ignorance of what’s out there” Beautiful! That one needs to be repeated over and over again. Just who do we monkeys think we are? Any groups trying for utopia had better remember that. And they would need some very hard to break rules and checks and balances that ensure concern for the many and not just the few

    I love your stuff. Keep up the great work.

  4. Hi Warren

    Kind words, thank you. I’m constantly surprised by the tid-bits people garner from my ramblings. And I don’t really ramble, but I do expect a certain level of common knowledge in my audience – a novice might feel a bit left out of the conversation.

    As for your latest comment re eugenics, I agree. There’s just so many ways such abilities might be abused for less than worthy ends. I’m also less sure about our ability to majorly manipulate a genome and produce anything viable. Exon by exon gene transfer might be the best we can hope for considering the complexity, something Nature has been doing for much, much longer than our puerile efforts.

    James Watson – closet eugenicist – once said “If we don’t play God, then who will?” How one replies to that depends on whether we think we’re emulating the Creator or replacing him. There are so many idols that we’re happy to replace God with, and often worse gods than the Judeo-Christian one.

  5. If we don’t play God, then who will?”

    Yeah, that was a really cute phrase, I have to hand it to him. I have not ever read Watson directly but when a journalist entices him out of his closet, his attitude gives me cold chills. Who’s “we”? Let me twist it around a bit “If the good guys don’t play God, the bad guys will do it first”

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