Monday, December 18

Intelligent Design

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Intelligent Design that Actually Involves Intelligence

In the current debate as to whether the universe was produced (created) by some form of unspecified designer or if it “just happened,” the proponents of intelligent design invariably point out the complexity of many systems and structures as somehow proving that they were designed. A common example is to state that a complete collection of raw materials in the form of steel, plastics, wiring and so forth will never just come together on their own and make a car. Nor, they claim, if components are randomly assembled will it ever produce a working car. That claim, at least, is patently false. If parts are randomly assembled enough times and in enough different ways, the end result will indeed at some point be a functional car. Any claim to the contrary betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of statistical analysis and which kinds of assertions are valid. Given enough time and opportunity, any possible event, no matter how unlikely, will at some point take place.

The response by those who are not convinced by the evidence for intelligent design generally comes in the form of a mild skepticism: “Well, maybe, but I don’t think you have really proven your case.” What I want to do here is demonstrate that it is unlikely the universe is a product of intelligent design, the key word here being “intelligent.”

Some concrete examples will help to support my view that there was little intelligence involved at the beginning.

How about pi? If I designed the world I would have made pi equal to exactly 3. Never mind this 3.14159… stuff that has resulted in endless headaches for everyone from schoolboys to building and bridge designers. None of those approximate answers when it comes to determining the area or perimeter of a circle. If I get to make it the way I want then I will make pi equal 3 and millions of tasks will suddenly become easier and results will be accurate. Well, maybe there still is intelligent design. Maybe the designer just had a bad moment in coming up with the value of pi. Being intelligent does not guarantee you won’t do something stupid now and then.

Another problem is mosquitoes. I cannot see any value in them. It is true that a few bird species depend on them as a food source, but if they did not exist the birds would not have evolved to take advantage of that ecological niche because it would not exist. A remarkably stupid invention.

There is one crowning and ubiquitous feature of our world that demonstrates a complete lack of forethought in its design: the second law of thermodynamics. Who would order that? Everything falls apart. Cars and humans, solar systems and stars, entire clusters of galaxies, the universe itself. Entropy reigns supreme. It is possible, by the expenditure of energy, to achieve a local and temporary reversal of entropy. But the energy expended to attain that local and temporary stability always results in a net increase of disorder for the universe. If it all must evaporate or whatever the final denouement has to be, couldn’t things have been designed like “The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay” so everything hums along fine until it all falls apart at once? This business of a constant and ultimately losing struggle to keep things functional is a feature of our world nobody in his right mind would choose.

If this world was indeed designed, there certainly was not a high order of intelligence and beneficence involved.

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