Mike, at the Corpuscle has an interesting take on the ID debate:
We can’t know, of course, why Sir John’s outfit is putting up the money for (post-)Dr. Murphy’s research. Based on what we do know, however, we can probably assume that somebody thinks that studying the possibility of changing universal constants will lead to some sort of evidence of God.
Which, you know, I think is great. As long as the research is intriguing, and the experiments are rigorously performed, and so long as it’s their own money and not mine, who the hell cares why the money is put up? And I’ll tell you what, I’m in a hell of a lot better position, as an atheist, if they do prove God exists than a believer would be. I mean, then I could go, “Oh. Okay. What do you know? There’s a God.” The believers, on the other hand, would have a cataclysmic crisis of faith, which is to say they wouldn’t have any faith at all anymore. How can you have faith in the existence of something that you already know exists? I’d stay away from the subject, were I them. But, hey, it’s no skin off my nose.
The horror for me would be if everything the most obnoxious, radically-right, fundamentalist, fire-and-brimstoner types say about God turns out to be true. You know, being a mortal, if my situation gets so god-awful I can’t stand it anymore, I can at least kill myself and flee into the eternal peace of oblivion. If, however, I am immortal and I am faced with an eternal being that demands I love him no matter how despicably he behaves… well, where you going to go then? There’s Hell, I guess, but from what I hear that ain’t no picnic. You’re looking at eternity, pal, either burning in Hell or sucking up to a right-wing nightmare.
He makes an interesting point in that True Believers have a lot more to loose than us Atheists. After all, if it turns out there is a God but he’s not the all-Punishing firespitter that the likes of Pat Robertson and Tom Delay have been worshiping for years but instead is, say, all wise and compassionate, with a killer sense of humor, who actually means it when he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” then Pat and Tom are royally fucked. Whereas Mike and me and Carl Sagan can say, “Sorry for not believing in you there, God but we didn’t have a whole lot to go on.” and God would say, “Hay, no big deal. You guys were more concerned with the search for truth and knowledge, which is an admirable quality. I figured you guys would catch on eventually, so don’t sweat it.” Which would really piss of The Hammer and Dr, Robertson, since they would be pretty much proven to be what we’ve suspected all along: ignorant jackasses who get a kick out of bossing people around and nosing in on the business of others while hypocritically wearing a pious suit and fancy, Sunday ass-kicking shoes.
Mike goes on to nail exactly what fascinates me most about dingbat theories and whirligig thinking, “We live in a culture where crackpot millionaires spend their own money methodically researching out-there questions, and maybe in the process they find answers that will take us to places we never dreamed of being able to go.” If not for wooly thinkers like Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla,1 we wouldn’t have lightbulbs, telephones, alternating current, radios or motion pictures. Creativity leads to some pretty unusual corners of the mind, where often, unexpected but usueful things are to be found. And nothing is more creative than a crackpot trying to prove to the world that he is right.
1. Edison had some unusual ideas about the soul and spirits in general while Tesla thought he talked to aliens. Other oddball geniuses include Newton, who not only defined the way we think of gravity but was also a deeply religious man and an ordained minister. Hook, who refined the microscope, drank mercury on a regular basis.