Sunday, April 08, 2007

Design of Religion: A Case for Universal Scaling

A lot has been said about evolution by notable scientific minds, right from Darwin to Dawkins, throwing in the odd Gregor Mendel and the odder Khorana. Engineers have exploited this too: the use of genetic algorithms to in optimization problems has gained mainstream acceptance. Even if it has not gained "mainstream acceptance", it is quite a nice tool to obfuscate and obscure paper titles and give them an aura of erudite sophistication. “Fin Heat Transfer Enhancement: The Genetic Algorithm- Aritifical Neural Network Approach”

Evolution is a philosophy which explains why things are they way they are. Of course, it explains why manta rays are shaped they way they are; why elephants are so large and humans are so (allegedly) intelligent. But it also applies to the laptop that I am typing on right now, the car which is giving me such a hard time of late (but that's a different story). It applies to the chair that I am sitting on, the music I am listening to. Everything. And also to the religion that some people, alas, believe in and kill in the name of. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism and anything else that I might have left behind.

Let me elaborate on what I mean by the evolution of the chair I am sitting on. The first chairs, in the world were, presumably tree stumps (or something similar) that people sat on. Then, some enterprising guy (or gal) decided that having something portable that could be sat on made a lot of sense. So they probably chopped a block off a tree and sat on it at home. And in time with commerce arose a "breed" of people (if I may use that therm inoffensively) who were adept at fashioning tree stumps into stools that other people could use. And these people used tools, which had, in a similar process evolved to make the task of creating a rudimentary stool easy. Chairs made of banana tree trunks would not have worked at all, while chairs working out of teak stems would have worked very well. So, no chair would be made of banana - and more would be made of teak in the future.

Human selection.

And in a few thousand years - presto - we have leather swivel chairs, plastic molded chairs, fold-able outdoor chairs, massage chairs in the airport, those extremely uncomfortable university chairs .. all made to be as comfortable and durable as they can be made for the price they are sold at. Future innovations on chair design, just like the innovations in the past will continue to be market-determined - evolution will move in a direction dictated by overall profits of the chair manufacturing concern.

This brings us to a paradox of sorts.

The chair designers are indeed intelligent. And there have been a large number of intelligent designers working on chairs. This could mean that creationism and evolution can both exist. Or this could also push us into greater irrelevance.

For creationism to be compatible with Human Evolution, one must allow for the possibility of a designer fiddling with the DNA of any living thing and shaping every little variation of weather, every little earthquake, every little green man from mars .. you name it. To do all this, one must envisage a perfect being that does all these things – or an army of less than perfect beings, who design everything in the universe. To them the human being is like a chair. Humans use chairs to sit on. What does this army of omnipotent beings use humans for? Presumably not for sitting on. Maybe we’re just a toy for their children (assuming they do have children). Or maybe we’re reality show (Universal Idol?).

Or maybe, the very concept life is overrated. Maybe in the larger scheme of things, we’re just as significantly insignificant as DNA is to us macroscopically. Maybe we’re all just the DNA for the monsters that we create -viz. Religions, Nations, Sects, Cricket Teams... Maybe the evolution of religion (or Nationalism) is just like the evolution of man; with the DNA strands and RNA strands replaced by men and women – just information carriers. All “intelligent” choices that man makes could be analogous to the randomness and mutation that human evolution survives on.

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