Darel Rex Finley in 888

Designed For Combat

2008.05.31   prev     next

IF you accept the key arguments of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement — as do I (with crucial caveats, here, here, and here) — then the next obvious question is, for what are humans designed? To do what were we designed?

Most ID proponents are religious, usually Christian, and this is where their religion steps in and answers the above question. We were designed to worship our singular designer, to live humble, peaceful lives, patiently awaiting our death and the immense reward that will come in the next life.

If however, like me, you conclude that we were designed, but want to continue with the same methodology by which that design inference was reached, and see where it takes you, then where do find yourself?

I submit that we were designed for (among other things) combat. Not all the time, not to humanity-wrecking excess. But that our designers intended us to fight. Intended us to sometimes war.

It seems likely that our designers easily could have created a world in which individuals could interact, but could not damage or destroy other individuals. We ourselves have created such worlds — for example, the internet. On the internet, individuals can communicate with each other, and interact in various ways, but they cannot destroy each other. If, for whatever reason, I think that a certain individual should be permanently stopped from communicating on the internet, there is no internet action I can perform that will accomplish that. I cannot send a “destroy account” message to his IP address, which will irrepairably terminate his ability to access the internet. Some limited forms of internet attack do exist (denial-of-service attack, e-mail bombardment, etc.), but they aren’t especially effective, and certainly not permanent.

Our designers, by contrast, have made a world in which human individuals can, with remarkable ease, permanently destroy other individuals. When I’m standing in line for my latte, it would be the easiest thing in the world for me to pull a hammer out of my coat pocket and brain the person in front of me from behind. If even moderately adept, I could kill that person before anyone was able to stop me.

So why don’t I do that? The answer that springs forth most impulsively is, “because I don’t want to.” And I think I really mean it. But how do I really know I mean it? What if we’ve all just been trained from the earliest age that it’s social suicide to say, “I might enjoy killing a stranger?” What if a lifetime of saying, “I could never do that,” has convinced us that it’s true, when really we just don’t want to wind up ostracized or institutionalized?

Our designers made a world in which I can easily kill an unsuspecting stranger, but also a world in which I will certainly be unpleasantly neutralized by many other individuals if I do so. So violence, while not impossible, is kept in check. Even the worst individually executed massacres (e.g. Cho at Virginia Tech) are miniscule compared to the greater society around them.

Or suppose that our designers had made a world in which any individual could — as easily as I can now kill the person in front of me in the latte line — wipe out every human within a half-mile radius of himself, using only the capabilities inherent in his own body (or perhaps augmented with something as easily obtained as a hammer)? In such a world, I think, it would still be possible for humanity to survive, but only in very small, isolated groups of trusting, mutually supporting individuals (and only those devoid of sociopathic mutations). Modern technology would be impossible, and our ability to blossom forth from planet Earth to many other star systems would be unrealized.

To me, the actual world we live in looks like just the sort of world designers would create if they wanted us to engage in combat, but not so much combat that it prevents us from fully exploring our environment (this universe).

Bigger Peoples, Bigger Swords

What about nukes? Did our designers intend that atomic weapons be possible? Yes. Firstly, nukes are, at least in this stage of human development, a preventer of war. But it is certainly conceivable that one day, when many planets are populated, nukes will be a basic attack weapon much as a conventional, single-building-killing, laser-guided bomb is today. But by then, the size of humanity will be such that the nuking of a large city will be no more a threat to humanity’s continuance and advancement than the destruction of a large building is now.

Nukes are hard to make. (And hard to maintain.) Joe Psychopath can’t make one, can’t even try. And multi-stage (fusion) weapons are even harder to make. There is no theoretical limit to how many stages a nuke can have, each multiplying the power of the weapon exponentially, and therefore it’s conceivable that one day humans will be able to build and deploy a planet-killing nuke. But such a nuke will be so expensive to constuct, will require so many humans’ coordinated actions, that by that time, even the destruction of a whole human-populated planet will be, though horrific, just a minor setback in the grand scheme of the human project.

Roman emperors, who were believed to be gods-on-Earth, had men fight in arenas for their entertainment. Though we would certainly not vote for such a person today (much less believe our politicians to be gods-on-Earth), we can recognize that those emperors had a clear understanding of what kind of world the gods have made for us, and were faithfully attempting to mimic the role of those gods.

In his 1995 Scientific American article, “God’s Utility Function,” arch-Darwinist-atheist Richard Dawkins cited the hunting of gazelles by cheetahs as proof that our biology was not designed. Unwittingly perhaps, Dawkins hit upon the true nature of our designers: They design predators on purpose. And the most advanced of these is us.

If being intentionally thrust into a world of war and combat seems like an unthinkable travesty, just consider those poor gazelles. Better to be the cheetah. Let’s hope there isn’t an even more advanced predator in the works on some distant planet, to whom we will be as gazelles. Fighting each other would be infinitely preferable.

 

Update 2012.12.29 — Interesting story on the design of the human hand.

 

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