Intelligent Design in a Nutshell

| December 15, 2007 | 5 Replies

If you read and listen to enough information and testimony by proponents of Intelligent Design, you’ll discover that the basic premise is: “If I don’t understand exactly how something happens, then it must have been done by a supernatural agent.”

This telling phrase is rarely used by Design Proponents, who evolved from Creationists via the missing link “CDesign proponentsists” that was excavated from a draft of their textbook during discovery for the Dover Trial (click to watch the Nova Documentary of the trial).

One Intelligent Design website has an article it calls Intelligent Design in a Nutshell. Anyone with an understanding of science or information theory will find the unsupported and largely disproved assertions laughable. However, by mis-stating the scientific method, and claiming as supporting proof scientific conclusions that have long been discarded, it makes a convincing case.

Former child actor, and aging teen heartthrob Kirk Cameron is a visible proponent of this odd IDea (sic). Here’s a short video of a Fox News report interviewing him after he taped a debate against Richard Dawkins. There are some annotations placed by the video editor, but the interview itself is untouched. Watch it and see that my initial assertion is correct. Kirk actually says to the unapologetically supportive Creationist (“unbiased”) interviewer, that if he doesn’t understand how it could have formed, then we must accept that it was obviously designed.

The unique claim of the ID philosophy is the principle of “Irreducible Complexity.” The idea is that there are parts of organisms that seem to be too far removed from any precursors to have formed from a random mutation. This is neatly debunked by any competent biologist. If you look at the genetic level, one finds that many apparently very different organs or functions are slightly imperfect duplicates of each other at the genetic level. Their favorite example of bacterial flagellum is used as an example in the Dover Trial, where one of several likely precursor organs is illustrated in both form and its genetic structure.

Another fallacy that drives me nuts is their expressed misunderstanding of the design process itself. Anyone who has actually designed things knows that it is an evolutionary process. Any innovation is a variation on something that already existed. Even a revolutionary design idea is always a different way of putting together things that hadn’t yet been assembled in just that way.

The history of technology is an exercise in studying evolution. The equivalent of a fossil record is found in antique stores. From these alone, one might think that divine inspiration led to many inventions because of all the missing links. However, we also have access to many notes left by designers.

Edison (for example) was the first to patent a commercially workable electrical incandescent light bulb. But his notes, and those of his competitors close on his heels, show the rapid changes as they systematically tried many different methods to make it work. Each attempt was a small variation on earlier ones. Most disappeared after one trial (generation). Only the fittest design survived into the official record.

Unless you have an omniscient designer who had no need to do earlier drafts. Every design would be perfect, and certainly would not include any mechanism for change away from that perfection. Given that, why are there so many inefficient features in most life forms today? Why would an omniscient designer create so many thousands of species that all died out before Man was even capable of keeping records?

“God knows,” is pretty much the only answer that makes sense.

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Category: Culture, Current Events, Education, Evolution, History, Media, Religion, Science, Videos

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (5)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Cameron and his buddies worship the god of the gaps. Their arguments can be summarized by the slogan from the Youtube report on the O’Reilly interview that you’ve cited in your post:

    “If stuff is complicated, then a magical Being must have made it.”

    Here’s more of Cameron. This time he’s getting chewed up by members of the Rational Response Squad. http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=3148940

    If Cameron wants me to believe in his God who kills innocent babies http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=732 , he’ll have to do better than these interviews. For starters, Cameron needs to learn to say “I don’t know” when he doesn’t know. http://dangerousintersection.org/?p=1556 Most scientists know how to be silent beyond the evidence. Cameron needs to do the same. As Wittgenstein famously wrote: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

    Check out this Richard Dawkins “interview” by O’Reilly. http://youtube.com/watch?v=ijA5QGF7e6c Great commentary here.

  2. Dan Klarmann says:

    I read a few pages of responses to the Nightline story, and have more cause to appreciate the civil and reasoned tone of intellectual dissent within our blog here.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Dan- I assume that you are referring to comments like this:

    1_Atheist—No im serious. U will b disappointed. —What is wrong with you atheists? You are truly blinder than I ever imagined. There is no doubt that you are under Satan's control. You look at God's Word and see such distortiion that only the devil can make you see. Please humor me and explain yourself.

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    Irreducible complexity boils down to the following argument: imagine a (nonexistent) creature that has, say, five physical traits that cooperate to achieve a particular function. Now, imagine taking away one of those traits. See, the other four traits suddenly become useless; therefore, the creature must have been designed by an intelligent creator.

    Do you see the flaw? The argument begins with a modern creature (one we see today), then asks us to imagine an imaginary ancestor creature that has only a subset of the necessary parts that exist in the modern creature. However, the modern creature would not have had the imagined creature as its ancestor, it would have either had a simpler version of the five traits or the traits would have performed some other function. Thus, the IC argument (not unlike the Bible itself) rests on a fictional premise.

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