Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Design without a designer: the eyes have it

Julia Sweeney-

5.  Intelligent Design
I was dating a guy who was a big believer in Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design is an idea that the world is so complex, and especially the conscious, thinking, feeling human being, who is so complicated, that it couldn't' have happened by chance.Someone or something even smarter had to have a hand in creating us. And that someone or something is God. The watch requires a watchmaker.

One morning my Intelligent Designer boyfriend and I woke up and he glanced at the books on the table next to my side of the bed, which were becoming increasingly more biological rather than religious. Then we gazed into each other's eyes, deeper than ever before. Ah...
He said, "It's the human eye you know, that's the proof that there must have been a designer. You can't have half an eye. Half an eye is no good at all. You either have an eye so you can see or you don't. How could you possibly evolve an eye?"

"Yes," I said, "That's probably true.  An eye, an eye is very complex, After all, it's the window of the soul."

So I began to read about eyes.  I learned a lot more than I ever dreamed about eyes.  It turns out that from an evolutionary perspective, the human eye is perfectly explainable.  What began as a patch of skin, more sensitive to light than other skin offers some advantage, those that have it, live.  Those that don't, do not. 
So, half an eye is pretty valuable, about half as valuable.

Now if an intelligent designer, or God, designed our eyes, well, he would not get such a good grade. Because he put the blood vessels and the nerves that carry the visual information to the brain on top of our retina. Imagine! That's like putting the wiring of a video camera on top of the lens.

And where the blood vessels and nerves go through the retina into our brain, it causes this blind spot that we have to compensate for by basically hallucinating. That's bad. Bad, bad, bad.

Not the best design for an eye. AND it doesn't even have to be that way!

Octopus and squid have eyes that evolved separately from us and they don't have those annoying features. The wonderful biologist, Massimo Pigliucci, wrote, "that the only possible conclusions to this evidence are that God didn't design the eye, or he's pretty sloppy and not worthy of our unconditional admiration, or God likes squids a lot better than humans." 

Intelligent design gets everything backwards. It's like saying that our hands are miraculous because they fit so perfectly into our gloves, "Look, at that! Four fingers and a thumb!  That can't have been an  accident!'

My old cat Rita lumbered onto my lap while I was reading about eyes. She was about fifteen years old then and she had gotten too tired and bothered to go through an entire "meow." She started just going, "meeeeagh."

We looked each other in the eye. Instead of noticing the differences, I noticed the similarities. We inherited our eyes from our common ancestor who probably lived around 100 million years ago. We both have our eyes forward on our skull, because we are hunters. Except, well, Rita wasn't much of a hunter. And frankly, I realized, neither was I. Not if I was dating a guy who was so into Intelligent Design. Rita meowed at me like, "Oh, who needs to hunt when I have domestic help?"

Then, I started reading about all about these experiments on the function of the temporal lobes. These doctors figured out how to stimulate, electromagnetically, the right temporal lobe. People who wore this helmet experienced a sense of transcendent understanding, an overwhelming peace and connectedness, and sometimes the presence of God. Or, of, Aliens. This was often accompanied by a white light.Everyone has certain right temporal lobe sensitivity, and we're all susceptible to these experiences.

So, this could have been what was happening to me when I had my "Heal me, Heal me" experience. Of course that doesn't mean that God just doesn't use this physical way to allow us to experience Him, or Her, or Whoever.  But that sure was interesting.

I learned that because our brain is in some deep, fundamental ways, unaware of itself, hallucinations like I had, or like that people have of  angels or ghosts, or out-of-body or near death experiences are perceived as real encounters or actual events. And so most people, including me, instinctively think of the mind as something separate from the body. Even though there is no evidence that they are separate.

It turns out we are organic beings, in essence, our minds living and dying along with our bodies, and sometimes even before our bodies, as it takes just one visit with a person with Alzheimer's to realize. So, my common sense view of the world can be very mistaken. My instincts tell me one thing: like that the earth is flat because it seems to be while I'm walking around on it. But the earth isn't flat. As the facts show us.

1 suddenly realized that there were implications to everything that I was learning. My assumption about God's role in our lives was getting squeezed. I didn't think He intervened in our lives, I didn't think He was necessary for us to evolve. I tried not to think of the implications.

But it was impossible not to.

-from Julia Sweeney's one-woman stage show "Letting Go of God"

Click on the times below to jump to different chapters.

00:00 - There Is No Santa Claus
07:36 - The Mormon Boys Arrive
14:59 - My Religious History In A Nutshell
17:47 - I Wish I Were A Nun
23:32 - I Rededicate Myself To The Church
27:48 - Sodom & Gomorrah; Abraham & Issac
32:47 - The Ten Commandments
36:46 - The New Testament
41:38 - St. Paul & The Book Of Revelation
45:34 - Psychologically True
48:21 - Jesus Suffered, But So Did A Lot Of People
50:54 - Father Tom Blesses Me & I Get Out Of There
54:42 - I Begin To Drift East, Spiritually Speaking
1:00:37 - God Is Nature; The Galapagos
1:03:37 - Sister Charatina's Theory Of Evolution
1:08:05 - God Is Love
1:12:39 - Deepak
1:16:09 - I'm Becoming So Cantankerous
1:18:42 - How The Mind Works
*1:22:10 - Intelligent Design*1:28:03 - What If It's True
1:34:47 - Good-Bye To God
1:38:24 - So, I'm Just Another Animal
1:42:49 - Mom & Dad Freak
1:50:11 - Mulan Arrives & Dad Is Sick
1:55:42 - A Funeral
2:02:04 - More Mormon Boys

Letting Go of God is a humorous monologue by Julia Sweeney chronicling her search for God. She begins in the Catholic church, the religion her family raised her in, and takes a Bible study class. What she learns there leads her to new questions, and in search for answers she explores meditation, Buddhism and New Age gurus, then describes what she learned from the sciences and from sharpening her critical thinking skills. She discovers that to accept the truth leads to surprising revelations. She concludes by sharing how this effects her family. YouT

This American Life: Godless America
Sweeney at TED-
Julia Sweeney (God Said, "Ha!") performs the first 15 minutes of her 2006 solo show Letting Go of God. When two young Mormon missionaries knock on her door one day, it touches off a quest to completely rethink her own beliefs.
Young Richard Dawkins explains the eye-
Older Dawkins-

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