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ID and Suboptimal Design

William Dembski has put up a paper entitled Intelligent Design is not Optimal Design, which purports to counter the argument from suboptimal design (e.g., “Why would Godan intelligent designer wire human retinas backward, when he had done a better job with octopodes?” or “Why is the panda’s thumb such a kludge? Why not use the same thumb design as in humans?”). His conclusion:

This is a fallen world. The good that God initially intended is no longer fully in evidence. Much has been perverted. Dysteleology, the perversion of design in nature, is a reality. It is evident all around us.

I’ve added a section about this to the notes on the Frequently Asked But Never Answered Questions About Intelligent Design.

(Thanks to Uncommon Descent for the pointer.)

8 thoughts on “ID and Suboptimal Design

  1. Oh, this beats everything from Dembske that I’ve read so far. This piece was too funny for words.
    “The Intelligent Design sometimes acts stupid! But when scientists point out stupid design, they are leaving science
    behind and are venturing into theology. And my scientific explanation for stupid design by an Intelligent Designer
    is–that this is a fallen world!” I didn’t know Dembske was actually a comedian. He’s finally stumbled on some funny
    material–made me laugh out loud. Lose the soft-shoe, but develop this act, Dembske–you’ve got a night job.

  2. Huh?

    ID: “the world is too perfect to have evolved!”
    Science: “But the world is imperfect!”
    ID: “Exactly!”
    Scientist walks into the other room and blows his head off.

    Can we just ignore these people yet?

  3. Troy:
    Are you saying the creationsts’ plan is to irradiate scientists with stupidons until they all commit suicide? I hope it doesn’t work.

  4. I personally think that ID needs to be stomped out like the junk science that it is. Sure, you could say it could be taught in a phiolosophy class or a religious studies class, but the problem that I see is that Creationism and ID are inherently harmful some peoples understanding of science. Not only can ID and Creationism not stand up to the rigors of science, but it also is responsible for spreading falsehoods and misconceptions about Darwinian evolution, the laws of physics and even the scientific method itself. People can beleive it all they want, but it shouldn’t be taught (except maybe in a church or something).

  5. Jenna,

    but it shouldn’t be taught

    I have to disagree. It’s fine fodder for, say, mythological studies. Since that’s what it is.

  6. It’s fine fodder for, say, mythological studies.

    It could also be taught alongside astrology, phrenology, and numerology in a critical-thinking class, as an example of pseudoscience.

  7. It gets better, when he says

    “Mutation and section do operate in natural history to adapt organisms to their environments.”

    So anything badly sub-optimal (Panda’s thumb being the specific example) is not designed, and hence can be explained away!

    Some posters act as if we can never win this argument, but examples like the paper cited are good proof that we evolutionists are winning, and winning well.

    First the deniers refused to accept the earth was old. The proportion of new-earthers is down to trivial levels now, and most kids think they are idiots, even if they accept some form of intelligent design.

    Then they denied evolution completely. Now, as we see above and elsewhere, they accept evolution has happened in modern times, and only deny that it happened previously.

    Then they denied that creatures were not perfect. Now, apparently, they accept that some creatures are not perfect. That intelligent design is not optimal design.

    Slowly but surely the creationists are falling apart. Those like Dembski are in a radically different position from those of the new-earth ilk. Despite their assertions that evolutionists can’t agree on anything, they have only one belief in common (God did it).

    We can use this to our advantage: instead of citing evolutionary arguments against them, cite their own competing nonsense back on them. Get them to admit that other ID advocates are wrong. When they admit that evolution can occur, we can hammer this to the exclusion of other points (in the same way they pick at what they perceive as weak points) and get them to admit it, time and again.

  8. Mark P:
    At one point, there was a site dedicated to doing what you talk about: it would present a creationist argument, followed by another creationist argument that refutes the first one.

    E.g., one would say that the reason we can see distant galaxies is that the speed of light used to be millions of times faster 6000 years ago when the universe was created. This would be followed by another creationist arguing that the universe must be fine-tuned because if the speed of light were any different by a fraction of a percent, matter couldn’t exist.

    As for the god of the ever-shrinking gaps, I like to imagine a discussion in the future, in which the creationist says something like “ah, but your theory doesn’t explain the asymmetry of beta-pion decay in strong nuclear interactions during the first picosecond of the Big Bang! Therefore, God must have done it!”

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