At the Mountains of Madness: More on Prometheus and Intelligent Design
Prometheus had a strong opening weekend at the box-office -- well, if you ignore the performance of Madagascar 3 and the even bigger splash it made. A friend who saw Prometheus and was aware of our coverage asked me, "Do you really think it has a pro-intelligent design message?"
Sure it does, in a funny way. When we say ID isn't creationism, that's no ruse. Indications of what Stephen Meyer calls a "signature in the cell," evidence of design in DNA and in the origin of the first life, animal phyla taking seed suddenly in the Cambrian seas -- all these leave open the question of where the design came from and who or what instantiated it. The possibilities are not exhausted by mentioning God and intelligent extraterrestrials.
Richard Dawkins arbitrarily rules out a benevolent deity but admits the possibility of other scenarios, like biological engineering by ETs. In Prometheus, Ridley Scott has some dark fun with the premise behind Dawkins's musings. In the movie, aliens seed life in the oceans of the early Earth, in the form of their own DNA, a fact that scientists confirm by traveling to a distant planet, hundred of millions of years later after the fact. In interviews, Ridley Scott has said he finds ideas of such "ancient astronauts" entirely plausible.
Scott gets away with it, of course, because his designers -- the "engineers" -- aren't anyone's idea of God but, instead, are powerful and malevolent space aliens.
An interesting footnote: Scott's story is remarkably similar in plot to a wonderful H.P. Lovecraft horror novella, At the Mountains of Madness (1936). The parallels are so close that another filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro, who had plans for his own film version of Mountains, decided to cancel the project when he heard about Scott's Prometheus.
In the Lovecraft story, scientists from the fictional Miskatonic University are exploring a mountain-guarded region of Antarctica and discover madness-inducing ruins of an alien city, hundreds of millions of years old: the once mighty, now deserted bastion of Lovecraft's deliciously sinister "Old Ones."
Lovecraft, you may know, is a cult favorite of some Darwinian atheists who follow in the paths of PZ Myers. (I like him too -- Lovecraft, that is.) Here's the enjoyable irony: A hardcore atheist, materialist and Darwinist, Lovecraft takes intelligent design as the premise of the novella. How so?
Just the same way Ridley Scott does. In Lovecraft's fictional scheme of things, the Old Ones came from the stars and seeded life in the oceans: the "makers and enslavers" of life, they "had done the same on other planets," allowing "cell-groups to develop into...forms of animal and vegetable life for sundry purposes." Their productions, by virtue of granting the original seed of life, include early hominids, "used sometimes for food and sometimes as an amusing buffoon":
These vertebrates, as well as an infinity of other life-forms -- animal and vegetable, marine, terrestrial, and aerial -- were the products of unguided evolution action on life-cells made by the Old Ones but escaping beyond their radius of attention. They had been suffered to develop unchecked because they had not come in conflict with the dominant beings.With decadence, however, the Old Ones lost the genius to design life:
With the march of time,...the art of creating new life from inorganic matter had been lost; so that the Old Ones had to depend on the moulding of forms already in existence.Entertaining, sure, but what does it prove? Only that when Darwinists tell you ID is all one side of the same coin, the other side of which is contemporary Evangelical Christianity and post-Edwards v. Aguillard "creationism," they are, as always, lying.
Image credit: Himalayan series, Nicholas Roerich/Wikicommons.