Monday, February 27, 2017

There is a Difference Between designing intelligently and Intelligent Design

Sarah Chaffee, one of the Discovery Institute's (DI) talking heads doesn't seem to understand several things.  First she claims biologists disregard function, then just because you use intelligence to design something doesn't mean you are using 'Intelligent Design, and finally when she misrepresents these things, she undermines her own arguments.  You can check out Sarah's most recent post: "Happy Engineers Week -- Let's Remember Intelligence Is at the Heart of It All".  

She starts with this:
"As we've observed in the past, engineering and medicine differ from evolutionary biology in that they focus on how things work. Evolutionists can seem at times to disregard function, but doctors and engineers never can."
Really, biologists disregard function?  Not in any biology class I have taken nor in any biology book I have read.  Function is an integral part of biology and evolution, the reality is that biologists are not restricted to one function.  Let me give you an example, Michael Behe, the on-and-off-again darling of the Intelligent Design Movement, wrote a book a while ago that listed a number if things he claimed had to have been Intelligently Designed because, as he said, they were too complex to occur naturally.  In his examples he developed this idea of 'irreducible complexity', claiming, among other things, that if you remove any part, the object would no longer function.

But the error Behe made, and continues to make, is that he was restricting himself to the one specific function.  Biologist who studied the same examples as Behe looked at the objects beyond that one function and found that while the original function may no longer work, those parts can certainly serve other functions.  By looking beyond the one function, they were able to form a much more complete picture of the evolution of the what, the how, and even the why.

Behe used an example of a Mousetrap, claiming that removing one part rendered the mousetrap non-functional.  Of course the possibility that the mousetrap could serve another function is foreign to Behe.  Biologist Ken Miller wrote a rebuttal "The Design Mousetrap" which addressed the area Behe missed completely, a different function, just not the original one.  In a more pertinent example, Behe described Bacterial Flagellum as irreducible complex because if you remove any of the parts, you lose the whip-like function that give mobility that the flagellum gives to some bacteria.  However, apparently the flagellum evolved from the type-3 secretory system.(Wikipedia: Evolution of Flagellum).  I say 'apparently' because unlike the claims made by ID proponents, scientists frame things in terms based on our current understanding.  I believe 10, or so, of the proteins involved in the secretory system are also in the flagellum, leading researchers to make the conclusion.  Again, unlike science, ID proponents stop once they reach a conclusion they like, scientists keep looking and never completely close a door.

As you can see, claiming biologists disregard function as nothing more than a straw-man argument. Sarah tries to make the reader think that only ID proponents address function, but that would be a lie. Yes, it's a lie Sarah and her partners-in-crime repeat often, but that doesn't make it reality.  Behe faced this evidence in court and tried to deny it, even though he hadn't kept current.  You would think someone who studies things like bacterial flagellum would stay up on the science of it . . . unless your point was never to see something that might discount your own unsupported conclusions.

Back to Sarah and something we have discussed many times before, whenever someone uses their brain for something other than keeping their eyebrows from meeting, the DI likes to try and twist is into some sort of victory for Intelligent Design (ID).  Engineers design and build, well, . . . pretty much everything.  Here in Dayton Ohio we are constantly reminded of this because of the many innovations and inventions that have their roots in this area.  So many things from the Wright Bros, cash registers, and even pull-tab for pop cans to electric car starters and code breaking machines. Inventors, architects, and engineers all use their intelligence, training, experience to make some incredible creations.  But what does any of that have to do with ID?  Let us not forget what ID is . . so let's look at the DI's definition and also a definition that ID proponents particularly dislike (and are always trying to change):

The DI defines Intelligent Design as:
"The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."(DI website FAQ: Intelligent Design (Feb 27, 2017))
While the rest of the world defines it as such:
"Intelligent design is a creationist religious argument for the existence of God, presented by its proponents as "an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins" but found to be pseudoscience.  Proponents claim that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." (Wikipedia: Intelligent Design (Feb 27 2017))
Can you explain how either of these definitions can be used to justify Sarah's words:
"Speaking of engineering, here's a rundown of news on one of the most exciting fields where the science of intelligent design really shines: biomimetics. This field uses designs from nature to boost efficiency and create new products."
Interesting claim, shining examples of ID, but where is the ID?  Sarah's only half right, there is intelligence involved.  If you read Sarah's post you will see that there are some engineering examples that take inspiration from nature.  OK, so what?

We've been doing this for how long?  Early wing designs for airplanes mimics bird wings.  Of course without feathers and the ability to control all those feathery surfaces, airplane wings only share some similarities with birds.  We often borrow from nature in designing things.  I'm sure the originator of the wheel took note in how round rocks rolled downhill at some point and early boat developers noticed that wood floated.  But the connection I cannot seem to reach is how this ties into Intelligent Design, as described by the DI!  The DI likes to call ID a theory, but where and how is this 'theory' applied?

ID proponents, like Sarah, have made many claims about how 'nature' was designed by an intelligent designer (The Christian God, who they hate naming 'officially').  But they have yet to offer any evidence supporting these claims.  Without such support their claims fall flat, and trotting out example of human design and the use of intelligence doesn't automatically link the two.  Remember that 30 years ago there was no Intelligent Design Movement, ID was called 'Creation Science'.  So I guess the equivalent argument is that since a human being is capable of creating something, 'Creation Science' is somehow validated? No, it's not!  Just because you are using the same word doesn't equate the two!

Those are my first two issues with Sarah, her attempt to claim biologists disregard function and her assumption that intelligence somehow can be seen as the "science of intelligent design" shining.  I did find it interesting that Sarah used the lower case 'intelligent design' as opposed to the usual 'Intelligent Design', My final point is how this claim actually undermines the whole ID Movement.

Sarah has made two different attacks here, the first (function) she tries to limit biologists and put them in a box of her own making.  This way she can make further claims about ID by knocking down a straw-man of biology.  Her second attack is to try and make you think that since everything a human engineers and builds is designed using their intelligence, that nature must have been designed by an intelligence.  Of course she offers no support for making such a connection.  Think it through, the ONLY thing supporting ID is the appearance of design in nature.  Basically, according to the DI, if it looks designed, it must have been designed.  ID is nothing more than a re-statement of the old Watchmaker Analogy:
"In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. ... There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. ... Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation."William Paley, Natural Theology (1802)
The DI often claims that ID isn't a restatement of this analogy, that it is something new and different and much more 'scientific'.  And yet, look at the examples Sarah bring forth, more and more 'appearance' and 'inspiration', but with nothing supporting the idea that natural objects had to have been designed, nor support that it had to be designed by an intelligence.  So every time Sarah, or any of the posters at the DI's Evolution 'news' and Views website put out something like this, they are simply reminding us that the DI has nothing other than conjecture and wishful thinking backing them up.

Sarah's final line makes even less sense:
"Mind over matter -- it holds true and leads to advancement in technology, science, math and engineering."
While the words are fine, the context is missing.  Where are the advancements in technology, science, math and engineering that can actually be attributed to ID?  Not by making an unsupported claim, but where is the application of ID in any of these areas?  So far  . . . there haven't been any.  When you look at actual advances, the application of one of more scientific theories is evident.  In fact the advances more than likely would not have happened without an understanding of the applicable scientific theories.  Could we build an engine without some understanding of metallurgy and thermodynamics?  Could we build an airplane without understanding those two and much more like Aerodynamics?  Could we have gone to the Moon with those three and also an understanding of Gravity? So where does ID fit with any of the things Sarah claimed as 'shining examples' of intelligent design?

That's why her closing line, when considered within the context of her post, makes little sense.  Yes, intelligence does hold true and each and every advancement in any field can be traced back to people using their intelligence, their experience, and often their own sweat and tears.  They put in the time and work to makes these advances, but doesn't anyone see any ID proponent doing the same? Other than marketing the same foolishness over and over again, you never see anything else, do you?  One of the other things Behe admitted in court was that no one was doing any actual scientific work to support his ideas, nothing has changed in the 11 years since that court case, has it?

So, once more with feeling DI, where are the advances in science and engineering that can point to a direct relationship with your idea of 'Intelligent Design'?  Don't worry, we'll keep waiting for you to spin some more marketing material.  It will be just as 'effective' as all your earlier efforts selling your pseudo-scientific religious babble.

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