Wednesday, June 30, 2004

More Stupidity from Touchstone Not content to stop with Roberto Rivera's stupidity, Touchstone has published this brain-dead response to the argument from dysteleology. That's the fancy name for the argument that there are so many instances of bad or inefficient design in nature that it is hard to believe that God specifically created animals in their present form. The article's author, Jonathan Witt, takes the “God is whimsical approach” first popularized by Phillip Johnson in Darwin on Trial.

Witt's article deserves a proper fisking, but for now let me just make one point. WItt writes:


But the point here is that these anti-design arguments by Dawkins, Gould, and other Darwinists are not scientific ones. They are aesthetic arguments, expressing an idea of what the universe should look like—that is, that it should satisfy the tidy-minded engineer. But who is to say that the Darwinists’ taste is that of the cosmic designer, if there is one? Who is to say that the designer should value tidiness over, say, whimsy?


This is written in the context of Gould's argument about the panda's thumb and Dawkins' argument about the absurd backward wiring of the mammalian eye.

I find it ironic that ID's freqeuntly accuse scientists of being unwilling to confront the breathtaking complexity of living things. Here Witt seems unwilling to confront the full force of the argument from dystelelogy. Dawkins and Gould used the examples they did because they were really making points about how natural selection operates and only tangentially speculating on what an omnipotent designer would do.

So let's answer Witt's question. Who is to say that the designer should value tidiness over, say, whimsy? Well, does Witt understand that the recipients of God's whimsy are living creatures capable of understanding pain and suffering?

Human beings take in food and air through the same passge. As a result more than three thousand people choke to death every year. Many of them children. That's God's whimsy for you.

How about birth defects? Each year thousands of children are born minus limbs, with brain damage so severe they will never live an indpendent life, with diseases like leukemia or AIDS. Does this reflect God's whimsy?

Extinction is never pretty, but it happens to be the fate of more than ninety-five percent of all the creatures God ever created. That's how refined and sophisticated God's sense of humor is.

The fact is that, it's scientific deficiencies aside, ID has awful theological consequences. No one would start from the premise that the natural world reflects the will of an omnipotent designer and conclude that the designer is benevolent. Until ID proponents are willing to confront that point head-on, they can not claim that the argument from dysteleology has been answered.

2 Comments:

At 3:43 PM, Blogger R_Mowbray said...

Two comments:

1) Witt gives the reason for his essay thusly: "... I want to suggest that Darwinism—in which I include its DNA-inspired mutation, neo-Darwinism—has contributed to this will to ugliness not merely by underwriting a vision of the world as a godless accident, but also in the very way it critiques and thereby dismisses the idea of an Author and Designer of life." But he never follows through on this premise. Rather, he spends the rest of the essay countering the evolutionists' assertion that imperfect anatomical details indicate the absence of intelligent design. Frankly, I'm just as glad that he failed to focus on his stated thesis; I don't need to read yet another Creationist screed about how the (mere!) Theory of Evolution is responsible for all the ills of the modern world.

2) One hears (or, at least, used to hear) that this organ or that appendage is "perfectly designed" or "perfectly adapted" for its role. "Perfect" is a loaded word, though: since we rarely stumble upon accidental perfection in our day to day lives, it naturally leads a person to conclude a brilliant designer must be behind these creations. It is also a hyperbolic word: a shark is no doubt an efficient hunter, but is it truely accurate to call it a "perfect killing machine?" Therefore, evolutionists put forward examples of good-enough natural solutions in order to counter this hyperbole. But Witt is right when he states that "these anti-design arguments by Dawkins, Gould, and other Darwinists are not scientific ones. They are aesthetic arguments, expressing an idea of what the universe should look like—that is, that it should satisfy the tidy-minded engineer." They are useful in rebutting an equally unscientific but nonetheless emotionally powerful description of perfection throughout the natural world, but are probably otherwise best ignored. There are endless examples of evolution in the natural world. I suggest that your time and expertise is better spent promoting these rather than engaging in unwinnable arguments.

 
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