Unintelligent Design

Important: Note that I did not delete any of the "deleted" posts. The author of the posts chose to do that. So long as the commentary is honest and deliberate, I will not delete posts. Only when the commentary is abusive or clearly "trollish" will I do so.

(Note that I've sourced a bunch of the stuff here, but it's getting late and trying to source all of it is becoming too tedious. If you don't believe what I'm writing, look it up for yourself. Also, though I take some digs at Christians, those are primarily aimed at Christians who are using lies to spread their beliefs.)

First, some people tried forcing our children to learn creationism in lieu of evolution. Because that's clearly a religious belief, our courts threw that out.

Then, some people tried forcing our children to learn "creation science" alongside evolution. Because that's clearly a religious belief, our courts threw that out. (Hint: if it has the word "science" in the name, it probably isn't).

Now these people are trying to force our children to learn "intelligent design". They keep trying to force their religious beliefs on others. The courts keep shutting them down, but since they have no respect for the First Amendment of the US Constitution, they don't care. They're sitting in court lying their asses off as if somehow God won't mind deceipt in his name.

Their first assault on science lies in claiming that evolution is "just a theory". There are plenty of flaws with ID, but let's start with the "just a theory" part. What the Christians pushing "intelligent design" (ID) want us to think is that "theory" more or less means "guess". It doesn't.

A theory, in this context, is set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.

In other words, we can say "theory" when scientists identify some phenomena in the natural world and and have a generally accepted way of explaining it. This isn't to say that they believe their knowledge to be complete or infallible. It says that scientists are reasonably convinced that they have the basic knowledge correct. For example, you never hear the ID folks attacking the germ theory of disease. Also, few researchers deny the theory of global warming. The dispute there is over the causes of global warming.

Of course, the Christians like to point out that it used to be believed that the Earth was the center of the universe (and Christians put Gallileo under house arrest for the rest of his life for learning the truth), that the world was flat (this belief wasn't as widespread as is commonly believed), Newtonian physics could explain the workings of the universe (Einstein delivered the killing stroke on that one) and many other "theories" have since been disproven. But that's the beauty of science. We make mistakes, we learn from them and we move on. The ID folks, on the other hand, rather than presenting a compelling case that evolutionary theory is wrong, simply assert that it is. The "bad science" they like to point to are typically theories which have been overturned by compelling cases. Scientists are humans and they often don't like to admit they're wrong, but sooner or later, the truth wins out and new theories are born. These new theories explain what we observe around us.

The word the Christians are actually looking for is hypothesis. A hypothesis is a tentative explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation. A hypothesis doesn't necessarily explain what we observe around us. It's an educated guess which might explain what we observe and, if it does, it might become a new theory. In the scientific world, a hypothesis has much less importance than a theory, but there are few credible scientists involved in evolution research who would call evolution a "hypothesis". Thus, the Christians can't really be honest about what they're saying so they're take advantage of the fact that most folks don't really know what a scientific theory is.

However, we can back up for a moment. Since evolution is a theory, it follows that scientists don't dispute that evolution is occurring. Is there any controversy here in the scientific world? Of course there is! There's all sorts of debate about niggling aspects of the theory but the well-established fact of evolution itself could not be tossed out without tossing out much of the work of geology, paleontology, zoology, botany, comparative anatomy, molecular biology, population studies, genetics, biogeography and so on (list thoughtfully stolen from the book "Science Friction"). In fact, the ID folks don't quite say that evolution doesn't happen; there's too much evidence that it does. Instead, they claim that it's "guided" or "instigated" by an intelligence. Life, they claim, is too complicated and shows too much evidence of design (such as our appendix or poorly designed eyes, I suppose) for there to have not been an intelligence behind it. In other words, they're trying to present an alternate hypothesis to justify the theory of evolution. There are, however, some problems.

For a hyphothesis to be validated, it must be falsifiable and testable. It's also helpful if it makes predictions. Current evolution theories fit these criteria (don't bug me about it, read the literature if you doubt it. Those who claim that these criteria aren't met are saying "I really don't know anything about evolution"). ID does not fit these criteria. It's not falsifiable because it's not possible to construct a counter example in which ID can't slip into a gap. It's not testable because the ID people themselves say the "intelligence" is beyond the purview of science. It doesn't make predictions for the previous two reasons.

But what is that intelligence?

Ah, that's where they get stuck. It's a "no fault" eviction.

In the state of Oregon we used to have a law (perhaps we still do) which stated that a tenant could receive a "no fault" eviction from a landlord and have 30 days to vacate the premises. No reason has to be cited -- nor could it be. If the tenant challenged the eviction and the landlord showed up in court and accidentally confessed that other tenants were complaining about the noise, it would no longer a "no fault" eviction and the eviction order would be vacated. The landlord has to keep his mouth shut.

If the ID folks admit in court that the "intelligence" is God, ID will get tossed out at as the unconstitutional violation of separation of church and state which it clearly is. (You can also check out They have many references to "creationism", thus being one of many ID web sites betraying their origins). If you paid attention to the recent court case about this, you'd discover that the folks supporting ID would repeatedly assert that since ID is a science, they really can't comment on the nature of the guiding intelligence. Really? Why the hell not? Don't they have theories? There's nothing in science which says you can't speculate. After all, where do you think hypotheses come from? Are they spontaneously generated? No, they're not, but if they ID folks do what scientists do and question everything, they might make the mistake of being honest about what they think ID is and they'll get evicted from the class rooms.

In reality, if you read the ID literature, there's a fair amount of debate about precisely when the intelligence kicks in. Some think He, ahem, some vague intelligence, started it all and sat back. Others claim that the vague intelligence steps in every once in a while when things need to get done. They're really not sure. It's like listening to kids argue whether Batman or Spiderman is stronger. The major thread they've seized on is when scientists disagree about an aspect of evolutionary theory or if there's something scientists can't explain, there must be the vague intelligence involved. This "knowledge from ignorance" approach is better known as the God of the Gaps argument which can be summed up as "I don't know the answer so it must be God".

Instead of searching for truth, they hide or obscure it. They like to talk about the weak anthropic principle but they don't like to talk about multiverse hypotheses which would negate the need for an intelligence. They cite bacterial flagellum and eyes as examples of "irreducible complexity" despite fairly clear evidence of the reducibility of each -- thus they prey on our scientific illiteracy. Perhaps the worst, though, is that they claim to be honest scientists when what they're really doing is lying in God's name.

Of course, there are still those who are attracted to alternative explanations because they mistrust science. Here's a reality check kids: science is not bad or evil. People are often bad or evil but science isn't. Science does not want to be anthropomorphized. Science isn't threatening your God because as the late Pope John Paul pointed out in his defense of evolution, truth cannot contradict truth.
  • Current Mood: thoughtful thoughtful
Thank you.

I think the best creationists should get is a chapter at the beginning of every science textbook laying out how science works. It should explain that the only things science can offer are theories that fit the evidence thus far; that theories are constantly being tested and refined, and occasionally discarded entirely; and that any theory could be disproven, but most of the major ones are almost certainly more or less correct. It avoids promoting creationist drivel while highlighting and explaining the valid point that scientists may be wrong. It need not even mention evolution.

This would also put the common (i.e. retaught every single year) explanation of the scientific method into its proper place. My sister (despite several years of public-school science education) didn't understand why a hypothesis is needed. ("Why do you have to make a guess? Why don't you just try the experiment and see what happens?") Once I explained that the hypothesis is usually chosen to fit a theory the experimenter is testing, it made a lot more sense to her.
That wouldn't help.

ID proponents would only read the line about disproving, not the rest.

They've already proven that they are able to ignore whatever doesn't fit their view of the world, so why should they care about what's written in a book they only consider nonsense anyway?

Some boneheads believe the world was created only a few thousand years ago(according to the Bible) and refuse to believe ANY evidence suggesting othervise. I had a long argument about C14 dating and tree-ring dating.
These systems gives very similar results for as far back as we have tree-ring samples in Europe(I believe that goes back almost a millennia for some regions).
Every time I mentioned anything that had been dated to before the world was created(according to the Bible) he would either refuse to comment or claim tha God had had a purpose for making it look older, and that we mortals couldn't possibly comprehend it...

A God who undermines the teachings of his own faith?
Yeah, I had real trouble comprehending it.

Now I only wish that it was possible to add a reason when you block someone in MSN...
'Connection refused: You're a bonehead'
This article may be enlightening to those boneheads, about how even hundreds of years ago, it was accepted that the "6 days" were not actually six days in length.
I'll try to read the article in full later(Only scanned the beginning just now), but if the author is as levelheaded and thorough all the way, he's probably slated to be burned at the stake by at least seven or eight of the more 'traditional' of the bible-chewing groups...
Which means that most of those who would benefit from the article will shun it outright.

ID proponents would only read the line about disproving, not the rest.
Probably so, because they're determined to ignore the evidence. Meanwhie, the kids who just aren't sure will read the chapter in full and learn the lesson, which immunizes them against the claim that evolution is "just a theory".
Re: Hey there!
How would you feel about reposting the relevant portions in response to this comment? I'd be interested in reading an intelligent summation from the creation point of view.
Re: Hey there!
I'll just poke holes in two or three points...

1. We don't have a complete set of bones for all types of animals, so there's no proving OR disproving the transitions from species to species. What we DO have is several versions of different types of animals which have parts that looks like they belonged on species that lived before or after them. And no, you won't find any animals with incomplete bones or organs as they would not be able to survive out of their mother's womb, or the egg, or whatever. Change must therefore be almost imperceptible between generations, so there's no real way of telling what is a 'final' stage and what is a transitional stage when working with fossils.

2. Where is the proof that civilisation appeared at the same time as man?
And btw. man appeared a lot longer ago than 6000 years... And don't bother with the 'There are only records 6000 years old' as that requires the concept of a written language, something which many primitive cultures STILL LIVING on Earth doesn't have...

3. Mutations?
What is considered a mutation and what isn't?
I belive the definition is something like 'a change in the genetic code of a species, which is not found in the normal variation of that species', right?
Nowhere does it say anything about beneficial.
(We'll assume that the change isn't negative as most animals at least won't survive to give birth of a new generation if that's the case)
Did you know that about 10% of the human race is lefthanded?
And that there's no real good explanation for it?
That means the Righthand side of the brain is in charge.
Benny Borg(Tennis player)
Leonardi DaVinci (Allround genious)
Are all lefthanded...
With lefthandedness comes better spatial awareness. Some architects can design a high-rise in their head and only have to draw on paper whatever the construction-crew is to build next...
(I can't draw anything like that, but on the other hand I've NEVER gotten lost in a strange city or a forrest... )

Now, the question is, are lefthanded a mutation?
Or maybe the righthanded ones are?
(All may have been lefthanded back when we swung from tree to tree... )
Or maybe everyone were Ambidextrous?

And finally...
Proof that ID have something going for it...
The Duckbilled Platypus.
(A mammal with a beak, webbed feet and the most painful poison in the world)
The only reasonable explanation for that creature is a creator who has just smoked another of his creations... :-)

Feel free to post links to material that substantiates any of your points. I would really like to see them.
(No, wikipedia doesn''t cut it. Too many loonies writing articles there)
Re: Hey there!
just so you know, i don't want to start anything here either, but in physical/genetic scientific terms, variation and mutation are, in fact, quite interchangable. =/ maybe that's where a lot of the meeming differences in the arguements presented here are coming from, different ideas about the meanings of certain words. i think this is fairly common in debates, if you haven't come to an agreement about the meanings of the terms involved, the actual arguements get lost in the word jumble =)
Re: Hey there!
After all, just as nothing publius_ovidius, you, or anybody else could say will change my mind about what I believe ...

Even if it's true? I'm not saying that it is, but I've had my views change constantly over the years (I even used to be a Christian). To me, once we stop seeking the truth, it's time to lay down and die.
Re: Hey there!
oh my, thank you so much for this response, as i responded in similar kind further down and you've mentioned things i neglected about the holes in this chart. mutations are common in all species, it's just a question of which mutations survive and which don't. that's a huge basis for evolutionary theory. good mutations stay and often times utate further, becoming evolution. bad mutations die out because the have too. if it doesn't help you survive, it helps you die, unless it doesn't effect anything at all, then you just end up with a new species, no better or worse then the one it was born of.

and i really hope that if there is a creator, it does take advantage of it's 'other' creations, otherwise, being a creator would be all work and no play, and then the creator would be a dull boy =P
Re: Hey there!
I'm aware that you've said you won't debate things, but I hate to see easily refutable points left to stand without a response. So, I hope you read, even if you don't respond.

Essentially, I'd say you've got a lot of misconceptions about evolution, and a lot of misleading-by-omission statements. Here we go:

Life comes only from previous life

Right off the bat, you've got a major misconception of evolution. The Theory of Evolution says nothing about the original origin of life. There is no scientific consensus on the mechanism for the original rise of life. Evolution deals with the creation of new species, which is entirely different.

no way to form complex genetic code by chance

The same would apply to any Creator. Saying "God always existed" doesn't fix this, because if God can exist outside the known rules of this system, so can the Universe.

sudden appearance of complex life in great variety

Presumably, you're talking about the Cambrian Explosion. The explosion was not that sudden, though ID sites will tell you it was - it was 13 million years. That's a long time for evolution to work.

each new kind separate from previous kinds; no linking forms

There are most certainly "linking forms". The fossils we've found are separate because of the fact that for every organism that gets fossilized, untold billions are not. A billion years from today, do you expect every body in our graveyards to be still around and near the surface to be dug up? Hell, we have difficulties finding stuff a couple hundred years old when we know where to look!

no incompletely formed bones or organs

Again, you're demonstrating misconceptions about evolution. Organs don't spring up from nothing in one generation, so you don't get mistakes like a half a lung. You do, however, get a spectrum going from eye spots on worms to the more complex eyes of humans.

Small mutations harmful, large ones lethal; never result in anything new

Tell that to drug-resistant bacteria!

Civilization appears with man

Of course it does. No other animal on earth attained the intelligence to do it.

Language contemporaneous with man

No, it's not. Humpback whales sing songs. We just discovered that mice do too. Dolphins use language, as well.

ancient ones often more complex than modern

Which ones, and in what way are they more complex? Chinese is more complex than English, but that's hardly evidence for its superiority.

Oldest written records date back only about 5,000 years

Well, if you discount 40,000 year old cave paintings and the like, sure.

Each could multiply in great variety within its own "kind," but could not cross the boundary separating different kinds.

That's one of the criteria for a species - reproductive isolation. Thus, this point is circular reasoning - if they could cross the boundary, they'd no longer be reproductively isolated.
Re: Hey there!
There are a few other problems with the "life only comes from previous life" argument.

First, it assumes what it's trying to prove and that's a fundamentally dishonest argument.

Second, we have a paradox. What is the "Intelligent Designer"? If it's alive, than by the "life from life" argument, something must have begat the Designer and we have infinite recursion. If the designer is not alive, then it cannot have created life.

What the argument should say is "we've only seen life be created by other life". The implication is that since we've not seen life arise spontaneously, this doesn't happen. However, the "we haven't seen it so it doesn't exist" argument has rather draconian implications for the existence of the Designer itself :) Further, it hardly bears repeating that just because we haven't seen something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The ID folks get painted into a corner if they follow this line of reasoning as it doesn't negate the idea of a Designer but also doesn't require said Designer.
Re: Hey there!
Actually, as found in the real world, the basis for life can and does spring from non living things. There have been many very scientific experiments done over the last 50+ years which show just that. Here's an example.
Re: Hey there!
Hmm, interesting reading. I feel terribly conflicted. I realize that you probably don't want to repost that here but chart you reproduce has many factual and logical errors. I can't repost that here as that would be exposing part of your journal entry and I'm loathe to be viewed as "attacking" you in your own journal.
Re: Hey there!
No, I don't mind at all. I'm only concerned that you might be offended by the strength of the responses.
Re: Hey there!
Regarding free will: I've always thought that if God didn't want us to have free will, he wouldn't have put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden. By putting it there and giving us choice, he's shown us what his greatest gift is.

Er, or at least that's what I would believe if I were a Christian ":)
Feh. Nice how they chunk out things like that and hawk them on right wing sites. I'm sure their readers never notice a correlation.
my response: part 1
damn lj rules on comment length =P

first, thank you, and i have to agree about your take on theory and and the role of science in testing these theories, and the role of science and religion in the classroom. your post has been a breath of fresh air. =)

but you know, this science versus religion (or spirituality, as christianity has taken so much of itself from older forms af worship) argument is always a bit confusing to me. not the theories or the arguements themselves. i understand the theories, i understand the difference between theory and hypothesis, and i understand the spiritual aspects of it. what i don't understand is the mutual exclusivitity of science and religion. why the battle? i believe in evolution, i love science, i think science uncovers a lot of amazing truths from the soup of illusion that we are born into. but i also believe in a higher power and a spiritual aspect to the universe, and that spirituality can uncover many truths from the emotional and metaphysical soup of our souls. i think these two institutions could easily work hand in hand to link the physical and spiritual and make us more complete as a species, and therefore nurturing our growth and evolution as a whole. i think if we want to truly ascend, we have to accept that logic exclusive of spirit or spirit exclusive of logic are both steps backward in our thinking, in my oppinion, anyway. for example, in the creation idea (sorry, can't bring myself to call it a theory, or even a hypothesis) the characters of adam and eve are the first human beings, begetting all people who come after them. recently, science has shown through mitochondrial dna with women and the y chromosome with men, that we are in fact decendants of one women and one man, though not entirely concurent with eachother, as the male line seems to go back further than the female line, from many generations ago. it's not that these two were the only people alive on the planet, but the dna of other people living at the time died out at some point along the way and that the children of scientific adam and mitochondrial eve are the only survivors. the current hypothesis is that these were among the earliest people to think and speak as we do, so they were more genetically strong in the long run, and it's also interesting that adam was created first, just as the male genetic line is a bit older. there are many other example in science where scientific theory and religious mythology are beginning to tell the same stories. i really wonder what the future will show about the nterconnectedness of science and religion, whether or not the universe is chosing many different ways to eventually teach us about itself.

Re: my response: part 1
Just to be clear, my issue is not with religion or spirituality. Perhaps there is crossover. Perhaps there isn't. However, I have a huge problem with the incredible intellectual dishonesty of the ID movement. Somehow, if the Christian God exists, I doubt that he appreciates people being deceptive in His name.
my response: part 2
though i do have to add that i don't completely agree with the chart that posted earlier by mama_bear_susu. i wonder where the "facts as found" portion of the chart came from, as i don't think that these are really what the fossil record is showing. i've studied these topics for a lot of years, and what she has written in this column of the chart seem very simplistic and not entirely accurate. just because a written language only developed 5,000 years ago, fossils have shown that we've had the power of speach and language for over 100,000 years. and yes, many languages thousands of years ago are more complex, it doesn't say anything our evolution on a physical level, but on a cultural one. there is a big difference between physical and cultural evolution, so much so in fact, that they are completely different fields of study. also, the first life wasn't in complex genetic codes, it was in the form of incredibly simple single celled organisms. and, really, civilization was fairly slow in coming, and cave dwellers were only contemporary with civilizaion during the transition from hunter gatherer groups to an aggricultural lifestyle, and other points of contemtemporary cave dwelling and civilization arise from the expanse of land that these new ideas had to travel before reaching the far corners of the world. again, this is a case of cultural/social evolution, and not evolution in the physical sense, which is the arguement when it comes to creation vs evolution. i'm sorry if i seem be being hard on the previous poster, but i study both religion and science constantly, and i feel that perhaps if she looked a bit closer and more deeply at science involved and it's progress through time and why the the theories are what they are, the chart might end up being a bit more accurate. like you said, scientific illiteracy. it's a damaging thing that slows our evolution.

as for whether or not religion should be taught in school, i agree that it has no place in the classroom. evolution is a strong theory and there are many records etc to show that. lets teach our children what we can see and hear and touch in the classroom and leave the realm of the unknown to parents and the childrem themselves. if we all agreed on our spirituality, then maybe it would work, but how do you teach someone what to believe spiritually without sacrificing that persons right to free will? for internal questions like this, it's a deeply personal thing and shouldn't be contaminated by outside propaganda. that's my take on the sbject. hope i didn't piss too many people off =/
Our design seems rather unintelligent. Disease, cancer....acne. Pretty flawed, if you ask me.

Therefore, I submit that we remove the word "Intelligent" from the debate. We are merely the result of "design".

We probably started as a UML diagram...
too intelligent to be understood
That is a very good explanation for those intelligent enough
to suspect intelligent design is flawed,
but too intelligent to make actual believers wonder if intelligent design might be flawed.