Much to the annoyance of many scientists and progressive Christians, The New York Times lately has been paying unwarranted attention to the proponents of "intelligent design". By granting space for the neo-creationists to express their objections to the basis of evolutionary biology, newspapers and magazines are providing an aura of legitimacy that these anti-intellectual Christianists do not deserve.
Although genuine scientists often refuse to engage in debates about evolution, some of them are becoming more determined to expose the absurdity of the "intelligent design" notion. One of the best pieces I have seen on this subject is an article by a former veterinarian, Lisa Fullam, who is currently an assistant professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, California. In the article, which first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle under the title "Of God and the case for unintelligent design", she points out that the digestive track of rabbits is so poorly designed that they have to eat some of their own feces in order to extract the nutrients they need for survival. She goes on to describe how "horses are similarly badly put together." Their inefficient digestive systems produce gut blockages that without prompt veterinary intervention "lead to slow and excruciating death."
Only scientists may be aware of the badly designed digestive tracks of certain mammals, but anyone can observe the evidence that points to the design flaws in human beings. Was it really necessary for the vast majority of the population to suffer from backache? Then there is this silly business of nipples on men. What designer would want to accept responsibility for these useless appendages?
Unfortunately, in the midst of the political controversy over evolution, some well-meaning progressive Christians continue to write and speak about God as "creator", as if they really believed that God constructed the world and intervenes in nature. They may realize that they are using a metaphor, but to the general public they often sound as if they support the notion of intelligent design.
A related word that appears to support the concept of the intelligent designer is "creature". It suggests that all mobile life forms were created. I was surprised and pleased when I discovered that the Hebrew Bible has no equivalent term. When "creature" appears in English translations, the literal meaning of the Hebrew word might be: breathers, dumb beasts, living things, feathered ones, or howlers. For more on the subject, by late October you will be able to see more on the subject in my latest book, From Literal to Literary: The Essential Reference Book for Biblical Metaphors.