Friday, September 30, 2005

Funny Design

Here are two articles you must read about intelligent design. No, they're not deep philosophical treatises about either science or education or evolution or creation. But they're kind of funny. And they make some very good points (well, especially... no.. only the Lithwick one. But you should totally read the other one first.)

"Intelligent Design" by Paul Rudnick, from The New Yorker, 9/26/2005. It's hilarious.

Day No. 3:

“Just to make everyone happy,” said the Lord
God, “today I’m thinking oceans, for contrast.”
“It’s wet, it’s deep, yet it’s frothy; it’s design without dogma,” said Buddha, approvingly.

“Now, there’s movement,” agreed Allah. “It’s not just ‘Hi, I’m
a planet—no splashing.’ ”

“But are those ice caps?” inquired Thor. “Is this a coherent vision, or a highball?”

“I can do ice caps if I want to,” sniffed the Lord God.

“It’s about a mood,” said the Angel Moroni, supportively.

“Thank you,” said the Lord God.

Also, Dahlia Lithwick's "Mind the Gaps" over on Slate.

But the critics are missing the beauty of this new theory. Because the really great thing about intelligent design is that it takes all the awkward uncertainty out of science. It says, "You know those damn theoretical gaps and conundrums that send microbiology graduate students into dank basement laboratories at 3 a.m.? They don't need to be resolved at all. Go back to bed, sleepy little grad students. God fills those gaps."

Let's face it: The problem with science has always been that each new discovery unleashes thousands of new questions and ambiguities. So really, the more we discover new stuff, the stupider we get. Clearly, that isn't working. ID says we shouldn't bother ourselves with resolving scientific inconsistencies or untangling puzzles. We should recognize that what God really wants is for us just to stop learning.


Anonymous said...

What good point did you get out of Lithwick's article? There is some well thought out, informed criticism of Intelligent Design and this article seemed to miss on both points.


Anonymous said...

Ok, after scrolling back up the page I realize you had said that these weren't deep philosophical treatises, so realizing that it wasn't meant to be a true criticism of Intelligent Design, I'll just stick to the original question, what good point does that article make?


Jennifer said...

Hey Travis! Thanks for responding :-)

There are very good scientific arguments to oppose ID, and you're right that this isn't one of them. This is more of a logical argument.

The main thrust of ID says, "ok, sure, we acknowledge that the scientific record proves that evolution occured. But we can't explain exactly what happened [here] so God/A Designer must have done it."

For instance, as Lithwick points out, there are a lot of things that science cannot currently explain. There were a lot of things that science couldn't explain ten years ago but can now.

Essentially, ID is an "argument from ignorance" or an "argumentum ad ignorantiam," which is not to say that ID adherents are ignorant, but that they are committing a logical fallacy wherein people claim that because we can't explain so-and-so, it can't be true. "I find it hard to imagine a way in which a thousand-ton piece of metal could fly through the air. Therefore, airplanes will never work."

That's simply poor science and poorer logic. If we want to believe that God created the universe, to me, it makes more sense not to have this "God of the gaps" approach but to look to science. It reminds me of that quote from Galileo: "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

I hope I made her point somewhat clearer.

Also, I might add that when people call ID a "theory," that is technically wrong. It's not empirically testable, it can't be falsified, and it has no predictive power.