Thursday, September 28, 2006

The gods must be crazy if they call this intelligence #8

The gods must be crazy if they call this intelligence , Sydney Morning Herald,
[Graphic: Red Herring, The Fallacy Files]

August 5, 2006, Deborah Smith. [Review of "Unintelligent Design: Why God isn't as smart as she thinks she is," by Robyn Williams, Allen & Unwin: Sydney, 2006] Continued from part #7.

And the technique appears to have been slapdash or confused: "Halitosis, farting, vaginal discharge, reflux, snoring, rheumatism, warts, smelly armpits, varicose veins, menopause, brewer's droop ... these are not the marks of a designer at the top of his game." I could waste time responding point-by-point to Williams' `village atheist' argument from imperfection, but I don't need to. The fact is that, as I pointed out in part #6, "ID makes no claim that there are ... perfectly designed anything" (even assuming for the sake of argument that all of the above are imperfections). So if this is Williams' main argument against ID in his book (and I have yet to buy and read it to find out) then it would also be an example of the Red Herring fallacy, i.e. "argument ... which distracts the audience from the issue in question through the introduction of some irrelevancy":

Red Herring Alias:... Irrelevant Thesis ... The name of this fallacy comes from the sport of fox hunting in which a dried, smoked herring, which is red in color, is dragged across the trail of the fox to throw the hounds off the scent. Thus, a "red herring" argument is one which distracts the audience from the issue in question through the introduction of some irrelevancy. This frequently occurs during debates when there is an at least implicit topic, yet it is easy to lose track of it. By extension, it applies to any argument in which the premisses are logically irrelevant to the conclusion. ...

Koalas, Williams also notes, have a pouch that opens downwards. "Was God intending the babies to fall out and crash to the forest floor?" See above on the irrelevance to ID of this argument from imperfection. And once again, ID does not claim the designer was "God" (see parts #3, and #6) . Which makes the sub-title of Williams' book, "Why God isn't as smart as she thinks she is" also irrelevant in respect to ID.

To be sure, Williams' arguments from imperfection and evil can be directed towards Christian theology (which does claim that the designer was "God") but then there are resources available to Christianity with which to adequately answer that argument, e.g. the present world has evils because of sin (Genesis 3), but there will be for all those who accept Jesus' atoning sacrifice for their sin (John 1:12; 29; 3:16; 1 John 2:2, etc), a "new heavens and a new earth" (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4) where "There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (my emphasis):

Revelation 21:1-4: 1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Also atheists' (like Williams') argument from imperfection against the human body is self-refuting, because as I pointed out in a debate with an atheist years ago on the Calvin Reflector, who claimed that he was "designed by an idiot" (because of alleged imperfections in his body), that would mean his human brain was also "designed by an idiot," which would then render his argument that he was "designed by an idiot" idiotic! This is an example of Darwin's "horrid doubt" problem, "whether the convictions of man's mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals" (i.e. by a `blind watchmaker' process of the natural selection of random mutations) "are of any value or at all trustworthy":

"Charles Darwin himself once said, `The horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust the conviction of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?' [Darwin, C.R., Letter to W. Graham, July 3rd, 1881, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," [1898], Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. I., 1959, reprint, p.285] In other words, if my brain is no more than that of a superior monkey, I cannot even be sure that my own theory of my origin is to be trusted. Here is a curious case: If Darwin's naturalism is true, there is no way of even establishing its credibility let alone proving it. Confidence in logic is ruled out. Darwin's own theory of human origins must therefore be accepted by an act of faith. One must hold that a brain, a device that came to be through natural selection and chance-sponsored mutations, can actually know a proposition or set of propositions to be true. C.S. Lewis puts the case this way: `If all that exists is Nature, the great mindless interlocking event, if our own deepest convictions are merely the by-products of an irrational process, then clearly there is not the slightest ground for supposing that our sense of fitness and our consequent faith in uniformity tell us anything about a reality external to ourselves.Our convictions are simply a fact about us-like the colour of our hair. If Naturalism is true we have no reason to trust our conviction that Nature is uniform. [Lewis C.S., "Miracles: A Preliminary Study," [1947], Fontana: London, 1960, Revised Edition, 1963, reprint, p.109] What we need for such certainty is the existence of some `Rational Spirit' outside both ourselves and nature from which our own rationality could derive. Theism assumes such a ground; naturalism does not." (Sire, J.W., "The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog," [1976], InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1988, pp.94-95. Emphasis original)

As with many other examples of unintelligent design, there is a scientific explanation: koalas evolved from wombat-like marsupials that had a pouch turned backwards so that, when they dug, their baby's eyes did not get sand-blasted with dirt. First, it is an instance of the begging the question fallacy to say that because "koalas" descended "from wombat-like marsupials" (which I accept) therefore "koalas evolved from wombat-like marsupials" (my emphasis). The fact is that common ancestry is not necessarily evolution, because: 1. A fully naturalistic mechanism is also needed; 2. Common ancestry is not uniquely evolution; 3. God could create through common ancestry; 4. Creationists can believe in common ancestry (as I do); 5. Common ancestry does not preclude supernatural intervention; 6. If there has been supernatural intervention at any stage of descent then it was not evolution but creation; 7. Evolutionists don't regard as evolution that "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process"; and 8. Evolutionists regard as creationists some who accept common ancestry.

Second, if Williams had done his homework and read the ID primary literature first-hand, he would realise that ID itself makes no claim either for, or against, common descent. For example, leading ID theorist Bill Dembski has stated that "intelligent design is compatible with ... seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life":

"Where does intelligent design fit within the creation-evolution debate? Logically, intelligent design is compatible with everything from utterly discontinuous creation (e.g., God intervening at every conceivable point to create new species) to the most far-ranging evolution (e.g., God seamlessly melding all organisms together into one great tree of life). For intelligent design the primary question is not how organisms came to be (though, as we've just seen, this is a vital question for intelligent design) but whether organisms demonstrate clear, empirically detectable marks of being intelligently caused. In principle an evolutionary process can exhibit such `marks of intelligence' as much as any act of special creation." (Dembski W.A., "Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1999, pp.109-110)

and another leading IDist, Michael Behe, has stated that he accepts "common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor)" (as I do):

"Evolution is a controversial topic, so it is necessary to address a few basic questions at the beginning of the book. Many people think that questioning Darwinian evolution must be equivalent to espousing creationism. As commonly understood, creationism involves belief in an earth formed only about ten thousand years ago, an interpretation of the Bible that is still very popular. For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. Further, I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it. I greatly respect the work of my colleagues who study the development and behavior of organisms within an evolutionary framework, and I think that evolutionary biologists have contributed enormously to our understanding of the world. Although Darwin's mechanism-natural selection working on variation-might explain many things, however, I do not believe it explains molecular life. I also do not think it surprising that the new science of the very small might change the way we view the less small." (Behe, M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, pp.5-6)

Third, ID makes no claim about the koala's pouch. This is another example of ID critics, instead of actually critiquing something that ID has actually claimed, setting up a straw man of something that ID has never claimed, refuting that, and then claiming that ID is falsified!

Fourth, Williams contradicts himself. While ID itself makes no claim about the koala's pouch, if there is a good functional reason for a feature, e.g. "so that, when they dug, their baby's eyes did not get sand-blasted with dirt" then from a broader design perspective (the argument from design in nature did not begin with, nor is it confined to, the ID movement) that would be an example of good design!

Concluded in part #9.

Stephen E. Jones , BSc (Biol)
Genesis 3:16-19. 16To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." 17To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."