Discovery Institute: The Designer Can Be Sloppy

There has always been an absurd inconsistency about the intelligent designer who is ceaselessly promoted by the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

No, we’re not talking about the Discoveroids’ silly refusal to identify the designer as Yahweh. That’s just a legal game they’re playing, which doesn’t fool anyone. We’re referring to the quality of the biological work supposedly done by their unnamed magical designer — blessed be he! — who does so many wonderful things without leaving a bit of evidence as to his methods or even his existence. The designer’s miraculous works are usually claimed to be flawless, which is why the Discoveroids insist that there’s no such thing as junk DNA.

But every now and then, when it’s undeniable that a biological feature is flawed, the Discoveroids have a problem. We’ve always been aware of it, which is why we posted this almost three years ago: Buffoon Award Winner — The Intelligent Designer.

Unlike the openly religious creationists, who blame such embarrassments on the sin of Adam & Eve which has degraded God’s originally perfect creation, the Discoveroids have to admit that sometimes the designer’s work is less than perfect. That’s when they start inventing hastily-contrived excuses, as was done in Klinghoffer: Your Spine Is a Great Design

And that isn’t the only example. As we wrote last year (see Discovery Institute Tolerates Bad Design), Casey claims that poor design is still design. When he announced that principle, we asked:

[I]f poor design is nevertheless the handiwork of the great celestial designer — whose name dare not be spoken — then how, pray tell, does an ID “researcher” know when he’s looking at evidence of ID?

The answer to that question is obvious — they’re just blowing smoke — and to demonstrate that there’s a new Discoveroid blog article: Can Humans Improve on Nature? If So, What Does it Mean for Intelligent Design? It has no byline, which means the article speaks for the whole creationist outfit. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us and their links omitted:

Biomimetics — the imitation of natural designs — is one of the hottest trends in science and engineering, illustrating the promise of intelligent design-based science. [BWAHAHAHAHAHA!] Evolutionists are trying a new comeback, though. Sure, they say, nature is inspiring; unquestionably, nature has some pretty good designs — but we can do better.

Man has always imitated and sometimes improved on nature — from the wearing of furs in winter to breeding better crops. Who knew that was “intelligent design-based science”?

Then (presumably this is evolution’s attempt at a comeback) they talk about and allegedly quote from an article in Caltech’s quarterly magazine, Engineering and Science which (according to the Discoveroids) says:

In the lab, Mory Gharib studies how zebrafish hearts develop. Why? “He likes to steal their tricks, one-up them by enhancing what Mother Nature has accomplished, and find new applications where the tricks could come in handy.” … “We can actually be more clever than nature,” Gharib says. “We can get inspired by nature and use engineering to come up with better functions. Just look at 747s — they fly from LAX to La Guardia much more efficiently than any bird could.”

That’s followed by a bit of Discoveroid sarcasm:

Mother Nature must be a pretty lousy designer if her offspring can show her up so easily.

Indeed. Then the Discoveroids attempt to disparage the work of the Caltech researchers regarding the zebrafish’s heart that “uses a simple yet elegant mechanism called an impedance pump,” after which they say:

Even if humans could improve on nature’s designs, would it diminish the explanatory power of intelligent design?

Yes, it most definitely would. William Paley’s pre-scientific watchmaker analogy has a certain appeal if one finds a marvelously constructed watch; but not if one finds a barely-functional, slapped-together piece of junk.

The Discoveroid paragraph continues:

Has Mother Nature done a sloppy job? ID theory does not require natural designs to be perfect. Even a poor design demonstrates purpose and design if it requires intelligent causes rather than undirected processes to account for its origin.

There they go again. Clearly, it’s now Discoveroid doctrine that the magical designer doesn’t have to produce perfection, or even impressively competent works. We already know that evolution isn’t perfect — its results need only be good enough to achieve survival. But surely the magical designer is better than mere evolution. If not, who needs it, and how could one ever detect its handiwork?

Here’s their final paragraph, and frankly, we just don’t get their point:

Now if they can create an impedance pump that builds itself from materials in its environment and copies itself flawlessly for thousands of generations without human intervention, or build a superhydrophobic carbon nanotube array that produces seeds that grow into beautiful works of art as well as functional systems, or design a 747 that lays eggs that hatch into new 747s, then they will really be something to talk about.

The first item was accomplished by evolution, and as for the others … it looks like evasive babble. We don’t know what they’re saying, but one thing is clear — it’s now Discoveroid doctrine that their intelligent designer doesn’t have to produce anything better than evolution does, which is pretty much an admission that their “theory” is not only unnecessary but also ridiculous.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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18 responses to “Discovery Institute: The Designer Can Be Sloppy

  1. Tomato Addict

    Well of course! The Designer can do anything evolution can do, and in such a way that it is completely indistinguishable from evolution by natural selection.

  2. “Even if humans could improve on nature’s designs, would it diminish the explanatory power of intelligent design?”

    Have to disagree with you here, Curmy. Since ID has zero explanatory power, it’d be impossible to diminish it further.

  3. Ceteris Paribus

    Discoveroid:

    [O]r design a 747 that lays eggs that hatch into new 747s, then they will really be something to talk about.

    So a Mallard duck hen lays maybe 12 to 14 eggs. At the end of the season, there are maybe 2 or 3 that survive to adulthood, and half of these will get blasted out of the sky during their first migration. The ID proposal to use eggs as a means of airplane production would not be a good thing to think about when the flight attendant drones on about the emergency exits and seat belts.

  4. This is so typically Discoveroid. They insult some group of scientists working on an interesting effort that has nothing to do with evolution, ID or the “controversy”, apparently just to be snarky.

    Biomimetics — the imitation of natural designs — is one of the hottest trends in science and engineering, illustrating the promise of intelligent design-based science.

    None of the researchers in this article appear to be ID creationists, and they are not doing “intelligent design-based science”. Perhaps that is why the DI is so dismissive. However, can the DI point to anyone in this field that is doing “intelligent design-based science”? What is the “promise” of ID in this field?

    I would like to see one of the DI hacks explain on their blog how a belief that life is too complex to be evolved can guide any sort of creative scientific or engineering work.

  5. It makes perfect sense that scientists (real ones, not those who want to play-act as scientists, such as those at the DI) would want to use evolutionary designs. Think about it. They’ve already been through some serious beta testing, so many of the bugs have already been worked out. The really great thing is that Mother Nature doesn’t have patent attorneys. That means we can steal all of her best designs, incorporate them into our stuff, make a bundle, and no worries!
    As for their last paragraphs concerning the 747 laying eggs, I have to admire DI’s chutzpah. All this time, every other time they’ve talked about “design”, they used analogies that always involved inorganic objects (watches, 747s in junkyards, etc). Now, now, all of a sudden, they want to use organics? But still with inorganic objects? What the…? I see what they’re trying to do (I think). They’ve been smacked around so much on the fact that their analogies always involved inorganic objects that they thought that they would smack scientists with the same argument. Clear as mud? In other words, they’re trying to hit science back with an argument that has been used against them. Only the DI / CSC is doing a really bad job of it. As always.
    Finally, as an engineer, I’m not certain I buy the statement that a 747 can fly from LAX to La Guardia more efficiently than birds can. I think it would depend on the bird (eagles can take advantage of thermals, for example), although once at altitude, a 747 could take advantage of the jet stream. Hmmm. I’d still want to see the numbers.

  6. Hey, does anyone think that the DI is ID? I can’t think of a better time for an extinction event.

  7. “Here’s their final paragraph, and frankly, we just don’t get their point:”
    I think they’re just stepping up their argument-by-analogy a notch, and saying that since self-replication is a design feature of nature, but not in anything man creates, that proves…something. I think it just shows that their analogy is a bad one. After all, as SC points out, if the results of design are indistinguishable from mere result, why infer design, unless that’s what you’re looking for?
    Argument by analogy, to me, is always an iffy way to prove a point, and this argument seems to be the whole premise of ID. To them, all of nature, the whole universe, is proven to be designed by analogy to a watch in the desert, or (as I’ve seen elsewhere) a painting hanging from a tree in an otherwise deserted and completely natural forest. But, in those cases, it’s the very contrast of the watch with the desert, or the painting with the trees, that points up the difference that indicates that these things are artifacts. What are you comparing all of creation TO that indicates that it is an artifact of god’s making? Where’s the tree, or the desert, to compare it to? The analogies fail because the contexts of the things that are the point of the comparison don’t match.
    I don’t think ID is very intelligently designed.

  8. Ceteris Paribus writes:

    So a Mallard duck hen lays maybe 12 to 14 eggs. At the end of the season, there are maybe 2 or 3 that survive to adulthood, and half of these will get blasted out of the sky during their first migration. …

    Duck Season!

  9. Ceteris Paribus

    Tomato Addict embeds:

    Duck Season!

    You expect us to believe that those Warner Brothers pixels just somehow, randomly, self-assembled themselves on our computer display?

    It is a mathematical fact that the probability for any one pixel in an array of 640×480 pixels (that’s over 300,000 pixels), with each pixel able to take on any one color from a palette of millions of colors, and have the whole array change every pixel 24 times a second for an entire 11 seconds, and by doing so form an image we can see with our sloppily designed retinas, would require a lot of paper and pencil work to just calculate. So I won’t.

    Hah! Caught you! Tomato Addict IS the ID! (<random ' sloppy & html tag that will embarrassingly mess up my own post goes here ) <SC – please fix code as necessary – tnks.

  10. Ceteris Paribus says: “SC – please fix code as necessary”

    I looked at it and it’s hopeless.

  11. aturingtest said, I don’t think ID is very intelligently designed.

    It isn’t intelligently designed to offer explanations for the world of life. It is intelligently designed for purposes like these:

    To avoid court decisions forbidding the teaching of creationism in public school science classes in the USA.
    To avoid embarrassingly false conclusions of creationism.
    To provide advertising slogans for certain political/social movements.

  12. A watch or a painting, sure, but I wonder about an intermediate case, like seeing a beaver dam, a spider’s web, or a beehive in a forest. All are clearly constructed by agents for a purpose, and not the result of wind or weather or chemistry, but at least we assume that they are “natural” because the agents who constructed them were motivated by some kind of non-conscious biological programming without any awareness of why they were doing it. Still, a watch or a painting might be as much an expression of human nature as a dam is of a beaver’s, even if vastly more complicated. The watch points to a watchmaker just as the dam points to a beaver, but both the watchmaker and the beaver were the result of evolutionary forces.

  13. Very nice, Deklane. I’ve been trying to express this idea since the evening in the mid-60s when I maintained in an argument with the woman I was dating then that a skyscraper (for example) is a natural object, since it is the product of species-typical activity by a population of natural animals. I even brought up beaver dams, as you did.

    In spite of all those years of practice, I’ve never been able to explain it with the same concise eloquence you just managed. I raise my glass (well, actually it’s a beer bottle) to you.

  14. The DI fails (on many levels, scientifically, politically, educationally, religiously, philosophically and cosmetically) because they apply human aesthetics to design. Why should a skyscraper be held as a higher order of design than a beaver dam?

    Factoid of the day. When paleontologists in Montana were working on the hadrasaur sites they were plagued with high winds that took down their tents. On a whim they erected Sioux tipis which withstood the wind. Designed that way. Now, without a horse to haul the 25 foot poles and buffalo hides I’d need to construct a tipi, my Kelty Webforce 2 “nearly” withstood 70 mph winds, although the operative word is “nearly.”

    So, what is good design? It’s in the eye of the beholder, really, which is the major weakness of “intelligent design” creationism: it’s subjective. There is no definition of design, no measurement of design and no metric of design. Without that nobody can say with authority that one thing or another is designed.

    Imagine aliens landing on Earth and unable to detect us because our designs are so far from their frame of reference. For that matter, do we understand dolphin or whale societies? Or ants? Or bees? Can we learn to speak cat?

  15. The DI said:

    Evolutionists are trying a new comeback

    What they don’t understand is that we never left.

  16. “So, what is good design? It’s in the eye of the beholder, really, which is the major weakness of “intelligent design” creationism: it’s subjective.”

    To qualify design in the transitive sense, it is indeed subjective. Therefore, “good, bad, optimal, suboptimal and sloppy” are meaningless in qualifying [or disqualifying] design as an operative.

    “There is no definition of design, no measurement of design and no metric of design.”

    Rather, there is no ‘one’ definition of design; hay muchos. But in the ID sense, it refers to something that came about at least in part, by directed actions of designing entity/entities. Sorry, but the degree of intelligence is NOT a factor, unless one holds to a religious predilection [omni^3]. I do not.

    Regarding a metric? As I think we can both agree; both qualification and quantification are subjective, and therefore not relevant as to whether something is or is not designed. But our subjective sense of discernment does not disqualify design as a valid operative. It’s just that in its forensic investigative sense, it is difficult to confirm.

    “Without that nobody can say with authority that one thing or another is designed.”

    Nor that it evolved by chance events, however selected upon. I see where two guys were sparring over this very issue last year on another blog ;-)

    http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2011/06/louisiana_legislature_deserves/3743/comments-5.html

    caution: DNFTT

  17. “ID Theory”… Hmmm. Considering that a theory is never just a theory and is the result of continuous testing, retesting, more testing, even more testing… Intelligent Design can not be considered a theory. An idiotic hypothesis, yes. Theory? NO! You need evidence. You need proof. You need your results to be consistent and it has to be able to be duplicated many times.
    It’s time for them to stop calling it a “theory”. Misuse of the word has led to the misunderstanding of what theories are. A theory is never just a theory.

  18. Hi, Lee! I see you’re still spouting the same old nonsensical bafflegab you always spout.

    Again, there is no metric, measurement or units of design. It cannot be determined objectively.

    As usual your word salad is devoid of nutrition. Go back to selling cars, Lee.