The Sensible Knave

"I do not see that we are further along today than where Hume left us. The Humean predicament is the human predicament." - W.V.O. Quine

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Intelligent redesign

"American corporations should stop playing God with nature."
- Lisa Simpson, Weekend at Burnsie's

Lisa was bemoaning our use of genetically modified produce (this prompted Marge to grow her own organic produce, which in turn led to Homer becoming an alpha-crow and, eventually, a medicinal marijuana user).

What strikes me as interesting is that Lisa's ilk are staunch supporters of evolutionary theory, and by implication, staunch opponents of creationism (remember Lisa the Skeptic?). So why should they object to anyone "playing God" with nature? For Lisa, it can't be that we are supplanting God's role in nature, for he has none (or at least not any kind of direct one).

Sure, genetic engineering might pose risks. Those risks could outweigh the potential benefits. That would make the course of action wrong, but the fact that we are "playing God" doesn't compound the wrong. There's ample reason, moreover, to believe that the benefits of GM crops outweigh the risks. You might expect one who has so much confidence in some areas of biological science to give other areas the benefit of the doubt.

So why are some folks so friendly to (evolutionary) science, on the one hand, and so hostile to applied (genetic) science? Is there a principle that unifies these positions? I would ask Lisa whether she simply views nature as a fully autonomous entity: not a product of design, and not to be a product of redesign.