Re: NTSE #11

Gene Dunbar Godbold (gdg4n@avery.med.virginia.edu)
Wed, 19 Mar 1997 21:58:24 -0500 (EST)

According to Pim van Meurs:

Discussion of how the possiblity of an intelligent designer can be
dismissed by noting "flaws" in creatures:

> >PM>True, which is why appeal to a supernatural force has little
> >scientific value. Because any flaw can be explained as "we do not
> >understand what the designer had in mind".
>
> Steve: The point is that it cannot be claimed to be a "flaw". We may
> *think* its a "flaw", but that may be due to our limited understanding:
>
> Possibly but that is perhaps too easy an explanation ? Everything we
> cannot explain or which appears contradictory can always be explained as
> "we don't know god's will and intentions" ? That is not science since it
> lacks the basics of science, predictability and refutability.

I'm wondering with Mr. Jones how a flaw can be deduced in a creature. It
seems perfectly reasonable to ask someone who postulates that an organism
is flawed from what perspective they are judging the flaw: aesthetics?
("It's ugly, I don't like it.") utility? ("It would be more efficient if
it killed its food with a stinger") It sounds like a bogus critique to
me--the sort of handwaving that would be called out of court in any
refereed journal. The critic must assume *he* knows a lot more than he
can possibly know. Perhaps the explanation is easy because the argument
is silly.

> Steve: In any event, there is no reason why there cannot be a scientfic
> theory of Intelligent Design, even if the design were freely admitted
> (for the sake of argument) to be flawed, by an ideal engineering
> standard. Design that is flawed is still design. Metaphysical
> naturalists must show that there is *NO* design.
>
> On the contrary, you are the one claiming not only 'design' but
> intelligent design. Naturalists can show how this apparant design can be
> the result of random change and natural selection. The idea that
> complexity requires a designer and even more an intelligent designer
> requires proof.

I think it is harder to prove the universal negative proposition that
there *isn't* an intelligent designer, especially by an argument that
amounts to no more than: "Well, if *I* were God, I'd have done it
differently..."

At the same time, I am not sure how you can test the idea that organisms
are intelligently designed. Other than that they are understandable using
our intelligence.

> "These are good examples of the subjectivity of argument from
> imperfection. Darwin actually though the first of these, the "eyes
> of the flaunder" that "move all over the body" (actually one
> eye moves a short distance around the head), were regarded by Darwin
> as an advantageous adaptation which stops the lower eye being abraded
> and helps the fish feed and avoid enemies:"
>
> You don't understand what I am saying here. Why is the flaunder born with
> eyes on both sides and then the eye moves to the top ? I do understand
> that the flaunder presents an excellent example of evolution in action but
> I also believe that it shows some poor design if an intelligent designer
> were involved.

Sir, to make this claim, you must have a definite idea of what a "better"
design would be judging by an essentially subjective criteria (or
critter-ia since we're talking about a flounder and I'm from the American
South) Would you make the flounder a better predator? Prettier? Better
able to digest its food? Or just see better? Changing any of these
things will have consequences for either the health of the
flounder or the health of its prey. Either one is likely to derange the
ecosystem the beast currently inhabits as I'm sure you know better than I.
Are you sure that God (supposing there is one) doesn't like the lowly
flounder as it is? I personally love the flounder and wouldn't want him
changed one bit. There are few people I could say as much about.

> "As for "the urinary tract" going "through the prostate gland of men",
> Darwinists presumably must think this must have a selective
> advantage, otherwise it would not have remained such a dominant
> feature in all mammals apart from the monotremes and the beaver."
>
> This is not true. It could also be that no mutation has taken place to
> allow for selection or that such change is beyond the realm ? That
> something is a major feature in animals does not mean it is the best
> solution, just the best of those
> available. But for an intelligent designer there is the choice to reroute
> this
> problem area.

Again, do you know enough about the cell and developmental biology to say
that rerouting this problem area wouldn't have drastic consequences on the
health of the organism? I just sat through a (mostly boring) lecture on
prostate cancer and how the epithelial tissue of the prostate needs the
surrounding tissues to differentiate into the prostate. You must be quite
well versed in the fields that pertain to this area--more well versed than
anybody living in fact--to make such a claim. Developmental biology is
pretty far along for such organisms as C. elegans and Drosophila and such,
but not nearly well enough advanced for you to make claims like this about
higher organisms.

> "An Intelligent Design theorist would just argue that this was part of
> the mammalian body-plan and there were good reasons why it was
> designed that way."
>
> And the reason is ? Have you ever looked at the route the urinary tract
> makes in males ? Looks like a plumber gone haywire.

So you don't suppose that we'll figure out why the tract does this
(rather, why it couldn't be otherwise)? Is this an unbelief of the gaps?

> Why would a designer design a whale with hind legs ? Why would a designer
> design Or whale embryos growing teeth which then 'disappear' ? There are
> plenty of examples.

Gosh, you aren't just an expert on prostates and flounder eyes, your
knowledge extends to the inner workings and necessities of the
developmental biology of marine mammals, too! Maybe I should be
worshiping you!

> I am confused that a supernatural, all powerful being could not design
> more properly ?

Perhaps the confusion comes from the fact that none of us are in a
position from which we can judge the whole of creation in such a manner as
would allow us to call any particular organism "flawed". Whether we
believe in the God of the Bible or not.

Regards,
Gene

-- 
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Gene D. Godbold, Ph.D.                     Lab:  804 924-5167
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