Discoveroids: The Wisdom of Testicles

We thought the issue of how “intelligently” we were “designed” was settled years ago when we wrote Buffoon Award Winner — The Intelligent Designer. In that post, we considered the “design” of the human body and decided:

No other conclusion is possible except that the so-called Intelligent Designer is a boob. A dunce. A clown. Or, as we have now officially designated him, a buffoon.

But there was one feature we didn’t mention in that post. The Discovery institute is now filling that gap with a new post by Michael Egnor — that’s his writeup at the Encyclopedia of American Loons. His post is titled Nathan Lents and the Wisdom of Testicles. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections [that look like this]:

Egnor begins by linking to a blog article — Evolution’s Worst Mistake? How About External Testicles? — by respected biologist Nathan H. Lents, and he says:

Darwinist Nathan Lents thinks testicles are nuts.

The Discoveroids are a classy outfit. Egnor’s beginning paragraph goes on:

Or, at least, he thinks they’re poorly designed. He thinks they should be inside the body, not outside. Says Lents, author of the new book Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes [Amazon listing] … .

You may want to read Lents’ blog article for yourself, but here’s a bit of what Egnor quotes from it:

From an evolutionary standpoint, after all, testicles are the most important thing about a man — without them, he wouldn’t exist at all. And there they are, just sitting out in the open. Exposed. Vulnerable. What kind of design is this? … . If nature had an intelligent designer, he or she would have a lot to answer for. But since natural selection and other evolutionary forces are the true designers of our bodies, there is no one to question about this. We must interrogate ourselves: Why are we like this?

You get the idea. Egnor gives his thinking on the subject:

Is testicular design “an example of poor design”? Perhaps not. Testicles, unlike bone marrow, make cells that are used only intermittently. They are stored until just the right moment, and then it’s a dash to the finish line. From a design perspective, it makes perfect sense to grow and store sperm outside the body, where it’s cooler (in the fridge, so to speak), where their metabolic needs are reduced. Why have them all revved up in the scrotum, wasting energy swimming in circles, doing nothing? When they are released into the female reproductive tract, sperm warm up and come to life, and, expending prodigious energy, race to the ovum. Sperm are produced and stored in a cooler external environment for the same reason we refrigerate food; for preservation, until it’s needed.

He continues:

So is testicular design pretty good? I suspect so, but maybe it is a design flaw. Reproductive physiology is elegant and complex, and there’s much to be learned. What Lents does, ironically (Darwinism is nothing if not ironic), is use intelligent design science to discredit… intelligent design.

Aaaargh!! Let’s read on:

After all, if there is no design in nature, there is no poor design. Lents makes the classic Darwinist blunder: he denies that intelligent design is science, and, in the same breath, provides devilishly cunning scientific arguments against it.

Are you following this? Really? We’re not. Here’s another excerpt:

“Poor” design presupposes the inference to design. But there are poor arguments — like Lents’s argument against the wisdom of testicles.

The “wisdom of testicles”? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We found the title for our post. Here’s more:

Design science compels us to look for deeper purposes in biology. That is exactly what Lents is doing with his arguments that some design is “poor design.” He is relying on intelligent design science to explore purposes in biology.

And now we come to the end:

The investigation of purpose in biology — the evidence-driven exploration of good design and poor design — is not nuts at all. It’s just good science.

At least we learned one thing from Egnor’s post. If we ever find ourself in a conversation with a Discoveroid, one thing we’ll never do is demand that he show us his evidence.

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

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41 responses to “Discoveroids: The Wisdom of Testicles

  1. Michael Egnor, displaying his typical Egnorance, totally ignores all of the male animals that have internal testicles. The designer is so flakey that it couldn’t even decide where testicles actually belong. All of the following male animals have internal testicles: platypodes, echidnas, armadillos, sloths, elephants, rhinoceros, whales, dolphins, etc. Of course even a trivial Wikipedia search is well beyond Egnor’s “research” capabilities. And he still remains fixated on humans since they are the only species of importance for the creationists idiotic arguments.

  2. Christine Janis

    ‘If we ever find ourself in a conversation with a Discoveroid, one thing we’ll never do is demand that he show us his evidence.’

    Yeah, I guess he just isn’t going to testify to that.

  3. Using X to argue against X is valid.

  4. Michael Fugate

    Not to mention birds – which also have high body temperatures.

    The problem is not poor design – it is that organisms show trade-offs due to both phylogenetic and physiological limitations.

  5. Karl Goldsmith (@KarlGoldsmith)

    So you can’t say, If this was designed it would be a poor design, because that means it was designed. Creationist logic.

  6. Michael Fugate

    I think the DI is trying to say that their supposed super-intelligent god is no better than mindless processes such as natural selection and drift at making organisms.

  7. What we will never hear about is What the evidence is for.
    Design does not produce anything.
    Even if they would describe a design – which they never will do – they will not tell us how the design would result in something in the natural world.
    All the evidence is worth nothing if it is not evidence for something.

  8. What they’re trying – and getting away with it – is get it accepted that design is a process with results.

  9. Testicles? Wasn’t he a Greek playwright?

  10. @TomS: “Using X to argue against X is valid.”
    According to Egnorance only when used against Evolution Theory.

    “All the evidence is worth nothing if it is not evidence for something.”
    Aha! But it’s evidence for their Grand Old Designer (blessed be Him/Her/It)! Gatcha!

    “What they’re trying”
    and what they sometimes are getting away with is a salto mortale from our concrete world to a divine world (Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, last quarter of the 19th Century). The scheme is incredibly simple and doesn’t need to contain the word “design”:

    Artefact X (watch, bike etc.) —-> intelligent human being.
    Natural construct Y (universe, biological cell, testicles) —-> intelligent divine being.

    The rest, including the word design, is window dressing. In other words, even if they address your valid objection the analogy remains false.

  11. So is a Egnor arguing that poor design is also evidence of a “grand old designer”?
    He is a creationist so it would seem he is arguing for an imperfect creator. He fancies himself a super smart philosopher (without formal training) but surely even he can see the problems with suggesting that poor design is inconsistent with his intelligent designer (blessed be it/she/he).

  12. This must be the same intelligent designer who gave cetaceans a set of lungs. Gosh, is there really no end to this nameless creator’s talents?

  13. @ChrisS
    There are differences between designing and creating.
    A design does not produce a product. A producer consults a design when working with the raw materials.
    Creation is “ex nihilo”, out of nothing,
    and therefore has no use of design.

  14. It would be helpful if those of us who are solid with the evolutionary science could be a bit more careful about the use of the word “design” when we’re having these discussions. I occasionally hear scientists use it, and I’ve been guilty of this myself. Of course we understand what we mean when we use the term (i.e. design = “formed through processes of evolution/natural selection”) but that’s certainly not what the ID proponents mean.

    I believe “adaptation,” “adapted,” or “evolved” would all be terms preferable to “design.” External testes are, of course, an adaptation which developed primarily in animals with a higher core body temperature, which provided an advantage in spermatogenesis as this process functions best at a slightly lower temperature.

  15. Christine Janis

    ‘I believe “adaptation,” “adapted,” or “evolved” would all be terms preferable to “design.” ‘

    I scrubbed the term ‘design’ from the textbook I co-author several editions ago

  16. @TomS
    Quibbling over semantics. These finer distinctions are irrelevant to the Discoveroids, who dissemble anyway. As Larry Moran has pointed out, they don’t provide a mechanism for how their designer actually did anything; this brings them into close alliance with creationism proper, which we all instinctively recognise. All the Discoveroids have done is left out the Biblical mythology.

  17. Eric Lipps

    Once again we see that creationists don’t know what a metaphor is. “Design,” when used by Darwinian biologists, is a figure of speech, but creationist believers see its use by “evolutionists” as a tacit admission that literal design exists and that they just don’t want to admit it outright.

  18. “For with what eyes of the mind was your Plato able to see that workhouse of such stupendous toil, in which he makes the world to be modelled and built by God? What materials, what bars, what machines, what servants, were employed in so vast a work? How could the air, fire, water, and earth, pay obedience and submit to the will of the architect? From whence arose those five forms, of which the rest were composed, so aptly contributing to frame the mind and produce the senses? It is tedious to go through all, as they are of such a sort that they look more like things to be desired than to be discovered.”
    De natura deorum (On the Nature of te Gods), Book I, section 19

  19. Zetopan: the question is not internal vs external testicles but the mechanism for cooling the testes. One way is to have the gonads cradled in the scrotum. The other is to employ countercurrent heat exchange internally. The next question is: how does a countercurrent heat exchange, essential for reproduction, evolve in a step-by-step manner and still ensure viable evolutionary intermediates?

  20. Mark Germano

    There are loads of hits when you search for evolution of countercurrent heat exchange. I imagine the scientific literature has viable explanations throughout.

    The real question is what is the alternate explanation?

  21. Whatever the question, the alternative explanation is intelligent design.

  22. Imagination is a powerful human faculty

  23. Thanks for chiming in on this. I’ve grown exhausted arguing with these kooks. If you think *this* article was bad, go check out Egnor’s latest article about me (their ninth in six weeks!). It’s a real doozie. I honestly can barely make out what he’s trying to say. It’s a word salad.

  24. The Discoveroids don’t like you, NathanHLents. It’s a compliment!

  25. I know. I’m probably having too much fun egging them on, but it’s just too easy and after a challenging day of doing *real* science, sometimes it’s fun to toy around with those who pretend to do science. Btw, they just dropped their TENTH article about me. I’m actually starting to feel a little uneasy. These guys are CRAZY. Should I be worried?

  26. NathanHLents asks: “Should I be worried?”

    The Discoveroids are weird, but I don’t think they’re violent. One never knows about their fans, of course. I suggest that you just do your work and ignore them.

  27. Dr. Lents, In opposition to your claim in your book, Dr. Wells claims that the mammalian retina is optimally oriented for vision. Can you point me to your response to him and your reasons why the RPE should be forward-facing?

  28. Michael Fugate

    Oh do tell, PoWH3D, why is it optimized? Oh I know because God designed it that way, no?

  29. Mark Germano

    Why is x optimally oriented for y? It was designed.

    How did x become optimally oriented for y? It was designed.

    When did x become optimally oriented for y? It was designed.

  30. And how did y become something calling for the design of x?
    Examples: the design of eyes of prey vs. the design of eyes of predators; the design of wings vs. the design of weight; the design of streamlining vs. the design of the fluid (air or water) & the need of motion through the fluid (in contrast with motion through solids).

  31. While you two argue in terms of x and y, I’d like to know in terms of biology and physiology how vertebrate vision would be improved with a forward-facing retina as stated in Dr. Lents’s book.

  32. Michael Fugate

    Have you ever considered reading about the different eyes in the animal kingdom? Might be a good place to start. Compare cephalopod eyes to vertebrate eyes.

  33. Michael Fugate

    The question is – why put a blind spot in an eye if you can make an equivalent eye without one? There was a long discussion about eye evolution over at Panda’s Thumb a couple of years back – you might look at their archives.

  34. Michael Fugate

    And human vision is one of those examples showing common descent among Primates. Most mammals are active in low light and have many more rods than cones in their retinas. Most mammals have fewer cone types than reptiles and have limited color vision. Many primates are diurnal and are fruit eaters – color vision is important and through duplication and modification of a mammalian cone, they re-achieve color vision – this is the cone pattern humans and other primates share. It is different than that of reptiles and birds.

  35. You really should read Wells’ article on the vertebrate eye.

    Concerning cephalopods, Wells comments:
    “What about the claim that cephalopod eyes are better than vertebrate eyes? In 1984, a team of Italian biologists pointed out that cephalopod eyes are physiologically inferior to vertebrate eyes. In vertebrate eyes, the initial processing of visual images occurs in the retina, by nerve cells right next to the photoreceptor cells. In cephalopod eyes, nerve impulses from the photoreceptor cells must travel all the way to the brain to be processed. So a cephalopod eye “is just a ‘passive’ retina which is able to transmit only information, dot by dot, coded in a far less sophisticated fashion than in vertebrates.” The result is slower processing and fuzzier signals.14”

    14. Alberto Wirth, Giuliano Cavallacci, and Frederic Genovesi-Ebert, “The advantages of an inverted retina,” Developments in Ophthalmology 9 (1984): 20-28.

    If you have more current research, I’d love to see it. Notice the date of the paper. Even in 1984, it was known that the inverted retina had advantages.

    As for the blind spot, aside from the one-eyed australopithecines on the savanna, how exactly did the blind spot prevent home sapiens from becoming the dominant species on this planet? An animal with two good eyes and binocular vision doesn’t have a blind spot because the blind spot in one eye is compensated for by the corresponding photo receptors in the other eye.

    Michael, what’s your opinion on the forward-facing vs backward-facing retina? Would we see better with the former as Dr. Lents insists?

  36. “Why should not the Deity have given to the animal the faculty of vision at once? … Why resort to contrivance, where power is omnipotent? Contrivance, by its very definition and nature, is the refuge of imperfection. To have recourse to expedients, implies difficulty, impediment, restraint, defect of power.”
    William Paley,”Natural Theology”, chapter 3

  37. forward-facing vs backward-facing

  38. Michael Fugate

    Most vertebrates don’t have binocular vision…

    I don’t think it matters; both are adequate solutions and result from a combination of selection and contingency. Fitness in biology is relative, not absolute. The vertebrate eye will have some advantages and the cephalopod will have others, just like different vertebrate eyes will be better for certain tasks – say acuity or night vision or under water. There is also a problem with detached retinas, for instance. Even stomatopod and other arthropod eyes will be better under some conditions.

    The issue here is the eye in any form is not perfect and has clear relationships to other eyes. We have a pretty clear idea that eyes have evolved multiple times and although similarities there are lineage differences that constrain the form in current organisms. There is need for intelligence and no evidence of any.

  39. Michael Fugate

    The other thing you need to worry about is if there were an intelligent designer and one of the designs were really superior, then you have to ask yourself why did the designer stick some organisms with an inferior design when there was a better alternative?

  40. @Michael Fugate
    The Intelligent Designers have their reasons which we mere finite creatures do not understand.
    There, doesn’t that explain everything?

    Seriously, the idea of ID is too incoherent to be of any use. The only things that its advocates spend time on are supposed deficiencies of some aspect of consensus science, mostly evolutionary biology.

  41. Michael Fugate

    I know, but I don’t think PoWH3D knows. Common descent is so obvious and was obvious to creationists long before Darwin. One has to willfully ignore the obvious to deny common descent.