You Can’t Criticize the Intelligent Designer

Way back in 2009 we wrote Buffoon Award Winner — The Intelligent Designer, detailing some of the ghastly design flaws to be found in the human body. Today, at last, the Discovery Institute is addressing the issue.

They just posted this at their creationist blog: Your “Botched Body”: Bad Design or Bad Logic? It was written by Steve Laufmann, about whom we know nothing — except that he’s an occasional contributor to the Discoveroids’ blog. The first time he appeared at their blog (Evolution’s Grand Challenge) they provided this Editor’s Note:

We are delighted to welcome Steve Laufmann as a new contributor. Mr. Laufmann is a consultant in the growing field of Enterprise Architecture, dealing with the design of very large, very complex, composite information systems that are orchestrated to perform specified tasks in demanding environments.

Here are some excerpts from his new post, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Over the past weekend, the Wall Street Journal published an essay, “The Botch of the Human Body,” by biologist Nathan Lents. The article previews the argument of a forthcoming book Dr. Lents has written about the absence of design in the human body. Although his thesis seems to be a bit broader, and to involve a fair bit of bald-faced assertion and imaginative story-telling, much of his argument falls into the “bad design” category.

Understandably, the Discoveroids consider this to be an outrage! We humans are the ultimate creation of their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — who created the universe, life, and our own wonderful selves. Laufmann says:

Evolution News [the Discoveroids’ creationist blog] readers will be interested to compare Dr. Lents’s view of the deeply flawed human body with Dr. Howard Glicksman’s compelling series, “The Designed Body.” [Link to a bunch of Discoveroid articles.]

After that he tells us:

For me, coming from an engineer’s perspective, whenever a complex system of systems works at all, it seems counterproductive to attempt a “bad design” argument. Almost invariably, when such arguments are trotted out, it has less to do with actual bad design and more to do with one of the following causes:

What follows is a list of several Discoveroid excuses for the buffoonish design of humans:

Not understanding the design. This includes key design criteria, like the design objectives for the system, its functional requirements, all relevant design constraints, all relevant non-functional requirements (like redundancy, robustness, adaptability…), and any other system properties that the designer might have desired. Without a proper understanding of the design, it’s awfully hard to claim the design doesn’t pass muster.

Yeah — merely because you’re too ignorant to understand the Designer’s handiwork, that doesn’t mean it isn’t glorious. Laufmann’s list of excuses continues:

Not accounting for design tradeoffs. Some bad design examples are simply the natural consequences of good design decisions made elsewhere. All complex systems involve conflicting design requirements, so design tradeoffs must be weighed and carefully selected. As a result, decisions that are optimal for the whole may appear suboptimal with respect to a given subsystem or component. A good design to solve one engineering problem might easily exacerbate another engineering problem.

We don’t know why the designer of the whole universe should ever need to make any tradeoffs, but let’s read on:

Failure to acknowledge degradation over time. It should come as no surprise that all living systems, including the human body, degrade over time. Assembly errors can occur in development. Features essential for fetal development sometimes get in the way once the body matures. Diseases can degrade function. Knees that worked well in your twenties may complain when you reach your seventies. And there’s the potential for inheritable defects. Do any of these mean the body is not designed?

What do you think, dear reader — do any of those ghastly problems mean you weren’t designed? Here’s another excuse

Logical fallacy. No rocket science is required to realize that “bad design” ≠ “no design.” Even if it could be proved that a body system or component was poorly or even terribly designed, this in itself would be insufficient to draw any conclusions about the participation or quality of any designer(s). And it’s hardly proof that random or gradual causes were able to generate a working, complex system.

Right. Even if the designer were an incompetent clown, that doesn’t mean he’s not the designer. Here’s the Discoveroids’ last excuse:

Aesthetic considerations. In some cases a design may violate some sort of subjective aesthetic considerations, which some folks have trouble distinguishing from bad design. You can argue about the designer’s vision or taste, but this is not sufficient warrant to argue that the system wasn’t designed.

That list of excuses certainly gives the intelligent designer a lot of wiggle room. This is our last excerpt:

In the end, then, the bad design argument almost always results in a bizarre blend of ignorance and arrogance that is apparent even to non-scientists. And this at least suggests what I’ve long suspected — the explanatory sufficiency of neo-Darwinism is exhausted, with little substance left to offer in the face of the coherent complexities being discovered in living systems. As their position weakens, proponents seem to grasp at any available straw to make their case.

So there you are. You may point to evidence that the “design” of humans is sloppy, works poorly, doesn’t hold up well, and doesn’t look very good, but you’re the one who is grasping at straws.

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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27 responses to “You Can’t Criticize the Intelligent Designer

  1. Mark Germano

    “And there’s the potential for inheritable defects.”

    Sounds like something else I’ve heard of. It’s on the tip of my tongue.

  2. Michael Fugate

    So Steve is claiming that the most intelligent being inside or outside the universe designed humans – and humans are its masterpiece – designed in its image. Really?

  3. Michael Fugate

    Also one book that Steve hasn’t even read demonstrates the demise of evolution – where have we heard that before?

  4. The only things that cause a system to perform poorly are bad designs and or bad requirements (scope creep) causing bad designs. Since the requester and designer are one in the same there’s no one else to blame. Either he/she/it sucks at design or can’t define requirements.
    A buffoon worthy of the award..

  5. Steve Laufmann (Laugh-man?):
    “Failure to acknowledge degradation over time. It should come as no surprise that all living systems, including the human body, degrade over time.”

    True. And the only logical “reason” that living organisms should be “designed” to die within a finite time is to enable evolution to take place!

    Without death, there would be no evolution. All would survive, not just the fittest.

    So, even if there is a Grand Old Designer, He designed evolution, as well. There is no way the DI can deny that.

    (Sound of the mic dropping…)

  6. “natural consequences of good design”
    Design by a supernatural agent having natural consequences, how exactly does that work?

  7. Steven says that “A good design to solve one engineering problem might easily exacerbate another engineering problem” thus accounting for what might appear to be poor design in the finished product. But surely an omnipotent designer isn’t so constrained and would also be able to design things so they wouldn’t degrade over time. Steve’s fails in both science and logic.

  8. Michael Fugate

    RSG, one does wonder why Steve would believe that a system with reproduction, but no death would be sustainable. Magic, no doubt.

  9. This includes key design criteria, like the design objectives for the system, its functional requirements, all relevant design constraints, all relevant non-functional requirements (like redundancy, robustness, adaptability…), and any other system properties that the designer might have desired.

    So here I go again. Note that he speaks of “functional requirements”, “design constraints”, “non-functional reqirements”.

    How do supernatural agents, in particular, omnipotent and omniscient agents, have requirements ad/or costraints?

    He is telling us that requirements and constraints are essential features of design.

    What requirements and constraints are there for God?

  10. Michael Fugate

    Thanks SC – your mighty hand is intelligently-directed!

  11. @Paul S
    Yes.
    And there is also the producer, the one who follows the design and realizes the design in the medium.

  12. Good grief – all of the hand-waving in Seattle has caused wind storms in Colorado. Since form and function are ultimately directed by DNA sequences, the grand old designer must just sit around and tinker with A’s, G’s, C’s and T’s to see how things work out. Sounds a lot like evolution.

  13. Mark Germano

    Importantly, if not unfortunately: when left to their own devices, my gadgets do not reproduce.

    Pun absolutely intended.

  14. Mark Germano

    @TomS

    There is also the imitator, who makes knockoffs of the original. Hence, the chimpanzee.

  15. Michael Fugate

    I always wonder how they are able to read God’s mind – and how often God’s mind resembles their own. I don’t think they understand what this says about God.

  16. What this says about their God. What it says about design, and thus about any agent who resorts to design. The writer writes as an authority on design. He repeatedly mentions how design has to deal with constraints, even “conflicting constraints”.

    So how do you think God deals with conflicts in the world he creates? Do you think that anything in the world of nature presents a constraint on him? That is what an Intelligent Designer means.

  17. @TomS is curious: “So how do you think God deals with conflicts in the world he creates?”
    By lamenting the constraints IDiots like SteveL put on Him/Her/It (blessed be His/Her/Its name).

  18. I wonder what the Discoveroids think of (near-)human fossils. Were they prototypes? Are chimpanzees an older model that’s still being produced?

    What’s the rationale for using the exact same body plan for something that flies, walks on four legs, or walks on two?

    What about my proposal that the design was guided by multiple, often conflicting, interests? Mr IT Architect should be familiar with these.

    Questions, questions.

  19. ID makes a point of not answering such questions. Once it is established that there is design, their work is done.
    There was an Indian philosopher from about 1000 CE who made the argument for multiple creators. Unfortunately, I have lost all traces of who, and his dates, and anything else about the argument.

  20. Michael Fugate

    When you are doing apologetics, everything points to God…

    TomS, it was likely Rãmãnuja as discussed here:
    Hindu Perspectives on Evolution: Darwin, Dharma, and Design
    C. Mackenzie Brown 2012

  21. @MF
    Thank you. I think that that is the reference.

  22. Michael Fugate

    Makes one wonder what a pre-Fall human was like. Did Adam and Eve have the ability to regenerate any body part? Lose a limb, it regrows like a salamander’s? Drink too much wine, grow a new liver?

  23. So an IDiot at the Discovery Institute (which never actually discovers anything) uses a badly designed argument to refute bad design? These fools are totally deaf to what they are even saying. Never having to think means that any excuse will do.

  24. I wonder what the Discoveroids think of (near-)human fossils. Were they prototypes? Are chimpanzees an older model that’s still being produced?

    One doesn’t have to wonder. The Discovery Institute’s hacks, er, “researcher” divide fossils arbitrarily into true humans and true apes, designed and created separately according to their separate “kinds.”

    As for chimps, they are and always have been as separate from man as are microbes. So saith the Lord, er, the Designer!

  25. Thanks for this column. I posted my own response on my blog. I don’t know if this will allow me to post a URL, but if you go to The Human Evolution Blog, you’ll find it! I expect to hear a lot more of this kind of nonsense once my book officially comes out on Tuesday.

  26. ‘As we all know by now, evolution doesn’t produce good designs except when it does. Or as Matti Leisola puts it in his recent book, Heretic, ‘[Evolution] produces exquisitely fine-tuned designs except when it produces junk. Evolution is random and without direction except when it moves toward a target’.”
    And the ID explanation is what? design doesn’t produce good design except when it does etc.

  27. Laufmann then proceeds to tout how well the body is designed, a point with which no one disagrees anyway. One can admire the beauty and robust functionality of something while also acknowledging that it’s not perfect.

    The “Argument From Design” is used for at least two totally different reasons:
    1. To argue for the existence of God.
    2. To argue that there is no place for chance in the evolution of life.
    Design is thus used for totaly different purposes, and one can point out different failures.
    1. God is the creator of alll things, omniscient and omnipotent. That means that God has no need for design. It doesn’t make any sense to say that God designs things. God does not plan out the design of a thing, taking account of the properties of the material he’s going to use. If the bird is going to fly, God does not have to design wings, od can make flying birds without wings.
    This proof can at most, therefore, demonstrate the existence of an architect of the world, whose efforts are limited by the capabilities of the material with which he works, but not of a creator of the world, to whom all things are subject. Kant, “Critique of Pure Reason”
    2. Designers are known to let chance have a place in the product of their design. For example, a composer or a playwright may allow chance effects. One never knows what is going to happen in a performance, how the audience is going to react, and how the performers will interpret – and even make mistakes. A potter will use a chance effect of a glaze, a bronze statue takes on a patina.