Here I shall argue that intelligent design is an inadequate attempt to explain biological structures. To do this, the nature of design must be considered; this means considering the designers (in decreasing order of intelligence):

  • Unique, all powerful designer
    God in other words. Although all seeing and all powerful, this designer is faced with some difficult design descisions. Create everything at once, and let the system run - or start from scratch and intervene at key moments. Allow species and individuals to kill each other (potentially risking their own lives) or remove their free will. Should the bacteria have free will?

  • Open source, mortal and distributed designers
    Not a popular candidate theory for creation. Imagine, though, many designers making individual decisions about specific areas. Like in Time Bandits, where the dwarves make the details (like shrubbery). Multiple contributions to the project mean occasional clashes of design (not just the colours, mind).

  • Stupid self-design
    Each organism designs itself. Descisions are made partly at random and sucessful designs are kept. Bad attempts are just thrown away - they die. Conflicts between designers are resolved in a similar fashion, but co-operation and hybrid designs are often helpful.

As you can see, as the design decisions are made more and more by the individuals - even though they cannot see "the whole picture" - the task becomes easier. Of course, the all-powerful designer presumably has no trouble with any task. Assuming the existence of this intelligent designer is unecessary, however, since stupid (self) design works just as well*.

How does stupid design account for irreducibly complex structures? It doesn't - they are reducible. That they appear not to be (to us, semi-intelligent mortals) is of no consequence to the stupid designers. If it can be modified, it will be; if it doesn't work, it's lost.


*To put it another way, an all-powerful designer could simply set everything in motion, allowing the system to design itself.

On November 5, 2006, TheScienceNetwork hosted a series of lectures  in a meeting called Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival. Among the lecturers was science rockstar Neil deGrasse Tyson (also known as "that guy from the new Cosmos series"). during his lecture, Dr deGrasse Tyson argued against the validity of the Intelligent Design Theory with a series of counter-examples that he called the "Stupid Design Theory".

He argues that the universe cannot possibly be the result of a Designer (or, if it was, that it is not nearly as intelligent as some assume it to be). These counter-examples are divided in three big areas (I'm paraphrasing from his presentation):

 

  1. The Universe is not really suited for life, Earth is an oddity and not the rule:
    1. Most planetary orbits are unstable
    2. Star formation is very inefficient (deGrasse quotes that < 3% of a gas cloud actually makes a star)
    3. In the massive majority of the universe, life as we know it can't exist due to low (near-0 k) or high (above 373 Kelvin) temperatures and several sources of fatal radiation.
    4. Our orbit around the galaxy brings us constantly closer to a supernova. I haven't checked, but I'm sure most scientists would tell you to stay clear of supernovae if you can.
    5. Our galaxy will collide with a the neighbor galaxy known as Andromeda. The forecast is not very promising for everything living on Earth.
    6. The universe seems to be constantly expanding and there's a good chance that it will keep on expanding. This will lead to what is known as the Heat Death of the Universe which would mean no more nuclear fusion in stars, no more useful energy and no more Pop-Tarts for breakfast, forever. 
  2. The Earth has lots of hazards for humans:
    1. Earthquakes and volcanoes (paraphrasing this MtG card: where do you run when the Earth becomes your enemy?)
    2. Tsunamis, a side effect of tectonic plates performing frottage on each other, make literal walls of water that hit almost literally like concrete.
    3. Natural phenomena such as floods, tornadoes and hurricanes tend to be pretty destructive for humans and their particular environment.
    4. Roughly 2/3rds of the planet's surface is water, which is a shitty substrate to build on. We can't live there
    5. A good deal of the solid surface of the Earth has extreme temperatures and little to no food for us (the Arctic/Antarctic poles and deserts, mostly)
    6. We've gone through several massive extinction events. Massive with a capital M. As in, ~98% of every species that has ever lived is no longer here. This is, in part, because we're very close to a ring made of giant rocks that can potentially fall off the sky and hit you on your head really, really hard.
  3. The Human Body
    1. There are lots of diseases and conditions that are incredibly aggresive towards humans and are not human-induced. Examples include Childhood Leukemia, hemophilia, sclerosis, Epilepsy, et cetera.
    2. The human eye, even though it's praised by supporters of ID, is blind to most of the Electromagnetic spectrum
    3. The process of aging that leads to some irreversible changes: vision loss, tooth decay, multiple cancers...
    4. The respiratory process is incredibly inefficient in terms of Oxygen consumption.
    5. "Warm blooded" organisms like ourselves must eat constantly, compared to Crocodiles.
    6. Our senses can't detect several sources of harm, like ionizing radiation, magnetic fields and potentially lethal gases like Carbon monoxide, Carbon dioxide and Methane

 

The full session can be found at thesciencenetwork.org and the edited video, source of this writeup is on YouTube.

The discussion of whether this (counter-)argument is valid or not and its reasons are left as an exercise to the reader.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.