Friday, July 08, 2005

An imaginary conversation with a proponent of "intelligent design"

Although this is an imaginary conversation with a proponent of "intelligent design" (PID), consider it as a template for dealing with PIDs.

"Intelligent Design" is a way to try to sneak "Creationism" into schools. Creationism (which I just mis-spelled as "Cretinism" before spotting my Fraudian Slip) explicitly refers to God, and the current Supreme Court will not allow religious teaching in schools. The bible-thumpers want Creationism taught in schools both because Darwinian Evolution scares them (Darwinian Evolution doesn't just state that mankind was not a special creation of God, if you follow it to its logical conclusion then God is not only unnecessary, God is a logical contradiction) and because they want to sneak religion into the schoolroom. Since the Supremes won't allow religion in the schoolroom, and the attempt to sneak it in through Creationism also failed, they're now trying to sneak it in through Intelligent Design.

Let me get this straight. You believe that life on earth is so complex that it could only have come about if some entity, an "intelligent designer," created it.

That's correct. I believe that life is so complex that it could not come about through random chance.

I agree with you that life is incredibly complex, although I believe that Darwinian Evolution can account for it. However, you believe that it requires an intelligent designer. This "intelligent designer" wouldn't, by any chance, be God, would it?

My personal opinion is that the intelligent designer was God, but I may be wrong about that. The important fact is that there was an intelligent designer.

So it's possible that the intelligent designer was a little green man who dropped by in his flying saucer?

Yes. That is entirely possible.

OK. This alien drops by in his flying saucer and creates life on this planet. He may not be any more complex than we are but simply has more knowledge. However, you'd agree that this hypothetical alien, being a lifeform, is so complex as to himself require an explanation for his existence.

Ummmm. Well, I'd have to think about that.

What's to think about? If life on this planet requires the existence of an intelligent designer then life on the intelligent designer's planet requires a second intelligent designer. Perhaps this second intelligent designer is blue rather than green.

You may be right. I haven't really thought about it.

But this second alien intelligent designer is also a complex lifeform. So by your argument we need a third alien lifeform, who created the second alien beings, who created the first alien beings, who created life on this planet. Maybe this third race of aliens is red.


That third set of alien intelligent designers needs a fourth. And the fourth needs a fifth. And so on without end. The whole premise of Intelligent Design requires an infinite chain of alien lifeforms. It is a logical impossibility, because Intelligent Design cannot explain how this infinite chain starts. Who designed the Intelligent Designer?


There are only two ways of terminating the infinite chain of alien life that PID thrusts upon us: we accept that at the head of the chain is a race of aliens who sprang into being through evolution or we accept that at the head of the chain is a race of aliens who sprang into being because God created them. In either case we might as well shorten that chain and say that we sprang into being through evolution or because of God. Intelligent Design is a completely flawed theory.

Well, as I said earlier, my personal belief is that God is the intelligent designer who created us.

But God is far more complex than we are. He answers prayers. He is everywhere at once. He knows everything. He can create an entire universe simply by speaking. If we are so complex that an explanation is needed for our existence then an explanation is even more necessary for God's existence.

God just is.

So why can't life "just is"? And who is God's dad? Who created God? Did you realize that if you succeed in getting Intelligent Design taught in schools then some teachers are going to be asking who designed the Intelligent Designer? Did you realize that once kids understand the logical flaw in Intelligent Design that some of them are going to ask, just as they did when they were young and before their church brainwashed them, who God's dad is?

I've come around to your way of thinking. Intelligent Design shouldn't be taught in schools.

OK, it's wishful thinking that the conversation would go that cleanly. But the principle is there. Intelligent Design can be easily shown to be deeply flawed, and that the same flaw applies to Creationism and to religion in general. Once the PIDs know that rational people are going to expose the flaw in Intelligent Design and then explain how the same flaw appears to apply to Creationism, the PIDs are going to drop Intelligent Design like a hot brick. Evolution is a threat to religion, but it's hard to understand in the depth required to realize that it really is a threat; Intelligent Design is a much simpler threat to religion that can be easily understood. The question "who designed the intelligent designer?" automatically evokes the thought "who was God's dad?"


Blogger Ben said...

I suggest you have a conversation with a real ID theorist. You will find I will say nothing of the sort. Also, I consider the odds of you finding this comment and reading it somewhere around 1/5.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 3:41:00 PM  
Blogger Brian de Ford said...

Oooh, a real ID theorist.

I just took a look at your rambling, inchorent post about ID. I see you appeal to the likes of Behe who, because they cannot see how evolution could have resulted in a given molecule then it could not have happened. This is the same sort of argument from personal credulity employed by a bishop who said that while he could admit the possibility that evolution could favour seals that were white he could see no reason why polar bears should also be white. He had not considered what would happen to a black polar bear trying to sneak up over the ice to hunt seals.

Sometime in the last six months, New Scientist ran an article showing how these impossible "mousetraps" (as I recall, one of the examples was the flagella of bacteria) of Behe's could have arisen. Either unknown to Behe and his ilk, or because they deliberately chose to ignore it, the organism made extensive use of subcomponents of the "mousetrap" elsewhere. They gave several other examples where the IC crowd were guilty of inadequate research, or were inadequate thinkers, or were intentionally lying (the article did not offer an opinion as to which of those was the most likely explanation).

Perhaps, as a real intelligent designer, you could tell me what is so intelligent about the human eye? It's almost identical to the octopus eye, except it's wired backwards. The nerves from the retinal cells run in front of the retina, obscuring som of the light and resulting in inefficiency compared to the octopus eye, then gather together and travel through the retina in an area we call the "blind spot." I don't know about you, but that doesn't seem very intelligent to me.

Or how about the vestigial appendix that serves no purpose in humans other than to occasionally become inflamed and cause intense pain before causing death?

How about kine (what you would call probably call cows). They don't have teeth because the grass they eat is very abrasive. Instead they have hardened gums. Other grazing animals do have teeth and have different strategies for coping with the abrasiveness of grass. Going for hardened gums rather than teeth might be called intelligent design. But here's the weird bit. In the womb, embryonic kine do develop teeth. But in the later stages of development those teeth are re-absorbed. That's a lot of biological activity to no purpose. Hardly intelligent design.

Oh, and there are plenty more examples like those. Examples which show that if there was an intelligent designer he was seriously fucked up on some totally intense drugs all day long.

Oh, and just who did design the intelligent designer?

BTW, your calculation of odds is a shoddy as the rest of your thinking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005 12:36:00 AM  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Whilst I agree with your conclusion, I'd suggest that you be careful about how you order your logic. For example, the comment about God being even more complex is a bit of a non-sequitur... unless you can first get the ID proponent to assert that complexity requires a complex cause.

Many IDers are savvy to this sort of trap and will squirm like weasels to avoid letting the necessary premises fall into place. And, if you don't get the right foundations set up before delivering the haymaker, it comes across like you're the one who's building castles in the air.

Remember, the IDer isn't usually trying to make a positive case; he/she is more likely to be trying, Samson-like, to bring the walls of scientific certainty crashing down on both of you. That's easier than one might expect, given enough grease.

Anyway, enough making like I actually have a clue. It being 00:40 GMT, your fellow Brit wishes you goodnight and happy arguing.

Saturday, August 25, 2007 12:44:00 AM  

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