We are all aware that there’s no scientific substance to the “theory” of intelligent design (ID); but it’s nevertheless revealing — and amusing — to observe how its principal promoters keep flip-flopping all over the place in their increasingly desperate attempts to defend it.
A good example of this is found in a new entry at the blog of 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).
The latest effort at Discoveroid apologetics was written by Casey Luskin, everyone’s favorite creationist. Casey’s article is titled Craig Venter’s Typo Shows Poor Design is Still Design. Remember that phrase: “Poor Design is Still Design.” It may signal a major revision of ID “theory.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Forbes.com is reporting that Craig Venter’s “synthetic” bacterial chromosome contains a “genetic typo.“
You remember Craig Venter, who announced last year that his lab has created a bacterial cell with a synthetic genome. We’ve written before about Casey’s attack on Venter’s work (see Creationists React to Venter’s Breakthrough, Part 5). Casey is blogging about Venter again, this time referring to an article in Forbes: Craig Venter’s Genetic Typo.
What’s the “typo” Forbes is writing about? They say:
In order to distinguish their synthetic DNA from that naturally present in the bacterium, Venter’s team coded several famous quotes into their DNA, including one from James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man: “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.”
The synthetic DNA also included a quote from physicist Richard Feynman, “What I cannot build, I cannot understand.”
That’s clever. But what about the typo? The Forbes article goes on to say:
That prompted a note from Caltech, the school where Feyman taught for decades. They sent Venter a photo of the blackboard on which Feynman composed the quote – and it showed that he actually wrote, “What I cannot create, I do not understand.”
“We agreed what was on the Internet was wrong,” said Venter. “So we’re going back to change the genetic code to correct it.”
Delightful story! But what is it about Venter’s “typo” that has the Discoveroids all worked up? Casey explains:
Obviously this typo is a mistake on the part of Venter’s team, and according to some ID critics, mistakes preclude us from inferring design. Such critics would claim that poor design refutes design.
Casey is clumsily referring to one of the standard arguments against ID — that many features of living organisms, our own species included, give evidence of sloppy design — the sort of “good enough” results we’d expect of evolution, but which would bring shame to any truly intelligent designer. Even your Curmudgeon once wrote about the problem: Buffoon Award Winner — The Intelligent Designer.
You know what’s coming next, don’t you? Casey is going to take Venter’s “typo” and use it to excuse the Intelligent Designer — blessed be he! — from all the blunders he has made. Casey says:
But obviously these watermarks [the quotes Venter inserted] in the synthetic chromosome were intelligently designed, despite their mistakes…. Venter has provided another nice demonstration that what some consider ‘poor’ design, is still design.
Poor design is still design. Whoopee! Yes, that’s true of man’s work, but what about the work of the — [hushed tone] — intelligent designer? Is he no better than we are?
We have other questions. First, if 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?
Second, why didn’t the magical mystery designer do what Venter did, and slip some text into our DNA? Were we to find such an unexpected sequence, that would be powerful evidence indeed. But we never see this.
Also, the primitive young-earth creationist outfit, Answers in Genesis (AIG), has already anticipated Casey’s brilliant defense of the designer’s slovenly craftsmanship. See Answers in Genesis: The Anthropic Principle, where we discussed AIG’s defense of the Anthropic Principle — the argument that the laws of nature and the fundamental physical constants seem remarkably suited to our own existence.
It had recently been learned that one of the cosmological constants was less than optimal for life. AIG defended the designer’s bewilderingly bungled constant by wildly grasping about for excuses, saying first that the imperfect constant was good enough, and that the other constants were still okay, and besides, we don’t know what conditions the designer considers to be ideal. They also said:
[W]hat looks to evolutionists like bad design (allegedly disproving intelligent design) may have been a consequence of the Fall. Thus, starting with Scripture, we know that the universe is not perfect as it once was.
At the end of AIG’s article we realized that almost any value for a supposedly “fine tuned” constant will suffice to prove their allegedly “fine-tuned universe” argument; and then we restated the anthropic argument, as enhanced by AIG:
The fundamental constants are perfectly designed for life, therefore Oogity Boogity! And even if they’re not so perfectly designed, Oogity Boogity anyway!
It was inevitable that the Discoveroids would have to confront a similar crisis, and they’ve handled it essentially the same way AIG did — by saying that it’s quite all right if the designer occasionally behaves like a slob. Their “theory” — originally based on William Paley’s watchmaker analogy and the inexplicably wondrous quality of the designer’s handiwork — can easily account for anything that may ever be observed. And that, dear reader, is why ID isn’t a scientific theory.
Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.