Wednesday, April 08, 2009

BEAR 3 - Assume you are a better designer

(What is BEAR?)

Our third installment comes in the form of a response to the contention that an intelligent designer is the best explanation for the life we see today.

ID person: "A designer is the best explanation, blah blah blah..."

Evolutionist type: "But if a designer did all this, then what about the poor design of the _____? Why did(n't) God the Designer do what any human engineer would have done, and ... the ... ?"

A few responses to this:
1) If naturalism is true, to precisely what standard, what teleology, do you compare this? There is no designer, therefore no design. There is no "good" design and therefore no "bad" design. If the designer had _____-ed the _____, who are you to dictate that that would definitely be better than the way it is now?

2) And so what if there exists some "appearance of design"? It's all in your imagination, because it WASN'T designed.

3) Maybe the designer tried really hard and managed to design life more or less as it is but couldn't get all the minutiæ down pat, like he wanted. Consider this the counterpart argument to the Flying Spaghetti Monster - no one believes it, but it's conceivable, a thought experiment.

4) Maybe the designer just didn't design it like you would have, bottom line. Why should anyone think that even your "new and improved" design would be preferable to the designer's? What was the designer trying to accomplish? You don't know, so how can you assume you know how to make the organism better?
It would reduce pain or discomfort, you say? It would help it run faster so it could escape predators? It would allow every member of the species to obtain and maintain a Swiss bank account in the millions of dollars? How do you know that's better? Why should anyone think your vision of the way the world should be is to be accepted by anyone else? You're into ToE, which posits death and genetic mistakes as two of the main driving forces of the mechanism, and you're all of a sudden into how awesome life is and better genes are?

5) In every design, there are trade-offs. My eyes can see a large cone of the 180º of sight available from the front of my head. Maybe my eyes could be moved further to the sides of my head, but then I'd lose out on focus and have to cross my eyes all the time.
Maybe I could have been made with wings, or gills, as John Loftus sorta-famously suggested. But then I'd have to have the musculature and different skeletal structure to support the wings, and different lungs to work with the gills. And those would be subject to different strains, sprains, and breakages. The different lungs would be subject to all sorts of other diseases, from parasites and different germs floating around in the water I'd breathed in. And then these skeptics would complain about THOSE, no doubt - there just can't be a designer b/c he forgot to make us immune to these diseases, these sprains, these bruises.
Would they ever stop complaining until they were made like God? No, and then they'd no doubt complain that they were still subordinate to God.

6) You think you're such a big hotshot and you could do it better? Do it.
Create one single-celled organism out of dust.
...
Then, before you break out the bubbly, get your own dust and do it again.

This anthropocentric hubris is sad and funny at the same time. These people claim to be so focused on the empirical and the reasonable, the observed, and here they are poking fun at God, acting like they could do better. How do they know they could do better? Sure, humanity has been able to make TVs that last for years. But many decades? Hard drives, which sometimes fail catastrophically right out of the box. Space shuttles and lunar craft and space robots, which have a fairly high failure rate as well. Obviously, humanity has invented and done many amazing things, but no one is perfect and no one has ever made anything that is perfect. And no human has ever created an organism! These armchair critics are apparently only interested in throwing rocks and mockery, but they've never even gotten close to this accomplishment, nor can they even bear to give credit where it is due.

7) In reality, God created the world good. What everyone always forgets is that after Genesis 1&2 comes Genesis 3 and the fall of man. Sin has a very powerful and deleterious effect on the entire world, and God's perfect design has become imperfect because of sin in the world. God will redeem the world and make it perfect again, but not yet. Skeptics conveniently and frequently forget Christianity's doctrine of the fall when it comes to these arguments.

32 comments:

Chris (from Oz) said...

I've usually seen the comment "...what about the poor design of the..." in response to specific claims of the theists, such as the amazing design of nature proving a creator.

It is not a good response if the theist is postulating a slack or incompetent or otherwise mysterious deity.

But it does show that nature isn't perfectly suited for us.

The issue of "good" versus "bad" design should be framed in terms of what the theist meant when indicating the design was good. If the theist specifically laid out what they mean by "good" and "bad", then the skeptic can respond within that framework. If the theist didn't specifically indicate what they consider "bad" or "good", then it's reasonable for the skeptic to assume some basic stuff, and wait to be corrected...

Of course skeptics ignore the doctrine of the fall. Because we can't be expected to take into account all the doctrines which some theistic sects might or might not believe, even if we could remember them all.

But more importantly, the doctrine doesn't address the issue of bad design unless there was a quick redesign of nature after the fall, tinkering with the genes, turning the eye inside out, that sort of thing. Or, otherwise we were badly designed in advance.

It's good you brought up the eye. Do you know of any tradeoffs which would have had to occur if the optic nerves connected to the outside of the eyeball, so we don't have a blindspot, like it does in an octopus eye ? I don't know the answer, but it's an interesting question about the human eye...

I'm not sure who claims that they could design an organism from scratch to cope with the environment better than billions of years of evolution has given us. But you don't need that to see where some traits of one animal would be advantageous to another animal which was unfortunate enough to not have evolved it.

With modern gene manipulation, we can even make some of those changes.

It's the difference between the factory that makes the bikes, and my Dad who takes pieces from broken bikes and produces working ones from them.

Rhology said...

It is not a good response if the theist is postulating a slack or incompetent or otherwise mysterious deity.

See the above 7 points for your refutation.


But it does show that nature isn't perfectly suited for us.

See #7.


Because we can't be expected to take into account all the doctrines which some theistic sects might or might not believe, even if we could remember them all.


"Am I strawmaning you? Should I care?"


Do you know of any tradeoffs which would have had to occur if the optic nerves connected to the outside of the eyeball,

Exposed nerves could hurt when air molecules hit them, I should think.

NAL said...

Two alternatives: designer or no designer. If the probability of a designer is non-zero, then the no designer alternative has a higher likelihood. If the probability of a designer is zero, then the two alternatives have equal likelihoods.

Dr Funkenstein said...

If naturalism is true, to precisely what standard, what teleology, do you compare this?

Since the ID/creationist camp essentially compares living things (or aspects or living things) to mechanical human designed objects (eg the falgellum is an outboard motor etc), and posits complex/elegant biological machines are evidence of the designer at work, it's perfectly legitimate for a naturalist to ask, based on this standard ID has offered, why a designer chooses atrociously bad ways of designing other things when there are obviously better ways to do this if one has the capability (eg humans can conduct surgeries and use gene therapy to improve on some of these poor 'designs', - it's not a test of naturalism, it's a test of the design hypothesis. If elegance, complexity, specificity and purpose etc is a mark of the designer, how does the design hypothesis also account for inelegance, inefficiency etc?

There is no designer, therefore no design. There is no "good" design and therefore no "bad" design.

Hence that this is one reason to support the idea that living things aren't designed, because when we use standards of design offered by ID, it fails to cover the bases

Maybe the designer just didn't design it like you would have, bottom line.

Because ID compares these biological structures etc to human designed objects

eg Mt Rushmore is complex/specified, therefore biological objects are like Mt Rushmore
the flagellum is like a sophisticated motor
the cell is a miniature city or factory

All of which are...drum roll...objects and systems designed or run by humans, and generally tailored to suit human needs or desires! So why wouldn't we say in regard to the ID hypothesis 'the designer should have done it like this' if human activity is the standard for so many of their arguments?

After posting on numerous blogs and several hundred posts about how human 'design' of any sort is evidence for the ID hypothesis, I think you may be attempting to have the proverbial cake and eat it here by then turning round and claiming 'how a human does things is not evidence for how ID operates'.

Which is it - are human designers activities evidence for ID or not? If they aren't then you just refuted one of your own arguments, if they are then you just refuted this blogpost since it mainly concerns complaints about comparisons of ID with human standards .

You think you're such a big hotshot and you could do it better? Do it.

Heart bypass surgery
Artificial limbs for those born with birth defects
Drugs for people who naturally build up excessive levels of cholesterol to control them better, since their own bodies can't do it
Hip replacements for those that wear out too easily
There was a case of an Israeli Olympic athlete several years ago that was treated against a brain infection with gene therapy because her own immune system couldn't dealwith it
Insulin replacement for those who have type 1 diabetes
IVF procedures
Viagra for those who suffer from impotence

All human designed things that outperform or enhance the natural original version

In fact since the average lifespan of an American has approximately doubled in the last century in large part due to human designed drugs and technology, I'd say we're outpacing the designers efforts in many regards!

And no human has ever created an organism! These armchair critics are apparently only interested in throwing rocks and mockery, but they've never even gotten close to this accomplishment, nor can they even bear to give credit where it is due.

Craig Venter's lab has created a virus, as well as changing one 'species' of bacteria into another via genome transplant. I doubt creating a single celled organism is that far away in the grand scheme of things.

There are plenty of other things we can't create either - such as worldwide floods that kill off virtually the whole world's population, earthquakes that destroy villages in Italy, tsunamis that kill hundreds of thousands in Asia and destroy entire villages - should we be thankful for all that too?

Sin has a very powerful and deleterious effect on the entire world, and God's perfect design has become imperfect because of sin in the world.

A perfect design where the first two humans he designed betrayed his command at the first opportunity, at the behest of an evil serpent, also presumably created by him (never mind that the humans would not have had the cognitive faculty to differentiate why that action was right or wrong prior to eating the apple, since only by eating the apple could they obtain knowledge of good and evil!)? And after all, as Genesis states, he created them in his own image - maybe that says something about God and how perfect he is!

There are ample numbers of bible verse that indicate God created and/or controls everything that exists eg John 1 (in fact, you go on about how we should marvel at what he did in this very post!) - it stands to reason that if he created and controls everything, he created or allowed the advancement of sin. Verses such as Isaiah 45:7 quote God stating

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

captain howdy said...

According to the Discovery Institute, the institutional home of the intelligent design creationism movement:

"The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."

The "poster child," so to speak, of the ID movement is the flagellum, a tiny whip-like tail some cells use to propel themselves.



Now here's the interesting part:

Ask the Disco Inst. just what THEIR superior explanation is for how the flagellum came to be. Ask them to be specific. Ask them to provide step-by-step mechanisms the Designer used to produce the flagellum in the first place, why all bacteria don't have them, why they're constructed one way and not another, etc.

I did this. Their "better explanation" was to sputter "Well, if the flagellum WAS designed, wouldn't you want to know?" So much for their "better explanation." So much for "Intelligent Design." ID is pushing religion, pure and simple:

"This [the intelligent design movement] isn't really, and never has been, a debate about science, it's about religion and philosophy."

Phillip Johnson
World Magazine, 30 November 1996



""Thus, in its relation to Christianity, intelligent design should be viewed as a ground-clearing operation that gets rid of the intellectual rubbish that for generations has kept Christianity from receiving serious consideration."

William Dembski
Intelligent Design's Contribution To The Debate Over Evolution: A Reply To Henry Morris, 2005




Oh, and before you ask--yes, evolutionary biologists HAVE proposed a stepwise mechanism of how the flagellum evolved; complete with video and documentation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdwTwNPyR9w

Rhology said...

Dr Funk,

It's not that I don't like talking to you (as should be obvious from numerous other long threads), but here I don't think that any of your arguments have put even a scratch on my post's contentions.
You probably disagree, and that's fine. I just don't feel like repeating myself today.
One thing you say:

indicate God created and/or controls everything that exists

You should know me well enough to know that I freely and widely state that all over the place. So it's not like you've discovered sthg nefarious in my closet, just FYI. Ephesians 1:10-11 is the best example of a prooftext for this question.


capt howdy,

I'm no particularly typical ID proponent, so I'm not too hot on discussing these questions, sorry. I don't bring up the flagellum. Can't remember the last time I introduced it into convo, actually...

captain howdy said...

Rho said:

I'm no particularly typical ID proponent, so I'm not too hot on discussing these questions, sorry. I don't bring up the flagellum. Can't remember the last time I introduced it into convo, actually...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Can't say as I blame you.

NAL said...

Rho:
4) Maybe the designer just didn't design it like you would have, bottom line. Why should anyone think that even your "new and improved" design would be preferable to the designer's?

The people who died from infections of the appendix might think that a design that didn't incorporate that particular vestigial organ would be an improvement. They might think that if they weren't dead. If someone you love has an attack of appendicitis, are you going to argue with the surgeon about tinkering with God's design?

ex-Xtian said...

Easter pwnt: http://unreasonablefaith.com/2009/04/12/ancient-sumerian-origins-of-the-easter-story/

Rhology said...

NAL, no. A ruptured appendix I'd chalk up as due to sin in the world, and doctors do a wonderful job in remedying such bad effects in the world in many areas.

captain howdy said...

@Rho--

A ruptured appendix I'd chalk up as due to sin in the world...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Let me try and understand this. If it looks like good design then that means it was designed. If it looks like lousy design, that means it's...sin.



Is that it?

Rhology said...

Not necessarily. If it appears to be bad design, see the post.

Anonymous said...

To summarize Rhology's position:

1. Adam and Eve created without appendices.
2. Adam and Eve eat apple.
3. Adam and Eve spontaneously develop appendices.

Good to know.

NAL said...

Rho:
A ruptured appendix I'd chalk up as due to sin in the world ...

How about a non-ruptured appendix? Would you chalk that up to no sin in the world?

rotsaP loeJ said...

I don't really see why this is so complicated. An organ subject to processes like rupturing, infection, blindness, or cancer are so subject as a part of the curse of sin. They don't exist as the result of sin, they are corrupted.

Hence, Cap'n, we have, as you so adroitly point out, design in either case: either design preserved relatively well, or relatively badly; in no case perfect, exactly as we would expect from a totalising corruption of creation.

NAL said...

Acute appendicitis in a chimpanzeeThe curse of chimpanzee sin.

justfinethanks said...

The curse of chimpanzee sin Well, that's what Chimps get for being totally depraved. For all Chimps have sinned and have fallen short of the ape like glory of Chimp God. That's why they need Chimp Jesus.

And you know what, I saw Chimps on the discovery channel assuming the uniformity of nature in interacting with their environment and using reason in creating tools. This is clear proof that the nonbelieving Chimps are supressing their knowledge of Chimp Jesus in Chimp unrighteousness.

Anonymous said...

Hence, Cap'n, we have, as you so adroitly point out, design in either case: either design preserved relatively well, or relatively badly; in no case perfect, exactly as we would expect from a totalising corruption of creation.If the corruption was totalising, one would expect everything to be "corrupt" - but apparently it isn't. Even according to you, there are degrees of corruption; and I assume that you believe that some things are perfect - for example the "laws of logic" that Rhology talks about. So your assertion has zero explanatory power, and zero predictive power, as well as appearing to not fit the observed facts.

Rhology said...

All stupid jesting aside, ALL of creation is subject to the curse of sin - Romans 8. Chimps are included w/o being "depraved" or anything.

NAL said...

Rho:
ALL of creation is subject to the curse of sin ...Including dinosaurs?

Rhology said...

Yup. They died, didn't they? :-D

NAL said...

Yup, 65 million years before sin.

NAL said...

If one believes in the curse of sin, on all creation, one has to be a YEC?

Rhology said...

To be fair, I'd say no, but YEC is certainly able to be more consistent.

Anonymous said...

ALL of creation is subject to the curse of sinThen why weren't the laws of logic corrupted?

Rhology said...

B/c the laws of logic aren't created.

Anonymous said...

Prove it.

rotsaP loeJ said...

I suppose we might distinguish between the specific creative acts of God. Time, for example, although certainly created by God, was not corrupted by our fall in any way that I can see any more than, say, the angels were. The earthly creation, however, because of our unique role as stewards, suffered as a result of human disobedience.

So I would disagree, in a sense, with Rho here: the laws of logic are contigent, and hence created. They have no existence independent of God, and he suspends them as he sees fit. Thus, Jesus is both Man and God, creature and creator (which is to say "creature and not-creature). But it doesn't follow from that they must have been corrupted with the human Fall.

Rhology said...

Anonymous,

Prove a negative? You first - you are apparently making the positive assertion that they are created, so what's your argument?
Then, please let everyone know how, since they were created at a point in time (otherwise it makes no sense to say they WERE creatED), whether they both existed and didn't exist beforehand. That should provide literally minutes of entertainment.

Anonymous said...

"Prove a negative? You first - you are apparently making the positive assertion that they are created, so what's your argument?"

I have no opinion one way or the other. You sounded so certain that they weren't created, I assumed that you had an alternative explanation. So consider my request to "prove it" to be a request to prove your alternative explanation.

Rhology said...

I simply propose that he who thinks they were created, since he thinks they were created at a point in time (otherwise it makes no sense to say they WERE creatED), tell us whether they both existed and didn't exist beforehand.

Anonymous said...

You appear to be unable to read. Here was what I actually wrote - you may notice that I make no assertions at all:

"I have no opinion one way or the other. You sounded so certain that they weren't created, I assumed that you had an alternative explanation. So consider my request to "prove it" to be a request to prove your alternative explanation."

Go for it.