An American Irony: Yoga, Yes; Design, No
Now consider the controversy over intelligent design (ID). While the theory appeals to empirical evidence and proven principles of design detection used in sciences such as archaeology, cryptography, and SETI, the critics claim that it is inherently religious and, thus, unscientific. This, of course, begs the question as to whether a religious belief might have some scientific support. Moreover, critics of ID inflate the claims of ID far beyond what ID claims for itself: namely, that some features of the natural world are better explained on the basis of intelligent causes as opposed to unintelligent causes (chance and necessity in tandem and without assistance). That is a minimal, modest, and retiring sort of claim metaphysically, since it does not specify who or what the design or designers might be. (That debate can be carried out philosophically.) Nevertheless, opponents of ID claim this violated the establishment clause of the Constitution by “establishing religion.” This is Nonsense. It attempts to disestablish the de facto religion of naturalism.
Anyway, back to yoga. Why is it that something so deeply rooted in Hinduism can be accepted in the public schools (and unopposed by the ACLU, who should have supported the pastor), while ID is considered an offense to the very marrow of the American system of law? Why this egregious double standard? Whether or not a belief is designated “religious” depends entirely on whose interests are being served by it. Yoga, it is believed, confers benefits to anyone who practices it. It can help the atheist or agnostic become relaxed and healthier. There is the payoff. And why not let the children in state schools share in yoga’s benefit? ID, however, does not serve any interest of secular people. On the contrary, it brings the secularist worldview (philosophical materialism) into question on the basis of empirical evidence. It directly challenges the stranglehold that materialism has over established science. Of course, it does serve the interests of the First Amendment (freedom of speech: in this case, the speech of those who would challenge Darwinism in tax-supported schools) and it in no way establishes any religion, since it leaves open who or what the designer might be and makes its argument not from any sacred scripture, but from nature. That is hardly an altar call. Nevertheless, ID is a direct assault on the citadel of materialism: the premise that unintelligent causes can exhaustively explain biological systems.
Now, in light of the above let us think of a new strategy. Maybe we can claim that yoga is really based on the idea of a designing intelligence that instructs us on how to use our designed bodies better. Yoga could only work if the sages who intuited it knew how to open the body to optimal function by perfecting it according to a design plan and that design plan is yoga. Then, the ACLU might come running! And perhaps we can present ID as a mental exercise that helps calm the nerves—an emotional tonic that relieves the stress of thinking that humans only happen to emerge after eons of purposeless and unguided evolution. Students could chant, “I am designed. I am designed,” over and over again—or just chant “I am D I am D” until a higher level of consciousness is achieved. No, I think the ACLU would still smell blood.
- Douglas Groothuis