Saturday, September 22, 2012

Intelligent Design and Evolution in Relation to Diet and Exercise

Front window of bakery with distortion of photographer

Leibniz once famously stated that our planet is the best of possible worlds and that, by extension, life on Earth is the best form there is and there possibly could be. Well, Leibniz was sharply attacked thereafter by a host of philosophers and writers on the grounds that life is not that rosy since there is no shortage of suffering to go around.

As to how we became the way we are, the way we look and the way we live, there are two distinct proposals. The (more) scientific of the two we often refer to as the theory of evolution, that life evolved through a slow mutating process of uncountable trial and error experiments to give us the shape we are now. It is also linked with the idea of “survival of the fittest.”

The second proposition goes back to the notion that we were created by a highly intelligent being, generally referred to as God and that it was His idea and craftsmanship to make us the way we are. I will show how both views are equally misleading and wrong by looking at my present physical and medical condition, something others may or may not identify with.

Let us start with Intelligent Design. So we were designed by a higher power that is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good. In other words, we were created by a perfect being who took about seven days (which are more than seven days for us Earthlings) to make sure everything is as good as it can be.

And there is also what psychologists would call meta-awareness or -consciousness; in fact, God is checking His own work, while each and every time He is pleased with what He has done. So this was not a rushed job, hobby or side-project; He took this quite seriously and we humans were created in His image, the same way a writer deliberately delineates and projects her own traits onto the main characters.

Of course, the original pair of humans rebelled against Him, and humanity was expelled, kicked and cursed, while death became a concrete and pending reality. We have been given free will to choose right from wrong, and evil exists because we choose to stray from the divine path and so on.

All of this is quite well, but I have a specific complaint at this point: Why did He make our bodies the way He did? I mean, like a watchmaker, He is ultimately responsible for the clockwork, more so than the aforementioned novelist is accountable for her (fictional) characters.

At this point, the problem of evil and the existence of suffering is not an issue here. I am looking at the fact that He decided to create physical bodies with physical necessities. We need food to survive, and we need to watch what we eat, or else our cholesterol will rise sky high and we can end up not only fat but dead. This body is indeed so fragile that a fall can break bones or give us concussions that may lead to brain damage. Our diets and lifestyle can lead to a number of lethal problems and diseases.

And most of the time, we are not even able to multi-task in this competitive dog-eat-dog world; we get tired quickly and need breaks and sleep; we make errors more than we are willing to admit (to ourselves or others). Then we are constantly tempted by fatty foods that are bad for us; we easily fall prey and can get addicted to alcohol, drugs and cigarettes. In one word, we are very vulnerable.

My question then is this, what is so particularly intelligent about our design? We cannot fly, for example, but can at best run, and if we do not exercise regularly, we can't even do that well. I am writing this at a time where I need to watch what I eat and make sure to exercise on a doctor's order, and I think why is all of this really necessary if we are created by a perfect designer.

Nor am I defending evolution. Supposedly we are the “cream of the crop,” a process that has selected the best qualities for survival since predominantly the fittest have been able to pass on their genes to the next generations, so the same issues apply.

Why did we not evolve so that we can eat air? Why do we not automatically absorb unlimited quantities of fat so that there are no obese people? Since we are evolving and I expect perfecting ourselves, why not be able to sleep only two hours a day, which would make us not only more productive, give us more time to make money to survive, but also, again evolutionary speaking, be able to be on the lookout for danger because no target is easier to attack than a sleeping one?

Why is it that I am not born with muscles already instead of having to work for them? Or do they mean by fittest that our only manner of survival is to hit the gym on a regular basis? Why is it not enough that my forefathers worked out; why can that information not be passed on to the next generations via gene transference? It seems rather that we are all starting on square one and are vulnerable from day one and especially dependent on others for our very survival.

We can see that neither view addresses the fact that our bodies are fraught with pitfalls and weaknesses. I have to limit what I eat and increase my level of exercise and I often wonder why. Could it be that both theories are wrong and a third one needs to be proposed? That our creator is perhaps relishing the fact that we suffer from a host of issues, including unhealthy diets and lack of activity, since gluttony and laziness seem more natural states than healthy diets and hard work?

And that this creator enjoys to put us to the test with delicious cakes and ice cream and pizza and hamburgers knowing full well the damage we are doing to our bodies and ourselves? Or are we just randomly thrown onto this plane of existence, into this dog-eat-dog world, just like Jim Morrison sings, “like a dog without a bone”?

All this writing / speculating has made me hungry, so I will have to grab another snack.

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