Friday, August 05, 2005

Intelligent Design?

I have been in a prolonged state of denial and disbelief about the pronouncement by our President (George W. Bush, for those who are in even deeper denial than I am) that he supports teaching the so-called "theory" of "intelligent design" in public schools. As quoted in the Washington Post:

"Both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about,"
What the debate is about, Mr. Bush, is whether or not we - the People of the United States - should endorse teaching a religious dogma ("intelligent design") to our children disguised as a scientific concept. The debate, Mr. President, is about letting a narrow-minded group of religious zealots hijack public education and use it to forcibly indoctrinate children into a religious world-view that is not necessarily held by their parents. The debate, Mr. President, is about teaching a religious construct as science, despite the fact that "intelligent design" is not supported by a single shred of real data.

Is that clear? Would it be clearer with exclamation points?

As a biologist, I have too many objections to the feeble hypothesis of "intelligent design" to list on this small blog. After all, evolution makes predictions that can be tested - and that have been tested and found to support evolution, not "intelligent design". "Intelligent design" makes no testable predictions since it is all the result of the "intelligent designer" (a thinly disguised cut-out for God).

Do you find intermediate forms in the fossil record? Well the "intelligent designer" put them there. Is the "irreducible complexity" of the human eye challenged by the presence of hundreds of eye forms from a simple photosensitive spot to pinhole eyes, compound eyes and eyes that are better designs than the mammalian (and human) eye? Well, again, it is all the result of the "intelligent designer" - that inscrutable and unlocatable entity who, we are told over and over, is not necessarily equivalent to God.

Yeah, that and $2.50 will get you a latte at the university coffee shop. My treat.

My favorite objection, and one that the ID-ers are not well equipped to argue against, is that the designs aren't all that intelligent.

After all, how intelligent is it to put the blood vessels in front of the retina? That's where they are in the mammalian (and human - the pinnacle of "design") eye, casting their shadow on the retina. The octopus, a mollusk (and not "beloved of God" - excuse me, the "intelligent designer"), got it right and put the vessels behind the retina.

Why would an "intelligent designer" use the spinal architecture from a quadruped for a biped? It clearly isn't working, as any orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon can tell you. And while we're on the central nervous system, redundant sensory systems for pain make no sense - unless, of course, a second one evolved that provided more precise localization of painful stimuli than the original system.

You see, one of the big issues that "intelligent design" can't explain is why the designs aren't that intelligent. There are redundant systems, vestigial parts (the human tail, for instance), systems re-used in situations where they don't really work optimally (e.g. the human spine) and several different varieties of perfectly functional systems that are vastly different between species.

"Intelligent design" only has one explanation for all these question: "All is as the Intelligent Designer wrought - who are we to question his (and it has to be a he, don't you just bet?) wisdom?"

Evolution, on the other hand, explains all of these oddities in a way that is logical and predicted by the theory. We have a vestigial tail and a quadruped spine because our ancestors - millions of years ago - were tailed quadrupeds. (Evolution is like my uncle, it never throwns anything out, 'cuz it might come in handy some day.)

Folks, we are talking about a real fight for the hearts and minds (at least the minds) of our children and I am not about to sit this one out. Just to be safe, I drill both my kids in evolutionary "talking points" while I'm serving them their cornflakes (corn evolved from grasses, don't you know). Let them go head-to-head with the ID bullies out on the playground. And God (excuse me, "the intelligent designer") help the first teacher who brings up "intelligent design" in their classroom. My lawyer can have what's left of them after my kids and I chew them up.

To arms!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who has had their back go out can attest that it is an "Idiot Design" to walk on two legs with just the bit of backbone between the torso and legs. Those lower back muscles sometimes have to work too much.

This is what I came up with as I spent 6 weeks last winter recovering from a sprained back. ouch

13 August, 2005 12:02  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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14 August, 2005 17:06  

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