The gods must be crazy if they call this intelligence [Review of "Unintelligent Design: Why God isn't as smart as she thinks she is," by Robyn Williams, Allen & Unwin: Sydney, 2006], Sydney Morning Herald, August 5, 2006, Deborah Smith. Continued from part #5.
[Graphic: Imperfections of Mt Rushmore]
He was keenly aware that other authors, such as Richard Dawkins, had addressed every creationist chestnut, such as perfectly designed eyes, at length. First, if Williams had actually read any ID primary sources he would know that ID is not "creationist" in that: 1) it is not based on the Bible, but only on the evidence of nature; 2) it does not claim that the designer is God; 3) some IDists are agnostics (e.g. Michael Denton and David Berlinski); and 4) some leading creationists (e.g. Ken Ham and Hugh Ross) are opposed to ID because it does not claim that the designer is God.
Second, ID makes no claim that there are "perfectly designed eyes (or perfectly designed anything). All ID claims is that there is design in nature that is beyond the capability of unintelligent processes to generate, or as ID theorist William Dembski put it, that "The world contains events, objects, and structures which exhaust the explanatory resources of undirected natural causes, and which can be adequately explained only by recourse to intelligent causes":
"What then is Intelligent Design? Intelligent Design begins with the observation that intelligent causes can do things which undirected natural causes cannot. Undirected natural causes can place scrabble pieces on a board, but cannot arrange the pieces as meaningful words or sentences. To obtain a meaningful arrangement requires an intelligent cause. This intuition, that there is a fundamental distinction between undirected natural causes on the one hand and intelligent causes on the other, has underlain the design arguments of past centuries. ... What has emerged is a new program for scientific research known as Intelligent Design. Within biology, Intelligent Design is a theory of biological origins and development. Its fundamental claim is that intelligent causes are necessary to explain the complex, information-rich structures of biology, and that these causes are empirically detectable. To say intelligent causes are empirically detectable is to say there exist well-defined methods that, on the basis of observational features of the world, are capable of reliably distinguishing intelligent causes from undirected natural causes. Many special sciences have already developed such methods for drawing this distinction-notably forensic science, cryptography, archeology, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (as in the movie Contact). ... Intelligent Design presupposes neither a creator nor miracles. Intelligent Design is theologically minimalist. It detects intelligence without speculating about the nature of the intelligence. ... It is the empirical detectability of intelligent causes that renders Intelligent Design a fully scientific theory, and distinguishes it from the design arguments of philosophers, or what has traditionally been called `natural theology.' The world contains events, objects, and structures which exhaust the explanatory resources of undirected natural causes, and which can be adequately explained only by recourse to intelligent causes." (Dembski, W.A., "The Intelligent Design Movement," Cosmic Pursuit, Spring 1998. Access Research Network, November 15, 1998. Emphasis original)
The eye (or any claimed example of intelligent design) would not have to be perfect to be beyond the capability of unintelligent processes to generate. For example, Mt Rushmore is imperfect (see above) but that does not render it not intelligently designed. Or if SETI ever received a long string of prime numbers from deep space (as in the movie Contact example), but some of the numbers were not primes, it would still be assumed that it was originally designed, but the message had been corrupted in transit.
In fact, even William Paley (who did claim that the designer was God) pointed out in his watch-implies-a- watchmaker argument, " It is not necessary that a machine be perfect, in order to shew with what design it was made":
"Neither, secondly, would it invalidate out conclusion, that the watch sometimes went wrong, or that it seldom went exactly right. The purpose of the machinery, the design, and the designer, might be evident, and in the case supposed would be evident, in whatever way we accounted for the irregularity of the movement, or whether we could account for it or not. It is not necessary that a machine be perfect, in order to shew with what design it was made: still less necessary, where the only question is, whether it were made with any design at all." (Paley, W., "Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature," , St. Thomas Press: Houston TX, 1972, reprint, pp.3-4).
ID theorists like Michael Behe have from the outset addressed this straw man "argument from imperfection" (which again shows William's ignorance of ID's primary literature) pointing out that its "most basic problem is that the argument demands perfection at all," since "Clearly, designers who have the ability to make better designs do not necessarily do so" and it "overlooks the possibility that the designer might have multiple motives, with engineering excellence oftentimes relegated to a secondary role":
"Miller [Miller, K.R., "Life's Grand Design,"Technology Review, February/March 1994, pp 29-30] elegantly expresses a basic confusion; the key to intelligent-design theory is not whether a `basic structural plan is the obvious product of design.' The conclusion of intelligent design for physically interacting systems rests on the observation of highly specified, irreducible complexity-the ordering of separate, well-fitted components to achieve a function that is beyond any of the components themselves. Although I emphasize that one has to examine molecular systems for evidence of design, let's use Miller's essay as a springboard to examine other problems with the argument from imperfection. The most basic problem is that the argument demands perfection at all. Clearly, designers who have the ability to make better designs do not necessarily do so. For example, in manufacturing, `built-in obsolescence' is not uncommon-a product is intentionally made so it will not last as long as it might, for reasons that supersede the simple goal of engineering excellence. Another example is a personal one: I do not give my children the best, fanciest toys because I don't want to spoil them, and because I want them to learn the value of a dollar. The argument from imperfection overlooks the possibility that the designer might have multiple motives, with engineering excellence oftentimes relegated to a secondary role. Most people throughout history have thought that life was designed despite sickness, death, and other obvious imperfections. Another problem with the argument from imperfection is that it critically depends on a psychoanalysis of the unidentified designer. Yet the reasons that a designer would or would not do anything are virtually impossible to know unless the designer tells you specifically what those reasons are. One only has to go into a modern art gallery to come across designed objects for which the purposes are completely obscure (to me at least). Features that strike us as odd in a design might have been placed there by the designer for a reason-for artistic reasons, for variety, to show off, for some as-yet-undetected practical purpose, or for some unguessable reason or they might not. Odd they may be, but they may still be designed by an intelligence." (Behe, M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, pp.223-224).
Therefore, in advancing the "argument from imperfection" against ID, Williams commits the straw man fallacy, since ID has never claimed that design needs to be perfectly optimal. And in fact, "No real designer attempts optimality in the sense of attaining perfect design..... Real designers strive for constrained optimization .... `All design involves conflicting objectives and hence compromise, and the best designs will always be those that come up with the best compromise'" :
"Many biologists sidestep intelligent design and the evidence for it by shuttling between apparent design and optimal design. To argue for apparent design, they simply lay out the case for pure, unaided Darwinism. To argue against intelligent design, they substitute a handy strawman, identifying intelligent design with optimal design. To render intelligent design as implausible as possible, they then define optimal design as perfect design that is best with respect to every possible criterion of optimization. (Anything less, presumably, would not be worthy of an intelligent designer.) Since actual designs always involve tradeoffs and compromise, such globally-optimal-in-every-respect designs cannot exist except in an idealized realm ... far removed from the actual designs of this world. ... Assimilating all biological design to either apparent or optimal design avoids the central question that needs to be answered, namely, whether there actually is design in biological systems regardless of what additional attributes they possess (like optimality). The automobiles that roll off the assembly plants in Detroit are intelligently designed in the sense that actual human intelligences are responsible for them. Nevertheless, even if we think Detroit manufactures the best cars in the world, it would still be wrong to say that they are optimally designed. ... Is there an even minimally sensible reason for insisting that design theorists must demonstrate optimal design in nature? Critics of intelligent design ... often suggest that any purported cosmic designer would only design optimally. But that is a theological rather than a scientific claim. ... Applied to biology, intelligent design maintains that a designing intelligence is required to account for the complex, information-rich structures in living systems. At the same time, it refuses to speculate about the nature of that designing intelligence. Whereas optimal design demands a perfectionistic designer who has to get everything just right, intelligent design fits our ordinary experience of design, which is conditioned by the needs of a situation, requires negotiation and tradeoffs, and therefore always falls short of some idealized global optimum. No real designer attempts optimality in the sense of attaining perfect design. Indeed, there is no such thing as perfect design. Real designers strive for constrained optimization, which is something altogether different. As Henry Petroski, an engineer and historian at Duke University, aptly remarks in Invention by Design, `All design involves conflicting objectives and hence compromise, and the best designs will always be those that come up with the best compromise.' [Petroski, H., "Invention by Design: How Engineers Get fromThought to Thing," Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, 1996, p.30] Constrained optimization is the art of compromise among conflicting objectives. This is what design is all about. To find fault with biological design because it misses some idealized optimum, as Gould regularly used to do, is simply gratuitous. Not knowing the objectives of the designer, Gould was in no position to say whether the designer proposed a faulty compromise among those objectives." (Dembski, W.A., "The Design Revolution: Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design," Intervarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2004, pp.58-59. Emphasis original).
Moreover, Williams also commits the non sequitur fallacy in that the argument from imperfection advanced against ID implicitly assumes that, "the argument from imperfection" is "positive evidence for undirected evolution," e.g. "1. A designer would have made the vertebrate eye without a blind spot. 2. The vertebrate eye has a blind spot. 3. Therefore Darwinian evolution produced the eye":
"The next problem is that proponents of the argument from imperfection frequently use their psychological evaluation of the designer as positive evidence for undirected evolution. The reasoning can be written as a syllogism: 1. A designer would have made the vertebrate eye without a blind spot. 2. The vertebrate eye has a blind spot. 3. Therefore Darwinian evolution produced the eye. It is for reasoning such as this that the phrase non sequitur was invented. The scientific literature contains no evidence that natural selection working on mutation can produce either an eye with a blind spot, an eye without a blind spot, an eyelid, a lens, a retina, rhodopsin, or retinal. The debater has reached his conclusion in favor of Darwinism based solely on an emotional feeling of the way things ought to be. A more objective observer would conclude only that the vertebrate eye was not designed by a person who is impressed with the argument from imperfection; extrapolation to other intelligent agents is not possible. (Behe, 1996, p.224).
But the publisher Richard Walsh convinced The Science Show's presenter there was still a need for a well-known figure such as him to distil the evidence against intelligent design for a different audience, and give it an individual perspective. Notice that it never enters their heads for a moment, presumably because it cannot, within their atheistic worldview:
"... to put a correct view of the universe into people's heads we must first get an incorrect view out." (Lewontin, R.C., "Billions and Billions of Demons." Review of "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark," by Carl Sagan, The New York Times Review of Books, January 9, 1997, pp.28-32, p.28)
"The solution to Cordelia's dilemma-the promotion of her nothing to a meaningful something-requires the more extensive revision of conceptual overhaul. Cordelia's dilemma cannot be resolved from within, for the existing theory has defined her action as a denial or non-phenomenon. A different theory must be imported from another context to change conceptual categories and make her response meaningful. In this sense, Cordelia's dilemma best illustrates the dynamic interaction of theory and fact in science. Correction of error cannot always arise from new discovery within an accepted conceptual system. Sometimes the theory has to crumble first, and a new framework be adopted, before the crucial facts can be seen at all." (Gould, S.J., "Cordelia's Dilemma," in "Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History," , Crown: New York NY, 1997, reprint, p.127)
that ID might actually be true! IDist Tom Woodward gives an example of how for atheists like Dawkins (and Williams), "Never at issue is whether natural mechanisms could produce irreducible complexity in the first place; it is automatically assumed that they can":
"One example of this call for patience is an incident that Phillip Johnson related to me. It concerns Richard Dawkins's visit in the fall of 1996 to the San Francisco Bay area in California to do book signings of his new work, Climbing Mount Improbable. When he came to a large bookstore in Berkeley, he spoke briefly before the book signing, and Johnson was seated in the front row. After Dawkins's remarks, Johnson (whom Dawkins probably did not know) asked whether he had read Behe's book and could offer a response to it. Dawkins said he had read it and complained that Behe was `lazy.' He should `get out there and find those evolutionary pathways' by which the complex machines had arisen. This type of response is rhetorically revealing. Never at issue is whether natural mechanisms could produce irreducible complexity in the first place; it is automatically assumed that they can. Rather, the scientist's job is merely to find those pathways and to track down those causal mechanisms. From the Design perspective, this is again a problem of basic philosophical assumption; appropriate paths of research are rooted ultimately not just in science itself but in a `preferred' metaphysical worldview." (Woodward, T.E., "Doubts about Darwin: A History of Intelligent Design," Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 2003, p.162. Emphasis original).
Continued in part #7.
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol)
Genesis 3:1-5. 1Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" 2The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' " 4"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. 5"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."