Thursday, August 20, 2015

Intelligent Design vs intelligent design

Now I am really convinced those folks at the Discovery Institute (DI) really think their teleological argument for God, aka Intelligent Design, is the same thing as intelligent design from an architectural and engineering viewpoint.  "Methinks This Robot Has Been, Like, Weaseled into a Darwinian Tale".  The gist of this particular whine seems to be that since the robots were designed and they ended up at a pre-determined set of capabilities, that is cannot be evolution but it has to be Intelligent Design.  Of course the author uses the term 'Darwinism' to try and confuse the issue.

What the author, who is again unnamed for some strange reason, seems to forget is that no one said that the evolution exhibited by the robots in question was natural selection, but it certainly is evolution.  Humans have been evolving plants and animals for decades and centuries through breeding programs and other means designed [yes, designed] to enhance specific characteristics like heartier animals, drought and disease resistance in plant, even taste enhancements.  Many of the foods we enjoy on a daily basis are the results of years of tinkering by human beings and didn't exist just a few short decades ago -- at least not in the form they do today.  While I can hear some Creationist complaining that 'an apple is an apple', the reality is the an apple, like the Red Delicious apple which was first cultivated in the late 1800's, is not just an apple, but the product of human intervening with nature.  In fact there are over 40 different patented varieties of the Red Delicious apple, one as recent as 2004, being grown today and none of them are the product of Natural Selection.

Darwin himself used the term 'Artificial Selection' to differentiate from what was happening in nature, which he called 'Natural Selection'.  In each case the filtering was being done outside of the individual organism.  In Artificial Selection human beings making decisions and in the other it is environmental factors impacting the survival and reproductive opportunity.  In any case, it's all evolution, simply through different means.  Just to be clear, at no time is it Intelligent Design.

What the article is trying to do is support a case for something being intelligently designed must be using Intelligent Design, but nothing could be further from the truth.  As I, and many others, have stated over and over again, Intelligent Design is a movement, it's a re-telling of the old 'argument from design' used by William Paley in his famous 'Watchmaker Analogy'.  It's a political and marketing concept with some very specific goals in mind, and none of them involve actual science.  What folks like the author have to do is make their case rather than just trying to sell their ideas.  This article is an example of selling, and it's not doing a very good job.  Maybe the folks at the DI should start doing some actual science to support their idea of Intelligent Design before they start claiming all these victories, or is that too much to ask?

On the other hand intelligent design, lower-case 'i' and 'd', is something that we humans have been doing for a very long time.  It doesn't involve the invocation on a specific deity, but the application of thought, talent, and more than a little perspiration.  While some of the people who have invented many of the things we tend to take for granted today might cite 'divine inspiration', it was their intelligence, their design, their hard work that was the creative agency, not one god or another.

There is a huge difference between intelligent design and Intelligent Design and just because the same terms are used doesn't mean you can equate the two.  There is very little 'intelligent design' in 'Intelligent Design', and the DI proves it every time they post an article like this.

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