"Humor Me" says Robert S. "Bob" Wieder

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Those who are promoting “Intelligent Design” insist over and over that it has nothing to do with religion. “Intelligent Design isn’t just code for God,” they say. “Swear to God, it’s totally different.”
This seems rather unconvincing on the face of it. For one thing, the notion of some infinitely advanced entity that created the universe and everything in it certainly sounds, if not like God, at least Godlike.
But if you take into consideration what we know about “God” on the one hand and what we know about “intelligence” and “designers” on the other, you can soon discern a number of fairly clear distinctions between God and our alleged Intelligent Designer.
Indeed, these differences suggest that those who would campaign against Darwinian evolutionary theory might be better off sticking with a nice, friendly diety. For example

1) The basic conceptual identity of the creator.

God: The ultimate spiritual and theological entity.
I.D.: The ultimate science project geek.

2) Names by which the creator is known.

God: Yahweh, Allah, the Universal Spirit, I AM.
I.D.: Probably some variation of Qligskak994 or Zfornilx-urg or something that human beings can’t even pronounce, but which we would hope translates, in the language of the Intelligent Designer’s race, as “Genius” or “Doc,” and not, say, “Nutso” or “Jarhead” or “Volmar the Sadist.”

3) Expressed in one phrase, the starting point for the creation of the physical universe.

God: “Let there be light.”
I.D.: “Okay, for openers let’s have, like, E equal MC squared.”

4) Probable reason the universe was created.

God: As a living and tangible manifestation of the Everlasting and the Almighty.
I.D.: Hard to say, but best bets are (a) working to qualify for advanced degree in Universe Structuring 100A; (b) showing off to impress members of the Intelligent Designer’s peer group or opposite sex; (c) boredom.

5) How best to envision or describe the creator.

God: The all-powerful, incomprehensible, supernatural master of all there is.
I.D.: Your classic, totally obsessive Sim City freak , but operating on an infinite scale.

6) Death, pain, cancer, earthquakes, mosquitos, termites, impotence, and so forth.

God: In ways that our puny human intellects cannot begin to grasp, these are
vital and integral elements in His/Her great, unfathomable, celestial master plan.
I.D.: Unfortunate design flaws, glitches, oversights, miscalculations, and in the case of pre-menstrual syndrome, the result of Intelligently Designing while hung over.

7) How the creator views the human race.

God: As beloved and cherished children, formed in His/Her own image.
I.D.: Like an ant farm, but occasionally more amusing and with generally less organization.

8) Rules laid down by the creator.

God: Thou shalt not kill, nor steal, nor covet, nor bear false witness, nor blow off the Sabbath, nor dishonor your parents.
I.D.: You only live once; whatever goes up must come down; nothing is forever;
fire burns; it’s always the last place you look.

9) The creator’s long-term plans for humanity.

God: Either eternal bliss in heaven or endless torment in hell, depending on where you wind up on the curve.
I.D.: To observe them until they grow repetitious, tedious, or annoyingly stupid, then hand the universe over to a younger sibling to fool around with and go on to the next hobby.

10) The actual physical appearance of the creator.

God: According to the Bible, pretty much like us, since we were formed in His/Her image, but in a sort of grandfatherly way, like a cross between Father Time and Santa Claus.
I.D.: Could be anything, from a highly developed lizard or squid or praying mantis to a whirling ball of fire and lightning. Depending on how the Independent Design movement progresses, we could soon be seeing “My I.D. Is E.T.” bumperstickers.

11) A few of the creator’s more impressive miracles.

God: Stopping the sun in the sky, parting the Red Sea, turning Lot’s wife into salt.
I.D.: Doesn’t actually perform miracles as such, unless you count children and compound interest.

12) Current status of the creator.

God: Immortal, omnipotent, and eternal.
I.D.: Incredibly medically advanced but, given that s/he began this project some 13 billion years ago, quite possibly dead.

There are probably numerous other conspicuous differences, but this short list is enough to leave me with one definite conclusion. Speaking as a nominal if dormant Lutheran, I’m much more comfortable with a God whose actual existence is widely debated than I am with an Intelligent Designer whose actual existence would, quite frankly, depress the hell out of me.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


"Humor Me" aficionado and academic cleanup hitter Michael J. Robertson asks, "Are you out of your goddam fucking mind?"

No, wait, that was my Mom. What br'er Robertson was asking was, "What is your version of the 'Aristocrats' joke?"

To those who have not heard of the notorious "Aristocrats" joke, I can only say:
"Jesus, people, get a subscription to Time or Newsweek and peek into the 21st century!"

I'm somewhat surprised that Michael has even heard of my Aristocrats take, given that (1) I haven't performed it since that tragic unpleasantness at the Atascadero Men's Penal Colony gig in 1998, and (2) even discussing it is an act punishable by UN sanctions.

But what the hell, my doctor only gives me another $1,680 to live, so here goes:

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Princess Diana, Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Smokey the Bear and Flipper walk into a talent agent's office.

"Have we got an act for you!" booms Dr. King. "It'll knock your socks off!"

"Wow," says the agent. "Tell me about it."

"Okay," says Dr. King. "First off, Smokey grabs Mother Theresa and holds her upside down by her ankles, revealing her chaste yet moist femininity. Then Dr. Schweitzer and Princess Di grab Flipper, and holding her high overhead, suddenly plunge..."

Hold on, excuse me. There's someone at the door. Unless it's another moral assault team from the local Committee to Enforce Decency and Good Taste, I'll be right back. Half a mo...

Thursday, August 18, 2005


P Diddy has announced that he is changing his name to the simpler, more august Diddy, and to those who would make light of this change with such snideries as "Oh yeah, that dignifies it right up" and "What was the problem before, too Jewish?" just remember how O Henry's book sales skyrocketed when he dropped the O. Actually, the Didster was almost certainly moved to finally act out of impatience and disgust at being the set-up to the classic Rowan and Martin exchange:

"P Diddy?"
"I think he did; I heard him flush."

Monday, August 08, 2005


George W. Bush has now weighed in with his unsurprising opinion that American school science courses should include theories of Intelligent Design, which hold that the universe and everything in it came about not through the workings of natural physical processes, but were assembled by some superior being. Before this holy rolling bandwagon gets up too much momentum, let’s take a good hard look at I.D.

Most arguments in favor of Intelligent Design rest on two concepts. The first, which dates back to around 1800, is known as the argument from design, and is illustrated by what its originator, theologian William Paley, offered as the “watchmaker” analogy: If you found a watch lying in a field, you would logically infer that it was created by a conscious designer, not just the result of random natural events and processes. The idea of such a mechanism somehow evolving simply defies all logic and reason.

The second concept, more recent, is that of irreducible complexity, which maintains that the world is full of biological forms and organisms that only work as complete systems and therefore could not have evolved, bit by bit, as incomplete and nonfunctional works in progress. Just the pupil of the eye alone, or the retina, or iris, or rods and cones, would not produce vision; you need the entire eyeball. How could natural selection have produced all those individual elements piecemeal? they ask.

Basically, intelligent design assaults the premise of evolution by (1) appealing to simple logic and common sense, and (2) demanding that evolutionary science provide reasonable explanations for seemingly inexplicable phenomena.

There are numerous convincing refutations of all of these lines of I.D. attack, but I am no scientist and am unqualified to articulate them. What I can do is take a leaf from the I.D. crowd and require that they explain what seem to me to be serious flaws in their theory, things that defy logic and common sense.
Therefore, I put the following questions to proponents of Intelligent Design.

1) What exactly is so intelligent about it? Not to be glib or snide, but it clearly wasn’t sufficiently intelligent to avoid an almost endless array of design flaws, ranging from lymphoma to migraine and from envy to savagery. And that’s just with regard to humans and other living creatures. What about earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves and hurricanes? These are not the characteristics of a truly well blueprinted planet. This is more like poorly fired pottery.

I am hardly the first person to question the wisdom of “our creator” based on empirical evidence--it’s been done with keen wit and insight by writers from Mark Twain to Joseph Heller--but it’s still a valid point. If the human eyeball must, of necessity, be the handiwork of some gigantic intelligence, why wasn’t that intelligence sizable enough to factor out glaucoma, or at least color blindness?

Indeed, what kind of designer builds into his/her supposed supreme creation--i.e. us--things like Alzheimers, multiple sclerosis, PMS, wisdom teeth, epilepsy, addiction, impotence, peanut allergy and AIDS? Where the hell did this designer train at, General Motors? Indeed:

2) Where did our Grand Designer learn to do this? The very notion of “intelligent design” implies a scientific approach, which in turn implies some technical or educational background. Did s/he go to designer school, some kind of trade school for universe designers, like, say, Basic Universe Building University (BUBU)? Or some professional postgraduate institution, such as Physical Law school? And what kind of grades did s/he get? Home schooling seems fairly unlikely. That s/he could be self-taught seems a considerable long shot, but it might help explain such lapses as diabetes, termites, and Pat Robertson.

3) What kind of intelligent designer goes to the trouble of creating a magnificently well balanced biosystem that includes thousands of remarkable and ingenious forms of life and then adds a final species whose purpose and intent seems to be to gradually eliminate most of them? This may seem to merely be a corollary to question number one, but if we were in fact designed, it’s reasonable to ask why were we given the ability and the will to do so much damage to almost everything other than ourselves. Even a ten-year-old knows that you don’t top off that aquarium full of precious tropical fish by tossing in a pirhana.

4) Where did our Intelligent Designer go, and why? If you’re going to create an entire universe, from galaxy superclusters right down to the last charmed quark, shouldn’t you at least come around now and then to perform periodic maintenance? Why has there been no helpful tweaking or refinement of the Grand Schematic: the addition of male multiple orgasms, for example, or the elimination of mosquitoes, arthritis, and telemarketers?

5) What happened to God? Its proponents insist that “intelligent design” is not, swear to God, just code for “God.” Fine, well and good. But what does that leave us with? Instead of a fabulous creator endowed with supernaturally limitless powers whose “mysterious ways” were forever beyond our comprehension, we are now stuck with a kind of infinitely brilliant, inventive and proficient technical geek. Instead of being made in the very image of the Almighty, humans may be little more than minuscule elements of a lab experiment on an enormous scale, part of a term project required to complete Advanced Unified Field Formation 16A. Thanks for eradicating the magical and the sacred elements of our existence.

6) A fundamental premise of I.D. is that merely the human eye, let alone a whole human being, is so unimaginably complex and sophisticated a creation that it, and we, couldn’t possibly have simply evolved, but surely had to be designed by some vastly intelligent entity. But if so, then just think of how ineffably complex and sophisticated that entity must be. Indeed, if our complexity can only be the work of some supreme designer, then that designer’s far greater complexity logically could not have simply evolved either, but must have been designed by some really really REALLY super complex and sophisticated designer, who, in turn, must have...well, you can see where this leads us. Totally off the charts and reeling with conceptual vertigo. So: how do Intell Designists resolve the sheer endlessness of the “complexity necessitates design” hypothesis?
(This is an old philosophical/theological conundrum--where did God come from?--but deists could always fall back on the incomprehensibility of the supernatural, the ETERNAL I AM mysticism. The I.D. crowd, alas, have no such recourse, and are instead hoist on their own “reasoned objectivity.”)

Anyway, those are my questions. I just think that before we start radically restructuring our class curriculums, someone should be asking them. It may or may not be you. It certainly won’t be the president.