Posted by: Johan Normark | June 22, 2009

Intelligent design and Maya iconography

I have claimed that I will be criticizing New Age and Creationism on this blog. So far I have been targeting the 2012 New Age nonsense and left creationist ideas for the future. The main reason is that there simply is not that much connection between creationist ideas and Mayanist studies (maybe in some Mormon interpretations). However, I have at least found one old blog that has tried to use intelligent design as a model for interpreting Maya iconography. The blog Research on Intelligent Design states that “In the same way that Intelligent Design can be detected in ancient carved stones (like the Maya); Intelligent Design can also be detected in molecules and living organisms (like in Rhizobium).” Need I say anything more? Maybe I do. Intelligent design proponents tend to use “cultural” phenomena to “prove” “natural” phenomena. The blogger refers to Jay Richards who has declared that “scientists already use the design inference intuitively in fields such as cryptography, archaeology and forensics.”

The blogger further states that “by studying the Archaeological patterns for the non-Israelite cultures of the old world, we can identify their common elements.” And by this is meant that since there are pyramids all over the world “we can conclude that even if the old world humanity was extremely intelligent (with each human living for a long span), all of them were cultures that deliberately or by inheritance rejected, ignored or did not knew the original revelation of the benevolent and just God, our eternal and almighty God. Thus, their beliefs sided with destruction and sided with death… both, common elements in all the heathen traditions of the world.”

The Tablero del Bulto from Group XVI at Palenque is used as an example for ID. There is no explanation for why the blogger uses this picture, there is only a question: What are those Mayas doing? I guess the reader should fill in the blanks. However, there is more information in the comments. But these “clarifications” just show that the blogger does not have any clue of what he/she is writing. There is a brief explanation of the ballgame and some iconographic evidence that humans sometimes were bound up like balls and pushed down the flight of stairs of temples. At the end of this presentation it is stated that he or she has nowhere else “found any explanation for “El Bulto“. So, using its available patterns and features, as well as other related evidence (as ID infers), thus far I can conclude that “El Bulto” is a human being that is being “prepared” for the Mayan “big ball” game, being himself the “ball” for such evil ” game“.”

This shows that he/she has not done much of intelligent research. Bulto is translated as bulk and this is the first mistake in this context. Words can have several meanings and associations. The second mistake is that the blogger argues that the face of the fourth person in the picture, on the lower left side, is that of a sacrificial victim. The blogger suggests that “the second and the third Maya men are holding the bulk while melted rubber (or some sort of liquid) is entering on it… while the first Maya seems to be checking on the “consistency” for the bulk… I think that such image was so terrible that it was deliberately broken by whoever it was that initially found it on recent times.”

Now, here is the Mayanist interpretation: The English translation of Tablero del Bulto is The Bundle Panel and it was found in the fill of Group XVI. It does not show any evidence of being deliberately broken because it was terrible to watch (there are plenty other horrifying pictures that never were broken). It is just an example of ordinary architectural deterioration and a final collapse. All these figures carry a large bundle and the fourth figure is not a sacrificial victim, and there is no relation to any ballgame event. The large glyphs indicate that the event took place on 1 April AD 731 and the small glyphs between the two figures on the left mention the king Ahkal Mo’ Naab III. The bundle is probably containing tribute payments of some sort to or from the king, not melted rubber.

So, what can we say about research on intelligent design as proposed on the blog with the same name? Context of discoveries and criticism of sources are not their major concerns. They transfer Christian values to contexts and societies that had nothing to do with that belief system. And, why would anyone make a blog to prove that “ancient carved stones” were carved by intelligent people. No one has questioned that. These stones are evidence of a human design, not a divine designer. The only thing Intelligent design is evidence of is its not-so-very intelligent designers.



  1. this is a question how old do scientist think the iconography are

  2. Is it? Well, you have a clue in the text. It is most likely carved sometime after April 1, 731. Unless this is a april fools joke of course.

  3. Slightly off topic perhaps, but a plea for you to think about the ethics of purchasing things like designer clothes. Please try and think about, for example, the things your item is manufactured from, the human rights of the employees where they’re manufactured and the green credentials of retailers. Oh, and endeavour to recycle rather than throwing away. Thanks!!!!

  4. Pretty far away from the topic if you ask me. But apart from that I agree with you.


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