The absurdity of intelligent design

| 124 Comments

The absurdity of intelligent design by Elia Leibowitz in Ha’aretz.

Leibowitz quickly converges on the problem with ID, showing why the analogy of design by “known designers” fails when it comes to unknown designers. The argument is similar to that by Shallit Wilkins and Elsberry who consider the case of ordinary design vs rarefied design.

Wilkins and Elsberry Wrote:

So now there appears to be two kinds of design - the ordinary kind based on a knowledge of the behavior of designers, and a “rarefied” design, based on an inference from ignorance, both of the possible causes of regularities and of the nature of the designer

ID proponents like to refer to Mount Rushmore and extend the analogy to the biological world but they overlook a crucial difference.

Leibowitz Wrote:

The main weakness in the idea of an intelligent designer is that it is impossible to see it as any sort of explanation of the phenomenon it purports to illuminate. The main premise at the basis of its argument can be presented thus: No reasonable person would think that the wonderful paintings by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel could have been produced as the result of random processes, without intention and without intelligence. The same applies to the F-16 aircraft. How much more so is an explanation like this necessary for biological systems in the world, which are inestimably more complex.

However, this conclusion is based on reasoning based on a nonsensical premise. The assumption that an intelligent being designed the F-16 does indeed constitute a satisfactory explanation for the existence of this complex system, because we know of the existence of aeronautical engineers, in a way that is independent of our knowledge of the plane itself. The thought that the hand of an intelligent being painted the Sistine Chapel can explain the paintings, only because we possess prior knowledge of the existence of beings who can design and execute such works.

With respect to the natural world and the universe, however, we do not have any prior knowledge of the existence of an intelligence that is capable of planning them. Concluding from the existence of the complex and wonderful world that an intelligent designer exists is not an explanation of the phenomenon, but rather a psychological result of it.

The article continues with an interesting story showing the vacuity of the ID argument, concluding that

Leibowtiz Wrote:

And this is exactly what the proponents of intelligent design are saying. We see a wonderful world. The explanation for its complexity is an intelligent being who designed it. And if you ask us how we know that such an entity exists, we will answer immediately: Isn’t the existence of a marvelous world like this sufficient proof?

124 Comments

The Haaretz Hebrew edition, for example, recently published an article by Richard Dawkins and Gerry Quinn

Huh? She missed badly on Coyne’s name. Translated to Hebrew and back, perhaps?

Mount Rushmore? Designed. Stop in the gift shop and you can even buy a videotape of the designers at work. F-16? Designed, and General Dynamics was proud of it’s ‘Electric Jet’. Cystine chapel? Designed.

None of those reproduce biologically, and thus are ineligible for natural selection.

Well, the Cystine Chapel might… I really don’t know.

On the other hand, the Sistine Chapel was most assuredly designed, ;-)

Yes, but you must look carefully at Mt Rushmore. As you face it, just to the left of Washington is the distinct likeness of a monkey. I noticed that when leading a geology course for Wheaton College there. As half were YEC I had great fun on this and played with the design argument and asked whether it proved evolution.

The other possibility is that it is not a monkey but G W Bush

Does the Cystine Chapel split into two pieces in a reducing environment? :-)

Elia Leibowitz is male

My apologies, the name is unfamiliar to me.

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Comment #48840

Posted by Bob Davis on September 19, 2005 01:59 PM (e) (s)

None of those reproduce biologically, and thus are ineligible for natural selection.

How can we know this? I mean, sure there are no baby Mt. Rushmores running around. Or are there? In fact I’ve purchased a few pet Mt. Rushmores and little keychain Eiffel Towers and even a beautiful baby solid metal paperweight Empire State Building. It is true that they have not grown at all.… yet.

My mom gave me a pet rock. I kept it in a box with other, more interesting, rocks. It hasn’t yet reproduced. Even though I carefully followed the instructions on its care.

I’m hoping one day, Dues Ex Machina will provide me with a litter. Unless, of course, my pet rock is a boy… Which could explain why I have no baby pet rocks…

David Hume, I beleive, first made this very point over 150 years ago now, in the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion:

When two species of objects have always been observed to be conjoined together, I can infer, by custom, the existence of one wherever I see the existence of the other; and this I call an argument from experience. But how this argument can have place, where the objects, as in the present case, are single, individual, without parallel, or specific resemblance, may be difficult to explain. And will any man tell me with a serious countenance, that an orderly universe must arise from some thought and art like the human, because we have experience of it? To ascertain this reasoning, it were requisite that we had experience of the origin of worlds; and it is not sufficient, surely, that we have seen ships and cities arise from human art and contrivance.

Paul Nelson wrote:

Hey BB,

Elia Leibowitz is male.

Hi Paul,

What brings you to these yonder places? Glad to see you! This is rough place for us IDists to show up!

Salvador PS oh, PvM, regarding the topic, thank you for the heart warming news:

It certainly should be giving educators and decision-makers in Israel sleepless nights.

The political-cultural struggle has become so heated that it is making headlines in the international daily press.

We have a very fine IDist in Israel by the name of Gerald Schroeder, an MIT Physicist, who was instrumental in converting Antony Flew.

Does PvM agree with the following bolded portion?:

The Darwinist is no less moved and impressed by the complexity, the purposefulness, the order and the beauty that are revealed in animal and plant life, but he attributes them not to any intelligent designer, but rather to the statistical regularity of random processes that occur in the world.

Hey, Sal, last I heard, Flew had de-“converted.” Flown the coop!

Guess the brainwashing didn’t take, but then conversion just doesn’t seem to be a very, uh, “scientific” process.

And do let us know when you get done pondering on things like, um, bamboo…

Cheerio!

With respect to the natural world and the universe, however, we do not have any prior knowledge of the existence of an intelligence that is capable of planning them.

Oh, but the Holey Babble folks do. It’s right there in the Good Book. It says so right in the pages.

Say, anyone applied the EF to the Babble yet? Does it look more like it was created by humans, or by some “hyper-intelligent designer”? … Or perhaps the FSM.…

Cheers,

A point I’ll be making in the plainest language, and then tire of and drop (to many people’s relief, no doubt, since they certainly know it as well as anybody): the Creationist/ID crowd do not care AT ALL about ToE, biology, science, etc.etc.etc. They are too lazy, too damned self-obsessed, to take any notice of anything that isn’t a mirror for the wonder that is themselves. They don’t wish others to agree with their theories, but to submit to the force of their personalities, not the beauties of their faith or the strength and clarity of their ideas. These aren’t, mainly, the ignorant Christ-above-allers of the 70’s creationists, full of fear about seeing the world find their fear irrelevant and childish, but the empty, manipulative Xians of the 90’s, for whom the Christian (and Muslim and Hindu, as well, at times) religion is an excuse for whatever act may profit them, or flatter them. Less meek, god-fearing folk than the typical born-again Xian of America have seldom trod the Earth before this.

Of course, who else would refer to Schroeder but Salvador? The “fine IDist” Schroeder is the same writer who made those great discoveries that masers emit atoms, that weight and mass is the same, that centrifugal force is a real force, that there were nine generations between Cain and Tubal-Cain, that the number of photo electrons depends on photons’ frequencies, that kinetic energy is proportional to velocity, etc., etc., etc. No suprise Salvador likes Schroeder - both are in the same league as regards erudition and logic. BTW, Flew stated that he was misled by Schroeder. Whatever it says about Flew, anybody referring to Schroeder as an authority in any field should check with a doctor.

By any reasonable measure, the faces on Mt. Rushmore are much less complex than the un-sculpted part of the cliffs. The faces are smooth and easily described. The raw cliffs are very complex with innumerable nooks and crannies. The amount of information needed to describe the faces is tiny alongside the amount of information needed to describe the detailed, complex structure of an unaltered cliff face.

We recognize design by simplicity not complexity.

(This is why the Christians were unwilling to believe Kepler; because they felt a designer would have put the planets into perfect, simple, circular orbits — not the messy ellipses that Kepler found.)

Dear Mr. Cordova,

“The Darwinist” doesn’t exist, and this terminology is nought but an ill-conceived propagandist terminology meant to polarize. It reveals a lack of depth of consideration of the overall complexity, specified no less, of the nature of biologists, which you yourself and your cohorts contend exist in your so-called subscribed scientists. It is, in simple terms, a campaign in stupidity.

Scientists, of which those that work in evolutionary sciences are definitely a component of, have a marked awe of complexity, but rather than crumble to their knees and worship the unknown as a deity, they seek to understand it by applying the known and measurements to it in seeking answers fundamental to their observations. There is no supernatural clockmaker that can be determined by science, and the use of such strawmen seeks only to “convert” (in your words, a term that only reveals creationist agendas on your part) the gullible through smoke and mirrors. The apparent rejection of the personage who forms the basis of this thread shows further a rejection of that which denies your a priori perceptions of a “designer” (rather a God in disguise).

We recognize design by simplicity not complexity.

Wonderful. So worth repeating. I’m always trying to simplify my designs. Un-needed complexity is a hassle.

Carl Hilton Jones wrote:

We recognize design by simplicity not complexity.

Right! That is the notion I argued for in my book (in chapter 2, where it is discussed in detail in connection with Behe’s IC concept). I also briefly returned to that notion in my post on PT titled Beyond Suboptimality (it can also be accessed here).

AFAIK, except for Gert Korthof, who kindly supported my thesis on his site, this seems to be the first time somebody else makes the same claim.

I suggested examples illustrating that simplicity is a possible marker of design rather than complexity (e.g. a perfectly spherical artifact found among pebbles of irregular shape). Now Carl suggests another example - the relative simplicity of the Rushmore faces as compared with natural rocks.

Nice to meet a comrade-in-arms.

The Darwinist” doesn’t exist, and this terminology is nought but an ill-conceived propagandist terminology meant to polarize. It reveals a lack of depth of consideration of the overall complexity, specified no less, of the nature of biologists, which you yourself and your cohorts contend exist in your so-called subscribed scientists. It is, in simple terms, a campaign in stupidity.

What you have to remember about Sallie is that his primary purpose in visiting this (or any other website) is not truth (his postings are always and almost always immediately demonstrated to be lies, inaccuracies, confusion, or simple misunderstandings of science), but exposure. Though it’s taken me a while to understand it, it is quite clear that what Sallie enjoys is publicity. He likes being told he’s wrong, because (lacking the ability to understand that he IS wrong) he takes it as another victory for the ‘martyrs’ of the faith.

It’s really quite interesting - from a psychological point of view. But were it not for the entertainment value he provides, there would be no point in responding to his posts, since his errors are uncorrectable and his attitude unchangeable.

I’ve repeatedly seen claims that Antony Flew became a born again Xian. Yet, at other sites it is said he merely came to believe in a species of deism (as I do, depending on what day you ask me). Does anyone have the bottom line on Flew?

We have a very fine IDist in Israel by the name of Gerald Schroeder

Just out of curiosity, what exactly makes a “very fine IDist?”

I have a pretty good clue about what makes a very fine scientist - plenty of publications, important theories, etc. But since IDists don’t really do that stuff, how can you tell a “very fine IDist” from a run-of-the-mill one?

I have a pretty good clue about what makes a very fine scientist - plenty of publications, important theories, etc. But since IDists don’t really do that stuff, how can you tell a “very fine IDist” from a run-of-the-mill one?

Easy. One who ‘converts’ a lot of people.

Sal himself gave us that hint.

Hey Paul; Hey Sal — I have some questions for both of you. You, uh, seemed to run away from them the last time I asked.

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…a knowledge of the behavior of designers…

Unpublished field work indicates certain common traits among designers-

* tendencies to make jokes & comments which others fail to understand: >66% * (ahem) idiosyncratic wardrobe choices: >75% * total caffeine dependence: >90%

Of these, life on earth shows ambiguous evidence only of the first, which has the lowest correlation with reported characteristics of designeritude. This is hardly sufficient to establish a case, but it may at least point towards direction for further research.

AR wrote: “… that centrifugal force is a real force,…”

Is it an unreal force?

So, exactly what is happening when I spin a bucket full of water on the end of a rope? How come the water doesn’t fall out?

My personal opinion of these people is the innate fear of wrongness they run from, which leads to otherwordly idealizations on their part in a way to explain what they cannot touch. So for me, this is just par for the course in dealing with Cordova and his ilk. Rather, I like trying to uncover the actual processes of thought they go through. If it helps someone else see the convolutions these people have to go through mentally in order to arrive at such a condition as a “designer” they “know exists” because something cannot possibly have occured without one (depsite no fingerprint) then perhaps my own comments will help someone, or gain notoreity and thus exposure. In which case, I cannot loose.

The DI does not argue by “inference from ignorance” in the classic sense. They are far from ignorant of the fossil and genetic data accrued in support of evolutionary theory. CHOOSING to ignore data is not ignorance, but a well-crafted ploy.

It may be a subtelty, but I’d rather classify the DI and ID supporters in general as having a willful resistance to science, born of a weakness of the mind, and a political/cultural agenda.

There is no such thing as irreducible complexity … there is only a weakness of the mind to pursue the scientific truth. And their constant referral to evolutionary biologists as “Darwinists” is simply part of their political play-book.

Biologists, paleontologists, geneticists, and more, have long beaten the DI and ID supporters and the “game” of science. The rest, as they have admitted, is politics, and that is where we must beat them next.

Jeff

*cough* Wilkins and Elsberry…

Norman Doering Wrote:

So, exactly what is happening when I spin a bucket full of water on the end of a rope? How come the water doesn’t fall out?

Encyclopedia: Centripetal force

Encyclopedia: Centripetal force Wrote:

The centripetal force is the force pulling an object toward the center of a circular path as the object goes around the circle. An object can travel in a circle only if there is a centripetal force on it.

Not to be confused with…

Encyclopedia: Centrifugal force

Encyclopedia: Centrifugal force Wrote:

Centrifugal force is a force used to describe, e.g., an object being swung around on a string, for which the object pulls on the string. In fact the person holding the string is doing the pulling.

As I recall from physics class, Centripetal Force is the actual force, while Centrifugal Force doesn’t actually exist, e.g. “In fact the person holding the string is doing the pulling.”

Joseph, you probably know this, but in case you don’t, Paul is a YEC. And he dosen’t even believe that properly interpreted science will support that position. He admits the scientific evidence points to billions of years, but believes in the young earth anyway.

Just thought you should know, before you commit yourself to arguing, that your opponent doesn’t listen to reason.

Just thought you should know, before you commit yourself to arguing, that your opponent doesn’t listen to reason.

He doesn’t answer questions, either.

hi, there is someone from God’s own country saying something good about ID and evolution together at http://sqsme.blogspot.com/ with love, shafiq

Wasn’t his book on common descent announce late 90’s by some ID proponents? Last time I checked it was still ‘pending’.

Well, if I were trying to prove that all the evidence for common descent was just an enormous bunch of coincidences, I’d be late to press too.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on September 19, 2005 12:42 PM.

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